Viral marketing

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Viral marketing

Viral marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to spread an advertising message like a virus in the shortest possible time. One example of viral marketing is the use of various social media channels. Viral marketing is also referred to as “word of mouth”, i.e. the verbal passing on of information about a service or product. In German, this is called word of mouth.

Objectives of viral marketing

Viral marketing wants its advertising message to have the same effect as a virus. This means that the highest possible number of people should be brought into contact with the advertising message or “infected” in the shortest possible period of time. People should then show enthusiasm for the advertised brand or product and inform other people about this product or brand.

In addition to spreading the advertising message, the viral campaign can also serve to strengthen the brand, which can have a positive effect on the company’s ranking.

In the long term, the campaign should of course increase the company’s turnover through new customers. If these customers continue to promote the company’s offers by word of mouth, the company’s turnover will continue to rise steadily.

Seeding – The dissemination possibilities of viral marketing

Particularly suitable for viral marketing are, for example Free information material such as white papers, advertising games, videos, free products or tools. It is important that these are placed and disseminated in a targeted manner. This is done by so-called “seeding”. This means that the advertising message is sown or scattered, so to speak.

For a successful seeding strategy, the following points must be in place for the viral campaign to be successful:

  • Distribution should only take place on the relevant platforms. This means in places where the target group is on the move or active.
  • Distribution must be both target group-oriented and strategic.
  • A lively exchange of communication must take place on the selected platforms, e.g. chats, forums, newsgroups, portals, blogs, etc.

Social media channels are particularly well suited as a distribution channel for viral marketing. Thousands of users become aware of the product within a very short time and can “like” or “share” it, which means that even more users get to know the product.

In order to gain more trust, authenticity and authority, it makes sense to address the opinion leaders, the so-called influencers, of the respective topic area at the beginning of each seeding process. Its advertising messages immediately give potential customers more confidence in the product and also extend the reach of word-of-mouth advertising.

Influentials also have a major influence on their target group, which generally appeals to very different age groups. This means that the product is automatically presented to several target groups.


As a rule, other people will distribute the information for you. This makes it possible to generate a high profit with a low cost input. However, this depends on the respective planning, implementation and the campaign itself. After all, the conception and selection of suitable distribution channels also cost time and money.

It is much more likely that the recommendations will be noticed, consumed or, in the best case, passed on, as the recommendations are passed on by friends, acquaintances, relatives or even colleagues. After all, these groups are generally trusted more than the company itself.

With viral marketing, the speed with which advertising is carried out must also be taken into account. The Internet in particular is known for the fact that a lot of information can reach a wide variety of people in a very short time, provided the company uses the right contacts and channels.


A viral campaign can never be completely controlled, even if the target group is defined at the start of the campaign. As soon as consumers react negatively to the product or message, this can have a lasting negative impact on the company and even damage its image. After all, negative impressions are also communicated quickly.

Measuring the success of viral marketing is also difficult, as it often involves a great deal of research.

Proof of the success of viral marketing

Evaluating success is not particularly easy, as the campaign can only be controlled to a certain extent. However, success or failure can be measured with the help of certain tracking tools:

  • Social media monitoring tools:

Facebook and Co. offer companies free analysis options that provide very detailed data on displacement. There are also numerous other free tools to test the effect in social networks.

  • Web analysis tools:

It is possible to use Google Analytics to find out how visitors became aware of the company.

  • Clipping services:

Both online and print media can be searched for company news using these fee-based services. There are numerous different service providers for this.

Success factors

Viral campaigns are not a sure-fire success, even if the advertising message is spread via the Internet community. Like any other marketing campaign, they require clear planning, strategic implementation of the measures and a clear concept.

The following factors in particular influence success:

1. a unique and creative idea

The idea forms the basis for every campaign. It is important to always keep in mind that your target group always receives added value from the offer. After all, it must be worthwhile for the potential customer to report on it and spread the word. It is not always necessary to focus on the service or product, but the message itself is often used as bait,

Viral marketing is often referred to as “guerrilla marketing”, which is also a marketing strategy. Compared to viral marketing, guerrilla marketing focuses on the surprise effect. The two marketing strategies are not the same. Viral marketing, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to implement the guerrilla idea.

2. clear goal, clear approach

A clear goal includes, for example choosing the first multipliers and planning which channels to use for dissemination and when. This is particularly important as viral campaigns can only be controlled to a very limited extent, if at all, and it also simplifies the measurement of success.

3. simple dissemination options

Recommendation functions of social networks or easy embedding options for videos or graphics can make distribution as simple as possible.

4. prospect of profits

To further encourage users to share a news item, video or whitepaper, the prospect of profits is particularly recommended.


Videos play a very important role in viral marketing. According to studies, users can react 60,000 times faster to an image than to a text. A video can therefore be quickly grasped visually, which means that it remains in the user’s memory. This is why many viral campaigns use videos as a basis. But particularly unusual methods can also attract attention:

Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge mainly involved celebrities pouring a bucket filled with ice-cold water over their heads. This challenge initially only spread via social networks until the Golf Channel Morning Show reported on it in mid-2014. From this point on, the Ice Bucket Challenge was all over the media.

EDEKA also ran other viral campaigns, the so-called “Supergeil” campaign, which became famous through a video on YouTube with over 12 million clicks. Another example is the Moorhuhn game from 1999. This advertised the Scottish whiskey producer Johnnie Walker.