Marketing Through Viral Product Design

Ever since the first chain mail went, to borrow from a term that
wouldn’t be coined till a century and a half later, ‘viral’,
marketers have been intrigued by the prospect of hard-coding social
momentum into the design of the product. Popular examples of these
are referral systems that earn you incentives for sharing it with
your friends.

Virality vs Word of Mouth

Now, before we tell you more about this. We want to make sure
you understand that virality is often confused with Word Of Mouth.
Word of Mouth is when a product’s design, or customer experience
is so good that people can’t stop recommending it to their
friends or writing about it. For example, if my food delivery app
makes it very easy for me to find my favorite snacks, I’ll talk
about it to my friends. That is word of mouth.

Virality, on the other hand, is a term that is used to denote
people sharing a product in the context of using it. If I share the
news of the day on Twitter, it doesn’t mean that I particularly
love Twitter. It means that I can’t get that kind of outcome on
any other platform.

What is Viral Product Design?

Viral product design is a blanket term for incorporating both
features and core characteristics that drive peer-to-peer
interaction and encourage more people to adopt the product. The
broad umbrella term of design can be further broken down into
characteristics and features. Viral characteristics mostly have to
do with the core design elements like content, UI, UX, value, and
the psychological effect it has on the user. Viral features mostly
have to do how a product is shared and how the experience of it is
expressed to other prospective users.

Viral features can include a variety of things not limited to
generating notifications about other users activities, enabling
communication with other users, and personalized user experience.
Some of the popular viral product features are personalized
referrals and automated broadcast notifications.

Characteristics that lead to Virality

Often, product development and marketing are seen to be
separated by a firewall. This leads to a disconnect between the
product’s core use case and its marketing needs. Hence, a well
known bias known as the Valence effect comes into play: where
product managers believe that the virality of a product comes
solely from quality, and hence if the product is of sufficient
quality, virality will naturally ensue. Unless, there is an
external amplifier of the product, this isn’t the most efficient
way to go. In order to guarantee widespread adoption, the product
development and marketing considerations need to work in

  • The utility of the product is enhanced through interaction:
    Simply, the product becomes better when your friends are on it.
    Imagine what Facebook would be like if none of your friends were on
    it. The need for interaction in order to enhance the core value is
    what incentivizes people to share it with others and have their
    friends sign up for the service or product.
  • The product’s users benefit from networks synthesized as a
    result of its connections: The product gives the user access to
    broader networks that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. In
    fact, a core component of the value that a user derives from the
    product will be rooted in the vast networks that they synthesize on
    the product. The product hence, incentivizes people to grow
    communities around common factors, life experiences, professions,
    or anything else.
  • The product benefits from its existing networks and adds value
    to the users’ existing connections: The product does more than
    enable high quality interaction between users. A product derives
    its virality from its ability to incentivize people to connect with
    networks. Even if the user doesn’t personally invite anyone, they
    should be able to connect with the existing networks and derive as
    much or more value than they could have from the user’s own
    personal networks.
  • The product exhibits high user retention: The product has a
    unique ability to not only get people to join, but also to get
    people to stay. Products with viral design usually have a low
    attrition rate. Users typically don’t invite their friends on to
    a product if they’re not personally whole-heartedly invested in
    the product. The fate of a viral design is usually contingent upon
    how confident a user feels in approving their own personal seal of
    approval on it.
  • The product’s utility is ubiquitous and instantly
    recognizable: A product’s virality also depends on how much of a
    market need the product’s problem statement really is. It is more
    likely to be viral if it addresses a gap that the market is already
    talking about. That leads to the marketability of the gap directly
    translating to the marketability of the product.

Product marketing is a question that has long flummoxed
marketeers, and although strategies pushing virality have been
around as long as communication itself, it takes a whole new
meaning with the continuously evolving landscape of digital media.
In order to fully take advantage of their resources, marketing
needs to be a much more integral part of the design process. The
marketer must own not only the UI/UX, but core functionality also.
While we regret the inevitable increase in the workload of the
marketer, it presents a great opportunity for Joe McMarketer to
justify marketing budgets next quarter.

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Marketing Through Viral Product Design
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Marketing Through Viral Product Design