Launching your way into the internet – What you need to know about viral marketing

Viral marketing is something every marketer wishes to achieve, regardless whether it is a big or small company they are a part of. But, what exactly is it?

According to  Kaplan, A.M. & Haenlein, M. (2011), viral marketing is the electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) in which some form of marketing message related to a company, brand or product is transmitted in an exponentially growing way, often through the use of social media applications. WOM plays an essential part in triggering something to go viral. Below shows the relationship between the 2:


(source: Kaplan, A.M. & Haenlein, M. (2011). “Two hearts in three-quarter time: How to waltz the social media/viral marketing dance”. Business Horizons, 54, 253-263.)

The easiest way for WOM to spread is through social media. One marketing campaign that managed to successfully use viral marketing is by KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines). The staff made use of social media platforms such as Foursquare and Twitter to check out the profiles of the passengers’. They then surprised them with simple small gifts based on what the staff observed from their profiles. Even though this is such a simple act, but it really brought smiles and made the days of the lucky passengers. This process was done over a few weeks, and it generated more than a million impressions just from Twitter alone, and has resulted in the video going viral which greatly boosted the profile of KLM.

This shows how viral marketing can benefit one company if they are successful at pulling it off, just like how it has benefitted KLM.

However, not all viral marketing campaigns turn out successful. In fact some end up in a flop. Can you think of any campaigns that have failed miserably? Or even other campaigns that have turned out as well as KLM’s?


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