Marketing Mantra September Edition – Shortlisted Entry #3 - Pranjal Nigam

Viral marketing in 2020

When a pebble is dropped in a pond it creates tiny waves spreading outwards. But just imagine each wave travelling faster with geometrically increasing intensity than its preceding wave, it would break hell in that pond isn’t it. A strategically well designed viral marketing works on similar lines when a small marketing ploy transmits like a wildfire and scales up its intensity in no time proving even better than core marketing strategies. A classic example would be recently popular ALS ice bucket challenge which picked up pace in no time and not only spread awareness about the disease but generated huge donations worldwide which would never be possible otherwise with conventional marketing strategies. Gone are the days of traditional advertisements in digital and print media which were used by marketers to market their product and services. It’s an era of viral marketing and it’s evolving with such an enormous speed that we can only imagine what quirky and eccentric ways would be adopted by marketers for viral marketing in 2020.

But why viral marketing is becoming so much popular within enterprises to market their product and services so much so that marketing agencies are hired just to design such ploys only. We have to delve a little deeper to find out the causes. Consumers are showing increasing indifference and even resistance to conventional forms of advertising such as TV and newspaper ads. With evolution of social media the very existence of these traditional media is under huge threat. Secondly it’s highly cost effective because it breeds on various free and existing network channels. Once the information reaches opinion leaders and product innovators they then themselves become the propagator of the information and hence the market the product. It also provides effortless transfer from one viewer to another. A mere mouse click is needed to share the information. With these prodigious benefits a successful viral marketing campaign is today’s every marketers’ dream.

No doubt viral marketing has a great future and it is here to exist and proliferate but what would be its features and in what manner it would be used incoming years still remains topic of interest. Not every viral marketing campaign is successful and with surge of these campaigns the success rate would go down further. Primary challenge would remain to identify the target customer segment and how to reach them most effectively. Word of mouth and social media are the two most effective channels but how to choose the first audience. With strong network effects, it is critical to access not only customer’s intrinsic value (how likely he is to buy the product) but also his network value. Network value is proportional to the number of people he commands a positive influence. Even if his intrinsic value is low and he has a high network value, it is worth marketing to him as he’ll propagate a chain reaction. Facebook and other social websites have already started such data mining to gauge the customers that rate high on network value. In 2020 we can expect marketers to have intensive detailed data on network chain of every person present on internet and his network value and this would be probably most valued data.

Other sources are dedicated knowledge-sharing websites, chat rooms and discussion forums. Knowledge-sharing sites are product centric and contain detail reviews of new products. E-commerce retailers have already incorporated knowledge sharing features in their websites where consumers can rate the product and write reviews. Motorola tied with Flipkart to sell mobile phones in India through Flipkart only. Ratings and reviews of the phones played a crucial role in marketing of Motorola. In 2020 we could very well see this to become almost a trend with products being directly launched on E- commerce websites. With huge surge in E- commerce retail business these websites also are another and more credible source of consumer buying habits. Customers have accounts on these websites which are often linked with social websites. This provides a unique opportunity to combine both the data and accurately quantify customer’s intrinsic and network value. 2020 would definitely witness a much more colluded and collaborated version of e-commerce retailers and social networking websites and hotbeds of viral marketing.
Another feature that would be a much more widely used in viral marketing in 2020 is “people who bought x also buy y” feature. This is a unique way to make customer aware of a completely different product which matches his lifestyle. In 2020 each customer would be recommended a unique list of products suitable to his lifestyle. As much as internet can help in creating awareness and recommending customers what to buy and what not, but it cannot completely substitute personalized recommendations one receives from human sources. It is human nature to get interested in what friend buys than what anonymous person buys. In 2020 we could very well see viral marketing done by incorporating means to associate with other beliefs and vogues that people associate themselves with. Many viral marketing campaigns nowadays are weaved around a social cause or a burning issue. 2020 will witness such campaigns associated with all sorts of tangible and intangible entities that a certain group of customers relate to. Music, art, sports, drama, fashion trends these all would be media of viral marketing and much more exploited to market their products in unique ways. By this time you can very well imagine a popular actor in a sitcom or a rock band guitarist displaying a tagline t shirt of one of the new launched brand.

Viral marketing can have its disadvantages as well. If not used appropriately it can prove to be counterproductive as well. It can also be used as a ploy for ambush marketing by competitors. 2020 will probably witness high number of ambush viral marketing campaigns where the motive would be to deter consumers from buying a certain product. In all Viral marketing contains huge prospects in the year 2020.


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