Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Viral Virals & Swine Flu Marketing...

The recent hype surrounding the outbreak of swine flu highlights two very different forms of marketing. On the one hand, consumers are being bombarded with topical adverts as brands jump on the bubonic bacon bandwagon, whilst office in-boxes around the world are now contagious with spoof swine flu emails – the viral goes viral…

So which of these is actually more effective as a form of mass communication? It’s no secret that the key to successful marketing lies in being both topical and relevant. Kleenex are currently advertising their ‘anti-viral’ tissues (a product that’s not to be sneezed at), whilst Dettol’s website lists disinfecting surfaces as a ‘golden hygiene rule’ in the fight against swine flu – juxtaposed against some beautiful pictures of its product range…

Compassionate or commercial (who am I to question the integrity of a corporation’s altruistic intentions), one thing remains clear – some brands have sensibly jumped on the bandwagon, just as they did when Obama came to power or when the ‘credit crunch’ kicked in etc. Standard ATL advertising thrives on its relevance, but is it actually viral marketing that is more infectious these days?

Within a few days of swine flu fever hitting the media, the Stig’s inbox has been hit by a deluge of emails containing amended Piglet cartoons, Photoshopped images of Lemsip and Porky the Pig and countless other emails that I’d rather not disclose in public (the boss reads this blog after all). I shall, of course, be forwarding these emails to friends and colleagues, which begs the question - is viral marketing now a much more effective method to reach mass audiences?

As fleeting as they are, virals are actively interacted with. You only have to look at recent cultish phenomenons such as ‘Thumbman’ and Compare the Market’s Alexandr the meerkat (who has more Twitter followers than Boris Johnson and Hillary Clinton) to see that consumers are becoming more and more online savvy – handy, considering everyone’s marketing budgets can no longer afford print.

Whilst we hope that the viral swine flue epidemic is eradicated quickly, perhaps the marketing community should choose this moment to usher in a new era of virals in its place. For marketing messages that permeate mass audiences and encourage widespread engagement, surely viral communications are now the method that will bring home the bacon when it comes to brand awareness.

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