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Viral Marketing - How can we avoid it?

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posted on Jul, 11 2007 @ 06:14 PM
I've always been interested in hearing/reading about marketing and advertising - mostly because I know that marketers/advertisers set out to manipulate consumers of their media into buying products, services, and what have you. I'm not under the delusion that I'm immune to advertising/marketing, but I'd at least like to participate in my own manipulation... However, it used to be that we (the media-consuming public) at least knew when we were being marketed to.

Not so anymore. With the increased use of computers and the internet as a means not only of exchanging information but also as a form of entertainment, advertisers have had to become more "creative" in the way they market their products/services. One increasingly common way of doing this is via so-called viral marketing - marketing which seeks to take advantage of existing social networks (physical gathering places as well online gathering places, like ATS, Slashdot, etc.) and sometimes masquerades as anything but advertising - it could be a person you meet who raves about a new product or a post in an online forum which encourages interest in a new movie.

We've already seen this issue crop up on ATS with things like the Coast to Coast "drone" video, which was pegged as a viral video for everything from the latest offering in the Halo franchise to an attempt to increase interest in the new Transformers movie.

Some viral campaigns are relatively harmless, obviously meant for entertainment, and are clearly marketing. Some of the best examples out there of this sort of viral campaign are the Blendtec Blender "Will it Blend?" adds, which are hosted at the linked site but also pop up on YouTube and elsewhere on the web. There are pretty harmless and fun, and I think they're pretty effective, too - I like the iPhone and glowstick episodes especially, and the next time I'm in the market for a blender I'll definitely give the Blendtec variety a serious thought on the basis of these ads alone.

But what about advertising which isn't so obvious - or as relatively harmless - as this? The FTC has received complaints (PDF Warning! of this sort of marketing being used to advertise alcohol and drugs to children, among other complaints.

My question to you all is this: What can we do to maintain vigilance (as it were) as critical consumers of advertising when you never know whether or not you are being marketed to at a given moment? Cosmic thoughts?

posted on Jul, 11 2007 @ 08:12 PM
Ask yourself 'who benefits?' If you are exposed to something you think might be viral marketing, try to imagine the goal of the marketing. For instance, a television ad has the obvious goal of making consumers aware of their products and want to buy them. Almost as obvious would be an oil company supporting the automobile industry, because the growth of one will affect the other.

Less obvious would be something like a stranger in a bar telling you about this great new club that just opened downtown. Maybe the stranger is just doing you a favour by telling you about a great hangout. Or, maybe the stranger works for the club, and is trying to drum up business.

It's a rather cynical way of looking at things, but looking at who benefits is often a good way of figuring out who is behind something.

posted on Jul, 11 2007 @ 09:06 PM
Most of the viral such as cartoons, games and jokes is short-lived because it has no content or use except for product promotion. Real viral, like Skype, Gmail "invite only" is rare, but people want it, so it's not that annoying. I think people will learn to ignore stupid virals as they ignore banners or even block them completely. For example, if you see 5 viral games or cartoons, you will probably try 1 or 2 and that's it. Next day you won't try any since you learn there is no value or content in them.

I think viral is smart, even honest, marketing because it must convince you not only to try but also to tell others. It's not like banners nobody likes or clicks on, but it must be something funny or interesting in order to work. Most successful virals must bring something useful to the people or else they never reach tipping point (moment when something becomes viral).

About tobacco and alcohol, i see this a lot in movies and nobody cares it seems.

[edit on 11-7-2007 by sb2012]

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