When online advertising experts are asked what is the biggest shortcome of viral campaigns, no one will struggle to identify the problem of the difficulty to measure the returns on investments of such campaigns, due to the difficult quantification of the value of a parameter called “brand interaction“. This is not a new problem since even in old-school advertising, brand loyalty and brand fidelity were easily identifiable but hardly convertible in terms of added value to the sales.
In both cases we can measure the change in attitude towards the brand (and therefore sales) due to an external factor (positive or negative) influencing the purchasing behaviour, but we cannot directy see the effects, if people are not going to be tested against their consideration for the brand.
Most of the time, viral marketers promote the power of their iniciatives by showing the increase of awareness consequent to their projects. Unfortunately increased awareness by itself is not enough to qualify a successful social or viral campaign, since is nothing but the consequence of a branding initiative (by definition). Therefore what is often confused by viral, is nothing but a unusual and sometimes extravagant way of promoting a brand. If I put resources (monetary and human) in to diffusing a “viral” video on YouTube, or having people signed up to my branded page on Facebook, I’m not really creating something viral. What I’m just promoting an unconventional branding message, through what nowadays are already two (already) very commons media of mass communication.