Four Fabulous Viral Marketing Tactics

By February 22, 2008Blog

Viral marketing refers to any promotional effort that is designed to get people talking. An effective effort results in added exposure, bigger brand awareness and more “stickiness” in the minds of consumers. The buzz spreads naturally when the content features the wildly unexpected, involvement in adventure, larger-than-life creativity or incongruence with the norm. Here are four great examples of viral marketing that works:

The Wildly Unexpected
Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” campaign showcases real people in an actual restaurant where the Whopper has supposedly been “discontinued forever” (www.whopperfreakout.com). The facial expressions alone are worth telling friends about. The increasing anger of the patrons makes the clips even funnier. “If Burger King doesn’t have the Whopper, they might as well call it Burger Queen,” huffs one irate customer. In lieu of the famed Burger, patrons are given autographed headshots of The King. It’s reality footage at its best.

A Google search of “Whopper Freakout” yields 124,000 hits – many of which are individual blogs. Colleagues are telling colleagues and friends are talking with friends about these outrageously funny outtakes. That adds up to as much exposure as was earned by the company’s 2004 Subservient Chicken viral effort (www.subservientchicken.com), which still yields 67,900 hits on Google today. People simply love other people’s reactions to the unexpected.

Involvement in Adventure
The California Milk Processor Board, the crew behind the “got milk?” slogan, has gained added traction with its “Get the Glass” online game and contest (www.gettheglass.com). Here is a commodity that is seemingly un-marketable: milk is like a postage stamp; you either need it or you don’t. Yet the Board reports a 90% awareness rate nationwide for the “got milk?” campaign. The game serves to further perpetuate that awareness as users help the Adachi family survive a treacherous journey to Fort Fridge to save their milk-deprived family by capturing The Glass.

The adventure is a bit complicated, but one thing is for sure: milk has gotten into the minds of Americans since the 1993 inception of the “got milk?” ads. The slogan has become a historical phenomenon akin to Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” and Budweiser’s “Wasuuuuup”. The game may not have caught on like the ads did, but it’s a commendable effort in extending the expiration date on a likeable brand.

Larger-than-Life Creativity
The marketing minds behind The Simpsons Movie got a lot right when it comes to viral marketing. Among other efforts, the team engaged 7-Eleven to transform select stores into Kwik-E-Marts for a limited timeframe corresponding with the film’s release date. In addition to boosted profits for the stores, the promotion increased awareness and excitement over the movie release.

When marketers get über-creative, consumers pay attention and start spreading the news. What a clever way to corral fans: pluck a bit of Springfield culture out of the set and plop life-sized versions down in neighborhoods across the continental United Sates.

Incongruence with the Norm
At Careerbuilder.com’s Monk-e-Mail website (www.careerbuilder.com/monk-e-mail), under-worked folks can click and build a custom email featuring a semi-animated talking monkey. Funny-making options include chimp type, accessories and record-by-phone messaging. The resulting talking primate is simply not normal, which makes it a great talking point.

The company’s other farce, Age-O-Matic (www.careerbuilder.com/age-o-matic), doesn’t have the finesse of its predecessor, but is based on the same premise: experience our brand by creating something wacky, then perpetuate the brand by sharing your absurdity with friends. The upshot is that if you have enough time to create silly animations for your friends to view then you’re in the market for a new job.

FOR DISCUSSION: What can your company do to get people talking about your offerings?