From Seth Godin's blog on viral marketing campaigns in response to a finding by Jupiter Research that says that viral marketing is falling short of expectations of marketeers.
Here's my take Seth and on this much-hyped and talked-about viral marketing tactics:
1. The reason why it is called "viral marketing" is because it is supposed to act like an epidemic of sorts. It is to a certain extent uncontrollable. Marketeers, who are wont to quick answers to problems that have been around for years or decades - and who are very much used to "let's do this because this is the fad", want to maintain control over their "properties". There is therefore a disconnect even at the most basic definitions of what "viral marketing" (or WOM marketing or whatever else you want to call it) is supposed to be versus what marketeers want it to be.
2. Marketeers cannot will viral and WOM campaigns to go their way 100% of the time. WOM campaigns are double-edged sword. And like in financial planning and investments, anything that can potentially generate high returns is also potentially risky.
3. Media companies, ad agencies, and other comms planning agencies are also to blame. They latch on to fads without fully understanding what needs to be understood behind the fad. [Disclosure: I work in a comms and media planning agency.] Before adopting any new theory or tactic or fad that seemed to have worked for others, we all have to understand why it worked in the first place and how it worked. Just because it worked for one brand doesn't mean it would work with another brand. It's just plain laziness in the part of these companies to include these buzzwords in their presentations without truly understanding what it is, why it is so, and how it is what it is and how it is what it is not.
4. Worth talking about as Seth Godin points out is key. But there could well be a few more significant factors that could influence the diffusion of positive viral marketing or WOM marketing. Certain personality types, certain categories, certain pieces of news, the way it was delivered, the way it is easily transferred... all these need to be understood before adopting anything - and worse, judging it to be "falling short".
5. Yes, theoretical, academic foundations are needed to understand why and how these things work. Those who eschew and shun academicians - psychologists, sociologists, social scientists, statisticians, modeling specialists - from the board-room and in brainstorming sessions are digging their own grave.
6. And no, using the same old metrics of GRPs, impressions, reach/frequency, cost-efficiency, CPM, and cost-per-acquisition don't cover WOM or viral marketing. Embedding "recommendations from friends, from peers, from colleagues, from bartender, from sales staff, from celebrity endorser, from a world-known sports celebrity" in your estimations for GRPs and reach and frequency to be able to "compare" GRPs across different channels isn't going to cut it. PLEASE WAKE UP! You're wasting money by measuring new and different channels with the same metrics.
7. And no, qualitative techniques cannot measure the impact of viral campaigns. The truth is, qualitative techniques cannot measure anything. They are only designed to be indicative of bigger, deeper phenomena that can then be measured - hopefully - with properly designed tests and surveys.
As Seth Godin says, just make great stuff.
And to that, I would add "Please, think".