Is viral marketing a thing of yesteryear? Well, it depends on who you ask and how certain PR groups, managements, labels and artists are using them. We all are aware that online marketing is a heavy hit for many right now. Whether it's intentionally leaking or giving away your album to get fans to (at the very least) come out to a show, buy a t-shirt or that limited vinyl to put up on their wall - or whatever kids do with those frisbee things these days. Viral marketing certainly has its pros. For one, it's supposed to build anticipation. In an era when "just having ad-space" is part of the overload of informational clutter - the feel of anticipation is what viral marketing corners. With anticipation comes work. Why give the fan something, when they can help build marketing for your brand (read: band, product, whatever)? "You want to hear that new song? Well, you better get your friends to get our Facebook page to X number of "Likes" by midnight or you're going to have to wait another week assholes!" The general public will end of participating. It's nothing to them, and it only builds your product in their personal feed for others to see and click and "Like" as well.
Then there's the "special" factor to it all, which, if you understand the basic structure of "mediocrity," you're smart enough to look past the fact that you're not part of something that special, you're a number in a system to sell a product. Sorry, it's the truth for most, but not for all, so take that statement with a grain of salt. The blanket of exclusivity that's being marketed to fans is also a problem in controlling, and there lies the biggest con in today's viral marketing. The truth is, with the overload of ways to share, post and message(board) any and all activity on the internet, how does a band and their crew of knowledgeable staff contain any sort of exclusivity on the web. I think the answer is just another nail in some of viral marketing's out-dated ideas: they won't be able to.
It's a sad dilemma that the sort of "exclusivity" for fans can't exist because of how fast news can truly travel across the web these days. I think back to the AFI scavenger hunt a few years ago and how something like that couldn't exist now. We live in a digital world where it's hard to not only trust some with information months before its proper (press) release, but giving the general public of fans anything from a scavenger hunt to a secret URL to a coded stream, it'll be ousted to the populous in a matter of minutes, hours and at the very least, by the end of the work day.
It's a really sad state to think about though. As I've brought up the pessimistic opinion that you are not special as a consumer, and only a number to some in this industry - it's a blatant slap in the face and generalization to lump some who do want to do something special for their fans. Sending out a song premiere in an e-mail just isn't special enough today, because it's up on YouTube minutes later. Putting together a well calculated puzzle to open up an album stream just doesn't show a special, well-deserved pay-off to fans - because it only gets posted across messageboards and blogs alike as news.
So where does the fault lie? Is it in the hours spent that would seem wasted in putting together such packages? Or are the fans and media who expose these things meant as gifts to the fans who sit impatiently waiting for something new to blame? In the end, it's a great gesture that is ruined because of modern technology. We as media report on what we know. We know so much so fast, and it's not always through a proper press release. It's because of tips from fans and social feeds we do our best to research our news from. It moves fast. The idea of having any sort of "exclusive" content is kind of laughable at this point. You have to think about how exclusive any sort of content is for how long, whether it was intentionally put out into the public eye or kept to launch for a specific time on a specific day on a specific site - it all gets retweeted, shared and posted elsewhere before you can have a chance to call it your own at this point.