Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Not All Fun and Games: Viral Marketing for Utilitarian Products

Schulze, Christian
Schöler, Lisa
Volume: 78
Number: 1
Pages: 1 - 19
Month: January
ISSN-Print: 0022-2429
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2014
Keywords: Social media marketing; Viral marketing; Utilitarian; Sharing mechanisms; Facebook; Apps

The success of products such as FarmVille has prompted many firms to engage in viral marketing on Facebook and other social media websites. Yet is the viral marketing approach adopted for games suitable for other, more utilitarian products? This study aims to answer questions that link product characteristics and contexts to viral marketing success: Should primarily utilitarian products rely on the same sharing mechanisms for their viral marketing campaigns as less utilitarian products? If not, why is this the case, and how should viral marketing for primarily utilitarian products differ? This empirical study analyzes the Facebook viral marketing campaigns of 751 products and reveals that the same sharing mechanism that made FarmVille so successful is the worst possible mechanism for promoting primarily utilitarian products. These findings are in line with theory from social psychology: because consumers do not visit Facebook to learn about utilitarian products, they rely on simple cues and heuristics to process viral marketing messages about these products. This study thus contributes to literature on viral marketing in general and sharing mechanisms in particular; it also offers practical, hands-on recommendations to marketing managers in charge of designing viral marketing campaigns for both more and less utilitarian products.