Between Friends

In an advertising-saturated age, consumers have their defenses
up, meeting overtures from large companies with skepticism. As a
cure for this consumer apathy, some companies have turned to viral
marketing, which
JuiceeNewsDaily defines as ‘exploit[ing] pre-existing
social networks to produce exponential increases in brand
awareness.’
A word-of-mouth mechanism, viral marketing has met
with most of its successes online.

Basically a pyramid scheme that generates awareness rather than
unsuspecting investors, viral marketing became ubiquitous when
Hotmail
appended invitations to its free service at the bottom of every
email
its users sent out. Jonah Peretti — partner and
technology director for The Huffington Post, among other
pursuits —

argues in an interview with StayFree!
that the
understanding of how viral marketing works is still incubating.
‘[M]ore an art than a science,’ success in viral marketing is the
exception, not the rule, he says. Yet its early commercial
successes have been eclipsed by what seems to be viral marketing’s
real power: as an antidote to commercial culture through irony,
art, and political commentary.

One of the most successful and well-known viral marketing
campaigns comes from the world of political organizing. Building on
person-to-person connections, MoveOn.org’s method of raising
awareness and galvanizing support has become a model for many
low-budget organizations.

The tactic has also become ripe ground for cultural criticism.
Last year, Peretti organized the
Contagious Media
Showdown
, an art project in which contestants created hoax
websites in an attempt to be the most contagious online project.
The winner was a company called
Forget Me
Not Panties
. The hoax company claimed to sell women’s’
underwear that would inform the woman’s husband when she was
stepping out in the high-tech skivvies. Forget Me Not Panties,
along with the runner up
(whatisvictoriassecret.com),
were art projects with strong cultural critiques. They ‘sold’
nothing but ideas and a perspective.

The stratagem, however, has proved difficult to master, as Coca
Cola learned the hard way. Attempting to cash in on the popularity
of blogs, Coke
set up its Zero Movement website
, complete with posts that
looked like they were written by Coca Cola Zero devotees, not the
company’s ad agency. They were outed for their duplicity and took a
hit when a mock Zero
Movement website
sprang up, subverting and lampooning Coke’s
attempt at viral marketing.

Viral marketing campaigns cost next to nothing, and the growth
can be exponential, cheaply generating a market reach that makes
advertisers swoon. But in a media world where, as Peretti says,
‘popularity begets popularity,’ it’s hard to predict what will
work. And as Coca Cola learned: If viral marketing ventures prove
one thing, it’s that success, or failure, is in the hands of the
public.

Go there >>

Media Virus

Go there too >>

JuiceeNewsDaily on Viral Marketing

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