Viral marketing: Here’s what you need to know

Image: Joshua J. Cotten

Viral marketing is something I get asked about a lot. It’s actually pretty easy to understand.

Every piece of viral marketing consists of 2 things.

It goes to someone. (They received it).
Then it goes through them. (They share it with one or more people).

For both of those steps to happen, a marketing message needs to be easy to share and remarkable in some way.

Allow me to explain.

Easy to share

As I mentioned previously, the Kentucky Fried Chicken strapline is an excellent example of an easy to share message. It’s just 3 words long. Finger lickin’ good. That’s easy to remember and share.

The marketing message from Apple is even easier to share. When someone is using one of their products in public, there’s a highly visible Apple logo pointing at everyone who can see them. Until recently, the Apple logo on MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models was illuminated on the lid. Today, those logo’s are (like those on iPhones) highly polished mirrors.


What makes viral marketing viral, is that it doesn’t spread from the vendor to the marketplace. It spreads from person to person.

This means viral marketing not only reaches a lot of people, but unlike advertising, the people sharing the message are those we know and trust.

Here’s an example I mentioned a while ago. Jennie knows I take lots of notes. So, when she discovered a note-taking app that blew her away, she emailed me with a link, so I could see it. Within 10 minutes, I’d bought it too. Jennie’s remarkable experience provided her with the motivation to share what she’d found with her huge circle of friends. I’ve now shared it tons of times, too. Plus, I blogged about it.

Then there’s my friend and former client, Greg. When Greg recommends my services to his friends and contacts, he tells them; “Jim doubled our turnover in 5 months”. Greg’s experience of my results is what motivates him to tell people. And his message is just 7 words long, meaning it’s also easy to share.

What about you?

If you want to attract massively more word of mouth referrals or go full-on viral, your message needs to do the same. To go to people and then through people.

Take some time to review how clear, easy to share and memorable your viral marketing message is. Then look for ways to improve it as much as you can. The more remarkable it is, the more widely it spreads. If you don’t already have one, create one. The fewer words the better. Greg’s is 7 words long. KFC did it in just 3 words.

This is not an easy project. So if you can hire expert help, I recommend you do. Either way, it makes no sense to ignore the most powerful form of marketing on the planet.

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