A while ago I stepped on a few toes with a statement I made. I said, "Top of mind awareness is a fairy tale sucked from the thumbs of ad agencies to pacify their clients", and then all hell broke loose because clients phoned agencies and agencies phoned me sounding very threatening.
I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. What I meant with my statement was that if 10 similar brands try to give one person the same message, which is, "Choose us, we are superior", and if each of those brands aim at creating top of mind awareness, who's on top? Which message is superior and how can they really tell? I was trying to make a point about viral advertising, which was that viral advertising separates a brand from the plethora by focusing attention on the brand in an alternative and positive way. I didn't say we should move away from building awareness. Drama queens.
Every campaign should have a viral agent built into it. Viral is not just another clever word someone wanted to add to the already overflowing advertising dictionary. The word describes a process, philosophy and effect, and if your viral message is carefully woven from your central message and the process and philosophy adhered to, the effect will amaze you. The ideal end result is for your viral agent to be an introduction to your central message, because once your target market has made the decision for themselves that the brand is in fact superior, they will hold on to your message longer because there was no force-feeding.
Plus viral advertising is cheap, and any agency that really understands the viral process will achieve with 5 Million what would normally require 20, although I'm sure this fact saddens most of you. But viral marketing sadly, doesn't work for everyone. If the product isn't worth getting excited about, the effort and money will be wasted.
There are no real rules when it comes to viral, the only one is "It starts with the product". The core benefit of a relationship with the brand is a vital part if your viral campaign and it's important that your viral agent carries the benefits effectively. Even if your creative is very carefully focused your audience is potentially worthless if the relevance of the benefits are not made clear to them.
Only great understanding builds great viral campaigns. Because of the interactive nature of viral advertising, you must know what to do with all the minds you "Control". If you bore them you'll lose them and your brand will just fall back into the consumer hat, waiting to be magically pulled out when its turn comes.
Viral advertising (whatever that may be) may be cheaper than traditional media, but a well thought out viral campaign will also have other elements which may be just as expensive. Comparing costs by showing reach is a very dangerous thing to do. Remember that consumers know where they stand with TV advertising, it is not intrusive, can be tuned out and accepted as a fact of life. However SMS and e-mail viral advertising is intrusive. It doesn't matter that it was your friend that sent you the spam, it is still spam, and your customer may react badly to it. Reach is not the be-all and end-all of advertising, there should be more focus on the quality of the audience.
In addition, the costs of tracking the effectiveness (not the reach) of a viral campaign can be exceptionally high. So you may not be paying for the swings but you'll pay on the roundabout.
Possibly the most dangerous situation with memetic and viral marketing is the over-simplification of the concept to people that should know better. Posted on 3 Nov 2003 16:44
I could only give you examples or case studies if you were a client. To all the people who don't understand what I'm trying to say, don't judge what you don't fully understand. It just shows your level of intelligence. To those who agree, you are proof that our industry is changing. Just one last word to those opposed, David Ogilvy is dead. Thing will change whether you want them to or not. People like me will force change, people like you will be left in the cold. Posted on 4 Nov 2003 10:09
I have a colleague who is doing a study on this topic for his doctorate in Marketing. He should be finished by end December - Rudi, it may be good for you to have a copy of the results as this will be public knowledge and should help clear up misconceptions and encourage understanding.
Andrew made a comment the other day about viral marketing being dangerous and the message being distorted. I would like to comment that I work for a financial institution and I use viral marketing as my main source of communication. When I started with this company they were advertising like mad with little or no effect. They were struggling to resolve a market perception that was damaging their credibility and their ability to get in new business.
I approached this problem with a HIGHLY TARGETED word of mouth message system that enabled us to control the thoughts and respond to objections in an open and friendly manner. I started with opinion leaders in the financial industry, moving to government and then our specific target market. At each point we arranged intervention with the group at a later stage to cement relations and identify problems with our message and to identify any distortion. I also cut the advertising schedule in half and replaced ads with an advice/comment column for business. I also changed the method of internal communication with existing clients and intermediaries to ensure a high level of involvement with the reader of the material.
It's important to note that since the changes we've spent about 40% less on our communication strategy and we've had a 100% increase in new business (rand value) and 44% in units. This is excellent when looking at what we see as important indicators. The advertising campaign was totally off the mark and was certainly not generating this kind of response. I do believe that there is a place for advertising but I feel strongly that advertising itself needs to change. It needs to become more interactive with the reader/audience and it needs to ensure it is read by the target audience.
I believe that we don't always speak to the buyer, we speak to various audiences that have influence over the buyer's decisions as well. That's not rocket science. The interactive nature of our campaign has been highly effective and has been highly targeted. We eliminated as much waste as we possibly could and we've seen results.
Viral marketing can be extremely effective but no one marketing tool is going to rock the nation. Rather a combination of highly effective, highly targeted communication tools will make the difference and generate the response clients seek.
When assessing viral marketing I ask: what is it that damages a brand - mostly it's negative word of mouth that spreads. If that form of communication is so powerfully negative then we need to take cogniscence and recognise its power to be a positive influence - but it must be controlled and communicated to a carefully selected audience. One needs regular interaction with that audience to keep the message fresh and deal with objections.
I hope for those who don't really understand the concept this will help you understand what viral marketing is (to an extent) and give you an indication of its success. Do note that I refer to my own industry and Rudi is right when he says that you can't use it for everything. Our "word of mouth groups" have done wonders in creating a demand for us. We reward them for loyalty and we treat them as special as we do our clients. They know what we are about and they know that we are the best in what we do. It's not as if we're a mediocre company that "says" we're the best. That's the difference. Posted on 4 Nov 2003 12:00
It seems to me that 50% of the people in the ad industry are MORONS. Are you so clever that you need not LEARN from any one - not even your customers!! It is not all about revenue, which obviously makes the wheels turn, but without clients you may as well stay at home!!
Viral marketing is only one of the ways of getting your message across. It works well for a business or division that does not have the budget for expensive TV ads. Also where one has to stretch your resources and be a little more innovative to get your voice heard. Posted on 14 Nov 2003 13:50
I do not wish to share anything with anyone who is no a like minded individual. These articles were meant for those who already understand. Viral agents are not limited to sms and email. Think. Posted on 4 Nov 2003 13:17
geez you people are all brain dead. Viral marketing simply means getting your consumers to do all the dirty work for you in order for them to join an illustrious band of consumers. Want an example? Lucky Strike campaign whereby patrons of selected establishments were targeted by means of posters etc to join an online community and thus get invited to free concerts with international acts. Thereby everyone got talking about LS events Posted on 4 Nov 2003 15:21
As an employee of the company who handled the LS account, I find it quite amusing that throughout this whole viral debacle, the only example or "case study" you felt comfortable mentioning was an account you have never worked on. Makes one think...doesn't it? Posted on 11 Nov 2003 09:22
rudi never mentioned the LS example, I did. And by the way, if its the company I think it is, I wouldn't be bragging about working for it, you haven't done anything worthwhile in the last two years. Makes you think..doesn't it? Posted on 14 Nov 2003 10:22
The problem with viral marketing is that it is both manipulative and invasive - especially on the recipients. I would suggest that those that advocate its use have a serious look at their ethics and morals and assess the effectiveness of their campaigns in that light. (Please don't spin me the line about cost effectiveness - what price ethics!!) Posted on 4 Nov 2003 17:19
I have enough friends. The rest of you might as well be enemies. Besides, an enemy is someone who wishes you harm and therefore will attack you so that he could beat you, not too many people have what it takes to beat me. You all talk, but that's as far as it goes; talk. Why only threaten John? Why not prove yourself a worthy enemy? John. How about contact details. You have mine. Posted on 5 Nov 2003 08:01
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