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Viral vs. Valuable Marketing

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Seth Godin, known to many as the “Marketing Guru,” defines viral marketing as, “an idea that spreads–and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause (Godin, 2008).”

In television and movies, viral marketing is often portrayed as any advertising done on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. However, this is not viral marketing, only online marketing. defines viral as, “pertaining to or involving the spreading of information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially on the Internet or in e-mails” as well as “becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet (, 2018).”

The main purpose of viral marketing is to push a message out so unique and clever that people want to spread it. Many times the way in which this is achieved is by doing a commercial where the brand is not highlighted as much as the story or message. An example can be found in one my all time favorite commercials, Kmart’s ship my pants. While some may consider the humor crude, the commercial was entertaining enough to receive oh-so-many retweets on Twitter, over 16 million YouTube views, and even media attention. USA Today reported, “Some social media users deemed the commercial, created by ad agency Draftfcb Chicago, ‘gross’ and ‘vulgar,’ while many gave kudos to Kmart for having an edgy sense of humor (Petrecca, 2013).”

The Kmart commercial went viral, but did it earn Kmart extra business? Those numbers are harder to track and as Seth Godin also points out, “Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn’t market you or your business in a tangible, useful way (Godin, 2008).”

In the current year of 2018, there are so many social media sites it can be difficult to navigate through them, but businesses have found different ways to utilize and harness this power. People are talking on these social media sites, so why not have them talk about a brand? The trick is to find a way to convey a business message or brand through a creative way that makes it seem like it’s not a commercial. If done correctly, people will want to share what they have seen on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

As Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media, once stated, “Videos that ‘go viral’ are more often than not accidental! Creating a video with the intent of it going viral is bound to fail. Rather than having a goal of ‘going viral’ you should have a goal of ‘being valuable.’ Create content that is valuable, entertaining, and informative (Kerpen, 2012).”


Godin, S. (2008). What is viral marketing?. Seth’s Blog. Retrieved from

Kerpen, D. (2012). How to: Make a viral video. Likeable Media. Retrieved from

Petrecca, L. (2013). Kmart’s ‘ship my pants’ ad causes shockwaves and smiles. USA Today. Retrieved from

Viral. (2018). Retrieved from