Evaluating the Persuasive and Memory Effects of Viral Advertising

Evaluating the Persuasive and Memory Effects of Viral Advertising

Maysam Shirkhodaee (Faculty of Economics & Administrative Science, Mazandaran University, Babolsar, Iran) and Saeed Rezaee (Department of Business Management, Faculty of Management, Kharazmi University, Karaj, Iran)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijom.2013070104


Despite the increasing popularity of viral advertising, its effectiveness for high involvement products is under question. Moreover, its effect on brand recall and recognition has not been evaluated yet. To fill the gap, a 2 advertising type (viral vs normal) by 2 product category (high involvement vs low involvement) factorial design was conducted. Results indicate that viral ads significantly enhance attitudes, purchase intention and forwarding intention for both low and high involvement products. After one week delay, recall and recognition were measured. Results revealed that viral ads significantly lead to better aided brand recall, unaided brand recall and brand recognition than non-viral ads. While the influence of viral ad on brand recall and recognition for high involvement products is stronger than low involvement products, its influence on attitudes and purchase behavior for high involvement products is weaker than low involvement products.
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Mass media advertising has become too expensive for brands to maintain a continuous media presence (Kirby & Marsden, 2006). Moreover, the growing lack of trust in marketing communications has made consumers seek information from personal social networks as a trustworthy source for their purchase decisions (Allsop et al., 2007). With increasing penetration of Internet into consumers' life, viral advertising has emerged as an efficient marketing tool to reach a huge number of people in a short time and spread word of mouth about brands. Viral campaign offers non-interruptive solution for companies trying to acquire new customers and keep the old ones. While consumers often find unsolicited commercial message of a company irritating, such a message is considered favorably if it comes from a member of the message receiver’s social network (Phelps et al., 2004).

As Eckler and Bolls (2011) point out, some advertising practitioners and managers believe that viral ads are effective if they reach huge number of potential customers (e.g. one million people), but actually the goal of viral marketing is twofold: forwarding behavior and consumption (Dobele et al., 2007). Viral ads should affect consumers’ attitudes, memory and purchase behaviors. Although viral advertising generally has been found effective, its effectiveness for different product categories (high vs low involvement) has not been investigated yet. Moreover, none of the previous studies have evaluated the influence of viral advertising on brand recall and recognition. Consumers are being bombarded with promotional activities every day and it became very difficult for brands to find a way into consumers’ memory and get recalled or recognized due to contextual interference and decreased attention to the promoted brands (Zhang et al., 2009). Second, memory performance declines with passage of time (Howard & Kahana, 1999). Since purchase behavior usually occurs after a delay of some days or weeks from ad exposure, passage of time decreases advertising effect on recall and recognition especially when brand is unfamiliar to consumers. These indicate the necessity of considering brand recall and recognition as important measures of viral ad effectiveness. To fill the gap, we provide an overview of viral advertising considering emotional execution as the most important aspect of viral ads. Then we try to evaluate the effectiveness of viral ads considering the moderating role of product involvement.

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