Viral Marketing versus Traditional Advertising
by Martin S.
If you think about it, the main difference between viral marketing and traditional advertising is the power of the Internet. As you have written, by enabling people to connect instantaneously and in unlimited numbers, the Internet allows both "good" and "bad" messages to skyrocket out of control of the creator of the message. Along the way, how we speak with customers and things like fads and technologies have undoubtedly changed over the last few decades, but essentially, the Internet is the main ingredient in going "viral".
Traditional advertising used television as the medium with the biggest reach and there are plenty of examples of tv ads that kind of went "viral" in the sense of making brands household names. That being said, nowadays millions of more consumers are "plugged in" to mass media through the internet and the creation of sub-markets and ever-smaller "niche" markets means that there are more audiences that are interested in all kinds of things and that a given message may be "viral" in a given community, just like a given person may be famous in one particular community only.
Anyway, I really like how you have deconstructed the "science" behind Internet viral marketing and I agree that as sales and marketing professionals, we can all use some of these tips and pointers, whether or not our message ever goes viral or not. The same ingredients that you have listed as being key to a marketing message going viral - being "remarkable", passing from one person to the next, etc - are things that we need to ingrain into our messages as a given. If it is not interesting, entertaining or useful, no one is going to care about it, especially when we are constantly bombarded with so many messages on a day to day basis!