How and Why Products Go Viral

Open Access
Kelner, Nicole
Area of Honors:
Engineering Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Elizabeth Cunningham Kisenwether, Thesis Supervisor
  • Robert James Beaury, Faculty Reader
  • Susan Mary Strohm, Honors Advisor
  • Viral
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Marketing
  • Psychology
What makes a product a hit or a failure? This simple question has been a mystery for hundreds of years, but with the recent growth in access to social media and the Internet, the way that products gain popularity has shifted significantly. Word-of-mouth and local news are no longer the only methods a consumer can hear about a product fad. Rather Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram are now contributors to creation of a hit product. This thesis studies and analyzes a few of the most successful products and services that have gained popularity instantly and rapidly spread to be “viral” products over the past 30 years. For the purposes of this thesis, this widespread and often rapid product adoption process is known as virality. The upcoming chapters review and analyze the contributing factors and techniques that allow any given product to go viral. Through examining case studies from present day and the 1980’s, it will draw comparisons that can apply to future viral marketing efforts. It will compare how present day social media and technology play a role in the spreading of product information, benefits and disadvantages compared to past decades. The thesis also includes first hand insights and experience from leading experts in the world of viral marketing to see what their experience has been in designing and executing these viral marketing campaigns. The overall purpose is to illuminate key underlying factors of viral products and services that could be replicated in larger businesses and startups internationally to enable more products to go viral.