Viral Marketing Definition

By John Dudovskiy
June 22, 2013

Viral Marketing Definition The term of ‘viral marketing’ has been coined by Steve Jurvetson in 1997 and it can be defined as “any marketing activity that accelerates and amplifies word of mouth in the digital domain” (Kirby, 2012, p.8).




Alternatively, the following definitions of viral marketing have been proposed:

  • “a marketing tactic relying upon the some aspects of the system to cause the promotion to propagate itself as initial targets pass the promotion onto others” (Investowords, 2013)
  • “a process of encouraging honest communication among consumer networks” (Sickels, 2008, p.48)
  • “any strategy that encourages subscribers to pass on marketing messages, thus creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence” (Frith and Mueller, 2010, p.237)
  • “an idea that spreads, and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause” (Godin, 2008, online).

The rationale behind the wording of the term ‘viral marketing’ has been explained in a way that “the effects of this form of marketing is like a virus – one person does it, then another and another until the word has spread across entire communities” (Frith and Mueller, 2010, p.237).

Practical advantages offered by viral marketing have been found to include lower expenses compared to many other marketing initiatives, possibility of reaching large numbers of customers during a short period of time, effectiveness because of the trust among members of a social group, and durability of viral marketing campaigns.

Viral marketing campaigns often attempt to make an appeal to emotional aspects of consumers. This appeal can be based on a set of themes such as humour, compassion, motivation, achievement, sex and others.



Frith, K.T. & Mueller, B. (2010) “Advertising and Societies: Global Issues” Peter Lang

Godin, S. (2008) “What is viral marketing?” Available at:

Kirby, J. (2012) “Viral Marketing” in Connected Marketing, Routledge, Editors Kirby, J. & Marsden, P.

Sickels, R.C. (2008) “The Business of Entertainment: Movies; Popular Music; Television” ABC-CLIO

Category: Marketing