The first principle of marketing and sales is “know thy customer.”
-Kenneth C. Laudon, Carol Guercio Traver
The action of being virulent, as described by Webster’s Online Dictionary, is that of being highly infective. When a marketing message can be caused to become viral, the advertising will spread quickly; this is quintessential to the Holy Grail for businesses. This action is commonly attributed to the meme, a shortening of the Ancient Greek, mimeme, or to imitate.
The term was first coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his science fiction novel titled The Selfish Gene. It was used as a concept for the evolutionary principles which explain the spread of ideas and other cultural phenomena. When a popular abstraction arises, it tends to be passed from person to person, thus giving it virulence. Marketers actively seek this animation, in the hopes their product advertising will “go viral,” thus becoming widely known and possibly insinuating itself into the accepted aestheticism.
The viral effect is most often noted in videos, myriad examples of which are available on YouTube, a social networking site owned by Google. These videos contain one or more memes, which can include children, animals, and situations in which humans find themselves in situations that could be dangerous, albeit without possibility of lasting injury or death. Comedy is very often an ingredient, as is that which is perceived as adorable, charming, and/or witty.
A prime example of a viral marketing campaign is Old Spice’s “Old Spice guy.” This is a series of televised advertisements in which a well-figured man, often bare-chested and attractively muscled, travels across the screen holding the product and encountering different situations that are both varied and comically amusing. The thrust of the message is the tagline, “Should your man smell like an Old Spice man?” This particular viral ad has been discussed widely on Twitter , and one video from the contest has been viewed on YouTube almost 20 million times.
Another well heeled archetype is Google. The name has become synonymous with Internet search engines and the act of search itself; when one wants to explain how something was found on the Web, it is oft times stated, “I Googled it.” The name of the site, Google, has now become a meme. The result has been uncountable millions, even billions, of dollars saved in advertising and branding expenses; a CFO’s dream.
Since the abstraction of viral marketing is still in its infancy, it is difficult to ascertain exactly which meme’s are most viable and capable of producing virulence in advertising. No doubt in the future much research will be conducted to determine which specifics lend themselves to word-of-mouth, or perhaps more accurately, word-of-keyboard, to this exciting approach.