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Viral Marketing Gone Wrong?

Viral Marketing Success
Viral Marketing Success
Graphic by Paul Durban, Information Product Design at (↑)

Without a doubt it seems that “Viral Marketing,” is a powerful buzzword. Just tap into an existing social network and have your marketing message spread — essentially — for free.

Sounds like a big money saver that can slash your advertising costs dramatically while increasing response. Your message is not yelled at a cold prospect but instead delivered by a friend.

And it spreads, … if it is done right.
  • Usually big corporations are prone to not doing it right.
  • Corporate managers are listening to their agencies …
  • Agencies are doing it wrong because they still believe you can buy attention and sales for big money. Their share in this kind of deal is not insignificant.

Viral Campaign For Turning TV license dodgers Into Paying Subscribers

The idea is fun and spreads but I don't see much potential for making people pay a mandatory fee which they refuse to pay up to this point. Especially because the idea seems to spread more outside the intended target audience.

Have a look. I made a viral video for myself.

Internet Marketing Star John W. Furst
Internet Marketing Superstar John W. Furst

Note: Unfortunately the application has severe browser compatibility issues. If you cannot access it try the lower quality YouTube version (↑) I have made from it.

My wife and and my sister in law have been stunned when I surprised them.
Unfortunately for the Swedish broadcasting corporation they won't pay any fees in the near future.

Two days ago I counted about 13 tweets within one hour about that viral movie tool. Just right now there were 21 tweets in the last hour. But only 1 person living in Sweden, all other 20 tweeples couldn't care less about Swedish TV license fees.

But let's leave geographic targeting issues aside. Since I am outside of Sweden, don't speak Swedish and admittedly did not check other sources and media in Sweden, I could miss an important part of the campaign altogether. My view here is certainly skewed as I am an outsider. Still, there is a lesson to be learned.

The missing part in this campaign: A Strong Offer.

Sure the videos spread somewhat but they do not answer the important question:
“Why should someone who breaks the law by not paying the fee at first place all of a sudden start paying?”

It reminds me on the infamous campaign by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service, USA) a couple of years ago. Psychologist and author Robert B. Cialdini talked about that case study in an interview about his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (↑).

They basically sent a letter to tax payers saying,
“So many citizens are not honest with the taxes at least you shouldn't be the one who lies in the tax return.”

The result was quite the opposite the IRS had intended. Even more people evaded some of their taxes because they felt:
“When everybody is doing it it must be okay and I would be stupid not doing it.”

Are you going to make your viral hero movie (↑)?

How To Make A Better Viral Campaign?

A viral campaign doesn't need the Web, but the Web can make it really big rather inexpensively.

Just keep in mind:
  1. Know your ultimate target audience and their “hot buttons”. Make them an offer respectively give them something they really appreciate.

  2. Make sure your campaign reaches and spreads in your target audience.

  3. Keep it simple. Don't require the latest browser and high speed Internet access. The time of your audience is precious.

  4. Keep it safe! Many viral tools have serious privacy issues and security loopholes. (See what Case Stevens wrote.)

The Swedish Hero Campaign doesn't score for any of those issues at all. No good reason for signing up right now; ~95% of users outside the target group (*); even experienced Internet users let me know that they gave up trying to load the movie.

(*) An estimate from a snapshot at Twitter; not representative at all.

Certainly a nice try, a funny one, … I am just glad that I was not the one who has to pay for it.

What's your take?

John W. Furst

P.S.: I'd love to see the real figures what it had cost to produce and how much registrations it produces.


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Miriam on :


I do not even quite understand what Swedish persons can do differently.

Am I really supposed to submit my personal ID on that site. A fishing site might do that.

Case @ 6 Viral Marketing Tips on :


Gheez John, didn't know your mother was Swedish and collects TV fees. :-)

The concept of this campaign certainly looks good, only...

who wants to be involved in a viral marketing campaign urging fellow citizens to pay taxes?

It's a nasty topic!

This one is likely to perform much better:

John W. Furst on :



Mentos is certainly the better product for such a campaign. :-)

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