Viral Marketing History

Perhaps due to the fact that the Internet is new, most people think that “viral” marketing is very recent and doesn’t have much of a history on which to draw. In fact the concept of viral marketing is actually ancient.

Only the term and its modern application are new, though not as recent as you might think! The modern incarnation of viral marketing is normally attributed to Steve Jurvetson, a managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the founding VC investor in Hotmail and Kana, and previously an R&D engineer at Hewlett-Packard.

The term “Viral Marketing” is almost ten years old now, and refers to a new incarnation of “word of mouth” advertising, a technique that’s existed since time began.

How does “word of mouth” advertising classify as “viral” marketing you ask? Well think about it. The concept of viral marketing is that it perpetuates itself though existing (low or no cost) media: word of mouth is exactly that in its purest form. Since Cain heard how much Abel was loved and got jealous, this type of advertisement has been generating reactions from others. You can review a lot of history, human nature and past campaigns to see what has worked and what has not worked.

Most importantly is having or gaining an understanding of personalities and people so you can learn how to influence them to spread your message when you want them to-and that’s without doing anything that can harm you or your business.

It is a well-known axiom that word of mouth can either kill or make a company, and that bad news seems to travel much further and faster than good news. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to speak out when they are upset than when they are happy with a service or company. Simply put, people expect to get good service and don’t react when they get it.

If they get poor or insufficient service or goods, they feel that they HAVE to respond to “get even.” The facts vary from research groups, but the consensus is that between two and eight people will complain about something that is upsetting for every one person who will speak out about good service. This is why it is so important to understand customer relations and what makes people happy and what can make them upset in any interaction.

While viral marketing is more about getting the customer to come TO you, you also need to do a good job once you get them and make sure you meet (or preferably exceed) all their expectation. Otherwise, you may find your own viral campaign being used against you, sabotaging the results you hoped to achieve!


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