Written by Master Student at Lund University
A study showed that the proportion of respondents who thought that a consumer’s buying decision was dependent on advertising had decreased by 59 per cent between 2002 and 2004 (Trusov, Bucklin and Pauwels, 2009). In the same study it was revealed that the share of respondents who found different companies’ advertising campaigns amusing had decreased by 49 per cent between 2002 and 2004. Does this mean that traditional marketing is dead and no longer of importance? - Probably not. It does however indicate that there has been a shift in the relationship between marketers and consumers (Chunyan, Richard & Sigurd, 2007) (Vargo, Maglio & Akaka, 2008). This puts companies and especially marketers in a new position. The shift includes the view of consumers as value creators in contrast to the traditional view of companies as the sole creators and distributors of marketing campaigns (Grönroos, 2008). Vargo & Lusch (2004) suggests that marketers should involve consumers in the marketing process and instead of marketing to consumers; companies should market with them. Various online communities such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Instagram are used as means for communication and has also enabled the increase of viral marketing, or word-of-mouth (WOM). There are numerous definitions of the phenomenon viral marketing. From the Dictionary of Brand one can read that; “Viral Marketing: A technique by which social medias are used to spread ideas or messages through the use of affiliate programs, co-branding, e-mails and link exchanges on-line of off-line, through the use of word-of-mouth advertising and memes”. (Neumeier, 2004, p.102). Trusov et al., (2009) state that an increased involvement with consumers is vital for company’s future survival and viral marketing is a necessary tool to gain attention in a cluttered marketing environment. In 2012 marketers were predicted to spend over $ 3 billion on viral marketing (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki, & Wilner, 2010). Possibilities for something to go viral are today endless - as long as the marketers are doing it right.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss features of successful viral marketing campaigns.
TippEx interactive video campaign Tippexperience will be analysed in order to respond to the purpose and to answer the following research questions:
1) What were the underlying factors of success for TippEx interactive video campaign and what could they have done to improve it further?
2) What can other companies learn from it?
There are several different definitions of what a successful viral marketing campaign is. In this paper, I will emanate from a definition presented by De Bruyn & Lilien in 2008:
”One appropriate way of measuring effectiveness in terms of WOM amongst consumers is to investigate comments regarding the campaign and the willingness to share it to others. Customer communication is highly sought after and studies show that consumers rely more on other consumers’ evaluations and recommendations rather than other sources” (De Bruyn & Lilien, 2008).
In their article “Internet-Induced marketing techniques: Critical factors in viral marketing campaigns”, Woerndl, Papagiannidis, Bourlakis & Li (2008) suggests five critical factors for viral marketing campaigns listed below in table 1. In order for a viral campaign to become successful, the overall structure of it should support viral activity and address ethical and legal issues. This is important since if the campaign is unethical the outcome might be negative for the company that is distributing it. The product characteristic is the second critical factor. According to Woerndl et al. (2008), some products are more suitable for triggering online WOM then others. The third factor concerns the content of the message. If the message is entertaining, intrigues the receiver and encourages imagination it is more likely that it will go viral. The message should actively engage the receiver in order for him or her to pass it on. The characteristic of the diffusion is the fourth critical factor; whom does the message reach? What is the nature of the spread and how fast is the message spread? The final and fifth factor is the peer-to-peer information conduit. What communication channels and technologies are available to the sender and used by the individual? How credible is the sending source? (Woerndl et al., 2008).
Case study and Discussion
To respond to the purpose of this paper, a case study of TippEx viral marketing campaign Tippexperience has been conducted. TippEx produces correcting materials within office supplies. In august 2010 they launched their campaign “Shoot the Bear” on the social media platform YouTube. The video features two hunters camping in the woods. Suddenly a bear attacks one of them. At this moment the possibility of interaction for the viewer begins; you are presented with a choice. You can either let the bear live or have the hunter shoot it. After making that choice, the hunter will grab the TippEx tape that is featured in an advertising ban right next to the video player and use it to erase the world shoot on the screen. The viewer can now type in anything they want the hunter to do with the bear in the white area with examples such as dance, party and eat (YouTube, 2013).
Figure 1: The hunter and the bear
Picture source: YouTube (2013).
When analysing TippEx campaign through Woerndl et al.’s (2008) model for successful viral marketing campaigns, it is clear that it is coherent with the first step; Diffusion characteristics. The video was spread through blogs, Facebook and Twitter and after only five days the video had been seen in over 200 countries and had more then 4 million viewers (YouTube, 2013). In February 2013 the video have 20 788 251 viewers, 23 395 likes and 898 comments. To reach the right audience at the right time is crucial for a viral campaign to gain success. The campaign is advertising a correction tape, which is often used by students who write exams using ball-pens. Since the campaign was released in august, right before the start of a new semester TippEx had the timing right. In 2010, when the video was released, more then half of YouTube’s users (800 million unique users each month) were under the age of 20 and a substantial amount of these users can be predicted to be students. The campaign also fulfils the criteria of the second factor: Peer-to-peer information conduit. TippEx used YouTube as the channel of communication and the campaign was spread among its users. However, transmitters of the campaign used all kinds of social media to spread the message; blogs, e-mails, Twitter, Facebook, discussion forums etc. The sharing potential was endless, which probably contributed to the success of the campaign. Considering the source credibility of the campaign: TippEx was the original creator and distributor of the message. Since TippEx is a company one has to consider that they created a marketing campaign to gain consumers’ awareness, be a part of their consciousness and ultimately increase their sales. However, TippEx only distributed this campaign on YouTube. The transmitters then spread it among themselves, from one friend to another. This is one of the huge advantages if succeeding with a viral marketing campaign; consumers are much more likely to view an advertisement if it is communicated to them from someone they know and not a company. Consumers does not want to have mass advertising forced upon them, they want to decide for themselves what companies they want to integrate with. TippEx is probably not considered to be a “cool” company in terms of product features or design, such as Apple or Coca-Cola that consumers strive to be connected with. They managed to overcome this through their outstanding viral campaign.
The message content is probably one of the strongest reasons why the campaign turned out to be a success. There was a high level of imagination in it since one could type in over 50 different commands to the hunter and bear, which is highly engaging for the viewer. It also creates an incentive to share funny things that you typed in to other people and ask them to try it. One factor the ad is lacking is the ease of use. In the comments of the video on YouTube it is visible that some people had problems understanding where one should type in the commands. Since this technique, that one could actually write in the video player was very new at the time and still is. If one does not understand how to give commands to the hunter the whole idea goes out the window and the interactivity is lost. Analysing the product characteristics, TippEx’s campaign contradict Woerndl et al.’s (2008) model. Office supplies correction material products is not something one would categorise as an interesting or fun product. The TippEx correction tape in it self is just an ordinary, everyday, cheap product. This indicates that the characteristics of the product does not have much significance, it is rather the features of the campaign itself that matters. Finally, considering the fifth critical factor, the TippEx campaign does encourages viral activities. Since this campaign contains a very new and modern technique one can predict incentives for viewers to share it for the satisfaction of being the first one who has seen something new, in other words self-expression. A transmitter of the TippEx campaign might be regarded as a person who are aware of what is happening, someone who knows the latest stuff online - attributes that are most desirable in todays fast moving media society. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) explain how actions on social media, such as sharing or liking something are conscious or unconscious expressions of a person’s identity. When a viewer shares the TippEx campaign to their friends they might do it since they experience that the content of the campaign is innovative, funny and intriguing, attributes that he or she thinks represent them or attributes they admire and try to obtain. The Tippexperience campaign presents a new opportunity for viewers to extensively express themselves. Viewers can share a campaign that they have partly created. This is a factor which Woerndl et al.’s (2008) model could take into consideration and revise their third factor; Message content.
The underlying factors of success for TippEx interactive video campaign includes the element of surprise, the level of imagination and interaction possibilities for viewers. TippEx also managed to use the right platforms with a successful timing. One factor that was both a source of success and failure was the new technique used in the video. On one hand it increased incentives to share the video since the technique was ground breaking but it also created confusion among viewers who could not understand how to interact in the video and would therefor not share it. This is a factor that TippEx could have improved, either by simplifying the interactive section of the campaign or by making it more cohesive through more extensive explanations of how to use it.
One of the major findings of this paper suggest that the features of a product is not important for an interactive campaign to become viral and therefor contradicts Woerndl et al.’s fourth critical factor Product Characteristics. The nature of the campaign itself is more important in order to gain success and especially elements of surprise, high levels of interaction and imagination possibilities. By using one appropriate platform at the right timing, transmitters will spread the campaign to several others. This indicates that the choice of platform considering once desired audience is of high importance combined with spreading the message at the right timing. The use of ground breaking new techniques is a source of success but it might also be damaging to the campaign if it is too complex. Further research within this area should be performed since this paper only has investigated the case of Tippexperience. Further research could also be performed to analyse the importance of customized viral marketing campaigns and the desire of consumers to express themselves personally through campaigns while sharing them.
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