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Understanding Viral Marketing in a Scientific Way

Understanding Viral Marketing in a Scientific Way

Table of Content

Like a wildfire that rapidly spreads through a dry forest, some content online seems to catch and ignite public interest, blazing across social media platforms and garnering millions of views and shares in the blink of an eye. You've likely witnessed this phenomenon, and perhaps even participated in it.

But have you ever wondered about the science behind this 'viral' effect? What precisely triggers this digital wildfire?

As a marketing professional, understanding the mechanisms at play can be the difference between a campaign that fizzles out and one that sets the internet ablaze.

This exploration won't be a mere theoretical exercise; stick around as we dissect real-world examples and reveal the scientific principles underlying successful viral marketing campaigns.

Key Takeaways

  • Viral marketing relies on key elements such as social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, and practical value.
  • Successful viral campaigns provide practical value, build anticipation, and encourage participation.
  • Leveraging storytelling and creating memorable experiences contribute to viral growth.
  • Crafting content that evokes strong emotions increases the likelihood of sharing.

A Scientific Take on Viral Marketing

Let's delve into the Science Behind Viral Marketing, exploring the identifiable characteristics that often make content go viral. You'll find there's a somewhat predictable formula for viral growth, yet it's not always guaranteed.

Jonah Berger's STEPPS system, detailed in his book 'Contagious: Why Things Catch On,' provides a Scientific Take on Viral and a framework to follow. It includes elements like social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, and practical value.

Now, consider the practice of viral marketing – how it's implemented in real-world scenarios. Classic viral marketing examples often feature unconventional campaigns that spark interest and evoke emotions. Marketing tactics such as guerilla strategies, unique product features, or creating memorable experiences are common elements of viral, contributing to the buzz and viral growth.

Lastly, it's worth deciphering the common elements in successful viral marketing campaigns. They often provide practical value, build anticipation, and encourage participation. Remember, the goal isn't just to create shareable content, but to craft compelling stories that resonate with audiences, thus amplifying your brand exposure.

It's this unique blend of science and creativity that makes viral marketing so potent.

Understanding Viral Marketing: Best Practices and Strategies

After grasping the science behind viral marketing, you're now ready to explore the best practices and strategies that can enhance your approach to launching campaigns with the potential to go viral. Successful viral campaigns often share a few common traits, such as eliciting strong emotional responses or offering practical usefulness.

Harvard Business studies highlight the importance of social currency in viral marketing. In essence, people are more inclined to share content that makes them look good in their social circles. So, create campaigns that give your customers this advantage.

Online triggers are another crucial aspect. WePay's unconventional tactics and Diamond Candles' product integration strategy are prime examples of this. They used real experiences and unique content to trigger virality.

Influencers can also help you reach the periphery of networks. Like the Blendtec's 'Will It Blend?' series, your campaign can significantly benefit from viral videos and unconventional content.

Lastly, remember to track your success. Design clear, measurable metrics to evaluate the performance of your viral marketing efforts. Effective viral ads aren't just about luck; they're a product of strategic planning and understanding the science of virality.

Social Currency: Creating Shareable Content

Understanding the concept of social currency is crucial in creating content that not only captivates your audience but also prompts them to share it within their networks. In the realm of viral marketing, social currency refers to the shareability of your content. This concept is pivotal in creating viral pieces of content.

Imagine you've created a piece of content that evokes a strong emotional reaction. If it's a positive emotion, it's even better. People tend to share content that evokes happiness, excitement, or surprise. These are common elements in viral content, and they give your audience a kind of social status – a viral type of customer.

Consider how you can provide value to your audience. If your content is practical and useful, your audience will want to share it to provide that value to others. This gives them social currency. For example, a helpful how-to guide or an inspiring success story can become viral types of content.

Triggers: Sparking Engagement and Interest

In the world of viral marketing, knowing how to effectively utilize triggers can ignite engagement and pique interest in your content. Triggers, like the subservient chicken from Burger King or the infamous Blendtec blenders, serve to spark engagement and interest. These are examples of common elements that, due to their unusual nature, attract attention and encourage people to share content.

According to Wharton professor Jonah Berger, the key to viral marketing is simply finding the right trigger. It's not enough to create content that evokes a strong emotional response, you also need to examine the elements that make people want to share it. Berger's research has found that practical value, social currency, and emotional resonance are among the most effective triggers for viral content.

Emotion: Evoking Powerful Reactions

Harnessing the power of emotions can significantly boost your content's chance of going viral. In a scientific take on viral marketing, emotion: evoking powerful reactions plays a crucial role. It's not just about creating content, it's about crafting a viral video which showcases something that touches people, that evokes a strong response.

Defining viral is often about understanding the nature of virality. Highly viral content often contains elements that trigger powerful reactions. Whether it's laughter, surprise, joy, or even anger, the stronger the emotion, the more likely it's to be shared.

Consider types of customer service experiences that have gone viral. Often, it's those that trigger powerful emotions – positive or negative. A customer service hero going above and beyond, a company standing up for a cause, or a business failing spectacularly – these stories evoke strong reactions, and they spread like wildfire.

Public: Leveraging Social Proof and Peer Influence

Just as stirring powerful emotions can make your content go viral, leveraging social proof and peer influence plays an equally important role in capturing public attention. In a world where people need to see to believe, it's no surprise that customer service stories often go viral. They provide proof of a product or service's value, and people tend to share these stories with their circle.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini revealed in his research that people are more likely to make a purchase if they see others doing the same. This is where the concept of public: leveraging social proof and peer influence becomes significant. Research from Kelsey Libert further confirms this, stating that people are more likely to share content that they believe will be beneficial to their friends or family.

In this context, knowing your target audience becomes crucial. As marketer Carson Ward points out, understanding what resonates with your audience can help in crafting better viral video ads. Virality isn't accidental; it's a science, combining emotional stimulation with social validation. Balance these elements rightly, and you'll have content that not just goes viral but also leaves a lasting impact.

Practical Value: Providing Useful Information or Solutions

Ever wondered why some content spreads like wildfire? It's often because they offer practical value: they provide useful information or solutions that people can't resist sharing. From a scientific take on viral marketing, it's clear that providing such practical value is crucial to make something go viral.

Think about the pieces of online content that have managed to spread far and wide. Most of these pieces of content rely heavily on practical value. They offer solutions to problems, answers to questions, or useful information that people didn't know they needed. This is a strategy that smart marketers try to tackle when they want to create viral content.

It's not just about creating a catchy headline; it's about providing value that helps market your business effectively. People naturally tend to share content that has helped them in some way. It could be a handy tip, a how-to guide, or a solution to a common problem.

When your content offers this kind of practical value, it stands a better chance of being shared, thereby increasing its reach and impact. So, always aim to provide useful information or solutions in your content.

Stories: Crafting Compelling Narratives

Diving into the realm of storytelling, you'll find that crafting compelling narratives can significantly enhance the virality of your content. People simply love a good story, and when it's told with good taste or opinion, its shareability skyrockets.

Let's take a scientific take on viral marketing and examine some classic viral marketing examples to see this in action. The Help Scout blog is a fantastic instance. Its founders knew that stories: crafting compelling narratives, would make their content irresistible. They mixed emotional appeal with practical information, creating a narrative that their audience couldn't help but share.

Another standout example is Harvard. For 151 years, Harvard has expertly woven stories into its marketing strategies, resulting in content that consistently goes viral. This prestigious institution understands that compelling narratives are the secret sauce to viral success.

In short, crafting narratives that are engaging, shareable, and packed with emotional or practical value is paramount in viral marketing. So, when you're creating your next marketing campaign, don't underestimate the power of a compelling story. It's not just about what you're saying, but how you're telling it.

Exploring Successful Viral Marketing Examples

Building on the notion of crafting compelling narratives, let's now examine some highly successful viral marketing examples to understand how they've effectively utilized the power of storytelling and other key elements to capture the public's interest.

Take the Dollar Shave Club advert, for instance. It's an excellent example that shows how humor and a relatable story can generate massive online interest. Their unique approach to advertising, which Derek Halpern highlights as essential to viral success, made their content irresistible to share.

Then there's the comprehensive STEPPS system, derived from recent research from Kelsey at the Wharton School. This model, proposed by associate professor Jonah Berger, outlines the crucial factors that make online content go viral: Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical value, and Stories.

Guerilla Tactics: Unconventional and Memorable Campaigns

Let's delve into the world of guerilla marketing, where unconventional and attention-grabbing campaigns often become memorable and shareable content. These guerilla tactics: unconventional and memorable campaigns, are a de facto example of viral marketing.

You've probably seen an example that doesn't rely on traditional advertising. Take the street art of Banksy. His art is a modern form of guerilla marketing that sparks global conversation. Or, consider the process of what Dollar Shave Club did. Their humorous and irreverent advert wasn't just memorable; it was a clear proposition around the tactic of disrupting the shaving market.

Let's not forget the 'Steve Jobs Never' campaign. It was unconventional, but the message resonated, making it memorable. These campaigns align with findings from earlier scientific takes on viral marketing. They show that provoking emotion, creating surprise, and crafting a story are key to viral success.

Baking Growth into the Product: Incentivizing Sharing

In the realm of viral marketing, you can bake growth directly into your product by incentivizing sharing. This approach is a de facto example of viral marketing. This scientific take on viral marketing involves creating an idea that helps market your product. It's used to promote your product in a way that naturally inspires people to share your content.

People like sharing news, especially if it's something they find interesting or valuable. If you can tap into this instinct, you can get a lot of mileage out of your marketing efforts. Encourage this by providing incentives for sharing. These could be discounts, exclusive content, or access to special features.

Easter Eggs and the "Experience": Creating Excitement and Engagement

While incentivizing sharing is key to a successful viral marketing campaign, you shouldn't underestimate the power of Easter eggs and immersive experiences to create excitement and drive customer engagement.

Easter eggs are hidden gems, often concealed within your marketing content, creating an element of surprise and intrigue. They're a de facto method of sparking curiosity and keeping your audience engaged, encouraging them to delve deeper into your content.

Think about it, when you see others doing something interesting, you're compelled to join in. This is the essence of viral marketing. It's about creating an experience that's so enticing, it naturally encourages sharing and discussion.

A great example is the 'Will It Blend?' series by Blendtec. The unconventional content created buzz, made the brand a common topic of conversation, and encouraged sharing, boosting their viral marketing efforts.

Viral Series: Building Anticipation and Continuity

Building a sense of anticipation through a series of content releases is a powerful tool in your viral marketing toolkit. That's the essence of viral series: building anticipation and continuity. A well-planned series can maintain momentum over an extended period, turning casual viewers into dedicated followers.

Berger's findings, a favorite research piece in this scientific take on viral marketing, suggest that people enjoy sharing things that reflect positively on them. This can be a de facto example of viral marketing in action. By releasing a list of great stories in a series, you're not just putting material out there. You're also giving your audience a platform for showcasing their good taste.

Each installment of your series should be designed to leave your audience wanting more. It's this continuity in storytelling that creates engagement and anticipation. People will look forward to the next release, creating a sense of community and shared experience.

Interactivity: Encouraging Participation and User-generated Content

Harnessing the power of interactivity can skyrocket your viral marketing campaign, as it encourages user participation and the creation of user-generated content. Kelsey Libert and Kristin, in a previous version of this article, showed how this strategy can be a de facto example of viral success.

The next example also serves to illustrate the point. You can learn from their practical approach, where useful material was shown to encourage people to talk, share, and engage in your campaign. This interactivity: encouraging participation and user-generated content, is a key ingredient in a scientific take on viral marketing.

Berger found that the most effective campaigns had high levels of interactivity. They didn't just passively present their message, but actively engaged their audience. This active engagement led to an increase in user-generated content, which in turn led to greater sharing and virality.

The Classic Viral Video: Captivating Audiences with Visual Storytelling

Diving into the realm of classic viral videos, you'll find that captivating audiences through visual storytelling can significantly enhance your content's chances of going viral. It's a modern classic approach marketers have dedicated years to perfecting. This method stands as a fact de facto example of viral marketing.

Visual storytelling isn't just about creating an intriguing narrative. It's about walking through the process of forming a connection with your audience. The story you're telling should resonate, making viewers feel like they're part of it. A regular found that customer engagement increases when they're emotionally involved.

This scientific take on viral marketing emphasizes the importance of crafting content that sparks emotion. The right kind of emotion can make your content more shareable, boosting its potential to go viral. Remember, people don't just share information; they share stories that moved them.

Viral Articles: Crafting Shareable and Informative Content

Often, crafting shareable and informative content is at the heart of a successful viral article. When it comes to a scientific take on viral marketing, Berger's findings are key. Positive content that evokes strong emotions and offers practical value is often shared. You're making them look good when they share your content. It's why the Budweiser 'Puppy Love' ad became a de facto example of viral content. People regularly found that customer-shared content helped others and look good doing it.

Remember, viral articles aren't just about crafting shareable and informative content. They must strike a balance between what's interesting to your audience and what's beneficial for your brand. Make sure your content is relatable and easily digestible. Videos are almost always a great way to engage your audience, but don't forget the power of a well-crafted article.

While there's no guaranteed formula for virality, understanding the science behind it can improve your chances. Keep your content authentic, useful, and shareable, and you'll enhance your chances of going viral.

How can Viral Marketing Strategies Help Address and Clarify Unclear Questions from Potential Buyers?

Viral marketing strategies can be instrumental in handling unclear buyer questions. By creating engaging and shareable content, brands can leverage the power of word-of-mouth to address and clarify potential buyers’ uncertainties. This approach allows for organic dissemination of information, ultimately building trust and credibility within the consumer base.


So, you've taken a deep dive into the science of viral marketing. You've discovered the power of social proof, learned to spark interest, and seen how emotions can turn content into a wildfire.

You've explored successful viral campaigns and learned how to craft your own. Now, it's time to put theory into practice.

So go ahead, ignite the internet with your shareable, emotion-evoking, interactive content. The world is waiting for your viral masterpiece.