Essay about Viral Marketing

Submitted By AvenueG
Words: 1278
Pages: 6

The emergence of social media has potentially created opportunities for new forms of marketing communications. Consequently, many companies are increasingly paying more attention to utilize these innovative methods promoting their products and brands. One of these marketing tools is viral marketing which is also termed as electronic word-of-mouth (WOM). The process is similar to the spreading of a virus from person to person. Geoff Mills (as cited in Datta, Chowdhury, & Chakraborty, 2005, p. 72) defines viral marketing as “any marketing strategy that encourages everyone who receives the promotional message to pass that message on to others – thereby creating the potential for exponential growth of the message’s reach and effectiveness.” However, this electronic word-of-mouth can also create negative perceptions around brands, products, or services. The purpose of this assignment is to explain the benefits and drawbacks of viral marketing in terms of commerce between companies and consumers. This assignment will firstly evaluate some positive impacts of this marketing tactic tool, including speedily spreading messages and greater degree of generating trust in the contents. Then, it will move on to examine the negative effects, including an inability to control marketing messages and unethical issues.

There are two main benefits of viral marketing. The first benefit is that viral marketing, which is dissimilar to traditional marketing, is very effective in rapidly and widely spreading messages and information. According to Datta et al (2005, p. 74), electronic word of mouth (WOM) differs from traditional WOM in terms of reach and speediness. Traditional WOM is limited in the message’s approach and spreads the message slowly while viral marketing can be global and spreads the message somewhat faster (Joel, 2009, p. 31). One example of successful viral marketing is Hotmail, which began offering free e-mail accounts with an attached advertisement link of its service at the end of every e-mail message sent by one of its customers. Hence, users sending e-mail from Hotmail accounts automatically promoted the service to every receiver they sent the message to. This marketing mode made Hotmail grow by having 12 million subscribers worldwide in just 18 months (Dobele, Toleman, & Beverland, 2005, p. 147: Yang, Yao, Ma, & Chen, 2010, p. 860). Another example is that of Barack Obama, the first black president of U.S.A., winning the election. One key to success in this election is that he used tools of social media like MySpace, Facebook or YouTube presenting his movements and policies. These channels resulted in more than five million people following his social networking sites (Edlmen, 2009, p. 5).

Moreover, viral marketing has more power to build trust among customers than other forms of advertising. This is because the message is conveyed and recommended by the recipient’s friends or other trusted sources. Brown & Hayes (2007, p. 165) adds that traditional advertising is not as powerful as it once was. As a result of plentiful advertisement sources such as televisions, radios or newspapers, consumers often pay a few attentions to those advertisements. Indeed, when consumers have more choices in term of products and services, their peers can be trusted more than general advertisements. The best example of powerful recommendations is Amazon. Jupiter survey (as cited in Brown & Hayes, 2007, p. 164-165) found that Amazon has significant influence on purchase decision of consumers. The system of Amazon offers recommendations from peers who bought the same items. This system shows that reviews or recommendations significantly create creditability influencing to consumer behaviors.

However, this electronic word-of-mouth not only has benefits but also has two fundamental drawbacks. The first downside is that the messages that companies want to convey are out of control. Brown & Hayes (2007, p. 180) claims that consumers