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By Thomas Baekdal - November 2006

7 tricks to Viral Web Marketing

Viral marketing (word-of-mouth marketing) is a really cool thing. Just think about it... instead of spending an insane amount of money on newspapers ads, TV commercials or banner ads, you spent nothing - and let your fans do all the work for you.

With viral marketing, your campaigns will suddenly get a life of its own - and start to spread like a virus. Everyone want to see it, and when they do, they all want to share it.

It is immensely powerful, usually having 500-1000 times greater impact than what you get from regular advertisements.

But how?

There are a lot of tricks to viral marketing. Here are 7 important ones:

1: Make people feel something

The most important trick of all is to create a very strong emotion. You need to have an opinion, to express an idea with commitment and dedication. You want people to:

You want people's blood to be pumping of excitement.

Forget neutral, trying to please everyone, supporting several target groups or any of the many ways to be unbiased. Viral marketing is 100% about emotions.

2: Do something unexpected

This one explains itself. If you want people to notice you campaign, you have to do something different - something unexpected. Forget about trying to promote your products as just being great - everybody does that. Forget about trying to make it look cool - everyone else has 'been there, done that'.

Remember the bear being attacked by a man? That was unexpected - and it is one the most effective viral advertisements ever.


...and above all - never be a copycat.

3: Do not try to make advertisements (that sucks)

One of the biggest mistake companies make is when they think viral marketing is just advertisements that people share - it is not. Traditional marketing is about promoting your product, showing how good it is, giving it center stage - and generally being incredibly selfish (and possibly using supermodels or movie stars). But guess what, nobody cares about you!

Viral marketing is all about a good story. When BMW put out BMW Films, the main ingredient was not the cars, but the story. Replace the car with another one, and it would still be great. When Sony made their Bravia TV ads, the product was not even seen - yet everyone remembers it.


Forget about you, your product or your company. Focus exclusively in creating a good and interesting story. Sure, you can add you product into the mix, but it must not be the most important thing.

4: Make sequels

People have just seen your campaign. They think it was interesting, unexpected and their emotions has reached a high level - you have their complete attention.

Now what do you do?

If you do like most companies you will simply do nothing... and that is a big mistake. When you got people's attention you need to act, and one the best ways of doing that is to give them more - make sequels. This can be many things;

BTW: Forget about countdown releases - i.e. releasing a new episode every 2 weeks. People's attention span does not last that long. Give them everything now!

5: Allow Sharing, downloading and embedding

Sharing is what viral marketing is all about. Everything you do to make that easier is going to improve your campaign. That means that you need allow people to:

Note: This also easily be overdone. You do not want to clutter up your page with a zillion 'share me, dig this etc.' icons.

6: Connect with comments

Another important element is to connect with your audience. Remember you got their attention, they are excited and now they want talk. Comments is one of the most effective ways to do this.

Keep in mind that the best viral marketing campaign is one that creates a strong emotion. This means some people will really like it - while others will get very angry. You have to accept both in your comments, and you have to welcome both opinions. But, at the same time you must prevent individuals to wage war against each other.

It is not a sin to delete comments from people who attack another person, or if the comment is off-topic. But, it is a sin to delete comments from people who just have an negative opinion.

And, most importantly. Connecting with people through comments means talking back. Do not add comments if you do not want to participate yourself.

7: Never restrict access!

Viral marketing is also about your campaign getting a life on its own - spreading like virus. In order to do that, in order to become 'viral', it needs to be free.

Never add restrictions to the mix.

Viral marketing is never about exclusivity. It is about getting it out there for everyone to see.

There is a common message in all of these tricks. It is that you need to make it right - or not do it at all. Only the best viral marketing campaigns make it - the rest literally sucks.

If you have any tips of your own, I sure would like to know about them! Also, If would very like to see any cool viral advertisement that you might know.

Other cool 'virals'

The Smirnoff viral

One of the first really successful viral campaigns in the 'YouTube age'


Berlitz language

Not originally designed for viral, but stupid Germans and fridays quickly changed that.


Dove Evolution

A true viral campaign, showing artificial beauty - and it worked!


The Escalator

Another true viral campaign. worked too!

HP FingerSkilz

Viral campaign from HP


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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