This is the shocklingly ill-informed claim - made in bold red letters - on the front page of the July/August 2010 issue of The Chartered Institute of Marketing's magazine The Marketer:
'Viral... wiped out? Over'?
No. I really don't think so. Viral marketing is not 'over'. The Old Spice viral ad received almost 5 million views - and it is not alone in its success:
Viral is still an emerging phenomenon. New mediums will come and go and the web experience will be itself be transformed before viral is replaced by a more powerful way to spread a message.
Purist traditional marketers are riding the earthquake of digital change and it must be very frightening. But they should not fear. Digital marketers like me (Ben Acheson) are passionate and outspoken about the internet and keen to help others learn about their new paradigm.
Traditionalists would benefit from catching up with the digital marketing revolution that threatens to leave them behind and strip them of the last traces of relevance. To dismiss or deny the important changes reshaping the business landscape would be to bury our heads in the sand.
And these changes have barely begun. The pace of change will accelerate as new technologies and ideas combine and feed each other. The internet is still quite new to business. It is a different medium not dominated by the printed media and the PR industry elite. It does not require significant investment to achieve popularity or success. It requires a commitment to engaging users and giving them a positive, relevant experience.
In online markets (most markets are to some extent online) the customer is in control. Some traditional marketers do not like that. The fear relinquishing hard-won control over their brand and their message. But the truth is that they have no choice. Failing to acknowledge that your customers are in charge will alienate them. If you fail to engage with them or satisfy them they will either:
1) Say bad things about you online for all the world to see, or
2) Remain indifferent and ignore you.
There are brands blighted by thousands of negative comments all over the web and the social media. There are brands for whom the web is a cold wasteland of silence, with tumbleweeds of indifference blowing past. There are slowly collapsing remnants of business that were great at traditional marketing - but are failing to transform.
Shoving annoying banner ads at social networking users, as described in this article, is a typical example of traditional marketing imposing its outdated methods on a radically new medium and a radically different audience. It is a waste of effort and risks damage to brands.
Viral marketing really cannot be so easily dismissed when it is shaking and shaping the world of business in ways that are so blindingly clear to those with eyes to see. But let us not generalise - there are many kinds of viral campaign. Anybody can create an effective campaign relatively cheaply, or even for free, with a good understanding of their market and a little imagination. There is no need for professional seeding.
Traditional marketing as we know it is being transformed. It is the old marketing dogma that risks being 'wiped out' - not viral marketing. Viral is part of a digital communication and marketing revolution that has barely begun. Open your eyes and be part of this exciting transformation. Many of us are already here surfing the wave and waiting we're for you join our beach party.