More and more travel companies are turning to viral marketing, also known as ‘buzz marketing’, as an option for raising brand awareness quickly and generating traffic to their websites. Equally though, the term is as vague, mysterious and terrifying as ‘social media’ for many business owners and directors in the sector.
So what is viral marketing and how can it benefit a travel business? Viral campaigns consist of either a video or a game, designed to generate discussion and encourage consumers to pass them onto their friends, family and colleagues. They can generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hits almost overnight and become great sources of publicity in their own right. This is because it is driven by the consumer, not the marketer, and people are more open to the recommendations as they trust the source.

 

T-Mobile are great exponents of this through their ‘Life’s for Sharing’ marketing campaign. Their first viral video, which featured scores of ‘commuters’ dancing at Liverpool Street Station, has had over 17million views on YouTube since its launch in early 2009. That is the exception, rather than the rule though. Games are usually much more successful and provide companies with a greater return on their investment. Our latest release, Rough Roads (www.roughroads.co.uk), was launched on November 11 and had 2.2million plays in its first two weeks! This allowed the client, travel publisher Rough Guides, to raise the profile of their newest guide, Make the Most of Your Time on Earth, and generate £5,000 for their chosen charity Global Giving (they pledged to donate 10p for everyone who played the game and submitted their score).

We’ve had similar successes for other travel companies. For example, Seasons Holidays commissioned us for a game – called Sunbed Invaders (www.sunbedinvaders.com) – to raise brand awareness and give players the chance to win the holiday of a lifetime. The game had two million plays in two weeks, and was eventually nominated for a Roses Design Award – one of the design industry’s most respected awards.

Viral campaigns can deliver a fantastic return on investment, very quickly, and can generate huge numbers in a short space of time – on a global scale. There is no limit to the reach of a viral, and the possibilities for exponential growth make them very attractive. They allow businesses to automate their marketing – they can just set up their campaign and forget about it – and integrate online marketing with other promotional methods.

So why choose a viral game rather than a video? Games can be easily integrated with social media profiles – Rough Roads, for example, is playable through Rough Guides’ Facebook page and has directed a lot of traffic to their fan pages. They are often known as ‘social media games’ for that reason. They also allow companies to quickly and easily gather contact data, because players can submit email addresses when entering their score, or taking part in a competition. For example, NetFlights asked us to design a game called Holiday Fling (www.holidayfling.net) to raise awareness of their destinations, to help them capture prospect data and increase the number of visits to their website. NetFlights captured 100,000 email addresses in just eight weeks.

Games can include calls to action, to encourage people to visit a company’s website and find out more about their products or services. And they often come back again and again and publicise their scores on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. Another advantage games have over videos is the ability to track everything, including average user engagement times, click throughs, return rates and so on. And because they are distributed online, they become very easy to follow and evaluate their success.

We use tracking software like Google Analytics to provide details of where players are, how much time they have spent on the game, and how many plays the game has received. These details are obviously very beneficial for companies which want to build a prospect database with accurate contact information, aiding their future marketing work and allowing them to spread the return on investment over months if not years.

Finally, games have a unique quality which gives them a greater chance of success. Not everyone can produce a game, but they can film their own videos and post them to sites like YouTube. This means a viral video can easily be lost in amongst the millions of videos uploaded every day, making it much harder for brands to be noticed.

For more information visit www.kokodigital.co.uk

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