I am sure everyone has seen Burger King's viral marketing concept at www.subservientchicken.com. It's pretty darn funny, and according to the tracking folks the site is getting hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a week.
But is it selling chicken, presumably the goal of the site? According to BK sales figures, it's not. Same store sales are only up slightly, and sales of the chicken sandwich are only up a measley 9%. Does this mean that viral marketing does not work.
The problem with this viral marketing is that it doesn't create a call to action to encourage people to get their butts off of the sofa and head to BK. Sure, it's funny, but it barely even does any brandbuilding for the Burger King brand, something that BK desperately needs right now.
Compare this viral marketing with that done by BMW with BMW Films or American Express with the Adventures of Superman and Jerry Seinfeld. Both of these campaigns show the product and differentiate it.
With the BMW Films site, you see exciting short films showing BMW cars driven by "beautiful people" doing some serious performance driving. With AMEX, you see how Jerry Seinfeld and his American Express card are even more powerful than Superman.
That's what viral is all about, and AMEX and BMW are reaping the benefits.