Internet Viral Marketing

The success of Internet viral marketing and the mystique surrounding how it can be accomplished can both be studied in the collection of examples I discuss in this article. In looking at why some viral marketing campaigns were successful, I want to talk about how the key concepts of networks, passability and remarkability that I have discussed previously come into play. My belief is that any sales and marketing organization can benefit from these techniques in applying them to your own online marketing strategy.

Internet Viral Marketing Example

As I discussed in my previous articles on Internet viral marketing, existing online networks are the primary ingredient to creating a viral message. As well, your message must be easy for people to pass on to others. Finally, unless you are communicating something useful, interesting, funny or entertaining, your message will not be remarkable enough to gain a big following.

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Internet Viral Marketing Success #1: Hotmail

Internet Viral Marketing Example

When founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith started Hotmail in 1996 they called it “HoTMaiL” in order to emphasize the letters HTML. As goofy as that sounds today, they sold the world's first web-based e-mail service to Microsoft just a year later for an astounding $400 million and Windows Live Hotmail is still is world's largest e-mail service with over 350 million users.

Hotmail took off through the word of mouse of Hotmail users e-mailing people who were traditionally tied to e-mail services provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like America Online. Hotmail messages to this day offer readers free web-based e-mail in the message footer and because Hotmail delivered tremendous value over traditional e-mail, it spread like wildfire.

Internet Viral Marketing Success #1(b): Gmail

Internet Viral Marketing Example

It is worth bringing up Google's Gmail which is the #3 e-mail service in the world with about 200 million users (after Yahoo! Mail which has close to 300 million users). Gmail used the different approach of originally releasing Gmail to a limited audience who were then allowed to invite friends to join. To this day you can still invite others to Gmail as well as simply just sign up yourself for free.

Note that under the covers of Google's ingenious promotional device is a quality product that offers many features that make it quite a different offering from Microsoft's Hotmail. Google as a company is heavily vested in creating many free applications that provide no end of value from Google Earth to Google Docs to the ingenious Street View facility on Google Maps. Likewise, Gmail puts a premium on user experience which is why it has been so successful.

Internet Viral Marketing Success #2: BMW

Internet Viral Marketing Example

In 2001 BMW started a new trend in advertising by making a series of branded mini films exclusively for the Internet. BMW enrolled world class producers, directors and actors and made films that won awards and critical acclaim from the Cannes Film Festival to the New York Times to Time magazine. Over 10 million people viewed the films within 4 months of their release and BMW sales went up 12% over the previous year.

What made ”The Hire” series of films a success is the quality and sheer entertainment value of the films which were distributed on limited edition DVDs but spread mostly via e-mail online. Clive Owen stars as the mysterious “Driver” in stories directed by veterans like Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee and Tony Scott in serious films that are great to watch even if you are not a fan of BMW cars.

Internet Viral Marketing Success #2(b): Audi

Internet Viral Marketing Example

Audi released a campaign called ”The Art of the Heist” in 2005 which included a number of online and offline elements in a truly integrated viral marketing campaign. The premise of the campaign was the fictional staged theft of an Audi car and the general public was asked to help track down the “stolen” automobile in everything from billboards to online games, TV ads and public announcements at automobile shows.

To their credit, Audi has a long history of creative and interactive advertising from placing hundreds of magnetic model cars around Toronto during the city's annual film festival to launching a free iPhone game to a new online series about a rich family of Audi owners called Meet the Beckers. Audi knows that the more ways to interact with people, the better.

Internet Viral Marketing Success #3: Burger King

Internet Viral Marketing Example

Burger King has a campaign that has been running successfully since 2001 called The Subservient Chicken which featured hilarious website where you could type in commands for a man dressed up as a giant chicken. Based on the tagline, "get chicken the way you like it", you can type in anything from “sing” and “dance” to “go away” or “eat McDonald's” to provoke all sorts of responses.

The Subservient Chicken concept was originally a series of TV ads that evolved into an online concept which has given it the ability to go viral and stay popular for so many years. As well as being ridiculously funny, the website is interactive which means that users will engage and enjoy themselves for longer and the ”Tell a friend” button is featured prominently just below the screen where the chicken performs its antics.

Internet Viral Marketing Success #4:
Old Spice

Internet Viral Marketing Example The distinction of the fastest-growing Internet viral marketing campaign ever goes to an Old Spice viral video that went from close to 7 million views in 24 hour to over 3 times that number within 36 hours. The video featured the star of their popular TV ad campaign “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” answering questions and comments posted by users of networking sites like Facebook, Reddit, Digg and YouTube.

The appeal of the Old Spice TV campaign was the reason for the explosive reception of the online viral video. In the commercials muscular actor Isaiah Mustafa appears wrapped just in a towel and delivers a suave monologue that sees him transformed into various scenes from being on a sailboat to riding a horse to being in a hot tub to serenading women. The ads won rave reviews and awards and the Old Spice device of giving viewers a chance to interact with the popular Mustafa hit it big.

Internet Viral Marketing Example #5: Cadbury

Internet Viral Marketing Example

Have you heard of the Cadbury Gorilla? Well, millions of people have, thanks to a successful mutlimedia ad campaign that featured a Gorilla playing drums to the Phil Collins song, “In the Air Tonight.” Cadbury spent millions on the expensive production and campaign and ran the ad on prime time TV, cinema, billboard and print ads in the fall of 2007. When the ad was eventually posted online, a planned web presence and the initial groundswell helped it receive 500,000 views within a week and over 6 million by the end of that year.

Cadbury sales of its Dairy Milk chocolate bar shot up 9% that year and market research showed a 20% improvement in the public perception of the company after a number of disastrous public relations mishaps. The success of the campaign was no doubt centered around the sheer entertainment value of the carefully choreographed clip whose popularity spawned 200 Facebook fan pages and worldwide acclaim. That, and the central idea “that all communications should be as effortlessly enjoyable as eating the bar itself."

Internet Viral Marketing Example #6: Cloverfield

Internet Viral Marketing Example

The producers of the hit 2008 movie Cloverfied decided on a clever marketing strategy whereby teaser trailers, posters and other media ads were created that only showed the relase date of the movie without its actual title. The studio set up the website which contained interactive photos that provide clues to the plot of the movie as well as promoting a large number of ”viral tie-ins” to the “meta story” of Cloverfield, including a fake softdrink and fake company.

The viral ad campaign worked in creating rabid speculation among fans on online messaging boards and the popular press who guessed that the movie was anything from an adaption of robot cartoon Voltron to a story about alien parasites to something based on H.P. Lovecraft. The Internet viral marketing device of showing glimpses of Cloverfield was similar to the movie itself which is shot on a handheld camcorder as if it is a documentary where the big picture is only gradually revealed, creating an atmosphere of suspense and anticipation.

Internet Viral Marketing Example #6(b): Lost

Internet Viral Marketing Example

It is no surprise that the viral campaign for Cloverfield was as thought out and intricate as it was, because the producers had applied the same techniques to marketing the hit TV show Lost. This included creating a fake airline and another fake organization called The Hanso Foundation (which has since aquired Ocean Airlines to form HansoAir!).

Other websites based on fictional organizations and individual were set up and real world tie-ins included an alternate reality game and “sponsorships” by companies like Jeep, Sprite and The result was to create an inexorable trail of clues and entertaining tidbits that kept fans interacting with and trying to solve the mystery of the fictional world of Lost.

Internet Viral Marketing Example #6(c):
The Blair Witch Project

Internet Viral Marketing Example
Movie viral marketing campaigns mentions are not complete without this 1999 horror movie which was the first movie to be heavily promoted on the Internet. Once again, it was the ingenuity of the movie producers in using this new medium that did the trick; they cunningly crafted an online campaign to suggest that the events of the movie were real and that the film was actually the recovered footage of three young students who go missing while trying to piece together the legend of The Blair Witch.

I remember being transfixed by this thought as I watched the movie myself so many years ago. It was only when I saw the actors at the MTV Awards that I realized that the whole thing had been a farce! The Blair Witch Project went on to become one of the most successful movies ever in terms of being shot for a mere $30,000 by a team of amateur film-makers and grossing over $250 million worldwide. The vast majority of the money spent by movie studio Artisan once it picked up the project was a staggering $25 million in marketing the movie in order to create the facade.

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