The concept of viral marketing is an old idea made new again by the Internet.
Word of mouth advertising has been recognized as a worthwhile marketing tool for thousands of years. Some fish seller in Old London undoubtedly said to his customers, “tell your neighbors I have excellent cod today.“
Remember the washing powder manufacturer who put dishtowels or drinking glasses in the boxes of detergent or was that before your time? They advertised it on radio a few times but mostly depended on people to pass the word around… and they did. That was a horse and buggy version of what we call viral marketing today.
Word of mouth advertising is simply direct communication between people about some product, service, brand, or event. Most of the time one of the people in the conversation has had some experience with what is being discussed.
Many times, but not always, the person who is doing the talking will have some relationship with the product, service, brand or event being discussed.
Word of mouth… viral marketing… is a two way street. I remember once my mother had a bad experience with a non-stick pan that she had just bought. The first thing she did was spread the work among her friends (who then spread the word among their friends) that the pan wasn’t good. That is also viral marketing… the bad kind.
In today’s internet connected world, I would feel very sorry for the manufacturer of that pan that ruined a birthday cake.
There are a lot of people in the big, wide world and a lot of them will have a lot of things to say about your product. Some marketers are taking word of mouth advertising to the next level by trying to influence what is being said about their product.
That might not necessarily be a bad thing but it could be a bit risky if the product is not up to par in the first place.