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Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos

A Dissertation submitted on 08 December 2009 By Rondell D. Torres (TOR08247590) In fulfilment of the Final Project requirement For MA Marketing Communications At the London College of Communications Of the University of the Arts London








Aims, Objectives, and Questions REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE The Context Of Computer-Mediated Communications

08 12


Advertising On The Web


Defining Viral Advertising


Going Viral


Word-Of-Mouth By A Different Name


Viral Impact On The Brand


Brand Equity And Associations


Characteristics And Categories of Brand Associations


Brand Association Model




Issues of Measurement And Evaluation


Research Design




Text Commentary Analysis: A Form Of Computer-Mediated Data-Gathering


Focus group discussions as validation method


Ethical considerations on data collection




Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009

! Data Collection Procedure


Procedure For Data Analysis: Coding And Clustering FINDINGS

38 45

Text Commentary Analysis


Focus Group Discussions




Making The Connection


Brand Associations Through Virals


Increasing Brand Support












APPENDICES A. YouTube Watch Page


B. FGD Moderator Guide


C. Summary of Coded Themes from Text Commentary Analysis


D. Summary of Clustered Themes from Focus Group Discussion and Analysis




Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009


LIST OF TABLES 1. The function of Brand Associations


2. Categories of Brand Associations,


3. Evaluative Criteria of Viral Marketing Campaigns


4. Text Commentary Coding Start List


5. FGD Coding Themes


6. Emoticons Encountered within Text Comments


7. Text Abbreviations Within Text Comments


8. Summary of Themes Present in Text Comments


9. Summary of Brand-Directed Comments and Themes


10. Summary of Comments Relating to Inauthenticity or Fake Special Effects


11. Summary of Viral Spread and Receipt Comments and Themes


12. Comparing Brand Positioning based on Brand-based Associations From Viral Advertising


LIST OF FIGURES: 1. The Brand Association Model


2. Viral Advertising Association Framework




Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009

! ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This work would not have been an enjoyable experience without the help of my supervisor Dr. Andy McStay on charting the precarious road of computer-mediated research. Additionally, Dr. McStay has the singular ability of giving author-based reading recommendations faster than anyone I’ve ever come across, a talent I took full advantage of. The redoubtable Dr. Kate Armstrong, whose passion and expertise as course director and marketing communications academician and lecturer, have given me further impetus in carrying out postgraduate work that is of the highest standard that I can muster. Only she can pull off the role of unflappable school lecturer and course director with as much patience, professionalism, and panache. She truly rocks. To all the other lecturers who have made the past year of learning quite fulfilling, most especially: Ms. Sarah Bowman-Roberts, Mr. Mark Irving, Ms. Kate Saunders, and Ms. Kulbir Basra, I offer my sincerest thanks for a job well done on inducing me to see the world with more discerning eyes.



Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009

! ABSTRACT Viral video advertising has increasingly become a popular strategy for advertisers seeking to capitalize on the online interactive trend championed by the Internet. Although researchers have observed a link between brand awareness and virals, none have formally studied this gap in understanding another potential function viral advertising as part of brand communications. By introducing Text Commentary Analysis, this research accomplishes an exploration of brand associations prompted by viral video advertisements. Using a novel approach in unobtrusively culling computer-mediated, naturalistic data whilst using focus groups to deepen and complement the


observations, the

Viral Advertising


Framework was developed, while recommendations on further research and possible applications in industry are proposed by the researcher.



Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009

! INTRODUCTION Viral marketing has been described as one of the latest trends in reaching out effectively to today’s fragmented and technologically-empowered consumers (Ferguson, 2008). Brands like Burger King, Hotmail, NFL, and T-Mobile have capitalized on viral communications in creating memorable campaigns (Porter and Golan, 2006); in turn, people have willingly spread the word by passing along digital content like images, videos, games, and articles (Cruz and Fill, 2008). Social media in the form of networking sites like Facebook and YouTube have also aided the viral movement. Social media in general conveniently provides a ready community with which to share items, as well as including easy options for sending messages and embedding videos and links (Stroud, 2007b). Of course, electronic mail guarantees a reliable and even “traditional” online communication fallback in one-to-many digital communications (Ferguson, 2008; Van Raiij, 1998). While consumers and companies have gamely embraced the viral movement, a dearth of understanding remains, especially in so far as the implications of virals on branding is concerned (De Bruyn and Lilien, 2008). In the rush to capitalize on an exciting and catchy marketing trend, the exploration behind why it works and how has trailed behind. Even when the demands of marketing as a fast-paced and competitive environment prompts an informed leap of faith for using virals, practitioners are now more amenable in asking questions of how virals ultimately impact on consumers’ perceptions (Fergusson, 2008). Indeed, while virals have been observed as generally provocative (Porter and Golan, 2006; Golan and Zaidner, 2008), it remains to be seen whether these views are translated and transferred positively to the brands for which these virals are developed.



Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos © Rondell D. Torres 2009

! With that, this research will be examining the branding implications of viral advertising. As Schibrowsky et al. (2007) predicted, the trend of internet marketing will rely heavily on how consumers themselves use the medium in spreading marketing messages on their own, something that is observed in the form of viral communications. This study is being undertaken in order to better understand how branding practices can be best refined to take advantage of the viral medium of communication, and to study virals from a naturalistic, computer-mediated, setting. Building on Aaker’s (1991) and Keller’s (1993) concept of Brand Equity, with specific attention to the role of Brand Associations using the conceptual framework of Chen (2001), this study will employ a qualitative approach in building on the understanding and practice of viral advertising. AIM, OBJECTIVES, AND QUESTIONS The current study aims to examine how viral advertising affects brand associations based on reactions of receivers of viral advertising content. To clarify, Viral Advertising is distinct from Viral Marketing. While the latter refers to a “comprehensive marketing strategy that may include several (viral) components” (Golan and Zaidner, 2008, p. 961), viral advertising refers to “an online distribution method that relies on word of mouth distribution via email or social network platforms as the means of reaching target audiences” (p. 962). In other words, viral advertising refers to a specified component of viral marketing that focuses on online distribution of digital content, the most common of which are videos. For purposes of this study, the focus will likewise be on viral video advertisements; other forms of viral communications can be seen in online games, mobile content, as well as a simple formats like text, still-image, and audio (Cruz and Fill, 2008; De Bruyn and Lilien, 2008) but will not be included within the scope of this project.



Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos © Rondell D. Torres 2009

! Why viral advertising is in need of examination lies in its implication for audiences and developers. As observed by previous researchers, (Ferguson, 2008; Golan and Zaidner,










communications practice requires careful study, particularly in measuring audience reactions and ultimately reaching a viable return on investment where viral communications are concerned. Although there has been significant attention in investigating virals, previous researchers have studied the viral phenomenon from the perspective of developers and companies (Cruz and Fill, 2008), the process of distribution (De Bruyn and Lilien, 2008), and isolating key components in explaining why a specific material goes ‘viral’ (Golan and Zaidner, 2008). To date, there has only been one attempt in direct examination of consumers’ reactions but with a general focus on viral marketing and word-of mouth (Mintel, 2008). It is intended that through this study, a contribution in investigating audience reactions can yield clues on what the audience perceives when viewing a viral ad, and how the consumer relates the material back to the brand in the form of brand associations. As conceived by Aaker (1991), brand associations are organizational assets that contribute to brand equity, defined as anything that “adds to or subtracts from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or to that firm’s customers” (p.15). Brand associations are a set of attitudes and meanings that people link back to the brand (Aaker, 1991). Functioning as positive influences on a brand’s credibility and value, strong and affirmative associations also serve as effective barriers against competitors from entering consumers’ decision-making process (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993). It is hoped that in examining viral advertising in relation to brand associations, valuable insights can be gathered as to what consumers think about when engaging in emerging forms of online digital marketing in relation to brand perceptions.



Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos © Rondell D. Torres 2009

! Also, insofar as the broader implications of computer-mediated communications are concerned, viral advertising and communications validates what internet researchers have long predicted: that digital online communication serves to build, create, and even continually change notions of community and its reactions to online content (Jones, 1998; Van Dijk, 1999; Jenkins, 2006). Given these, it will be worthwhile to explore methods of studying such phenomena from the medium by which it occurs, as well as pursuing ways to validate any insights that can be derived through a rigorous qualitative approach. For this study, the research objectives are as follows: a) To explore a realistic, ‘research-able’, and appropriate channel for examining naturally-occurring audience reactions to viral advertising, particularly viral videos; and b) To provide an exploratory view of viral advertising in relation to its perceived branding implications. In order to underpin this investigation on a relatively new area of marketing, methodological practice must be exercised to the utmost in creatively collecting naturalistic data from audiences whilst still providing a structure for effective qualitative data analysis (Cresswell, 2003; Hackley, 2003). These objectives relate back to the valid contribution that this study intends to make to the topics of interest, as well as the wider spheres of online advertising and marketing communications. Using a qualitative approach that will focus on text commentary provided by viral video viewers and focus group discussions (comprised of Internet users and viral video spreaders and/or receivers), the researcher plans to probe the subject matter with the following questions: RQ1: Do consumers connect the viral video back to the brand being advertised?

! 10 Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos Š Rondell D. Torres 2009

! RQ2: What kind of associations do viral video viewers develop in relation to the brand being advertised? RQ3: How can viral advertising aid in increasing brand support? With these questions guiding the data gathering, a broad discussion of the areas of inquiry is initiated to merit a valid qualitative analysis with a semi-structured approach in data reduction and interpretation (Cresswell, 2009). The research questions were developed in part by the apparent gaps in the literature surrounding virals and branding, an observation echoed by Porter and Golan (2006). The emphasis on naturalistic data gathering for this project emanates from the need to examine audience reactions as near to the event of viral communication as possible. Some studies have been able to explore this event by relying on electronic mail in tracing the spread of communications (Phelps, et al., 2004; De Bruyn and Lilien, 2008); these studies however fall short in capturing descriptive reactions to the viral material being received. Thus, the challenge for this study lies in its reliance on an computermediated information source that has so far been unused as a potent indicator of audience reactions, that of text commentary. The added challenge is how to fit the use of this data source within acceptable norms of academic research. Hine (2005) speaks of internet-based social research methods that are both causes for innovation and anxiety for the researcher and his/her audience because of the relative novelty of online digital media, as well as its continually evolving technical nature. Although a quantitative approach may be attempted in this regard, the researcher believes that the nature of the research aim and objectives prompts an emphasis on theory-building, exploration, and description rather than on theory-testing (Cresswell, 2009, Miles and Huberman, 1994; Silverman, 2006; Patton, 2002).

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Exploring Brand Associations of Viral Advertising: A Text Commentary Analysis of Viral Videos  

Hi there, just sharing the first 11 pages of my postgraduate dissertation. This is being featured for reference only, and if you have any qu...

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