The Problem with Viral Marketing (Part II)

July 18, 2007 at 11:52 pm 2 comments

Just recently I posted something on the problem of viral marketing, naming some of the reasons why it doesn’t always work. Just days later I found an article on Adage about an Math Professor explaining it his way, rooted in a much more fundamental theory that some of the readily-accepted theories like “tipping points”, “social network media” and “influencers” may actually not be all that true.

One really interesting point he is making is that it’s not just that you need a viral idea, you need to seed it where you get contagion. So in a way, what planning can do, if anything, is find some potentially advantageous contagion parameters and that, actually, specificity of the target and choosing influencers over “normal” people to spread the idea aren’t necessarily the ones who make a viral idea contagious. As the article states, “sounds a lot like mass communication, doesn’t it?”.

Not only does this fly in the face of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping point theory, and the hype of social network’s importance for viral ideas, it also says you can’t actually expect an agency to come up with a viral idea that works, except to see if it maybe will work. AND, it also insinuates that the whole discipline and task of marketing in itself, which is dependent on strategies derived from tested insight, does not apply here.

I am totally torn on whether to say: “Duh” or “Wow.” All I can say is: thank god to the math whizzes for providing a contradictory insight that helps us question how we accept theories and let us fine-tune our process to get a more successful communication outcome.


Entry filed under: advertising, Brand, Channel, Consumer, duh 2.0, effectiveness, Insight, Market, Marketing, theory.

More news about the death of the 30 second spot The wind

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. 4MySales  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Just like a virus, viral marketing needs to be seeded in a population that is susceptible and able to pass on the message. Also, just like a virus, the range of the marketing usually exends only to the extent of the niche that it is targeting.


  • 2. Optin Accelerator  |  March 11, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Great post!


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