Archive for the ‘Viral Marketing’ Tag

6 Ways to Viral Content

Whether it’s a new restaurant, toy or the Gangnam Style dance craze, everyone follows the crowd at one point or another.  Certain ideas and products have the uncanny ability to become instantly popular, driven by powerful word-of-mouth and online viral effects.  Capturing and leveraging this elusive “x factor” is the holy grail of many marketers, especially when they seek to exploit the reach of  social media technologies. Fortunately, new research is available that helps them improve their odds.  A new book, Contagious:  Why Things Catch On, was recently reviewed in the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter (published by the Wharton School).  The book’s author, Jonah Berger, studied the idea of contagiousness and explores what companies can do to bottle it.

In our client work, we often come across managers who try to generate contagiousness through guerilla marketing or zany creative ideas.  While both of these have the potential to trigger contagiousness, they may not be sufficient in their own right. Although creating viral content or products is an art, a little management discipline can go a long way.

Based on research, Berger identified six success principles – the STEPPS acronym – for why some things catch on and others don’t.  Infectious content and products feature these social elements:

  • Social currency – People tend to talk about things that make themselves look good, rather than bad.
  • Triggers – Individuals more readily talk about ideas that are”top of mind and “tip of the tongue.”
  • Ease for emotion – We are inclined to share more of what we care about.
  • Public – People tend to mimic what they see others doing.
  • Practical value – We tend share useful information to help others.
  • Stories –  Content that is shared is usually wrapped up in a story or narrative.

According to Berger, managers that can incorporate STEPPS principles have a better chance of increasing brand awareness, relevance and word-of-mouth transmission of their content.

STEPPS in practice

Any company or person can insert contagiousness within their content, regardless of the product or brand.  The key is to think about what elements about a product would make people want to talk about and share, and then build that into your creative execution or message.   The story of Blendtec, a household appliance manufacturer, perfectly illustrates this approach.

This medium size firm builds high quality blenders. Their first video featured a CEO doing what he did on a regular basis: throwing items like golf balls or pens into a blender to test product quality and performance. The video was distributed to their customer mailing list, who in turn forwarded it to others.  Soon, the videos went viral, generating more than 10 million views.  Based on this success, the Company launched a series of videos called “Will it blend?” – where they stick all types of different things in a blender.  This series has garnered over 150 million views.  To be clear, this video series was not the outcome of a large marketing budget or effort.  A new marketing person spent $50 on a white lab coat and safety glasses and he filmed his amicable boss torture-testing various products in a lab. Yet, the videos were based on a powerful but simple notion that people would enjoy seeing an appealing demonstrator use a familiar household product to destroy a wide variety of items.

Leveraging these insights

Be real – Firms need to recognize their core brand essence (every firm or product has one) and seek to authentically embed this in their marketing content and products.  For Blendtec, it was about performance, approachability and inventiveness.

Make it social – Marketers should understand the psychology behind what makes people talk about, share and endorse things. For example, people are resistant to sharing content that overtly resembles an advertisement. The STEPPS framework is an effective tool to gauge the social appeal of new content.

Experiment – You cannot guarantee a Gangnam Style success every time.  What you can do is improve your learning, test different creative ideas and boost interest by launching ‘quick and dirty’ experiments as well as being open to customer-generated content and creative ideas wherever they come from.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.


Finding the First Mouth in Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing such as viral or buzz initiatives are in vogue these days thanks to the popularity of social media networks and the ubiquity of wireless device.  Word-of-mouth techniques are about getting customers and key influencers to spread the word about a new product through their social or professional networks. This type of marketing has generated significant interest within industries that leverage the power of customer referrals such consumer goods, hospitality and software services as well as more recent applications in the pharmaceuticals, gaming and movie businesses.

There is one problem: marketers often don’t know what works, what doesn’t work and how can you define a ROI.  Trial and error has been the standard approach but a new study is providing hard evidence to aid in program design. New research from the Wharton School of Business explored the effectiveness of typical word-of-mouth advertising for new drug prescriptions in some key markets  Researchers tracked how prescriptions of a new drug spread from one physician to another, depending on who talked to whom and referred patients to whom.  The researchers mapped the connections to understand social/professional relationships and referral patterns as well as  identifying and measuring the role of key influencers or “seeders.”

The study’s key conclusion was that typical word-of-mouth targeting against self-selected key influencers or those who had the most connections may not be as effective as previously thought.  Instead, program success or failure is often dependent on finding the best “seeders” who typically fly below the radar.  These people are well-connected and respected evangelizers existing at the hub of social networks, who will embrace a product and promote it widely among the people they know.  

As evidence, the researchers found that the entire network actually divided into two sub-networks split by ethnicity.  One physician, number 184, who was way down the Key Opinion Leader (KOL) list in terms of number of connections and public prestige, ended up being the key connector linking both networks.  Without the connecting power and informal status of physician 184, a pharma marketer would have not have been able to drive the maximum effectiveness and efficiency of a word-of-mouth marketing program in the total market. 

Other study findings should influence strategy and program design:

  1. Product word-of-mouth effects can and do happen over social networks.
  2. Target networks and seeders come in many sizes and shapes based on a variety of socio-economic and psycho-graphic criteria.  One important factor in identifying the best “seeders” is how their peers perceive them, as opposed to how people self report their status (a common way of identifying KOLs).
  3. Of specific interest to pharma marketers, the most influential person may not be the most visible KOL but rather one that carries significant yet informal prestige and connectedness among their peers.
  4. Word-of-mouth effects can impact opinion leaders as well as followers, in contrast to what is often believed (that only followers are affected by social influence).

Clearly more research is needed that links word-of-mouth flows to actual marketing programs and ultimately to measurable purchase behaviours.  However, this Wharton research is a start and should provide some evidence-based principles to improve viral or buzz marketing planning and design.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.