Just a quick side note – this post marks my 53rd consecutive weekly blog post, making this the official one year anniversary of andreweifler.com (blogaversary?). Thanks to all who have been reading and contributing! Now, down to business…

I’m currently preparing for a lecture next week on Viral Marketing to be delivered to a 300 level advertising class at Skidmore College. The goal of the lecture is to help the students develop viral marketing strategies for new products. As usual, I’m posting a few ideas and asking for feedback – thanks in advance for commenting and keeping the conversation going (all comments are welcome).

The crux of the lecture will be on categorizing the different types of successful viral marketing strategies. So far, I’ve come up with two main strategies, I’ve labeled them: 1) Content Pass Along, and 2) Brands as Friends.

1) Content Pass Along

With this strategy the marketer (or a third party) creates a bit of content that is so compelling that consumers pass it along to their friends. The thing that is being shared is the content – and the brand just gets to go along for the ride. A good example of this strategy is the Burger King Subservient Chicken viral site (http://www.bk.com/en/us/campaigns/subservient-chicken.html). The reason people pass along this link is because they like the content – not because they have an affinity for the brand.

2) Brands as Friends

With the “Brands as Friends” strategy the marketer uses the actual brand as the viral element. For this strategy to work, the brand needs to have specific “Brand Associations” that your target will want to personally affiliate with. One way to execute this strategy is to allow consumers to “fan” your brand on Facebook (like my favorite – Cole Haan). By “fanning” brands, consumers borrow some of the brand’s associations (e.g. luxury, comfort, high-class living) and apply those associations to their own self-image.

I would argue that with both of these strategies the consumer is relatively indifferent to the needs of the marketer. Rather, consumers participate in these schemes because they want to make a statement about themselves. For instance – when I post a clip of the TV show Family Guy on Facebook, it is not because I want Family Guy to become more popular, it’s because I want people to think of with the same “Content Qualities” as the TV show (smart, funny, witty). Similarly, the reason I “friend” Cole Haan on Facebook is not because I care about the success of the company, but rather because I want people to view me as a successful, high class person.

I posit that the key to forming a successful viral strategy is identifying the “Content Qualities” and “Brand Associations” that you target audience is most likely to identify with (or aspire to). Once you know those qualities and associations, all you need to do is make it easy for your target to pass along your content and become friends with your brand.

Thoughts? Any ideas on totally different viral strategies?

Notes for a Lecture on Viral Marketing