Have you heard of viral marketing? If you haven’t heard the term, you’ve surely seen examples of it. Do you have a friend or family member who’s one of those people who forwards every email they get? We all know them. Some of them are pretty funny. Maybe some of them are so great that you actually break with tradition and send it on to your friends. That’s how viral marketing works. It’s spread like a cold virus. You pass it on to someone who passes it on to someone else. Before you know it, it’s been around the globe and you maybe even received it from another person. That’s when you know an email is super popular. If you get the same email from more than one person, it’s got something that’s magnetic.  Do you see how viral marketing can really build website traffic?

But let me pause for a minute and clear up something. Viral marketing isn’t related to computer viruses. It’s harmless. It’s just the concept of how it’s passed on to other people. Don’t confuse the two. Viral marketing won’t infect your computer and make it crash.

So you might be thinking that a list of blonde jokes don’t really make money for anyone. True, but savvy marketers use the principles all the time and create viral marketing pieces that do generate money.

One of my personal favorites is an email that directs you to subservientchicken.com. It’s a website developed by Burger King. There’s not a lot of blatant advertising on the site. It’s not like going to the Burger King website. Instead, there’s a guy in a chicken suit and all you have to do is type in a command and he’ll do it. You have to try it. He’ll do just about anything. It’s hilarious.

Do you see the power of viral marketing? Burger King created a site that’s so great, and doesn’t push their products in any way, it just builds their brand as millions of people visit the site each month. If you just checked it out, you just became a carrier of the virus and it’s likely that you’ll pass the web address on to someone else.

Another one that many people have seen is the email that has gorgeous pictures of sunsets and ocean scenes with Bible verses at the bottom. Or the one with the Twin Towers after 9-11 when they were raising the flag in the smoke and dust. That email had links that lead to a site that offers mugs, journals, mousepads and other items with similar photos and Bible verses. They made a fortune with that email. It wasn’t done in bad taste to take advantage of the 9-11 victims, they just provided comforting products at a time when people needed encouragement. And viral marketing happened to be the means of spreading the word.

Next time you get spammed with a dozen forwarded emails from your friend, before hitting the delete button, take a minute to read a couple and see if you get any ideas for ways that you could create your own viral marketing campaign. After all, it’s the cheapest form of advertising because others pass it on. You don’t have to pay for postage or advertising space. It’s just word of mouth and you can’t get better advertising than that. Hope that helps with your marketing in this tough economy.

To your success…

Chadd Bryant