Measurement of the viral phenomenon: New methodological exploration
Viral phenomenon in marketing refers to the rapid growth and adoption pattern of a product, akin to a biological virus. Viral phenomenon can be defined as “a word-of-mouth diffusion process wherein a message is actively forwarded from person to person, within and between multiple weakly linked personal networks, and is marked by a period of exponential growth in the number of people who are exposed to the message”. The success of Hotmail, a free web-based e-mail, and an Indian movie song ‘Kolavari Di’, are examples of viral phenomenon. Today, business commonly accepts mention of viral market penetration with reference to online videos, product, technology, information, an event or an idea. The need for attaining viral phenomenon is most critical in present times due to the dynamic market environment, the shrinking window of product lifecycle and multitude of competing products in the market. However, the measurement of viral success remains under explored in literature. The challenges and research gaps are: (i) The current studies are mostly case summaries without reliable metrics and lack empirical investigation. (ii) The scant empirical studies focus on a single measure of viral phenomenon, thereby do not capture the viral phenomenon in entirety. (iii) In the present time we are inundated with the term ‘viral phenomenon’ with no distinction between hype, popularity and what can be termed as a truly viral phenomenon. Moreover, the diversity of the occurrence of viral phenomenon across different mediums, for example product, online videos, an idea, further adds to the challenge of measuring the viral phenomenon. Researchers are yet to understand the viral phenomenon in its entirety and comprehensively. This thesis addresses these research gaps by defining the following research aims: 1) Research aim 1: Growth measurement of viral phenomenon – Development of a new viral phenomenon growth measurement methodology and to test and validate the proposed methodology for freely available online videos and purchased physical products. 2) Research aim 2: Viral phenomenon performance measures – Explore valid indicators to measure the viral phenomenon. 3) Research aim 3: Emotion measurement of viral phenomenon – Explores the emotion triggers that drive viral phenomenon thereby involves the development of a viral phenomenon emotion measurement methodology. This research makes three significant contributions to literature. (i) A new methodological framework is developed to comprehensively measure and characterize a viral phenomenon thereby eliminating the existing limitations of a single measure. (ii) This study is a first of its kind to empirically measure viral phenomenon of purchased physical products (i.e., non-online products purchased with monetary value). (iii) The methodology develops a viral emotion score to identify the viral emotions that trigger viral phenomenon.