Going viral- a possible outcome, not a tactic


Wanting to go viral is the dream of all businesses pursuing marketing strategies. This is understandable, viral marketing can enable firms to engage with customers and promote their brand with low costs and high returns (awareness). Kaplan & Haenlein describe viral marketing as electronic word of mouth– in many ways this is an accurate description, especially due to the nature in which the viral content is shared to friends, often via social media. Kaplan & Haenlein have outlined five pieces of advice for spreading a virus including:

  • highly provocative and edgy messages are a tricky business

This tip is imperative for firms considering the development of viral campaigns. This is because businesses need to understand that they have little control over how their campaigns will be received.

Remember that time Apple and U2 collaborated and forced their unwanted album Songs of Innocence  into all of our playlists *shudders*. While the campaign went viral by force, half a billion people recieved the ‘gift’,  it is estimated that only 1 in 6 chose to ‘experience’ the album and accept Apple’s generosity. Apple called it the biggest album launch in history, however it quickly became the most deleted album in history.  The campaign cost several hundred million dollars and was overwhelmingly considered an epic marketing fail, with Apple called to make a removal button to enable users to easily delete the album. Celebrities and users took to social media to vent their frustrations with some hilarious results:tyler-the-creator-tweets.jpgU2-tweet.png


Consumers felt their privacy was invaded and others complained the album took up the storage on the device and was difficult to delete. The campaign was a PR disaster with music critics reporting that forcing the album on to consumers hindered the albums popularity more than it helped.

The Apple/ U2 album case shows that although a viral marketing strategy may achieve a wide audience, its success is purely up to consumer opinion, and sometimes its failure can be brutal.


So, What are your feelings about businesses pursuing ‘viral’ marketing campaigns? How did you feel about the U2 and Apple’s gift to your iTunes playlist?