Viral Marketing


Strategies for Viral Marketing


By Charles Spinosa


The following is an introduction to “Strategies for Viral Marketing”, a chapter contained within “Kellogg on Integrated Marketing”. The chapter was penned by Charles Spinosa and his close acquaintances, Maria Flores Letelier and Bobby J. Calder. To download the chapter in pdf format please click here .


To purchase this book at, please click here.


It has been around forever, but as a marketing strategy, it goes back only about 50 years. How do you sell a line of kitchen containers without advertising and even without distribution? The answer: Have women hold parties and talk about them to their friends. The Tupperware Party strategy was based on a simple premise that is as valid today as it was then. Consumer-to-consumer contacts are powerful! When one consumer says something to another, the message is likely to be immediate, personal, credible, and relevant. For a while, this sort of communication – one consumer contacting another – was called word-of-mouth, or WOM. Currently, it is most often called buzz.


From buzz to viral marketing


In the last few years there have been further advances in the strategic use of buzz. The key insight is that buzz can be more than just a matter of actively stimulating the transmission of information from some consumers to others in a community. This insight is most often conveyed in the analogy of viral marketing.


The “viral” analogy views buzz as spreading by “infection”. The consumer is infected by buzz, catches it as someone catches a cold, and passes it on in the same way unless he or she takes actions to stop it. In wired communities, the infection is just a click away. Buzz can cause “epidemics” much more quickly than the traditional two-step flow or diffusion implies. Rather than getting the word to a few opinion leaders and waiting for them to spread the word, a strategy of viral marketing gets users to pass the word almost involuntarily. Beyond this, what is passed is not mere information. It is something more akin to a virus – something that takes over and alters the consumer’s thinking. That it is readily accepted is as much a consequence of the process of person-to-person contact as the information itself.


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