Purpose-Viral Marketing globally today has evolved due to an inherit need to publish marketing campaigns and messages quicker and through cheaper mediums than traditionally expensive Print, TV & Radio advertisements. Today the customers are more technologically savvy, have less time to shop and are more vigilant when it comes to researching a product or services they might be interested in. These are just a few of the reasons listed within this research to constitute a detailed discussion on the subject. It all starts with understanding the key components and stakeholders of today’s marketplace and the behaviors or processes associated. The document below will highlight areas for key interest whereby the inherent behavior of today’s technological client base will be studied and analyzed.
In today’s global e-commerce society where everyone wants information faster and the ability to interact with others through technological mediums like the cell phone, internet, emails, sms services or any other format it’s imperative to incorporate technology into the marketing arena. Successful companies have already started to embed these requirements of today’s demanding customers into their business processes, however there still remain a lot of companies struggling with these new age requirements and the ability to transform at the pace of today’s marketplace.
Methodology-The methodology used in this dissertation is descriptive in nature. The study is based on geographical region of India specifically towards the technology brands which have engaged in Viral or Buzz marketing campaigns.
Findings- Technology infrastructure, buying power, and community structures as a result of the study showed that a number of brands have had great success with changing their business processes to adopt to the current customer driven instant information based services experience. Peer pressure, opinions and trends seem to drive successful viral campaigns. We have also seen impact of mere peer pressure along with technology preference in shaping the consumers choice which drives business and consumer behavior.
Value-This research is to showcase Viral marketing trends in India used specifically in the technology space by different companies to enhance and retain more consumers in today’s changing marketplace where limited buying power with higher technological awareness enables long and short term marketing results to successful brands. This methodology plays a pivotal role in making their business sustainable.
Keywords-Viral marketing, word of mouth marketing, case studies, digital networks, social media marketing.
This project has been a team effort, many people provided me with support and assistance to conduct this study. First and foremost, thanks must go to my supervisor Dr Usman Mahboob for his continuous guidance and support.
I would like to thank London College of Business and The University of Wales for providing me with this opportunity to complete my MBA.
There have been a number of highs and lows during the synthesis of this dissertation. The support and encouragement from family and friends has kept me moving in the right direction. Everyone has supported me especially my loving brother Naveed Iqbal. He has been the only one who has never doubted that I would finally submit a dissertation. Without that confidence in my ability, this dissertation would never have become a reality. Thank you my dear brother.
A very special thank you, goes to my friend Dr Asma Naz for his assistance in data analysis, support and motivation throughout this period.
List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Abbreviations
C2C Customer to Customer
ETP Epidemic Threshold Parameter
P2P Peer to Peer
RVM Random Viral Marketing
WOM Word Of Mouth
The world of marketing is ever evolving and growing. New and better marketing techniques are invented frequently to enhance or augment the obsolete trends. Although a lot of the older marketing techniques still hold well in today’s marketplace but with the introduction of new mediums like the internet, sms, mms, emails and blogs etc. The approach to reach the masses for capturing a new customer base or enhancing a current one has needed to be reassessed. Same is the case with the world of marketing that in general terms is known as WOM(word of mouth). WOM has now evolved and gone digital. Viral Marketing has also been quoted and defined as a marketing practice whereby present customers float company’s marketing message to their colleagues, family and friends (Lauden and Traver 2001 p. 381). It is similar in nature to the previous era’s word-of-mouth marketing. One person will make an impression about the product and spread the word around. The element of peer pressure takes precedence in the Viral Marketing phenomena. Viral Marketing has recently gained increased popularity, furthermore world renowned brands have jumped on the bandwagon i.e. Budweiser, Kellogg’s, Levi’s, Nestle, and Virgin cinemas. Although there is still a limited amount of understanding that exists of this marketing technique (Borroff, 2000). It is a rather new marketing tactic but due to the popularity of cyber space it has started to gain pace with all the conventional marketing methodologies.
Other names given to viral marketing are buzz marketing, word of mouse marketing or virus marketing etc. But whatever the name the idea is same as that of the word of mouth marketing. This techniques works on the technique of sharing the news or information with friends and family and so it passes on. Viral marketing is often considered as the gossiping marketing tool. People share their experiences, say good or bad things about their experiences and build a peer pressure to make others experience the same. However viral marketing is more like a bubble and it bursts very soon. YouTube is a great source for viral marketing videos. A number of videos are thrown on this website so that people can come and view it. If the idea clicks, they start sending it to their friends and family and thus it starts growing exponentially. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are also a great source for viral marketing. It’s considered relatively easy to spread the word around through social networks that have bulk of visiting them every minute. Viral marketing is especially very well known in the regions where the technology is robust and people are used to using online sources for information sharing. Viral marketing can also work through WAP and mobile phones. The more the technology will start growing the more innovative this concept will become with time.
The advent of e-commerce has changed the shape of doing business around the world. It has given birth to a novel atmosphere where the needs and desires of the customers and the consumers keep changing every minute. Thus new challenges are coming forth for the marketers and the business organizations as they totally divided between the old ways of market and the new proceedings taking place every now and then. To some people it isn’t something new in fact the good old word of mouth marketing. It works on the same principal of sharing the experience with the peers, friends and the family. For some orthodox marketers believe that maintaining and adding data to website can make customers coming back for the product and in certain instances they completely ignore the element of World Wide Web in the progress of a business. Others act progressively and pick thediffering tack assuming change as the only constant and keep working for it. (Feather 2000, Murphy 2000). Although the concept of viral marketing is as old as WOM marketing, yet the tools are new and innovative. Viral marketing has been successful in the markets where WOM prevailed. With the advent of technology WOM is replaced with viral marketing.
Viral marketing is the modern implication of the word of mouth marketing. This is also known as the buzz marketing. People will get to know about one product or brand and spread the word around to other people. Viral marketing usually appears to be completely dependent on the image of the product in the eyes of the respondents or the customers. It is not just a spread word by the customers however whatever image the product makes in front of the customer, they spread it out. Viral marketing has proved to be a new concept and thus a limited number of brands and companies have started to adopt this new marketing regime. However the future of the viral marketing holds a lot due to the usage and reliance on the cyber world. Viral marketing videos create a great amount of buzz with the people. There are a number of examples of such videos and if such videos are liked by the people they forward it to their friends and thus the cycle goes on. Viral marketing spreads like a virus around. Once a video starts getting the hits and clicks, its viewership starts increasing exponentially. Viral marketing is brief, effective and crisp and thus has managed to gain much likeness even despite of it being a newer tool of marketing. Some believe that the viral marketing is not effective since it never helps in positioning the brand rather simply creates a hype for it and this fades away soon. However viral marketing is still used to spread the information around.
Viral marketing or the buzz marketing as people call ithas created much of the hype amongst the marketers and the people around. It comes with its supporters and critics both. However viral marketing is the future of marketing due to e-commerce and the web the cyber space that has entangled us all in its aura of endless possibilities. Certain problems encountered by the viral marketing that has forced us to get to the root of the matter are:
Critics believe that viral marketing can build the fads and fashions and not the iconic brands. Iconic brands’ popularity is much more durable and goes a long way. However the fashions and the fads will only last for some time and then fade away.
Critics also believe that viral marketing depends on the customers and not the marketers to develop the brand image. Thus the company will take the back seat the customer will do the rest.
Viral marketing may dilute the image of the brand by making it utter from the mouth of another person. Obviously company knows where to emphasize and where to subside but the mouth marketer (viral marketer) will work with his own ideas.
There is always a danger of netiquette or spamming. Since these things are hard to control.
1.4. THESIS statement
To critically analyze the factors that impacts the viral marketing and its influence on the Indian market with respect to the field of technology.
Aim of this study has been focused to examine and analyze the factors which impact Viral Marketing efforts of Technology organizations or product lines specifically in the Indian market. India is a huge market with the people receptive towards the use the computers and internet as the mean to communicate. Studying a market like India reveals great insights in to the marketing techniques used in this vast land to gather more audience and prospect customers. Different case studies are studied and each of them is analyzed to find out the factors affecting the viral marketing in India. Each factor will be examined carefully with the help of case studies published some of the renowned companies who have worked in the field of viral marketing.Viral marketing’s success is hard to measure; this study will help in understanding the how to measure the impact of viral marketing through its viewer ship. The concept of viral marketing is sometimes hard to grasp the aim of this study is to make it a comprehensive understanding of viral marketing.
To work on a study, it is very important to clearly define the objectives of the study. Objective of this study is devised to be in line with the literature study and the methodology. The objectives are thoughtfully laid down to get a deeper insight in to the idea of viral marketing and the factors influencing it.
To spot out the major factors and its results, taking place on the product or the company name as a result of Viral Marketing.
To discover the most ideal factors that can contribute towards the success of the viral marketing campaign.
Analyze which business sectors can support the viral marketing technique.
To discover the effectiveness of viral marketing.
To analyze the influence of viral marketing on the customer base and sales generation.
The purpose behind this study is to analyze the relatively new introduced concept of viral marketing. The cyber world has taken over the world of marketing and communication through its endless possibilities. Social networking website, social media websites etc. are already being used for the purpose of exploring new trends to market and sell the products. Viral marketing is thought to be similar as the word-of-mouth marketing. People tell share about experience, idea and thoughts about a certain product and spread the word around.
Viral marketing is growing over the period of time yet very limited research has been conducted on the topic. Keeping in mind the importance of this subject it is very important to lay down some of the details for the future work and references. Viral marketing has proved to very effective in many cases, those cases will be discussed in detail to understand the logic behind the success of this new marketing mantra. By critically analyzing the factors influencing the viral marketing we can deduce some very interesting results. This paper will define the purpose and need of this study in more detail and help the researchers to build another research topic on this subject matter.
Reasons for selecting topic
The history of Viral Marketing is not primitive in nature, it all started in near past with the catchy tagline introduced by Hotmail “Get your free e-mail from Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com”to attract more users (Helm 2000, Porter & Golan 2006). As per Welker (2002, p.7) this form of marketing is nothing but the new presentation of old idea of word-of-mouth marketing, Viral Marketing is not an old concept thus the amount of work present on the topic is also limited. There is a need for more research studies on this ever increasing topic of interest. This topic has been selected keeping in mind the limited work done on this topic. This study will deeply analyze the factors influencing the viral marketing’s success. Viral marketing works well in the community where people are receptive towards the use of technology and processes. India is a market with great potential and keen interest in technology. Also in India WOM and viral marketing strategies work well because of the community set up. In this study various case studies of viral marketing would be studied and its impact would be critically analyzed. Viral marketing is appreciated in youth because it is easy for them to forward or send a page as a reference to their friends, especially if they are given some incentive to perform the activity.
Viral marketing is done through a number of means. Social networking websites are also considered very important to do the viral marketing activity. Twitter is considered a great source of viral marketing. Facebook and YouTube are also used to conduct viral marketing activities. Blogs and online referrals are also a great source of viral marketing. This form of marketing is new yet is old enough to create the buzz in the viewers of the ad campaign. Studying the progress of this marketing technique is of great importance in today’s era where technology has taken precedence over every other means of communication. This study will help in analyzing the success factors behind a good viral campaign in the technology market which is quiet admired in India. The youth in India is one of the early adapters of the technology thus studying the impact of viral marketing in this part of the world will reveal great insights about viral marketing success.
Word of Mouth marketing techniques could not only influence consumer choices and purchasing decisions (Arndt, J; 67), but rather shape client’s expectations [Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996], pre-usage perception [Herr, Kardes, Kim, 91] and even post-usage attitudes of product lines or service areas [Bone, 95]. [Katz, E.; Lazarsfeld, 55] indicated the influence of Word of Mouth technique is greater than that of a classic advertising medium. Researchers (Kaikati & Kaikati 2004) look at this phenomenonas digital word of mouthmethod distributing advertiser’scallthrough the click of mouse and making sure to target thecuriosity level required to move ahead the message to their peers. (Dobele et al 2005) intriguing the customers or the potential customers, to throw the message, they receive through digital mediums (emails, chat or websites) is defined as Viral Marketing. Bidirectional communication has become possible because of the digital word of mouth marketing (Dellarocas 2003)as a result it has left intriguing marks on the individuals (Goldenberg et al 2001)
Brewer (2003) agrees at viral marketing otherwise known as referral marketing is a thorough process of getting a digital marketing message (about a product or idea) and sending it forward to the peers and the family. (Lauden and Traver 2001) but warns about the cost of viral marketing as only incremental. Different writers have different opinions about the concept and the process of viral marketing like Laudon and Traver who defines this as “Viral marketers utilize consumer-to-consumer preferred method of communicating, which is rapid and cost effective (Laudon and Traver, 2001). Another eminent writer Helm (2000) emphasizes viral marketing as a type of advertising which is almost like an online version of word-of-mouth advertisement (c.f., Beckmann & Bell, 2000).
According to viral marketing report published in 2011 by the YouGov, the 7th Chamber, social video seeding, and “it’s worth remembering at this point that, when peering through the mists of time, things were very different back then. Social media was still a relatively new commodity to most (MySpace was the major player and Facebook the scrappy young upstart), podcasts were in their infancy and the iPhone and Twitter were just glints in their makers eyes. Meanwhile viral marketing was moving away from being funny little videos or client bolt-ons and starting to find its feet alongside traditional advertising and marketing mediums, yet YouTube was part of the Wild West, to be generally avoided by brands.”
Ross Mullane, Paddy Power, points out: “YouTube barely existed five years ago. Broadband penetration was much lower, less people watched content online and it was not as easy to track i.e. when people may have sent a wmv around the place.”
Michael Sugden, the managing director at VCCP whose clients include Compare the Market and O2, says: “The main reason for the rises that we do digital work for moreand more clients. In fact, we nowhave more clients for digital for thanadvertising.However, he warns: “Branded contentis not immune to the fundamentalsof effective marketing. It has toengage and disrupt. Creatingbranded content is not enoughand currently too much dross, oflittle interest to consumers, is beingchurned out by brands.”
Daniel Goodall, the senior marketing manager at Nokia, says: “Video is now an essential part in the decisionmaking process when it comes to high-consideration products and services. If, for example, a person wants or needs a new phone, they will go to Google – or even straight to YouTube – to search for a video. This is part of the increasingly complex consideration phase, during which video content enables people to make informed decisions before they go to retail stores or buy online.”
The survey conducted by the viral marketing report published in 2011 by the YouGov, the 7th Chamber, social video seeding shows that, “YouTube is far and away the most used source for viewing videos with 30% of respondents saying that they use it. Facebook comes in second with 19%. Slightly more unexpected is the low scoring for blogs, Vimeo, Twitter, Bebo and MySpace barely registering on the consumer’s consciousness (none achieving higher than 2%).” The report further states, “The percentage of peoplewho have shared branded videocontent over an app is now higherthan all the best-known videosharing sites apart from YouTubeand Facebook coming in at 6%.” And that “thehighest number of respondentsthat said they used apps wasactually in the 55+ age group,which is not only a testament to thepower of the grey market but alsotheir ability to adopt mobile-basedtechnology (in no other categorydo the 55+ respondents seem tohave such an acute understandingof technology). These two thingstogether point to an exceptionallyfertile ground for growth that isready to be exploited.” Now this shows a huge success and growth for the viral marketing. Social media websites are already being used as the base for the viral messages however the mobile phone apps are also taking the high grounds for success. Viral marketing has basis to become successful tool for marketing because it is now being adapted by the people of greater ages as well as seen from this report. The same survey report asked its respondents of the online videos help in improving the brand’s image, “57% of the base answering ‘neither agree nor disagree’ (28%agreeing, 15% disagreeing) it wouldappear on the surface that thepublic, on the whole, are eitherapathetic towards branding inonline videos or, more likely, theydo not fully understand how onlinebranding works.” The report concludes by stating, “It’s also obvious that there is not only a greater understanding of what viral and branded content is but also that consumers are now much more trusting and happy to engage with branded content. Yet 70% of people claimed they didn’t pass on branded videos, but 37% of people thought a brand could influence what a person bought. Strangely, this is worrying but also encouraging. As our offline lives become more disposable so do our online lives and content now need to be consistent as well as creative? Because consumers are now happier and familiar with branded content, this opportunity has to be taken but without content being over diluted, otherwise advertising messages will become lost in the maelstrom of the hundreds of hours of content uploaded to the internet every day. The opportunity is there for an intelligent strategy driven approach to creating online content, which, if correctly placed, the target audience will engage with, and ideally share. This research showsthat a lot of the fear and trepidation felt by consumers four years ago has been shrugged off with the market changing from new and fearful to mature and fearless. With more and more places to engage with and share content, these are exciting and opportunistic times for consumer brands to reach their audience, effectively and efficiently.”
The referral mechanism behind viral marketing resembles the same as of the word-of-mouth marketing (Buttle 1997; Helm 2000; Lindberg-Repo & Gronroos, 1999); where a positive WOM is considered the take place when people write good and encouraging testimonials about the company and the mirror image is conceived with the negative WOM (Buttle 1997) As per Bansal and Voyer (2000, p. 166)), “there is surprisingly limited empirical research that examines deeply (word of mouth) ‘procedural’ aspects” Beckman and Bell however were able to find some differences between viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing, therefore resulting both in having different implications when it comes to marketing. Some of such differences are listed below:
Viral marketing flows to more people in much lesser time.
WOM is mostly verbal and face-to-face; however viral marketing uses images, visual stimuli as well as text.
Viral marketing gives more control on the content to the company however WOM totally depends on the words of the communicator.
WOM is a two way communication i.e. it comes with the feedback from the responder. This point makes the likely hood of the receiver to attend the message greater.
Brodie (2001) establishes that one of the oldest possible examples of viral marketing campaign can be the Gospel and the Christian missionaries preaching the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, thereby making viral marketing a centuries old phenomenon with a rich history and background.
Helm believes that although viral marketing products are diffused quickly because users are usually taken to the website home page by the person who referred them to this link page (Helm, 2000). (Kaikati 2004) statesthis marketing technique like stealth method but however stealth advertisingis new in the world of marketing viral marketing refers to the advertisement (Phelps et al 2004, Porter & Golan 2006) and brand (Dobele et al 2005, Moore 2003) factors of conventionalbrand promotion.
The definition of [Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, Gremler, 2004] are alike definitions of Word of Mouth [Arndt; 1967], whereby [Montgomery 2001] links the phenomenon with advertisement and understands it as a communication strategy. [Helm 2000] and [Subramani; Rajagopalan 2003] expand the scope of this distribution and communication. Still the definition of [Helm 2000] limits viral marketing to the products and offerings available digitally even though services are neglected. Modzelewski’s propositions [Modzelewski’s 2001] that viral marketing differentiates from traditional word of mouth due to the positive network external factors interestingly enough, as it integrates viral marketing and with network effect theories. (Subramani, Rajagopalan 2003)
Viral marketing involves:
Consumers who are connected and know each other (Reichheld and Schefter, 2000)
Consumers who might not know each other (Laudon and Traver, 2001)
Since the customers or the users are the main elements of viral marketing technique. An organization can choose due diligence the consumer set that must first approve on the Viral message, since the development and progress of such messages is on the shoulders of these individuals (Bennan 2000; Harvard Management Update 2000; Helm 2000). Viral marketing is explained as a process with certain strategies and Helm indicates how this is accomplished. Viral marketing strategies tend to be classified according to the degree of requirement of the individual’s part in the forwarding of marketing messages (Helm, 2000) low level as well as high level incorporation strategies. The former strategies include “Send this story to a friend” icons and can be utilized for web hosted address book links, calendars, list servers, news group readers and greeting cards services or service providers. The later strategies dictate active participation of the client in reaching new clients who may have to download unique programs (Helm, 2000; Jurvetson & Draper, 1998). De Bruyn and Lilien (2003) also state this when they discuss intentional viral message disseminations (e.g., PayPal or the “Recommend It” which is published and known from numerous websites) and unintentional viral communication message disseminations (e.g. hotmail.com).
The current data available for the said topic shows four emerging research methods so as to make theory, conception and contribution, easy. These include VM comparisons, VM C2C, communication media study and positioning VM. Comparisons drawn let us compare viral marketing techniques to other marketing techniques like TV etc.(Porter & Golan 2006). C2C VMstudies particular problems with-in the perspective of consumers for example consumer loyalty and value (Gruen et al 2006). Communications media defines particular distribution models like emails and other online transmissions (Welker 2002). The lastmethod is VM positioning, this research is concerned with only the tracking of proper positioning for VM (Dobele et al 2005, Helm 2000).
The effortby Dellarocas (2003&2005) depicts the results that models like eBay can produce. Trust, however is doubtful in the online recommendations due to the changing of facts (Dellarocas 2003) the possibility of online frauds also increase due to this (Boltonetal 2004). Online reputation is like a capital asset that must be maintained and invested in (Rob & Fishman 2005).
Viral marketing over social networks has been analyzed for the purpose of influence maximization (P. Domingos, M. Richardson. & D. Kempe, J. Kleinberg,) or revenue increase (J. Hartline, & H. Akhlaghpour,) In the influence maximization scenario models (P. Domingos, M. Richardson. & D. Kempe, J. Kleinberg,), a consumer’s decision to buy a product is influenced by a set of other people who own similar products. In the revenue maximization case model (J. Hartline, & H. Akhlaghpour,) people don’t simply adopt products, but rather must spend money to buy them.
Researchers like Mayzlin (2006) and counterparts like Chevalier (2006), Godes (2004) set up on both behavioral & management science customs and methodologyclientsproduced distinctiveness and attitude as cases thatmay be used as recognizedamounts in arithmetical models. Dellarocas (2003) asks for additionalinvestigate on responsetechnique or mechanism planthat may be extensive more generally to other features of VM or P2P communication together with theoretical experiments and experiential research that believes the worldwidecontact of buyer seller attitude and aimproved understanding of the way managers shouldsettle in their strategies in online circumstances.
Measuring the viral marketing impact
The end result of VM campaigns may certainly be prejudiceddue tomagnetism of message, promotionintend and otherpertinentinterference policies. The apparentworth of the viral marketing promotionalong withpresenting an enticement to improve the impact cooperate a central role in formatting a user’s tendency to promote the viral communication (Bampo, et al, 2008).
Bampo et al (2008) in one of the studies defined the parameters for the propensity and reach of the viral message. The study discusses in depth the mathematical way to measure the expected reach of the message. There are different factors defined in the study which help in understanding the link between those parameters and the results or outcomes of the linkage between said factors and parameters. According to a theory by Bampo(2008) once the message reaches the destination system, the system becomes infected with the viral marketing now if the infected system forwards the message to another system this mechanism is defined by a parameter of forwarding. The forwarding parameter can be further described as, “contagion parameter” as described in outbreak theory (Becker 1989). In the digital circumstances the contamination parameter refers to the possible probability of forwarding a message. This leads to the formation of another parameter known as the activation factor or parameter. According to Bampo et al (2008) suggest of starting with the broader level absolute social network thatsummarizes all types of relationsin between the connectionse.g., family ties or social or professional connections. Number of such connections can be computerized and we call them digital subset of the absolutesystem as the relevant underlying digital social network.
Asa digital message is received by an individual within the particularprimary digital social network, they are faced with two separate choices, first being either or not to pass on the message, according to the forwarding stricture or secondly if they
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