Catch the viral marketing bug

Viral marketing. It sounds like some kind of bad disease – something to stay away from, like the H1N1 flu. The mere mention of the words almost makes you want to go out and buy some rubber gloves and a surgical mask.

But viral marketing is good, not bad. Because of the ease of ‘spreading” the word via the Internet, viral marketing has emerged as one of the most effective new tools in a business’ strategy to attract attention.

Viral marketing is simply  a “marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message.” It usually takes place online and can come in the form of online videos, e-mails, eNewsletters, text messages, images, e-books and other media. It often has an educational or entertaining component in addition to the advertising component, making the user want to share the communication with his or her friends.

A great example of video-based viral marketing involves the hit ABC show “Lost.” At the end of the third season, the producers and actors of the show created a dozen “Missing Link” mini-episodes that ranged from 2-3 minutes in length with a couple of distinct advantages. They reached consumers where they were – in their homes, at their computers, on their phones. They also served as entertaining commercials which the fans could easily send to friends who might also become fans.

Of course, viral marketing is not solely limited to videos. There are numerous other examples of viral marketing campaigns that use other forms of media. Take a look at some of the examples below:

The Million-Dollar Homepage – This site sold pixels on its homepage to advertisers and eventually made over $1 million.

Elf Yourself – A popular viral campaign launched by OfficeMax which allowed users to turn their headshots into dancing elves.

And for those home care companies who want to educate their clients, referral sources and get their name passed around? Resource rich information is the best educational format to use, and in an eNewsletter format, the viral component is a natural.

Each of these viral campaigns plays a role in getting in front of the public in a way that is easy to share. That’s the power of viral marketing.