Email Analysis

What’s in a name? Viral Marketing

They could have picked a better one than viral marketing. It’s enough to put anyone off.

They are not that easy to describe so the best way to understand them is to examine a rather clever example. Go to, although doing so when the boss is about to come in is not the best timing. It is a simple and straightforward online computer game, one that is enjoyable by all skills levels. And it advertises Clearasil in a cheap, readily accessible way. It might hurt those who play it to be regarded as the group most likely to be plagued by pimples, but then that is what truth does.

The thing to note is the bit at the bottom which encourages players to ‘send to a friend’. Its usefulness as a marketing tool is probably becoming a bit clearer now.

Virals, as I am told they are known, but probably only by victims of acne, spread like, well, viruses but not the kind blocked by McAfee. They are passed by putting your friends’ email addresses in the box, directly by email and even at the bar down your local, although as this often includes an inspired interpretation of the URL it needs to be easily retrievable via search engines. One wonders the average number of tries per successful hit for one of the more popular ones,

The content need not be as sophisticated as a programme. Who is there with an ISP who has not been sent a collection of aphorisms? All it has to be is something that will generate the desire to pass it on.

There is probably a thesis waiting to be written on why people send on viral bulk emails but whilst awaiting its publication, ask yourself why you might. Is it as a gift, albeit a rather cheap one? Is it to be seen as one of the boys or girls? Is it to emphasise your prowess as a snowboarder? Or perhaps one’s feedback didn’t go too well, and a certain willingness to be seen taking on board your supervisor’s comments needed to be established?

It might be the association: if the item is clever, witty, intriguing or a combination of some or all these, does it not show that you too are some or all these things? You can appreciate that the content must be geared towards the perceived motivation to pass it on without missing the commercial aspect. The most prolific viral is no use if it does not provide some benefit to your company.

After working out what will encourage passing on, one must consider the barriers. If the route to the item is confusing, protracted or requires too many clicks, and this can be surprisingly few, it will limit the circulation, as will an overtly commercial purpose.

A message box can be helpful to enable a sort of covering explanation to be included, thereby increasing the likelihood of it being read.

There are a number of different ‘types’ of viral but one that can be of dramatic use in email marketing is one where a reward is offered for the supply of an email address of a friend or acquaintance but care must be taken in the matter. Consider what you offer. And extra chance in a lottery for each address costs you nothing, just the reduction of the odds for each chance, but it is best to avoid promising, for instance, a free mobile phone. Do you remember vacuum cleaners and Air Miles?

Consider also the way you use any email address you gather. Such an address cannot be used for email marketing at once, although once is the number of times you can use it. However, you cannot take advantage of even this single chance the address has previously been on your list but the owner has elected to have it removed.

Tell the recipient how you came by the email giving the source address as support. Tell them that their email has not been entered onto your direct marketing list. Then offer them the opportunity to receive offers just by ‘ticking the box below’.

Viral marketing is short on legal control at the moment. This might well be an oversight although the difficulty of wording, allied to a lack of complaints, might be the main motivation. But do not kill the goose. It is best not to be the instigator of restrictions.

A properly constructed viral email can be especially useful as part of a campaign but care must be taken with content. If it is likely to offend those you wish to get on board then it should be changed, regardless of how often you believe it will be passed on. A selection of the appropriate and otherwise can be seen on

Before you opt for the type that made you laugh, but not in company, remember that it is your name that will go with it.



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