Felix Baumgartner
More than 8 million people watched Baumgartner’s descent to Earth. This is just the latest of Red Bull’s famous campaigns.

Viral marketing offers many advantages to companies who have a clear objective and simple product, by using online methods to target expats.

Many expats around the world are known as ‘netizens,’ or citizens of the Internet, an ever growing community of regular Internet users.

Two of the most notable recent examples of viral marketing are that of Red Bull and the Stratosphere stunt, involving millions of dollars, NASA and a live video feed; and the Christmas advertising campaign from John Lewis, who are well known amongst expats, due to their ability to deliver their products to over 30 countries worldwide.

John Lewis’ use of YouTube to show their now famous Christmas ad is a good example of viral marketing, the 2012 advert has amassed over 1 million views since being launched on the site on 9 November.

Viral marketing can be a useful tool as part of a marketing mix to target expats. The mix may also include advertising space in local publications, on the radio and expat websites, in order to reiterate and consolidate the information that the customer has already been exposed to. Don’t forget, there are not only those expats who are currently living abroad, but also those who are planning on moving in the near future.

There are several advantages to promoting companies and products through the use of videos, games, images or competitions. In essence, information and awareness is willingly spread between friends, family and acquaintances due to the medium of communication that is used.

Viral marketing advantages

  • More freedom to be creative, in order to capture the audience, whilst being entertaining and factual.
  • Low costs: Unless you are considering sending someone halfway to the moon, such as Red Bull’s campaign with Felix Baumgartner, a video can essentially be created using nothing more than a video camera and a computer.
  • Simple to create and manage. Once the campaign has been created, and posted in various channels, not a lot of maintenance is necessary, and the potential customers have the capacity to decide whether to purchase the product or service.
  • Free and speedy transmission. Using the power of people to share, send and promote the product has the potential to reach many people in a very short space of time.
  • Basic customer information readily available: Specific groups and profiles can be targeted easily through social networks such as Facebook, and information about the viewers is also readily available.

Potential hazards

When creating a viral advert, there lies potential pitfalls. The campaign should be created and thought out in its entirety, with the possibility of going viral, but not the aim as such. The aim should be to clearly promote a product or service, and create strong brand identity, whilst also being entertaining and informative.

There may be an unpredictable association with certain groups or communities, as a response to the campaign. Although the main priority will be to communicate with the masses, certain associations may lead to brand dilution and lead customers away. Using email to spread the word may also lead to spam issues, and annoy or deter potential and existing clients.

No one is expecting you to produce the next ‘Gangnam style’ video, nor will you be able to predict the hype or success of a viral campaign. It will however, provide fairly simple, low cost channels to market your product or service. If response is lower than expected, you can always try again, armed with not much more than a store-bought video camera, and an interesting concept.

Image: Provided by deoman56, flickr.com