ATTENTION! Viral marketing poses risks for your health
Viral marketing, although being low-cost and very efficient, can turn things upside down to a negative direction and then it becomes an even more powerful instrument. As a matter of fact, you can indeed advertise your product through viral campaigns but at the same time, someone else may “kill” you or your business through such a campaign, too. It is not about killing you literally but it is possible to harm your online reputation, image, or business.
Lethal negative viral marketing
Do you know who Walter James Palmer is? And do you know who Cecil the lion is? I did not know either until recently but one viral campaign, which was unleashed on the internet, put the spotlight on these two names.
Here is the story: Millionaire dentist Walter James Palmer from Minnesota has a relatively popular hobby – hunting. He regularly travels to different destinations around the world and hunts exotic animals for fun. Misled by his guide, Walter shot Cecil the lion with his cross-bow and then with his gun. For Walter, this was just another animal he had killed. Until he posted the photos on the social network. Environmentalists recognized the animal as the lion named Cecil – one of the most popular lions in the region [Zimbabwe], used for different scientific purposes by the University of Oxford.
And this is how the scandal broke out. But the problems were just starting. An active campaign kicked off on the social networks, launched by environmentalists, who attacked the professional Facebook page of the dentist and eventually it was deleted from the social network. The website of his dental office was suspended, too, while all independent websites where consumers may post comments on the services of different commercial outlets, including dental offices, were awash with hundreds of thousands of negative posts and low ratings for Dr. Palmer and his work. Organized protests in front of his cabinet, on the other hand, put an end to his work with patients.
Most of the regional and national media covered the news, while a video with photos of all his hunting experiences and trophies, enriched with additional information about him, accusations of a series of killings of protected species and violations of the law, went viral on Facebook. In just twenty-four hours the video reached an audience of more than 13 million users of the social network. In his show on ABC, popular TV host Jimmy Kimmel spend no less than four minutes on the scandal, which attracted more than 10 million views in the first twelve hours. Through other TV channels, including CNN, the informant spread to hundreds of millions of people from all over the world, while the videos distributed through Facebook and Twitter are still circulating around the internet.
Dolce & Gabbana’s synthetic children
A remark, blundered out accidentally (or probably not), by the founders of the Dolce & Gabbana brand – Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, that children conceived by in vitro fertilization were “synthetic”, caused a wave of discontent among the fans of their work. Elton John publicly announced that he was going to boycott their brand until the two designers continued showing disrespect towards gay families. His reaction was followed by a series of campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, including protests in front of their stores all over the world.
It is an interesting phenomenon that negative campaigns develop and spread much faster than positive ones. To some great extent, this is explained by the standard consumer behavior on the internet. For instance, if people are not satisfied with the hotel they are staying in, or the restaurant they had a meal at, they have a strong motivation to have revenge because of the inconvenience they were put through. This is the engine power of the comments on social networks and review websites.
On the other hand, consumers, who are happy with the service, enjoy the moment and experience positive emotions but they rarely feel a strong motivation to praise the service or the quality of the product. The same is valid for viral campaigns – if a certain positive campaign about gender equality, for instance, is shared by 10% of the people it reaches, a campaign against a politician or a concrete brand may be shared by more than 40-50% of the people it reaches, even without going too deep into the topic. We should not miss mentioning the fact that protests make consumers join a cause with certain clear and concrete goals and a community of people, who are active and defend their rights. Even if they do not understand what exactly they are protesting against, many people eagerly join the protest and vigorously share links with the sincere sense of doing something that will benefit the society. Just like the gluten-free food products – everyone is avoiding the harmful gluten but few people really know what it really is. Do you know what gluten is?