Abstract and Figures

In this article, we identify that successful viral marketing campaigns trigger an emotional response in recipients. Working under this premise, we examine the effects of viral messages containing the six primary emotions (surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) on recipients' emotional responses to viral marketing campaigns and subsequent forwarding behavior. According to our findings, in order to be effective, viral messages need to contain the element of surprise. By itself, however, surprise is not enough to guarantee message success; therefore, it must be combined with other emotions. The effectiveness of the viral message is also moderated by gender, with disgust-based and fear-based campaigns being more likely to be forwarded by male recipients than female recipients. To ensure forwarding behavior, the message must capture the imagination of the recipient, as well as be clearly targeted. Moreover, achieving fit between a campaign and the featured emotions is important, as this ensures an increased chance of forwarding. In addition to relaying these and other findings, we share and discuss the managerial implications of using different emotions in viral marketing campaigns. Finally, culture is recognized as an influencer.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Why pass on viral messages?
Because they connect emotionally
Angela Dobele
, Adam Lindgreen
, Michael Beverland
Joëlle Vanhamme
, Robert van Wijk
Central Queensland University, Australia
Department of Marketing and Marketing Communications, Hull University Business School, University of Hull, Hull, UK
University of Melbourne, Australia
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Abstract In this article, we identify that successful viral marketing campaigns
trigger an emotional response in recipients. Working under this premise, we examine
the effects of viral messages containing the six primary emotions (surprise, joy,
sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) on recipients' emotional responses to viral
marketing campaigns and subsequent forwarding behavior. According to our findings,
in order to be effective, viral messages need to contain the element of surprise. By
itself, however, surprise is not enough to guarantee message success; therefore, it
must be combined with other emotions. The effectiveness of the viral message is also
moderated by gender, with disgust-based and fear-based campaigns being more likely
to be forwarded by male recipients than female recipients. To ensure forwarding
behavior, the message must capture the imagination of the recipient, as well as be
clearly targeted. Moreover, achieving fit between a campaign and the featured
emotions is important, as this ensures an increased chance of forwarding. In addition
to relaying these and other findings, we share and discuss the managerial implications
of using different emotions in viral marketing campaigns. Finally, culture is
recognized as an influencer.
© 2007 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved.
Viral marketing;
Consumer emotions
1. Viral messages: Do we really know how
they work?
Viral marketing has been described as the process
of getting customers to pass along a company's
marketing message to friends, family, and collea-
gues(Laudon & Traver, 2001, p. 381). Like a virus,
information about the company and its brand
message, goods, or services is spread to potential
buyers, who then pass the information along to
The authors contributed equally.
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: a.dobele@cqu.edu.au (A. Dobele),
Adam_Lindgreen@hotmail.com (A. Lindgreen),
mbb@unimelb.edu.au (M. Beverland), jvanhamme@fbk.eur.nl
(J. Vanhamme).
(c/o Adam Lindgreen).
0007-6813/$ - see front matter © 2007 Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. All rights reserved.
Business Horizons (2007) 50, 291304
other potential buyers such that a huge network is
created rapidly (Dobele, Toleman, & Beverland,
2005; Lindgreen & Vanhamme, 2005). Viral market-
ing has gained tremendous popularity with the
introduction of electronic media, as these outlets
dramatically facilitate interconnections between
companies and potential buyers (De Bruyn & Lilien,
2004; Gruen, Osmonbekov, & Czaplewski, 2006).
Recognizing this opportunity, several world-class
companies and brands have jumped on the viral
marketing bandwagon, including Budweiser, De
Beers, eBay, Jose Cuervo Tequila, Kellogg's, Levi's,
Nestlé, Procter and Gamble, Scope Mouthwash, and
Virgin Cinemas.
When executed effectively, viral marketing cam-
paigns can create an instantaneous buzz in the
promotion and distribution of companies' brands
and products. This was the case with The Blair
Witch Project. Artisan Entertainment, the maker of
the film, created much interest in the movie by
giving it the air of a documentary and by supporting
it with a well-developed and elaborate Internet
site. Even before the film debuted in theaters,
people were talking about The Blair Witch Project,
and friends were referring friends to the website
(Bernard & Jallat, 2001). Although the budget for
the movie's release was just $2.5 million (US), The
Blair Witch Project grossed $245 million in world-
wide box office sales.
Despite the fact that viral marketing can be a
successful means of marketing communication,
there is still only a limited understanding of how it
works (Borroff, 2000; Brodin, 2000; Diorio, 2001;
Helm, 2000). This notion is supported by De Bruyn
and Lilien (2004), who posit that it is difficult to
explain why and how [viral marketing] works
(p. 4). What we do know is that viral marketing
campaigns can result in peer-to-peer recommenda-
tions, thereby increasing the credibility of the
message. Viral marketing can drive sales, reduce
marketing costs, and reach media-jaded consumer
segments such as Generation X and Generation Y. It
may involve people who know each other (e.g., the
Refer-a-Friendprogram of Half.com) and those
who do not (e.g., Epinions.com and ConsumerRe-
ports.org, which provide forums for consumers to
post objective product reviews for the benefit of
others). It is vital that companies choose carefully
which consumers should first pass on the viral
marketing message, as the creation of viral net-
works depends upon these people (Helm, 2000;
Bannan, 2000).
For viral marketing to work, there must be
something uniquely powerful about the message,
something that encourages would-be advocates to
pass it on. For example, in the case of Viagra, the
message captures the imagination and highlights a
completely new product that lends itself to refer-
rals. However, if the goal of viral marketing is to use
peer-to-peer communications in order to spread
information about a brand or idea, what really
drives consumers to pass the message on? Viral
marketing messages face several challenges
because spamming is frowned upon in the online
world and nobody likes to feel used (Dobele et al.,
2005). Essentially, peer-to-peer electronic mes-
sages face the same clutter and noiseproblems
that afflict traditional advertisers. What, then, can
companies do?
We argue that emotions, and in particular the
phenomenon of social sharing of emotions, offer a
solution to this problem. To illustrate, we consider
the impact of the six primary emotions on message
forwarding in nine chosen viral marketing cam-
paigns. Also, we examine gender as a moderator on
the relationship between emotions and forwarding
behavior. We identify that the success of a viral
message is dependent upon it capturing the imagi-
nation of the recipient, as well as it being cleverly
targeted. Our study's findings are summarized in six
points that must be considered in designing success-
ful viral marketing campaigns.
2. It's all about emotions: Why are they
In this article, we argue that viral marketing
messages must build an emotional connection
between the campaign and the recipient in order
to ensure that the virus gets spread. Why emotions?
By interviewing three leading spokespersons of
electronic marketing businesses (Yankee Group,
Giga Information Group, and Aberdeen), Hirsh
(2001) discovered that viral marketing campaigns
should be either intriguing, passionate, fun, unique,
or create interest (e.g., incorporating interactive
games). As articulated by Masland (2001),If the
content of the e-mail is funny, interesting or
emotional enough to have an impact, the recipients
often forward it viral message and all to friends
and family(p. 3). According to research conducted
by Clark McKay and Walpole Interactive (an inter-
active sales promotion agency), the highest
response rates can be found in messages that
contain violence, pornography, or irreverent
humor (Witthaus, 2002). The Are you Type 1
campaign developed for the Levi's brand used
creation of curiosity among consumers as the main
driver of the movement. To pique people's interest,
recipients were asked Are you Type 1?and were
then encouraged to ask themselves if they could be
the person Levi's was looking for. Table 1 provides an
292 A. Dobele et al.
overview of different emotions that have previously
been suggested in the literature as driving viral
marketing campaigns.
We argue that emotions work in viral marketing
because they are related to the phenomenon of
social sharing of emotions, which is defined by
Rimé, Philippot, Boca, and Mesquita (1992) as a
phenomenon involving (1) the evocation of the
emotion in a socially shared language and (2) at
least at the symbolic level at some addressee
(p. 228). People, who experience everyday life
emotions, initiate communication processes during
which they share parts of their private experiences
with social partners. Only about 10% of emotional
experiences are kept secret and never socially
shared with anyone (Rimé et al., 1992). There is
also evidence that the more disruptive the event,
the sooner and more frequently it is shared. Social
sharing of emotions is also positively related to the
intensity of the emotions (Rimé, Finkenhauer,
Luminet, Zech, & Philippot, 1998).
In particular, we examine the use and impact of
emotions on consumers' decisions to pass on viral
marketing messages. To our knowledge, previous
research has not investigated this issue. We contend
that emotions are key in driving viral marketing
campaigns. For example, it has been shown that
emotional responses account for a large part (about
30%) of the explained variance of referral behavior
(Maute & Dubé, 1999). Consider the emotion of
surprise. It has been noted that companies need to
move beyond mere satisfaction to customer
delight(Rust, Zahorik, & Keiningham, 1996,p.
229), and that the features that have the capacity
to delight are those that aresurprisingly pleasant
(Rust & Oliver, 2000, p. 87). The emotion of surprise
Table 1 Different emotions behind viral marketing
Mechanism(s) Source and explanation Mechanism(s) Source and explanation
Splash of Paint: People are directed to
the company's Internet site by
entertaining, amusing, and/or irritating
Coolness, fun;
unique offer
Virgin Atlantic: Customers pass on the
message when they think it is cool or fun,
or if the offer is second to none.
Fun, quirk,
specific and
relevant to the
Claritas: Viral marketing campaigns
should be funny, quirky, or amusing, or
something that is very specific and
relevant to the individual customer.
irreverent humor
Clark McKay and Walpole Interactive:
The messages drawing highest response
rates are those that have elements of
violence, pornography, or irreverent humor.
Fun, humor,
(jokes, games)
Fabulous Bakin' Boys: Its website
supports the muffin products with flash
animation sites, fun, jokes, as well as
games that people can download and
forward to their friends.
Comic strips,
video clips
Comic strips and video clips grab the
attention of people, who then forward
the content to their friends.
Internet strategies must have high
levels of emotional content including
interactivity, the ability to involve
other people, chat rooms, and the
creation of online community.
Contests and
important advice
Contests and humor are important elements
in successful campaigns, which can also be
successful if they have important advice for
Nature of the
industry; online
tenure of the
audience; topic
Sage Marketing and Consulting Inc.:
The success of viral marketing is
dependent upon (1) the nature of the
industry that the company is in; (2)
the online tenure of the audience;
and (3) the topic. People are more
likely to pass on information about
products like entertainment, music,
Internet, and software.
Controversy A company gains publicity when the media
writes about controversy on its website, and
competitors will have to deal with the
company. But such word-of-mouth
marketing can be dangerous because
dissatisfied customers are more likely to
share their negative experiences than
satisfied customers.
False, deliberately
popularly believed
narrative, typically
false; anecdotal
claims; junk
So-called urban legends and folklore
can be organized as (1) false,
deliberately deceptive information; (2)
popularly believed narrative, typically
false; (3) anecdotal claims, which may
be true, false, or in between; and (4)
junk. Such stories are frequently
forwarded to friends, family, and
Fun, intrigue,
value; offer of
incentives; need
to create network
People pass on messages if they find the
product benefits to be fun, intriguing, or
valuable for others; if they are given
financial incentives for doing so; or if they
feel a need to create network externalities.
Source: Lindgreen and Vanhamme (2005, p. 126).
293Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
has a strong influence on referral behavior (Derbaix
& Vanhamme, 2003). Surprise is, however, only one
of the six primary emotions, the other five being
fear, sadness, joy, disgust, and anger (Oatley &
Jenkins, 1996; Plutchik, 1980).
We contribute to the literature by examining the
use of these six primary emotions in viral marketing
campaigns. By looking from the recipient's viewpoint
at the decision to pass on messages, our findings
build on a previous study that examined tactical
strategies associated with successful viral marketing
campaign execution (see Dobele et al., 2005). We
also build on a previous study that explored what
made consumers judge a viral marketing campaign
Table 2 Summary of the nine viral marketing campaigns studied
Name of
Sponsor Aim Message
Amazon: Weapons
of Mass
Blueyonder (an Internet
service provider)
developed a viral
marketing campaign for
Promote the company Type in the campaign name and an error
page results in jokes about the US
government and a fake blueprint for
invading the country of choice.
The fake error page provided three links to
different pages, two of which lead to an
opportunity to buy a book called Pieces of
Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of
Donald H. Rumsfeld at Amazon.co.uk with a
discount of 20% and Amazon shirts.
Christmas Cards
IT company Promote the company; impress
clients with the IT capabilities of
the company and encourage
referral activities from these
Online version of Christmas card played as a
short movie.
Dr Pepper/Seven
Up: Raging Cow
The soft-drink producer
Dr Pepper/Seven Up
created a new milk based
beverage called Raging
Promote a new product By using six children (bloggers), the site
tried to get the product noticed by the
correct target group that would then
encourage parents and guardians to
purchase this product.
Honda Accord Honda Promote a new product Two minute movie showing all the
components found in the Honda Accord,
dismantled and put together into a
specific sequence creating a slow moving
wave of actions that fall into place like a
domino game.
Motorola V70 Motorola Promote a new product;
enlargement of current database
E-mail newsletter sent to current customers
listed on the company's database.
Tracking of all forwarded e-mails generated
the larger list.
Rewards offered to clients who forwarded
the information.
World Relief, the
Salvation Army,
UNICEF, and the
Federation of
Red Cross
Several Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs)
Increase awareness of plights of
others; seeking donations both
financial and resource
A viral marketing campaign provided an
informative newsletter and encouraged
viewers to pass it on to friends and family
through tell-a-friendbuttons.
The website also asked for donations of
money or other aid (e.g., old clothes,
blankets, or physical assistance).
Organization of
Women's Freedom
Organization of Women's
Increase awareness of plights of
others; freedom for Iraqi women
Online petition posted on December 30,
BNN: Save BNN Dutch public broadcasting
agency seeking to keep
Save Company; required:
membership >150,000; public
support for company to put
pressure on government
Encouragement of people to e-mail
parliament and register support.
Rock the Vote Founded in 1990;
Encourage young Americans to
become involved in political
issues and register to vote
Shocking images about issues such as
abortion, gun control, and capital
punishment encapsulated in an interactive
quiz. The images and text used in the quiz
made the youth aware of the problems
and enabled them to empathize with
those affected.
294 A. Dobele et al.
as especially successful (see Lindgreen & Van-
hamme, 2005).
3. The method
We selected nine viral marketing campaigns to
study, details of which are provided in Table 2. From
a list of numerous potential candidates, these nine
campaigns were chosen on the basis of two main
criteria: being global and being successful. A
convenience sample was used for individual selec-
tion. Success was judged from the initiator's
perspective through increased turnover, sales, or
brand development, or in terms of how far the
message spread. However, the final selection of
campaigns could not be a completely random
process due to the size of the topic. For example,
aGooglesearchofthetermviral marketing
generated 680,000 hits, far too many for an
exploratory search of the relationship between
emotion and forwarding behavior. As such, it was
necessary to develop an alternative approach to
campaign selection. Individual campaigns were
identified on the basis of a convenience sample of
campaigns that had been seen recently by friends,
family, and work colleagues. This approach resulted
in a long list, which was then shortened to nine
campaigns that were judged to be both global and
successful. In summary, two of the nine campaigns
selected sought to promote the company (Amazon
and e-Tractions), four sought to promote new
products (Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Honda, Motorola,
and Rock the Vote), two sought to increase aware-
ness (Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] and
Organization of Women's Freedom), and one sought
to save the company (Save BNN).
Twenty consumers accepted our invitation to
participate in a survey and a subsequent in-depth
interview, the purpose of which was to investigate
how consumers responded emotionally to each of
the nine selected viral marketing campaigns. A
summary of emotional responses to each campaign
is given in Table 3.
More specifically, the extent to which respon-
dents experienced one or more of the six primary
emotions was investigated in the following way.
Respondents were asked to evaluate the level to
which each of the six emotions was experienced
(1= no such feeling; 5= very much this feeling).
Surprise would be determined through three items
that related to the experience of surprise,
amazement, and astonishment. The higher respon-
dents evaluated their experiences of these three
items, the more the respondents had felt the
emotion of surprise. In a similar fashion, each of
the other five primary emotions would be deter-
mined using respondents' felt experiences of three
different items (see Izard, 1977). These items
included feeling:
joyful, delighted, and happy (emotion of joy);
distressed, sad, and downhearted (emotion of
discouraged, mad, and enraged (emotion of anger);
afraid, scared, and fearful (emotion of fear); and
disgusted, distaste, and revolted (emotion of
To decrease the likelihood of bias, the 18 items
appeared in a randomized sequence in the survey. In
all, 180 evaluations were generated from surveying
20 consumers (nine campaigns evaluated by 20
consumers, indicating the extent to which they felt
six emotions that were determined by using three
different items). To illustrate, a summary of
consumers' felt emotions for the Weapons of Mass
Destruction campaign is listed in Tabl e 4.For
additional information on the number of respon-
dents, we refer to Appendix A.
4. Impact of the six primary emotions on
message forwarding
4.1. Surprise-based campaigns
In our study, surprise was the dominant emotion
identified by the consumers across each campaign.
Table 3 Emotions elicited in the different viral marketing campaigns
Viral marketing campaign Surprise Joy Sadness Anger Disgust Fear
Weapons of Mass Destruction ✓✓
Christmas Cards ✓✓
Raging Cow ✓✓
Honda Accord ✓✓
Motorola V70 ✓✓
Red Cross ✓✓ ✓
Organization of Women's Freedom ✓✓
Save BNN ✓✓
Rock the Vote ✓✓
295Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
Table 4 Proportional reduction in loss (PRL) reliability measure for the Weapons of Mass Destruction campaign
Surprise Joy Sadness Anger Fear Disgust
Surprise Amazement Astonishment Joyful Delighted Happy Distress Sad Downhearted Discouraged Mad Enraged Afraid Scared Fearful Disgusted Distaste Revulsion
1 3 3 3 4 1 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
3 3 3 2 3 2 3 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
4 4 3 4 3 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 Male
5 4 4 3 2 2 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 Female
6 4 3 4 2 1 3 2 3 1 3 2 2 2 1 2 3 4 2 Female
7 3 2 2 4 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
8 4 4 3 3 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
9 4 4 2 3 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
10 4 3 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
11 4 3 3 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 Female
12 4 2 2 4 3 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
13 3 2 3 4 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Female
14 4 3 3 3 4 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Female
15 4 4 1 4 3 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 Male
16 4 1 2 4 2 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Male
17 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 3 3 1 Male
18 5 4 5 2 2 4 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Female
19 5 5 4 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3 4 3 3 4 1 2 2 Male
20 5 4 3 2 2 1 2 3 3 3 2 1 2 3 2 5 4 3 Female
Scale value Frequencies
41163615 1 12
5311 1
20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20
# agreements 65 42 50 43 65 41 123 126 122 123 137 121 137 154 137 121 85 111 1803
# maximum
190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 190 3420
The felt experience of emotions are measured using 5-point Likert scales (1 = no such feeling; 5=very much this feeling).
296 A. Dobele et al.
The emotion of surprise is generated when some-
thing is unexpected or misexpected, with surprise
resulting in responses of amazement and astonish-
ment (Ekman & Friesen, 1975). For example,
Amazon's Weapons of Mass Destruction viral market-
ing campaign masterfully employed the emotion of
surprise. As one study respondent commented,
When the page opened, I thought I had made a
mistake and got something of a virus on my PC.
Developed for Amazon by Blueyonder, an Internet
service provider, the Weapons of Mass Destruction
campaign sought to increase customer awareness of
Amazon's many services. An e-mail was sent out
instructing message recipients to type the term
Weapons of Mass Destruction into the Google search
bar, and to then click on the I'm Feeling Lucky
button. (This button directs searchers to the high-
est-ranked link page, the top paid-search position
which can be bought by owners of websites.) The
resulting search led to a Weapons of Mass Destruc-
tion error page developed for Amazon, which
indicated that the weapons of mass destruction
could not be found, and provided satirical jokes
about how the U.S. government was incorrect about
the existence of such weapons in Iraq. The page
offered a fake blueprint for invading a country
supposedly having the capability of mass destruc-
tion. The fake error page also provided three links
to different pages, two of which led to an Amazon.
co.uk offer for a 20% discount on a book called
Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of
Donald H. Rumsfeld. The other link on the page led
to an Amazon.co.uk offering of t-shirts bearing anti-
Iraq War slogans. The Weapons of Mass Destruction
viral marketing campaign proved successful for
Amazon. Of people who visited the fake error
page, 30% clicked on the links to Amazon's home
page, well above the average banner click-through
rate of 4.7% (Gatarski, 2002).
In the nine viral marketing campaigns that were
studied, the emotion of surprise was always
expressed in combination with at least one of the
other five primary emotions. This corroborates a
previous finding that surprise is often accompanied
by other primary emotions (Charlesworth, 1969).
4.2. Joy-based campaigns
Campaigns that gave rise to the emotion of joy
resulted in happiness and delight. Joy has been
linked to helpfulness and cooperation, desire, and
liking (Oatley & Jenkins, 1996). As indicated by our
research, consumers felt joy after viewing the
Weapons of Mass Destruction, Raging Cow, Honda
Accord, and Motorola V70 campaigns. Each of these
used different tactics to elicit the emotion; for
example, Raging cow exploited humor, Honda
Accord employed idealism, and Motorola V70
utilized financial incentives to elicit joy. Next, we
consider in more detail the Raging Cow campaign.
In March 2003, PepsiCo introduced a new milk
drink offering called Raging Cow. In order to
promote the five flavors available, the company
developed and launched a viral marketing campaign
aimed at children, whom they hoped would ask their
parents to purchase the product. Upon opening the
Raging Cow website, an introductory scene was
presented in which a funny-looking cartoon cow ran
amok, pitchfork in hoof. It crashed into five
different-flavored bottles of the milk product,
mooing loudly. This sequence over, the main menu
opened and featured the animated cow highlighting
the items (fruits, chocolate, coffee) used for
flavoring the milk products. Further into the
website, consumers had the option of viewing the
Raging Cow's diary, in which bloggers posted entries.
Interaction with the site was possible through a quiz
that determined which flavor best suited the
consumer's individual needs. Finally, a linked page
indicated locations the Raging Cow promotion team
was scheduled to visit. At the height of the Raging
Cow phenomenon, a Google search of the term
produced approximately 42,000 hits in numerous
Campaigns based around surprise and joy can
have a big impact. For example, to promote its new
Accord model, Honda created a two-minute promo-
tional film entitled Cog. Designed to bring viewers
in touch with the feeling of fun associated with the
website and the new vehicle, the mini-movie
utilized the element of surprise. As part of the
film, consumers saw a dismantled Accord, after
which a process was set in motion that eventually
led to a fully operational Accord. Consumers felt
even more surprised when a flag popped up and a
voice said, Isn't it nice when things just work?This
particular viral marketing campaign started with
500 e-mails (including the movie attachment) sent
to employees of Honda and its agencies. Within one
week, the website was visited by 2779 users. After
three weeks, that number had increased to 35,000.
Half-way through 2003, three years after the
campaign's launch, as many as 4.5 million people
had seen the short film.
4.3. Sadness-based campaigns
The emotion of sadness results in feelings of distress
or being downhearted (Ekman & Friesen, 1975), and
can be used to encourage support or sympathy for a
campaign. Through use of viral marketing techni-
ques, the International Federation of Red Cross
297Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
campaign (which also involved other NGOs such as
World Relief, the Salvation Army, and UNICEF)
sought to encourage donations for victims of natural
disasters. For example, the campaign designed to
aid Iranian earthquake victims in 2003 provided
news stories about the death toll and the victims'
plights, highlighting living conditions and hardships
faced. Further, it supplied an informative news-
letter, and encouraged viewers to spread the word
via a Tell-a-Friendbutton. The website also asked
for donations of money or other aid (e.g., old
clothes, blankets, physical assistance).
Sadness is useful in garnering support for victims
of natural disasters and Acts of God,for which no
person or organization can be blamed. If a person or
organization could be held responsible for a
catastrophe, anger would be more of a motivating
emotion than sadness (Stearns, 1993). One impor-
tant social function of sadness is that it may lead the
sad individual to make emotional and practical
demands on others, thereby strengthening social
bonds that lead to altruism on the behalf of others
(Izard, 1977). As such, sadness can be used
effectively to encourage support for the viral
marketing campaigns of charitable organizations.
4.4. Anger-based campaigns
As mentioned, people feel angry when someone can
be identified as being the cause of an injustice;
moreover, the emotion can be employed when
people believe they can accomplish a particular
goal by expressing anger (Power & Dalgleish, 1997).
Anger can be used by NGOs or pressure groups to
encourage support for a cause, particularly when
the victim's plight is due to the actions of others. For
example, on December 30, 2003, the Organization
of Women's Freedom posted a petition on their
website alerting people to the plight of women's
rights activists in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq
(Kurdish authorities had threatened to shut down
their offices). To show solidarity, the petition called
for letters of protest to be sent to the Organization
of Women's Freedom, and encouraged supporters to
forward the message to friends and family. Addi-
tionally, it requested that people e-mail standard
texts to their political party, indicating anger
toward the situation in Northern Iraq. By listing
examples of injustices suffered by some Iraqi
women, the Organization of Women's Freedom
hoped to gain backing for their cause. Our respon-
dents remarked that the situation of Kurdish women
appeared so different to the situation of women in
Western Europe that they almost could not com-
prehend it, and that they got angry that this was
happening in the 21st century.
Another example of the use of anger in viral
marketing campaigns involves the Dutch public
broadcasting agency BNN. The Dutch minority
government promised that BNN could keep its
license if it had more than 150,000 members.
Unfortunately for BNN, another parliamentary
group had the right of veto over the decision, so
BNN sought support from the general public, asking
them to take action. The BNN website offered the
facility of e-mailing parliament and forwarding the
e-mail to four friends through a viral campaign (Save
BNN). Consumers explained that they felt angry
against the government,and expressed the belief
that the government needs to keep its promises.
Through these efforts, BNN reached 224,000 mem-
bers. Speaking to the overall success rate of this
campaign, in one month, 123,795 people used the
mailing service to tell the government to keep BNN.
As a result, BNN was granted its license.
4.5. Fear-based campaigns
Fear is an emotion that can encourage action,
especially when it results in outrage. When a scary
situation occurs, or when pain, danger, or a threat is
anticipated, people feel fear (Ekman & Friesen,
1975; Oatley & Jenkins, 1996). Founded in 1990 and
designed to encourage young Americans to register
to vote and become more involved in political
issues, the Rock the Vote organization employed the
emotion of fear to help spread its message. This
non-profit developed and launched a viral market-
ing campaign that utilized startling and graphic
images to portray such issues as rape, abortion, gun
control, and capital punishment, subjects which
dominated an interactive quiz. The images and text
used in the quiz attempted to shock disinterested
youth. When active, the campaign was viewed
approximately 22 million times and generated a
click-through rate of 35%. As testament to its
societal impact, the campaign also had some role
in ensuring the highest voter turnout in years for the
2004 U.S. election. The consumers found that fear
may be particularly useful for encouraging forward-
ing when it is used in campaigns that highlight issues
that are known to be of relevance among peers.
Furthermore, it is of benefit when attempting to
gain short-term support for a cause (such as during a
political campaign), although it may be less useful
for encouraging long-term support. Regarding the
Rock the Vote campaign (Fig. 1), respondents
remarked that the message made them afraid
because of the high numbers of rape and abuse,
and that they would definitely forward the message
because everybody should know this[so] that
they can do something against it.
298 A. Dobele et al.
4.6. Disgust-based campaigns
Disgust, or bad taste, has a very short duration and
is relatively low in felt intensity (Scherer & Wall-
bott, 1994). People feel disgusted when something
is harming their soul, or when something threatens
to do so (Ekman & Friesen, 1975). An example of the
use of disgust in viral marketing is the 2001
Christmas Card campaign carried out by e-Tractions,
an IT company. Via this campaign, e-Tractions
encouraged and facilitated the sending of electro-
nic Christmas cards, as opposed to traditional ones.
The goal behind this effort was to impress clients
with the company's IT capabilities, and encourage
them to forward the cards and associated company
information to potential clients. The e-Christmas
card depicted a snow globe that featured a house
and an outdoor Christmas tree. As the animated
scene played, snow fell inside the snow globe, and
characters skied, snowboarded, shoveled snow, and
made a snowman. As the action ensued, the snow-
man ateone of the characters and then exploded,
prompting more snowfall within the globe. Although
the campaign failed in its first year, as clients could
not see the link between exploding cartoon char-
acters and an IT company, it did become all the rage
in years to follow. At the peak of its popularity, the
e-card was viewed by over 200,000 people during a
six-week period; on the six busiest days, the number
of visitors averaged 26,000 daily. Most astonishing of
all, the link to the page had been removed from the
e-Tractions website after the failure of the cam-
paign in 2001. Amazingly, people were sending the
site address through e-mail, and cutting and pasting
it into their web browser's address bar. Logically, the
huge number of requests motivated e-Tractions to
repost the link on their website.
However, this campaign illustrates that disgust
can be used for good or for bad, as it does not
appeal to everyone equally, if at all. Some
consumers (particularly young males in our sam-
ple) find humor in disgusting situations, or when
disgust is placed in surreal situations. Others do
not react so positively. For example, respondents
said of the campaign that it is not my type of
humor, exploding children,and that parents will
not be glad when their children see this cam-
paign.Yet, several respondents could still see fun
in the campaign,not having expected exploding
characters in a surreal setting.
A summary of the six primary emotions (explana-
tion, behavior, physiological response, and other
characteristics) is provided in Table 5.
5. Two keys to secure the success of viral
Our analysis of the comments made by campaign
and viral message recipients suggests that emotions
may not be enough to secure action, and thereby
achieve success. Through scrutiny of the open-
ended responses of interviewees, two main themes
emerged. First, the campaigns triggered some-
thingin the respondents who forwarded these
messages. The messages captured the imagination
Figure 1 Rock the Vote campaign. Source: Rock the Vote (www.rockthevote.com).
299Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
of the recipient in such a way as to produce an
action: forwarding behavior. Second, the most
downloaded campaigns were cleverly targeted.
They were sent to cohorts that would be most likely
to respond favorably, and subsequently forward the
message. Each of these two themes is considered
5.1. Viral messages must capture the
imagination of the recipient
Our findings identify that the overall success of a
campaign, in terms of forwarding behavior, depends
on more than just an emotional connection. A
campaign must also capture the recipient's
Table 5 Emotions behind viral marketing
Emotion Explanation Behavior Physiological
Surprise Generated when
something (product,
service, or attribute)
is unexpected or
Facial expressions like opened eyes and
mouth, and raised eyebrows.
Changes in heart
and respiration rates.
Subjective feeling
of surprise.
Cessation of on-going activities. Increase in skin
conductivity and
neural activation.
Sudden and involuntary focusing on the
surprising product, service, or attribute.
Different cortical
response wave patterns.
Heightened consciousness of the surprising
product, service, or attribute.
Subsequent curiosity/exploratory behavior.
Increase in the ability to retain in memory
the surprising product, service, or attribute.
Joy Expressed when a
goal has been
achieved, or when
movement toward
such an achievement
has occurred. Also,
joy is caused by a
rational prospect of
owning what we love
or desire.
Facial expression of joy is the smile. Wanting, hoping, or
desiring to have an
object when it is not
Smile is used when
people are not happy
to mask another
Happy people are more helpful and
Loving or liking the
object when it is
already present.
Often energetic, active, and bouncy.
Prompts the person to aim for higher goals.
Sadness Experienced when
not in a state of
well-being, which is
most often derived
from the experience
of a fearful event.
No longer wishes for action, but remains
motionless and passive, or may occasionally
rock to and fro.
Crying or
Attention can
decrease, but when
completely focused
on the situation at
hand, it can increase.
Often, focus is turned more toward the self.
Trying to solve the problem at hand.
Refuging from the situation.
Anger Response to personal
offense (an injustice);
this injustice is in
that person's power
to settle.
Attacking the cause of the anger through
physical contact and verbal abuse.
Raised blood
(blood boils)
Culturally dependent.
Northern European
people show more
muscular reactions,
southerners show a
bigger increase in
blood pressure.
Anger is extremely out of control (e.g.,
rage) and freezing of the body can occur. Face reddening.
Muscle tensioning.
Fear Experienced when
people expect
(anticipate) a specific
pain, threat, or
A system is activated, bringing the body
into a state of readiness.
Internal discomfort
(butterflies in the
In extreme form,
making laughing or
giggling sounds.Escape and avoidance.
Muscle tensioning.Facial expression as oblique eyebrows
and resulting vertical frown.Increased
perspiration and
heart rate.
Mouth drying out.
Disgust Feeling of aversion
that can be felt
either when
something happens
or when something is
perceived to be
Facial expressions like frowning. Decreased heart
Making sounds like
achand ugh.Hand gestures, opening of the mouth,
spitting, and, in extreme cases, vomiting. Nausea.
Distancing from the situation, this by an
expulsion or removal of an offending
stimulus, removal of the self from the
situation, or lessening the attention on
the subject.
Source: Ekman and Friesen (1975),Izard (1977),Power and Dalgleish (1997),Rozin, Haidt, and McCauley (1999),Scherer (1984),
Scherer and Wallbott (1994),Scherer, Wallbott, and Summerfield (1986).
300 A. Dobele et al.
imagination in a unique or unforgettable way. We
note that 73% of our respondents said they forward
campaigns that entail something more than just a
great joke (e.g., important messages, something
particularly disgusting). Our respondents also indi-
cated that surprise was effective only when coupled
with (at least) a second emotion, such as joy
(resulting in delight) or disgust (resulting in
humor). For example, the Weapons of Mass Destruc-
tion campaign was forwarded because of the funny
jokes it contained and the surprise (I thought
something else was going to happen). Raging Cow
was forwarded because of the surprising ending,
coupled with the use of humor (I was surprised they
would use such a crazy looking cow to promote their
product;I thought of it as finally, something
different, with the sound and everything). The
Honda Accord viral marketing campaign was
thought to be inventive,”“original,”“unique,
well thought out,and nicely made,with a very
novel idea behind the advertising message. The e-
Tractions Christmas card received particular atten-
tion and was forwarded because of its malicious
delightand gross humor.While the campaign
was deemed less funny the more times it was
viewed, it was still forwarded to others.
5.2. Viral messages must be cleverly
A well-targeted viral marketing campaign can
generate positive response toward the message it
conveys and promote subsequent forwarding beha-
vior from recipients; in fact, 44% of our respondents
indicated they would send on a campaign that was
well targeted. Of the nine campaigns we studied,
those deemed to fit this description included Rock
the Vote (good reason to vote,”“everybody should
know about the information provided,”“it is
relevant to everyone) and Save BNN (BNN makes
nice programs, so I was surprised by the fact that
they could be removed from the television,”“It is a
pity that BNN should be removed). Not all
consumers, however, felt the Rock the Vote cam-
paign was successful, believing that the image of a
child pointing a gun was too confronting.For its
part, the sympathy and empathy for BNN and the
service it provides resulted in forwarding behavior.
In another example of clever targeting, Motorola
increased the success of its viral campaign by using a
database containing the e-mail addresses of people
who previously registered on the company's web-
site. As these individuals had already shown an
interest in Motorola's telephones, they comprised
the perfect target group (as compared to sending e-
mails to random prospects, who may or may not
have been interested in the product). In a period of
just two weeks, the campaign grew the original
database by 400%. On average, 75% of the recipients
referred at least one friend, and 40% clicked on the
link to visit Motorola's website to investigate further
their V70 model.
6. Six things to remember for achieving
fit between emotions and viral messages
Our analysis of the nine viral marketing campaigns
leads to the important managerial implication that
marketers must achieve fit between a key emotion
and their brand or viral marketing campaign
because this will ensure increased chance of
forwarding. Keeping in mind that all campaigns
must achieve an element of surprise, suggested fit is
covered in the six points below.
(1) Viral marketing campaigns that use joy are
best suited to irreverent or fun brands (e.g.,
Virgin, Apple, Chick-Fil-A), or efforts that seek
to encourage interest in a mature category
(e.g., Amazon's Weapons of Mass Destruction,
Ford's Evil Car, the Australian Meat Board's Eat
Lamb initiative). Joy-based campaigns are also
well matched to brands that seek to revitalize
their image (e.g., Honda). Brands that target
younger customers may also benefit from using
joy. In contrast, more serious brands or issues
would be ill served by campaigns that cen-
tered around the emotion of joy.
(2) Viral marketing campaigns that utilize sadness
are best suited to social marketers who seek
an immediate response to disasters, particu-
larly Acts of God. In such situations, timing is
critical. Consumers reacting to campaigns
dominated by sadness were likely to show a
short-term commitment to the brand or
campaign, rather than become encouraged
to engage in long-term change. For example,
campaigns seeking child sponsorship in less
developed countries were viewed as less
successful when relying solely on sadness.
Instead, these campaigns were often domi-
nated by images of hope and messages that
small contributions would make a big differ-
ence. Marketers must be careful to ensure that
campaigns based around sadness encourage
benevolence rather than guilt.
(3) Viral marketing campaigns that employ anger
are best suited to single issue crusades that
seek an immediate reaction to injustice. For
example, the Save BNN campaign sought public
301Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
support against a perceived unjust act of the
Dutch parliament. Similarly, anger-based cam-
paigns may be launched by social marketers in
reaction to threats against wilderness preser-
vation, threats from governments (including
forthcoming acts), and perceived injustices
perpetrated by corporations. Brands that face
competitive threats, whether they wish to
mobilize support for their cause or secure
governmental action limiting a competitor's
effort (e.g., Wal-Mart opening a new store in a
local area), may also benefit from anger cam-
paigns. As anger is a fleeting emotion, it is ill
suited to campaigns that require longer-term
action (e.g., climate change). Further, it does
not serve initiatives that involve complex or
subtle issues, as these do not typically elicit an
angry response from many people. Optimally,
anger is best utilized in situations in which
people are being cheated, as the emotion then
takes on something of a protective role.
(4) Viral marketing campaigns that center on fear
must be used very carefully and sparingly. As
evidence of this, consider that the Rock the
Vote initiative received the most mixed
response of all the campaigns analyzed in our
study. Fear is also a short-term response to a
perceived threat. Therefore, campaigns that
seek to change behaviors such as drunken
driving, drug usage, risky sexual practices, or
speeding may be best suited to fear when the
emotion is combined with either a solution
(e.g., designated drivers, using condoms), a
punishment (e.g., speeding fines), or links to
further information for concerned recipients.
(5) Viral marketing campaigns built on foundations
of disgust or bad taste are most effectively
targeted toward young males, rebel-style
brands (e.g., Australia's Maverick Channel
Seven), or cultures that generally find disgust-
ing events humorous (e.g., Japan, Germany,
the Pacific Islands). Disgust-based campaigns,
in particular, must walk a fine line of accept-
ability and provide a humorous and surprising
message at just the right time. Brands should
use disgust campaigns only intermittently, for
example during major events such as the Super
Bowl or during the Christmas season, and target
them carefully to avoid unnecessary offense.
Interestingly, we note that gender has a
moderating influence on forwarding behavior,
especially as regards the emotions of fear and
disgust/bad taste. As indicated by our study,
male recipients of viral marketing messages
are more likely (63% male to 37% female) to
pass on those messages than are female
recipients. Men are also more likely to pass
on messages involving humor, particularly
disgusting humor, than are women. In addition,
we found the emotional responses of fear felt
by female respondents were stronger than
those felt by the male respondents. For exam-
ple, when responding to a campaign featuring a
fear element, female respondents used all
three fear-related terms: afraid, scared, and
fearful. Male respondents were less likely to
use all three terms. When, indeed, female
study participants felt fear in response to a
viral marketing campaign, they were more
likely to forward the message to other women,
this in attempt to alert them to the perceived
danger or potentially scary situation.
(6) Finally, culture's influence on viral marketing
campaigns will need to be taken into account.
For example, in contrast to bricks-and-mortar
businesses, online companies are not confined
to a single country with a well-defined
culture. Studies have identified cultural back-
ground in this context as a key managerial
consideration (Singh, Zhao, & Hu, 2005). In our
study, in a similar fashion, whilst respondents
think of sadness as being an unwanted emo-
tion, people in several Asian countries regard
feeling sadness as a step along the road to
salvation (Izard, 1991). It is likely that incon-
gruities also exist in how people from different
cultures experience the other five primary
emotions. The global nature of viral marketing
means the issue of culture must be addressed
prior to the launch of a new campaign. Just as
online technologies facilitate the spreading of
viral messages, they also make it much easier
for recipients to complain to others about a
campaign they find offensive. While no easy
feat, viral marketing must walk a fine line
between innovative advertising and offensive
attention seeking. This delicate balancing act
is crucial to campaign success.
7. Conclusions
In today's increasingly competitive business envir-
onment, viral marketing is only an effective market-
ing tool so long as it encourages consumers to take
action as a result of the message (i.e., consume the
brand, product, or service advertised) and pass
along that message to other prospects. Therefore,
the goal of viral marketing is twofold: consumption
and forwarding behavior. This article contributes to
302 A. Dobele et al.
the literature by considering nine viral campaigns
and the success or failure of each on forwarding
behavior. Our findings highlight that successful viral
campaigns link emotion to the message (to encou-
rage the recipient to respond to that message);
however, the use of emotions may not be enough.
Companies must ensure that their message captures
the imagination of the recipient (in order to
differentiate it from all the other messages the
recipient is exposed to on a daily basis). Also,
companies must consider targeting cleverly. Send-
ing a message to a cohort that is receptive to a
brand, product, or service offers a better chance of
success than simply e-mailing to the world at large.
While some authors have attempted to categor-
ize the types of people who offer referrals (e.g.,
Gladwell, 2000; Higie, Feick, & Price, 1987; Katz &
Lazarsfeld, 1955; Slama, Nataraajan, & Williams,
1992) and to consider the role of gender in referral
behavior (e.g., Wiedmann, Walsh, & Mitchell, 2001;
Wood, 2005), the literature still does not empiri-
cally identify the impact, if any, of gender on
referral behavior. Our findings contributed on this
important topic by identifying empirically the
impact of gender on referral behavior.
We already know that people talk to other
people. The Internet and communications technol-
ogy make this far easier, faster, and less costly than
at any other time in history. For practitioners, viral
marketing offers a means of communicating mar-
keting messages at low-cost, with a significantly
reduced response time and increased potential for
market impact. Has your organization learnt this
marketing language yet?
Appendix A
Box 1
With regard to the number of respondents, Rust
and Cooil (1994) have demonstrated a high
probability of good reliability of uniformity
between the different respondents when a
panel of 20 respondents and 5-point Likert
scales are used. If we want an exploratory
proportional reduction in loss reliability of 70%
(which is generally agreed to be acceptable),
then a proportion of interjudge agreement of
0.235 is needed (Rust & Cooil, 1994). The
proportion of interjudge agreements is found as
the total number of actual interjudge agree-
ments relative to the total number of all
possible interjudge agreements. For the Weap-
ons of Mass Destruction campaign, the value of
1803/ 3420 = 0.527 (which is higher than 0.235)
indicates that we have good reliability of
uniformity between the different respondents
(Rust & Cooil, 1994). For the other campaigns,
the lowest proportion of interjudge agreements
was 0.324, while the remaining proportions of
interjudge agreements were between 0.477
and 0.765, all above the required 0.235. This
means, therefore, that it is possible to make
reliable assumptions with regard to how differ-
ent emotions were felt in each campaign.
Bannan, K. J. (2000). It's catching. Brandweek,41(23), 2027.
Bernard, G., & Jallat, F. (2001). Blair Witch, Hotmail et le
marketing viral. L'Expansion Management Review,100,8192.
Borroff, R. (2000 November). Viral marketing. Precision Market-
ing,20, 12.
Brodin, O. (2000). Les communautés virtuelles: Un potentiel
marketing encore peu exploré.Décisions Marketing,21,
4756 (SeptemberDecember).
Charlesworth, W. R. (1969). The role of surprise in cognitive
development. In D. Elkind, & J. H. Flavel (Eds.), Studies in
cognitive development: Essays in honor of Jean Piaget
(pp. 257314). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
De Bruyn, A., & Lilien, G. L. (2004). A multi-stage model of word
of mouth through electronic referrals.http://www.smeal.
(Retrieved from).
Derbaix, C., & Vanhamme, J. (2003). Inducing word-of-mouth by
eliciting surprise: A pilot investigation. Journal of Economic
Psychology,24(1), 99107.
Diorio, S. (2001 February 16). How to catch on to viral marketing.
ClikZ Network Retrieved from http://www.clickz.com/mkt/
Dobele, A., Toleman, D., & Beverland, M. (2005). Controlled
infection! Spreading the brand message through viral market-
ing. Business Horizons,48(2), 143149.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1975). Unmasking the face.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Gatarski, R. (2002). Breed better banners: Design automation
through on-line interaction. Journal of Interactive Marketing,
16(12), 213.
Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point. New York: Little Brown
and Company.
Gruen, T. W., Osmonbekov, T., & Czaplewski, A. J. (2006). eWOM:
The impact of customer-to-customer online know-how
exchange on customer value and loyalty. Journal of Business
Research,59(4), 449456.
Helm, S. (2000). Viral marketing Establishing customer
relationships by word-of-mouse. Electronic Markets,10(3),
Higie, R. A., Feick, L. F., & Price, L. L. (1987). Types and amount
of word-of-mouth communications about retailers. Journal of
Retailing,63(3), 260278.
Hirsh, L. (2001). Tell a friend: Viral marketing packs clout online.
E-Commerce Times (Retrieved from http://www.ecommerce-
Izard, C. E. (1977). Human emotions. New York: Plenum Press.
Izard, C. E. (1991). The psychology of emotions. New York:
Plenum Press.
Katz, E., & Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1955). Personal influence. Glencoe,
IL: Free Press.
303Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally
Laudon, K. C., & Traver, C. G. (2001). E-commerce: Business,
technology, society. Boston: Addison-Wesley.
Lindgreen, A., & Vanhamme, J. (2005). Viral marketing: The use
of surprise. In I.C. Clarke & T. B. Flaherty (Eds.), Advances in
electronic marketing (pp. 122138). Hershey, PA: Idea Group.
Masland, E. (2001). Viral marketing word of mouth comes of age.
Websolvers Inc. Retrieved from http://www.websolvers.
Maute, M. F., & Dubé, L. (1999). Patterns of emotional responses
and behavioral consequences of dissatisfaction. Applied
Psychology,48(3), 349366.
Oatley, K., & Jenkins, J. M. (1996). Understanding emotions.
Boston: Blackwell Publishers.
Plutchik, R. (1980). Emotion: A psychoevolutionary synthesis.
New York: Harper and Row.
Power, M., & Dalgleish, T. (1997). Cognition and emotion: From
order to disorder. Sussex, England: Psychology Press.
Rimé, B., Finkenhauer, C., Luminet, O., Zech, E., & Philippot, P.
(1998). Social sharing of emotions: New evidence and new
questions. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European
review of social psychology,vol. 9 (pp. 145189). Chichester,
England: Wiley and Sons.
Rimé, B., Philippot, P., Boca, S., & Mesquita, B. (1998). Long
lasting cognitive and social consequences of emotion: Social
sharing and rumination. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.),
European review of social psychology,vol. 3 (pp. 225258).
Chichester, England: Wiley and Sons.
Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (1999). Disgust: The body
and soul emotion. In T. Dalgleish & M. J. Power (Eds.),
Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 429445). Chiche-
ster, England: Wiley and Sons.
Rust, R. T., & Cooil, B. (1994). Reliability measures for qualitative
data: Theory and implications. Journal of Marketing,31(2),
Rust, R. T., & Oliver, R. L. (2000). Should we delight the
customer? Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,28
(1), 8694.
Rust, R. T., Zahorik, A., & Keiningham, T. L. (1996). Service
marketing. New York: HarperCollins.
Scherer, K. R. (1984). On the nature and function of emotion: A
component process approach. In K. R. Scherer, & P. Ekman
(Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 293318). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Scherer, K. R., & Wallbott, H. G. (1994). Evidence for universality
and cultural variation of differential emotion response
patterning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,66
(2), 310328.
Scherer, K. R., Wallbott, H. G., & Summerfield, A. B. (1986).
Experiencing emotion: A cross-cultural study. Cambridge,
England: Cambridge University Press.
Singh, N., Zhao, H., & Hu, X. (2005). Analyzing the cultural
content of web sites. International Marketing Review,22(2),
Slama, M. E., Nataraajan, R., & Williams, T. G. (1992). General-
ization of the market maven's information provision tendency
across product categories. In V. L. Crittenden (Ed.), Deve-
lopments in marketing science (pp. 9093). Provo, UT:
Association for Consumer Research.
Stearns, C. Z. (1993). Sadness. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland
(Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 547561). New York: The
Guildford Press.
Wiedmann, K. P., Walsh, G., & Mitchell, V. W. (2001). The
Mannmaven: An agent for diffusing market information.
Journal of Marketing Communications,7(4), 195212.
Witthaus, M. (2002). Spreading the word. Precision Marketing,
14(25), 18.
Wood, J. T. (2005). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and
culture (6th ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
304 A. Dobele et al.
... Extensive studies on the emotion in the realms of health communication and marketing suggest that the strong emotion may contribute to the fast spread of misinformation and audiences' attitudinal or behavioural changes [e.g., 12,13]. Viral marketing campaigns often use amusing or intriguing messages and advertisements to ensure wide accessibility among consumers and trigger referral behaviours [12,15]. ...
... Extensive studies on the emotion in the realms of health communication and marketing suggest that the strong emotion may contribute to the fast spread of misinformation and audiences' attitudinal or behavioural changes [e.g., 12,13]. Viral marketing campaigns often use amusing or intriguing messages and advertisements to ensure wide accessibility among consumers and trigger referral behaviours [12,15]. In order to persuade audiences to adopt selfprotective actions, public health campaigns usually connect unhealthy behaviours with threatening or fearful outcomes [13]. ...
... The information society treats people's attention as limited resources [34]. Meanwhile, multiple studies suggested that the emotional content often functioned as an attentiongrabber (e.g., [12,35,36]) and flooded social media [53]. Moreover, emotion may be responsible for the spread of misinformation. ...
Full-text available
The online world is flooded with misinformation that puts older adults at risk, especially the misinformation about health and wellness. To understand older adults’ vulnerability to online misinformation, this study examines how eye-catching headlines and emotional images impact their credibility judgments and spreading of health misinformation. Fifty-nine older adults aged between 58 and 83 years participated in this experiment. Firstly, participants intuitively chose an article for further reading among a bunch of headlines. Then they viewed the emotional images. Finally, they judged the credibility of health articles and decided whether to share these articles. On average, participants only successfully judged 41.38% of health articles. Attractive headlines not only attracted participants’ clicks at first glance but also increased their credibility judgments on the content of health misinformation. Although participants were more willing to share an article they believed than not, 62.5% of the articles they want to share were falsehoods. Older adults in this study were notified of possible falsehoods in advance and were given enough time to discern misinformation before sharing. However, these efforts neither lead to a high judgment accuracy nor a high quality of information that they wanted to share. That may be on account of eye-catching headlines which misled participants into believing health misinformation. Besides, the most older adults in this study may follow the “better safe than sorry” principle when confronted with health misinformation, that is to say they would rather trust the misinformation to avoid health risks than doubt it.
... The advent of social media creates expectations that entrepreneurs will engage regularly with stakeholders (Fischer & Reuber, 2011) in a noisy and highly emotional environment (Dobele, Lindgreen, Beverland, Vanhamme, & van Wijk, 2007;Etter, Ravasi, & Colleoni, 2019) where information is less verifiable and diffuses quickly (Veil, Sellnow, & Petrun, 2012). Social media allows entrepreneurs to communicate directly with their "followers," building emotional connections with them by sharing images, telling stories about themselves (Garud, Gehman, & Giuliani, 2014), and responding to individual followers' comments. ...
... Further, unlike journalists in traditional media, social media users are not required to ensure the accuracy of the information they provide (Veil et al., 2012). This means that Influencers can disseminate their content and information more easily, using emotions to generate buzz (Dobele et al., 2007;Etter et al., 2019), which creates a greater likelihood that the content they share will influence their followers' judgments about a particular product, service, or brand (Veil et al., 2012). ...
Full-text available
In this study we consider whether 1) image- and word-based communication modes and 2) warmth and competence cues vary in their relative influence on different levels of stakeholder engagement on social media. Specifically, we explore social media fitness Influencers’ abilities to attract followers and get them to positively interact with them via posts and comments. We theorize that differences in the ways each communication mode is processed, and differences in how competence and warmth cues are perceived, will lead to different relative effects on lower- and higher-engagement behaviors. Using the social media platform Instagram, we followed 488 social media entrepreneurs in the fitness and nutrition industry for six-months, and found that images have a positive relationship with less cognitively effortful engagement (following) whereas words do not have a significant relationship, and words have a stronger relationship than images with more cognitively effortful engagement (positive interactions). We also found that competence cues have a stronger positive relationship than warmth cues with the number of followers, and warmth cues have a positive relationship with positive interactions, whereas competence cues do not. Our findings have implications for research on multimode communication, social judgments, and entrepreneur-stakeholder engagement.
... The development of positive purchasing attitudes toward a brand means a prior preference for that brand, and marketers integrate marketing function with entertainment content to create a strong emotional attachment between the shopper and the brand (Hudson & Hudson, 2006). As a result, users' positive emotions (happy, enthusiastic, or satisfied) prompts them to share information with other members on the platform (Dobele, Lindgreen, Beverland, Vanhamme, & Van Wijk, 2007). ...
Full-text available
This study aims to determine the impact of social media entertainment on buying decisions via the Facebook platform. The research is quasi-experimental and is quantitative and descriptive. The sample size reached 500 active Facebook users from the Jordanian youth, and the snowball sample technique was employed. A questionnaire is the only tool used to collect the primary data and contains closed-ended questions. The Likert five-point scale measures the responses through the partial least squares (PLS) method. It was concluded that there is a positive statistical impact of social media-based entertainment on the buying decisions from e-fashion stores on the Facebook platform, and social media entertainment explains 28% of the variations in the buying decisions from e-fashion stores via Facebook. Social media is an effective and safe solution to cutting high unemployment rates in the Jordanian economy. The ebuying experience depends on entertainment, enjoyment, relaxation, and leisure. It is a radical solution for creating new jobs in the economy and decreasing the poverty rates among poor and unemployed people.
... Entertainment on social media is an important component that fosters positive emotions, increases participation, and fosters the desire to use it indefinitely (Ceyhan, 2019) who believe that marketers are now designing marketing content with entertainment content in order to create a strong emotional connection between brand and consumer. When a user feels good (happy or satisfied), he or she will share that information with other members of the group, who will influence their purchasing decisions (Dobele et al., 2007). (Aziza & Astuti, 2019) found that entertainment has an impact on purchase intention with advertising value as the mediator. ...
Full-text available
Marketing is an important part of a company's management in order to achieve success in meeting company goals. The purpose of this research is to determine The Impact of Social Media Marketing Activities on Consumer Purchase Intention: Case of Facebook Live Streaming. The study was carried out with a total sample of 205 respondents using a convenient sampling technique. Quantitative surveys were used to collect data based on social media activities (SMMA) model constructs. The data were analysed using multiple regression analysis. It has been found that all social media marketing activities variables have a significant impact on Purchase Intention. Perceived Trust is the best predictors followed by Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM), Entertainment, and Interactivity, respectively. The finding will help e-commercial live streamers to be aware that although live streaming provides entertainment and interactivities to the audience as the engagement outcomes, trust and eWOM are the top influencing factors for consumers' intention to purchase.
... The most shared negative emotions on social media during the coronavirus pandemic; It was determined as "fear, anger, sadness, disgust and insecurity" (Dobele et al., 2007;Steinert, 2020). This study aimed to determine the order of importance in terms of the effect of emotions on the social value changes that may occur, create awareness and offer suggestions that can help society bypass the pandemic process with the least emotional damage. ...
Full-text available
ÖZET Koronavirüs salgını gibi kriz süreçlerinde insanların sosyal medyada olumsuz duygusal içerik paylaşma motivasyonu artmaktadır. Pandemi döneminde kısıtlamalarla birlikte çevrimiçi geçirilen sürenin artması, bu paylaşımlarda önemli bir artışa neden olmuştur. Sosyal medya üzerinden ‘duygusal bulaşma’ yaratan olumsuz duygu paylaşımları, toplumun duygusal iklimini şekillendirecek güçtedir. Salgın sürecinde duygusal bulaşma ile ortaya çıkan ‘olumsuz duygusal iklim’ ise uzun süreli de olsa toplumun değer yargısında değişim yaratabilecek büyük bir potansiyeli ortaya koymaktadır. Bu noktadan hareketle araştırmanın amacı, sosyal medyada paylaşılan olumsuz duyguların kendi arasındaki önem düzeyini ortaya koyarak, oluşacak olumsuz duygusal iklim aracılığı ile yaşanması muhtemel değer değişiminde en etkili duygunun hangi(leri)si olduğunu belirlemek ve ilgili çevrelerde farkındalık yaratarak toplumun bu süreçten en az duygusal zararla çıkabilmesine yardımcı olabilecek öneriler sunmaktır. Çalışmada sosyal medyada en çok paylaşılan “korku, öfke, üzüntü, iğrenme ve güvensizlik” duyguları, Analitik Hiyerarşi Prosesi (AHP) ile analiz edilmiş, olumsuz iklim yaratmada ve toplumsal değerleri etkilemede en önemli iki duygunun korku (% 0,40) ve güvensizlik (% 0,22) olduğunu belirlenmiştir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Koronavirüs (Covid-19), Duygular, Değer Değişimi, Duygusal Bulaşma, Duygusal İklim, Sosyal Medya ABSTRACT The coronavirus pandemic is a harmful health crisis. In such a crisis, people are motivated to share negative emotional content on social media. During the pandemic period, restrictions caused a significant increase in the time spent online and sharing posts. Negative emotion sharing that creates emotional contagion on social media has the power to shape the emotional climate of society. The negative emotional climate that emerges with emotional contagion during the epidemic process reveals a great potential that can change the value structure of the society, albeit for a long time. From this point of view, the purpose of the study is to reveal the practical level of negative emotions shared on social media to determine which emotion(s) is the most effective in the possible value change via creating a negative emotional climate. Thus, to provide suggestions that can help society get out of this process with the least emotional damage by creating awareness in the relevant circles. Therefore, the study analyzed the most shared feelings of fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and insecurity on social media with the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). As a result, The two most basic emotions affecting creating a negative emotional climate and social values were fear (0.40%) and insecurity (0.22%). Keywords: Coronavirus (Covid-19), Emotions, Value Change, Emotional Contagion, Emotional Climate, Social Media
Current business statistics and extant academic research stress the importance of influencer marketing. In 2019, the YouTube beauty community witnessed the largest product launch in ecommerce history, in which controversial YouTubers, Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, published a 7-episode series documenting the process of creating a makeup product. The series garnered more than 152 million views, and led to the breakdown of e-retailer websites and resulted in 2 million people waiting in an online queue to purchase products on www.jeffreestarcosmetics.com. In our experiment, we examine the effects of emotions generated by the series on viewers’ attitudes and purchasing behavior. We observe the development of tester perceptions of the two YouTubers and the presented products post three days of media cultivation using the FaceReader software for facial expression recognition, eye-tracking, Emotional Expressivity Scale (EES), and Personality Inventory Scale. The full-text is publicly available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2664329422000231
Smartphone ads compete for the user’s attention, which is initially intended to focus on other areas of the small screen of the device. Despite this competition, smartphone advertisements aim to produce as much cognitive reward as possible in exchange for the mental effort expended in their processing, that is, they aim at the audience’s relevance, as claimed by relevance theory ( Sperber and Wilson 1995 ), a theory in which cyberpragmatics ( Yus 2011 ) is rooted. This paper addresses several key qualities of effective smartphone advertising from a cyberpragmatics perspective that focuses on possible sources of relevance of online communication, and now applied to smartphone ads. Furthermore, it is claimed that today’s smartphone-based advertising cannot be accounted for pragmatically without the incorporation of key terms such as contextual constraint and non-propositional effect , which add to more traditional pragmatic accounts of online communication ( Yus 2017a , 2021a ).
"The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect that Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) could have on consumers in different countries, with respect to brand-choice, brand-image, product-category choice, the quantity purchased of a product/brand, and with respect to the likelihood of sharing a product/brand experience depending on a consumer’s level of satisfaction with a specific product-category or brand (Satisfied, Dissatisfied, or Delighted). The hypotheses to be investigated were generated from the literature, and then used to define the variables that were later integrated in a Discriminant-Analysis, to help differentiate between the effects that WOM could have on the product/brand-related decisions stated above, in different countries.The effect of WOM on products categories and brands differs from one country to another on several facets, as illustrated here through the case of England and Russia. The findings of this paper advise marketers on whether to standardize their reliance on WOM to support their brands in different countries, or adapt its extent and manner to each specific country. Ability to predict consumers’ country of origin, merely by analysing their answers to survey questions, and therefore foresee the differentiated effect of WOM on products and brands in each country. Keywords: Word-of-Mouth, Cross-Cultural, Consumer Behaviour, Russian consumers, English consumers "
Purpose The study aims to examine “Advertisement content likeability” and its relationships with consumers' purchase and sharing intentions. Design/methodology/approach Second-order factor analysis was applied. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to measure the moderating effects of technology adoption model, knowledge sharing and Internet maven traits on advertising content's virality. Findings Results indicate the dimensional structure of ad content likeability that is relevant in predicting consumers' sharing and purchase intentions. Furthermore, the moderating effects of technology acceptance factors (perceived usefulness and ease-of-use), knowledge sharing motives (altruism, reputation and expected reciprocal benefits) and senders' Internet maven characteristics were also found on “Ad content likeability” and “sharing intentions.” Originality/value The study expands the theoretical horizon of factors that significantly increase an advertisement's velocity to become more viral.
Full-text available
Viral marketing involves consumers passing along a company's marketing message to their friends, family, and colleagues. This chapter reviews viral marketing campaigns and argues that the emotion of surprise often is at work and that this mechanism resembles that of word-of-mouth marketing. Examining the literature on the emotion of surprise, the chapter next explains how a surprise is created and shared. Overall, the chapter shows how surprise can be a useful tool in a viral marketing campaign. Lastly, conclusions of interest to managers are drawn.
Reviews the major controversy concerning psychobiological universality of differential emotion patterning vs cultural relativity of emotional experience. Data from a series of cross-cultural questionnaire studies in 37 countries on 5 continents are reported and used to evaluate the respective claims of the proponents in the debate. Results show highly significant main effects and strong effect sizes for the response differences across 7 major emotions (joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame, and guilt). Profiles of cross-culturally stable differences among the emotions with respect to subjective feeling, physiological symptoms, and expressive behavior are also reported. The empirical evidence is interpreted as supporting theories that postulate both a high degree of universality of differential emotion patterning and important cultural differences in emotion elicitation, regulation, symbolic representation, and social sharing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Patterns of emotional responses to a dissatisfactory consumption experience and the relationship between these patterns and consumer post-purchase responses are investigated. In a mental simulation, participants reported their emotional responses and post-purchase cognitions, satisfaction, and behavioural intentions following a core service failure. Four discriminable patterns of emotional responses, positioned in a tridimensional space, were observed. Problem-handling cognitions, satisfaction judgements, and exit, voice, word-of-mouth, and loyalty intentions were found to differ among emotional patterns, with two structural dimensions, acceptance/calmness and anger/surprise, accounting for most of the variation in consumer behavioural responses to dissatisfaction.
The hypothesis that being a market maven moderates the form of the relationship between the "smart buying motive" and marketplace information provision is tested with a sample of husbands and wives. The hypothesis is not supported. Potential reasons for this finding and directions for future research on the antecedent processes associated with marketplace information provision are discussed.
It's one of the oldest forms of communication, but word-of-mouth remains a potent marketing force in the digital age. E-commerce experts say that pass-it-along marketing --also known as viral marketing --is a highly effective way to create online buzz for new products and services. Analysts told the E-Commerce Times that businesses are using a number of viral methods, ranging from subtle community-building initiatives to interactive online advertising games, to generate positive communication about their wares --talk they hope will translate into sales and revenues. However, the experts agreed that to be successful, the tell-a-friend approach needs to be targeted, or it runs the risk of turning off potential customers. Yankee Group e-commerce analyst Michele Pelino said that when sending specialized e-mails, product samples or other pitches to Internet users, companies need to identify who the opinion leaders are among consumers and where they congregate online.