Viral Marketing Initiatives

Viral marketing – the holy grail of the strategic digital marketing approach. At its core a simple integrated promotional communication posted to a mainstream social media channel, yet in execution a seemingly Herculean effort that is often more apt to go south as to achieve much hoped for success. What is the magical mixture that creates an epidemiologic-like sharing response from Internet users? How do we as marketers generate the next social media sensation in the form of an advertisement (without it being perceived as an advertisement)? Is it an accident, or a well-planned tactic?

Viral Message

The answers to these questions are elusive, and at the same time grist for innumerable articles by marketing aficionados across the globe. Of all the blog posts written about viral marketing, this is yet another. While the content will likely decline to offer any as yet unsuggested insights that have not already been repeatedly considered, it will nonetheless attempt to examine some of the universal components that are common to viral marketing campaigns. To begin, let’s examine five characteristics that always seem to be included in achieving the viral effect:

  • The message arouses emotion. Viral marketing messages predictably awaken some type of sentimental reaction, whether it be touchingly poignant, knee-slapping humor, or any other incited sensation that makes us feel on a gut level. It is for that very reason we watch movies and series which are scary, romantic, and/or funny. These factors are innate in storytelling, at least the ones that are given the most attention by word-of-mouth (WOM) transmission. The ability to evoke some emotional effect is the essence of timelessness in tales told throughout the ages.
  • The message includes a call-to-action. Giving a purpose to act offers a kinetic component, a motive to undertake, perform, and achieve. We have a need to be involved, to participate in events that center on social issues, whether to correct an insufficiency or to support a worthy cause. By doing so we partake in the community for the common good of all, demonstrating our worth to society as valued members. By embracing a call-to-action within the viral message, a reason to be concerned and motivated to engage in a physical or mental manner is enabled.
  • The message is easily associated. By connecting the message to events that are timely, newsworthy, or otherwise readily related, the communication gains relevance. This is an important concept, since context is correlated to pre-existing interest. Association with occurrences that are significant to large portions of the populace are universally recognized, and create a semblance of connection. Being a part of the whole is an important consequence, as people characteristically want to belong to the group.
  • The message has pervasive charm. Charismatic appeal is universal in nature. Attractive charm is hypnotic, a mesmerizing talisman that beguiles and enchants. While beauty may lie within the eye of the beholder, certain aspects of allure are common to all. Acerbic actor and comedian W. C. Fields refused to work with animals and children because he felt they shifted the attention of the audience away from him. A viral message which is charming captivates and fascinates the audience.
  • The message is opportunistic. This dynamic goes hand in hand with association. Timeliness is pertinent, particularly with attention to those happenings which are topmost on the minds of consumers. Linking and relating the viral message to applicable circumstances is another instance of connection. It allows for bonding, and creates common ground on which many can unite.

One excellent example of an effective viral message was the Always #LikeAGirl viral marketing campaign, a series of videos which started out as a Superbowl ad. The use of the hashtag made the campaign recognizable across many social media channels. The strategic approach was useful in recognition of the capability of females, especially young girls as being every bit as effectual and accomplished as their male counterparts in physical activity. The campaign was valuable in spreading a message of pubescent female empowerment.

We don't understand why Dove didn't choose us for the Real Beauty viral campaign!

Viral marketing messages offer benefit and value to organizations, but can be difficult to execute in operation. Do you have suggestions for how to achieve the viral effect in social media marketing? Please share them in the comments below. And join Grannelle again next time for further exploration of issues and advancements in eMarketing!

Posted in Marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


A Tale of Two Concepts

Ideas and innovation. Impressions and invention. Effects and ingenuity. Such is the stuff of creativity, a purely human pursuit. Creativity begins with inspiration, an impetus which may be received from within ourselves or without. In business, it is ambrosia, the food of the gods which stirs imagination and vision, a well-spring from which steps to success arise and may lead to unforeseen advancements which benefit not only the firm or industry, but the progressive upgrade of mankind itself. The written word, printing press, Internet, and Web 2.0 contrivances are examples of this upward mobility, each a rung on the ladder of text-based communication amelioration through which knowledge and intelligence are passed down over millennia, and contribute to the gestalt of human narrative and understanding.


Two companies whose business models are devoted to the awesome idea industry are TED and Business Innovation Factory (BIF). TED is a nonprofit organization which sponsors brief presentations by knowledge leaders and experts on a variety of topics referencing technology, commercial and global themes. BIF is focused on the renovation of business models, particularly in the fields of healthcare, education, and government. Both host conferences which offer insight into best practices in strategic imperatives, and each is active in the use of social media channels to advance their business operations and marketing functions.

TED is well known throughout the social media space, having grown a loyal community in a variety of channels, especially through recorded videos presented on YouTube. As well, their presence on Twitter has tremendous influence, reaching 8.72 million followers and an attendance which has existed since 2008, during which time almost 19,000 tweets have been posted. Facebook is another strong manifestation for TED, having garnered almost 10 million likes for its branded page. The firm has verified Twitter and Facebook accounts, identified by the enviable blue check mark on each SNS site. TED has leveraged economies of scale in social media through the utilitarian methodology of facilitating a sanctioned societal commonwealth.

While not as immediately recognizable, BIF also is active in social networking. Videos of conference presentations are available on YouTube and Vimeo. A respectable count of almost 14,000 users follow BIF on Twitter, where 12,700 tweets have been posted since 2008. On Facebook, the corporate page has gained almost 3,000 likes. Neither site has been afforded verified account status. While much less familiar than TED, the company nonetheless has established a respectable status as an authority as a business model innovation and transformational R&D for profit firm. Conferences are well respected, and have harvested the attention of major media outlets.

BIF is certainly no match in size and reach when compared with TED, yet both fill the niche for inspiration sources. TED does so as a public service, and dominates the global stage as a world-class player. BIF proposes its marketplace offerings as a function of revenue generation, and is more circumscribed in reach, but with a correspondingly engaged targeted audience. The paradigm presents a study in contrast and comparison, yet each is heavily dependent on social media as both a communications and marketing artifice, and does so with respectable outcomes. The span of issues covered by TED is wide and varied, whereas BIF is more narrowly focused. TED seems to visualize itself as a media outlet, whereas BIF determines its services in research and development enablement. The two brands present with similar strategic practices, though each is differentiated in tactical approach.

I know we look a lot alike, but our social media marketing strategies are highly differentiated, I promise!

We at Grannelle hope you have found this article on differentiation to be informative and enjoyable. Please feel free to use the share buttons below to distribute this content among members of your social graph. And please join us again on Grannelle for the latest eBusiness intelligence!

Posted in Social Media | Leave a comment

Mindful Marketing – Promoting to the Ways Brains Function, Part II

Last week we reviewed basic brain anatomy, or structure, and physiology, or function. Now it is time to take a look at how the dynamics of marketing are processed neurologically.

We receive information from our surrounding environment to be processed by the brain via stimuli, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations. These data are transferred along sensory neurons to the brain for dispensation, and are stored in short term memory long enough to be routed to appropriate action centers. Dependent on the nature of the stimuli, e.g. danger, pleasure, etc., the suitable reactions are commanded; flight or fight, arousal, and so forth. If the brain merits the information important enough, it is transferred into long term memory.

As humans, we are visual creatures, dependent on eyesight more so than any other sense. Images are therefore supremely important to strategic marketing decisions. In many cases the consumer may rely on visual cues alone to initiate and complete the buying decision process. This procedure is lengthy and involved, and will serve as the subject of a later post, but for now it is relevant simply in the context of occurrence. Proper images for the marketplace offering as well as the brand are imperative in the communication of value and benefit to the prospective customer.

One image which strikes a familiar chord is that of the human face. Pattern recognition is an enhancement that modern man has refined exceedingly, having evolved from tendencies to seek out and identify other people. The tendency is so strong that shapes of religious figures are often seen in foods such as cookies and sandwiches. Incorporation of faces into visually integrated marketing communications endeavors can enhance the strategy and offer advantage in promotion as well as brand recognition.

Care should be exercised in image selection; a well-known cautionary tale is related in many marketing classes about an instantly recognizable baby food brand using an image of a cute infant on the labeling of the product. Sales were healthy on a global basis with one exception – certain markets in Africa were realizing dismal returns. Further research revealed a tendency for food packaging to be marked with pictures of the ingredients, and the sight of the baby on the label was appalling to buyers!

While this article has focused on images, there are many other parameters and characteristics of interest to neurological marketing. These will be covered in future posts as part of an ongoing report on this very important tactical approach. We invite you to continue to follow Grannelle every week for new insights on the ever developing fields of social media and eMarketing.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mindful Marketing – Promoting to the Ways Brains Function, Part I

Much interest in the benefits and values of neuromarketing has been shown of late, so perhaps an overview of the mechanics of this new methodology is in order for those unfamiliar. Neurologically based marketing strategies are founded on consumer behavior responses, which correlate to the neurochemical activities associated with the decisional process. The field is as yet in developmental stages, yet the possibilities proposed are highly efficacious, and its practices may present desirable outcomes in terms of financial return on the marketing investment.

The scope of the subject matter is vast, yet a basic understanding will form a scaffold for greater comprehension with further study for the motivated learner. A simplified overview of brain structure and function form the outline of this article, and a future second post will cover implications of how these factors link to pertinent and germane marketing tactics.

Diagram of the brain

The human brain has evolved in a series of layers, with the primitive segments shared alongside less formed species. This is the limbic system, the subordinate portion of the brain which regulates the most basic tasks which are key to homeostasis, or continued existence. Responsibilities of the limbic include controlling breathing, heartbeat and other roles of which we are generally unaware. These actions are governed by the sympathetic, or involuntary nervous system, a set of nerves over which we have no conscious influence. The brain stem, medulla and cerebellum are all part of the limbic area, or hindbrain, which are very similar to those of the lowest of creatures, and are sometimes denoted as the reptilian brain.

Residing just above are the components of the midbrain, where the thalamus and hypothalamus are located. Basic survival instincts are managed here, including the fight or flight response. Uppermost is the forebrain, composed chiefly of the cerebrum, where actions such as thought, memory and other conscious undertakings, including decision-making, occur. This is part of the voluntary nervous system, the actions of which we are cognizant.


The brain is made up of nerve cells called neurons, which conduct electrically through chemical reactions. Nerve impulses travel from one neuron to another across small spaces which separate each cell, known as synapses. Two types of communicative chemicals, or neurotransmitters, are used to transmit these impulses, which may be inhibitory or excitatory. Excitatory neurotransmitters, e.g. norepinephrine and epinephrine, do exactly that – excite the brain. Inhibitory neurotransmitters, e.g. serotonin and GABA, hinder excitement, and have a calmative effect. Dopamine can act as both an inhibitory substance by reducing depression, and as an excitatory chemical by increasing focus.

Release of neurochemicals across the synapses form an electrical current in the nervous system throughout both the brain and the body, which is interpreted as a message. This information is then conveyed to the body in the form of commands, or responses that are translated as calls to action. We breathe, digest our food, walk, talk and so forth as a result of the data broadcast by the brain, which in turn processes the knowledge gleaned from stimuli acquired from the environment, whether internal or external, and creating consequences which are instinctive and uncontrolled or deliberately intended.

I'm not just a pretty face. I have a brain, too.

Next week on Grannelle we continue our discussion of brain function with corollaries to marketing by examining the manners in which decisions are reached by the brain. We also take a look at how we as marketers can better serve our customers by adapting neuromarketing methods to best achieve product promotion. Be sure to plan ahead now and join us then!

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Consumer Neuroscience: The Future of Marketing

Your product was developed from the ground up using a customer-centric point of view. Intense marketing research was conducted in an effort to learn how best to price, place and promote it. Beautifully inspired graphic artistry was included into state-of-the-art integrated marketing communications to acquire the precise message to communicate to the target audience. A social media campaign was designed to best foster word of mouth referrals. And the perfect position in the marketplace was found to catch the customer’s attention. But for some inexplicable reason the entire strategy went over like an iron balloon.

Many marketing plans focus on consumer attitudes. However, there are marked differences between the consumer’s attitude and the incentives which drive buying behavior. As a consequence, lack of insight into the prospective customer’s conduct at the last 10 feet of the sale can result in a failure for the purchase process to be completed. It begs the question, what is the buyer thinking?

Almost all of the data processing activity in the human brain is carried out subconsciously, that is to say the majority of internal information management occurs without our having any awareness of it happening whatsoever. Conventional marketing research methods, designed to understand the behavioral actions of the consumer, are unable to account for these subconscious practices. The outcome can be a mismatch of predicted responses and tangible reactions during the purchase progression. Therefore a need exists to comprehend the neurological courses which drive customer comportment. Enter the emerging field of neuromarketing.


Neuromarketing is an intermixing of the scholastic fields of behavioral psychology, neuroscience and marketing management. Behavioral psychology was first described in the 16th century by Francis Bacon, and seeks to understand the nature and performance of the human mind. Neuroscience studies the anatomy, or structure, and physiology, or function, of the brain, while marketing management centers on the operations necessary to effectively promote products and services to an identified targeted audience. By employing these disciplines conjointly, marketing professionals are better able to promote marketplace offerings in ways that more closely match the potential client’s motivations to purchase, and position brands in a supplementary manner which is readily recognized and better remembered.

The science of neuromarketing is still in its infancy at present; research is ongoing, and requires massive investments in technology. Examinations by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), where the synaptic activity of the various parts of the brain are mapped while the subject is provided varying stimuli, and electroencephalograms (EEG), which tracks the conduction of current generated by nerve impulses, are difficult to carry out in real world situations. Observational data must be gleaned repeatedly during the actual purchase process, and the statistics mined for correlations between impetus and action. Yet the prospect of increased accuracy in matching the marketing campaign to the behavior of the buyer has the potential to offer amplified efficacy to buying prompts, which may increase the return on sales and further the desired bottom line so vehemently sought by industries across the board.

"They hooked me up to all these machines, but all I could think about was tummy treats."

A deeper perception of consumer behavior promises to facilitate the future of marketing in ways that as yet we do not fully follow. As greater demands are made by executive management to validate the expenditures of marketing departments, taking such objective measures will likely be necessary. But they may also be beneficial, and offer value far in excess of the required capital spending.

Do you believe in the sustainability of neuromarketing, or simply consider it yet another form of black magic voodoo, a fad which will fade with the passage of time? Let your views be known in the comments below, and please share this article with others.

Join us again next week on Grannelle as we continue to deliver academically viable content designed to push the boundaries of modern marketing understanding!

Posted in Applications & Tools, Marketing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments