19. What is Viral marketing?

Viral marketing as the term suggests is something that spreads like a virus but in a positive sense of the word. Yes, a "+ve" virus.

Viral Marketing as a marketing strategy, relies on individuals rather than traditional mediums to pass/convey along a message to many others. Viral marketing is named so because the tendency of messages to spread themselves rapidly, like a biological virus using "hosts". 

The term "viral  marketing" seems to have gained prominence during the launch of the e-mail service Hotmail. This is probably because every outgoing mail contained an advertisement for Hotmail and a link to its website at the bottom of the e-mail. Hence as people e-mailed their friends and colleagues, they were indirectly promoting Hotmail. The recipients had to simply click on the link and sign up for their own personal email ID. Getting a new account was surely exciting those days and each individual wanted to announce his new email account. So they e-mailed friends from their new account and the message spread from one group to another, thus promoting the service without much effort from the company itself.

This particular example demonstrates all the key elements of a viral marketing campaign. The cost to the advertiser is minimal by making every product/service user, an involuntary ambassador/promoter. A good Viral marketing campaign uses existing communications networks thereby making it easier for the host to spread the message. Viral Marketing offers the ability to spread a message exponentially faster and to more people than conventional mediums.

Different types of viral marketing ideas have been tried since hotmail. All using the same fundamental principles.

Viral marketing has come under criticism from consumers, privacy advocates, and marketing managers because of concern over unsolicited e-mails and spamming. The best campaigns, use the principles of viral marketing tactfully to avoid negative reactions and ensure high Viralability. Effective viral marketing strategies use people's online habits to prompt them to unwittingly transmit a message within their social network. If we really look at it closely it uses the concept of word-of-mouth and enhances it with available global communication technology and the Internet resulting in unmatched pace of brand/ product/service awareness and interactions.