Viral Marketing: What Makes a Viral, Word-of-Mouth Marketing

“I have a limited marketing budget. Make my brand go viral.”

As a marketing consultant, we always hear that from our clients, either big or small. Understandably, word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective type of marketing, but it has its reputation of being “cheap” or “budget-friendly”. We hear Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza, Charice and the likes striking gold overnight by uploading their Youtube videos and being discovered without spending a lot.

Can we create something viral with a limited budget? It would be difficult, but not impossible. So what does it take to make your content viral?


Viral contents evoke emotions

Memes go viral because its funny. The ISIS attack on Paris made us angry and changed our Facebook profile page. Those McDonalds commercials makes us “awww” and mushy inside. Sharing controversies allow people to be passionate about something. Remember the movie “Inside Out”? It’s such a hit because, even though it’s geared for children, it made adults cry and appreciate why their children act and feel that way.

More than about your product, service, or the content that you want to deliver, an emotional delivery of the message is crucial to get attention. Notice how passionate these would-be politicians deliver their speeches just to earn your vote.

If you want your brand, product or service go viral, be sure that you can bring out the emotions of your client. Remember the main characters of Inside Out: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. Pick one emotion and work your content to go there.

Viral contents address current needs

Obviously, contents that are not widely known but highly practical, useful or informative get shared immediately. The blog does this great by putting these useful information and organizing it into a digestible bits.

Sometimes, the need is really not that apparent. Take AlDub, for example, or the new genre of Filipino movies called “Hugot Films” such as “That Thing Called Tadhana” and “#WalangForever”. Even if you don’t realize it, those address the emotional needs of the busy, working people: the need to feel “kilig” and the need to feel bitter. AlDub is remarkable of capturing even the working class because they provide a message that, at this day and age, is commonly overlooked – respecting the “panliligaw” process – because we are all busy with work and life.


Viral contents need initial fans

McDonalds Philippines is so successful in their advertisements because, aside that it produces heart-warming ads that barely focuses on fast food, it already have customers ready to share their content. Their fans are happy to share their new commercials. Doing so makes them feel good, not because they want, or paid, to promote Mcdo. Yaya Dub has her family and friends sharing her online wackiness, with little to no expectations of her success after.

A fan is someone who already have invested in you or your company – a customer, a relative or friend, or a business partner. Facebook Likes don’t equate to fans. Some clients view it the other way around: they want to go viral because they wanted to get fans. A Facebook Like is just a Facebook Like – a means to have a staple audience. A fan is an ambassador of your brand. Only a small percentage of your “Likes” are your fans and they are the ones usually the ones who share your content.

Going viral increases your marketing, putting you in front of new audience, getting a lot of likes, and gaining new customers. Out of those new customers only a few will become your fan. Remember your basic customer lifecycle:


Identify your fans – your brand ambassadors. If you don’t have one, focus first on creating a remarkable product or service, before even thinking of going viral.

Viral contents requires resources: time and money

While the Dubsmash production of Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza isn’t much – most of it were shot in her bedroom using her own mobile phone, it didn’t mean that you don’t need resources to go viral. Time and persistence are the key resources that most of these cash-strapped Youtubers have. Most people fail to see that overnight success took years of effort and hard-work in the making.

You as a business may have some marketing budget set aside. Instead of using those marketing funds to get more audience e.g. print ads, tv and radio commercials, even online ad bidding. Instead, invest some of it on a good production: design set pieces, quality script writers and directors, plan a remarkable, shareable content. Like products and services, people love sharing good, quality content. The reason why the movie Heneral Luna is a success (though barely surpassing the break-even mark) is because they have invested so much on the script, presentation and set pieces, and not on the marketing, nor to A-list “marketable” stars. They let their movie goers flood their Facebook pages on how good the film was. If your business does not have the time or manpower to do so, engage with a marketing firm.

Viral Contents need a bit of luck

Even if you have all four components above nailed, you need a little bit of luck to start the ball rolling. Your content must reach the right people at the right time, during their right mood, in order to have them shared. It also needs to be picked up by a person of influence and deem it shareable. Rinse and repeat over an exponential amount of audience.

Marketing people would say “we don’t do luck: we rely on numbers” and that is completely true. You have your industry-standard conversion rates, you can predict ROI and optimize when is the best time to post your content. But even seasoned marketers cannot make everything they market go viral. Going viral is still a gamble. Same with seasoned gamblers, you need to take the effort of studying, testing and failing. You increase your chances of winning with every roll of the dice if you really know how to play the game.




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