The following is an introduction to "Strategies for Viral
Marketing", a chapter contained within "Kellogg on Integrated
Marketing". The chapter was penned by Charles Spinosa and his close
acquaintances, Maria Flores Letelier and Bobby J. Calder. To
download the chapter in pdf format please click here .
To purchase this book at Amazon.com, please click here.
It has been around forever, but as a marketing strategy, it goes
back only about 50 years. How do you sell a line of kitchen
containers without advertising and even without distribution? The
answer: Have women hold parties and talk about them to their
friends. The Tupperware Party strategy was based on a simple
premise that is as valid today as it was then. Consumer-to-consumer
contacts are powerful! When one consumer says something to another,
the message is likely to be immediate, personal, credible, and
relevant. For a while, this sort of communication - one consumer
contacting another - was called word-of-mouth, or WOM. Currently,
it is most often called buzz.
From buzz to viral marketing
In the last few years there have been further advances in the
strategic use of buzz. The key insight is that buzz can be more
than just a matter of actively stimulating the transmission of
information from some consumers to others in a community. This
insight is most often conveyed in the analogy of viral
The "viral" analogy views buzz as spreading by "infection". The
consumer is infected by buzz, catches it as someone catches a cold,
and passes it on in the same way unless he or she takes actions to
stop it. In wired communities, the infection is just a click away.
Buzz can cause "epidemics" much more quickly than the traditional
two-step flow or diffusion implies. Rather than getting the word to
a few opinion leaders and waiting for them to spread the word, a
strategy of viral marketing gets users to pass the word almost
involuntarily. Beyond this, what is passed is not mere information.
It is something more akin to a virus - something that takes over
and alters the consumer's thinking. That it is readily accepted is
as much a consequence of the process of person-to-person contact as
the information itself.