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Viral Marketing, also known as viral advertising, are marketing practices that utilize word of mouth and online social networking services to spread brand awareness.
According to Wikipedia, Timothy Draper, founder of the global capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, is often credited with coining the term “viral marketing.” (when?) Meanwhile, American media theorist Douglas Rushkoff was among the first scholars to explore the concept of viral marketing on the Internet in his 1996 book Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture in Popular Culture.
In July of 1996, the e-mail service Hotmail was launched, which the message "Get your free email at Hotmail" at the bottom of every sent e-mail. The tagline has been credited with being instrumental in the service's initial success, signing up 12 million users in the first 18 months. On December 31st, the business magazine Fast Company published an article titled "The Virus of Marketing," which described successful marketing programs from an epidemiological perspective. On April 8th, 2004, the fast food restaurant chain Burger King launched the website Subservient Chicken, which featured videos of a man in a chicken suit who responds to over 300 different commands (shown below).
On October 30th, 2006, the Blendtec line of blenders launched the "Will it Blend" viral marketing campaign on YouTube, featuring videos of host Tom Dickson attempting to blend various objects with a Blendtec blender (shown below, left). For Super Bowl XLI held on February 4th, 2007, the Doritos tortilla chip company started a "Crash the Super Bowl" crowd sourced advertising campaign, which urged consumers to submit their own Doritos commercials (shown below, right).
On May 28th, 2008, a video was uploaded to YouTube in which several people use cellphoness to pop popcorn kernels (shown below, left). The video was later discovered to be produced as a viral marketing campaign for the Bluetooth technology company Cardo Wireless. In June, the content filtering software company Porn Blocker began using work-safe porn images in ads. In September, the Italian fashion company Diesel released a work-safe porn video produced by the viral marketing company The Viral Factory in celebration of their 30th anniversary (shown below, right)
On December 4th, 2009, the first of a series of videos were uploaded to YouTube under the name "iamamiwhoami," which featured an then-unknown blonde woman with a distorted face. Several videos were subsequently uploaded before it was revealed to be a viral marketing stunt for the iamamiwhoami electronic music project by Swedish artist Jonna Lee.
On February 7th, 2010, a commercial titled "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" for the American grooming products brand Old Spice aired during the 2010 Super Bowl, in which former NFL wide receiver and actor Isaiah Mustafa delivers a fast-paced monologue as the green-screen scenery is changed from a bathroom to a beach with the actor sitting on top of a horse (shown below, left). The advertisement kicked off the beginning of an online & TV marketing campaign written and produced by Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of the Portland-based ad agency Wieden and Kennedy. On July 14th, Old Spice launched an online marketing campaign wherein Mustafa engaged in real-time exchanges with the audience through a number of social networking sites and online communities, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Digg. Within 36 hours of the three-day long campaign, the Old Spice YouTube channel gained over 23 million views.
In June of 2011, actor and model Fabio Lanzoni was chosen to be the star of a new Old Spice ad campaign by Wieden + Kennedy. On July 14th, the newoldspiceguyfabio YouTube channel uploaded a commercial featuring Lanzoni as the new Old Spice Guy (shown below, left). The campaign ended with a contest between Lanzoni and Mustafa, in which Mustafa was declared the victor (shown below, right).
On January 18th, 2012, the official McDonald's Twitter account began using the promotional Twitter hashtag #McDStories to encourage other Twitter users to share fond memories of experiences with the chain fast food restaurant. Twitter users responded by tweeting the hashtag with criticisms and jokes at the expense of the McDonalds company.
On February 26th, 2013, the snack food company Nabisco launched the "Cookie vs. Creme" ad campaign, which included the release of videos by Wieden + Kennedy demonstrating the use of Oreo cookie separator machines (shown below, left). On April 14th, 2013, the personal care brand Dove uploaded six "Real Beauty Sketches" videos to their YouTube account, which included an overview of the marketing campaign. The videos show forensic artist Gil Zamora drawing sketches of seven women based on their self-description of facial features, which are then compared to a second set of sketches based on the recollection of a stranger the subjects had spoken to earlier that day (shown below, right).