Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Internet currency From: Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 25, Issue 4
Edited by Dennis A. PittaUniversity of Baltimore
Viral marketing comes of age
Internet marketing has grown from its infancy 15 years ago. At that time, the risk taking web sites featured coffee and other commodities. Today, the internet has matured with millions of consumers online. In fact, online activities have been blamed for some social problems like childhood obesity, since children and teenagers are spending more time in front of a monitor than before. People are not just playing games; they are creating their own communities using sites like facebook.com and myspace.com. One individual can link with scores or hundreds of others, each sharing similar interests. With millions of people online at a given time, the potential economic benefit of interacting with them is staggering.
How does a marketer reach members of online communities without turning them off? One way is to let them select something that interests them without giving them a sales pitch. There are multiple examples of consumers who contact companies to ask for advertising posters or other promotional material because it is “cool.” When companies supply items like promotional posters or sales promotion items to consumers, multiple friends and neighbors may see them, increasing communication reach. Now there is an analog to promotional material that can be used on the internet, a widget. A widget is a small web application built to be virally spread across the internet. The key to its success is finding the right kind of product or service to promote. So, astute marketers have to answer the questions, what do people like and what do they like to share with their friends? The answers will help to focus on the nature of the products and services that will work with widgets. Currently, the answers relate to entertainment and sports.
In this issue we look at a very successful web site that provides its own branded version of the widget, the Gydget.
Gydgets work like other widgets except that they work on multiple platforms. Facebook and MySpace use two different methods of operation and gydgets come in both flavors. Gydget.com provides a number of sports and entertainment related gydgets free for use by individuals. After opening the site, users can find numerous gydgets from which to choose.
Gydget.com asks the important question: “What are the gydget benefits for an artist/team?” There are lots of cool benefits, including:
Earn revenue: the “buy tickets” button and merchandise links allow fans to make purchases from the gydget.
Grab eyeballs: the “Tell friends” and “grab it” buttons allow fans to share the gydget.
Create community: widget allows fans to connect and show some love!
Keep fans up-to-date: all gydgets update automatically when new events or news are added.
Customizable: we’re all about customization. Change the image, colors, links, content and tabs
MySpace friendly: with the “Go” button, linking out from MySpace is clean and elegant.”
As mentioned above, a gydget, is a stand-alone viral promotion tool perfect for bands, sports teams. In fact, just about any organization that wants to get the word out to fans across social networking sites about news, media, and events can use a gydget.
The Gydget.com website includes two links to access different kinds of gydget’s: one for consumers and one for providers. The first is for fans of entertainers or sports teams. The link reads, “Find a gydget you like and click the ‘grab it!’ button to add it to your MySpace, Facebook, or other personal page in just a couple of clicks.” Clicking on the link at the time this review was written brought up five hundred and six fan gydgets. They included groups and individual artists and ranged from established and well-known artists like Beyonce to relative unknowns like Corey Brooks. Sports team gydgets numbered around 50 while there were 40 “other” gydgets available.
While Gydget.com supplies fan widgets for free to users, it does not bear the expense nor expend the effort to create them. The second link is for providers like sports teams or bands. That link invites the organization to create its own gydgets for use by fans. The link is password protected and only registered organizations can access that part of the site.
Posting a gydget
Fans will find that posting a gydget is easy. After selecting a gydget to use, fans have 20 destination choices. They include Facebook, MySpace, igoogle, Freewebs and lesser-known personal space providers A click on one of them starts the download process. For example, choosing myspace opens a MySpace log in window requiring the e-mail address and MySpace password. In addition, users choose where on their MySpace page the gydget should go. For myspace the choices range from “about me” to “heroes.” The process is remarkably simple.
The organization link brings up the topic of how Gydget.com makes money. Gydget uses an advertising model and charges for click through. The gydgets appear on numerous personal spaces, increasing reach. When a visitor clicks on the gydget to get more information or content, they are conducted to a landing page that may be promotional. It is a neat business model, give something away for free to users who value it and link it to an advertiser who will bear the cost of the process.
Even users with their own personal homepages on an ISP’s site, have not been forgotten. They can grab the gydget’s html code and embed it on their web site.
One user at a time, gydgets do the promotional job of exposing newcomers to artists and teams. As we explored the selection of gydgets we clicked randomly on Idina Menzel’s MySpace page (www.myspace.com/idinamenzel). This reviewer must not be hip because he had not heard of the singer before. One click brought us to her MySpace page, which contained audio links, videos, and pictures. Automatically, one of songs started playing and the effect was startling. She has a great voice, sang a song with intriguing lyrics and is obviously beautiful. Four songs appeared in a player window, each of which had control links for download, comments, lyrics, and add. The artist had not activated the links but if she had, one could download the song, add comments, review the lyrics and add the song to the viewer’s myspace profile.
In fairness, a MySpace page makes many things possible. Gydgets get people there. To view the potential return for using a gydget, we explored Idina’s MySpace page further. It contained a blog section where viewers could post their comments, a section that beamed her voice mail messages directly to mobile phones. More important, the page contains a link directly linked to the viewer’s location. I reside in Columbia, Maryland. I found a link that read, “Want Idina Menzel to come to Columbia?” It was followed by a link labeled, Demand It! The link forwarded messages to a site called Eventful.com. Eventful is a marketing site geared to entertainment which appeals to both fans and entertainers. Eventful educates fans telling them that:
“Eventful demand gives you the power to ‘demand’ events near you!”
“Performers schedule their tours to go where they are most in demand.”
“Compete against other cities to demand a performance near you.”
The selectivity and reach of fan based gydgets and the network of links they can access makes viral marketing highly effective. Gydget.com has developed a software product using the right business model of free to user, fee from advertiser to deliver value even for startups. Like some other intelligently designed products, the developers have insured that all the benefits are apparent, that it generates a measure of excitement, and that it does so requiring little effort from the viewer.
In our next issue, we will investigate other informative sites and invite readers to submit their favorite internet sites for our consideration.
Please forward all requests to review innovative internet sites to: Dr Dennis Pitta, University of Baltimore, 1420 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-5779, USA. Alternatively, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org for prompt attention.