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?



  1. Hi Amy, great blog this week! Very well written and loved your use of examples. Especially the U2 one, I mean that was extremely annoying. Does anyone even like U2 to be honest?

    In terms of businesses using viral marketing, I can see it happening and working but I guess it might be very limited.

    I like the idea of firms creating viral campaigns but the question is how long are they going to last? And does it run the risk of businesses or brands being ‘one hit wonders’?

    On my blog this week I spoke about the 3 principles, YouTube Manager, Kevin Allocca suggests for content to go viral. I’m not going to go through it all but I think the main idea was that content has to be interesting and applicable to consumers. What use is it having something viral that no one finds entertaining or can relate to right?

    So I guess businesses can try this whole idea of viral marketing but they should ensure that their content is able to reach many and for legitimate reasons.



    1. Thanks for your comment Nish! I was just thinking about your one hit wonder thing, you’re so right. On a related note, I wonder what the success in terms of sales is like for viral campaigns… I mean, sure its great if your ad broke the internet but if no one is buying your stuff then it seems like a waste. I know Old Spice has had great success in terms of sales, but I wonder about other brands. Anyway, I’ll be sure to check out your site 🙂



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