Viral marketing, or viral advertising, refers to a marketing technique which relies on word of mouth via pre-existing social networks in order to promote a product or brand. The theory behind it is that ideas spread like viruses, a concept that was widely studied during the 1990s. Viral marketing, however, has predominantly become part of the public consciousness during the 2000s and 2010s. Usually, the promotion will take the form of a video, image or Flash game. In this article, we shall look at one popular viral marketing campaign and its expert use of social networking site YouTube to spread the word about its product - the Triumph Rocket 3.

Triumph Motorcycles is a British motorcycle manufacturing business with roots stretching back for more than a century. The modern-day company focuses on producing both modern motorbikes and 'classic' models - which are designed to look like exemplary bikes of the mid-20th Century, but with the reliability of a modern motorcycle. The Triumph Rocket 3 is a 'cruiser' motorbike, meaning that it takes its design cues from tough-looking American bikes of the 1960s and preceding decades.

Because viral marketing campaigns rely on capturing the public's imagination, they will often take a more irreverent and - some might say - creative approach than standard adverts. The video that Triumph produced for the Triumph Rocket 3 is no exception, as it throws out advertising convention and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the bike's supposed manufacturing and testing processes.

Lasting less than three minutes, some bold claims are nonetheless made during the video. For example, according to the well-to-do voiceover, Triumph has been producing motorcycles since "the dawn of time", which apparently equates to 900 years of experience. It is also claimed that the Triumph Rocket 3 is the world's largest, most powerful motorbike, that the first component to be added to the bike is its "centre of gravity", and that its engine has been grown from 'baby' engines, which have "over 200 kilos of power" added to them when they reach adolescence.

Humorous viral videos such as this serve two purposes. Firstly, by making the viewer laugh, they encourage emotional investment with the product itself, thus making it more likely that the viewer will remember it and - perhaps more importantly - share it with his or her friends. Secondly, because they play on our expectations about what 'normal' advertising by a large company looks like, they help to cultivate a friendly, unserious image for the brand being advertised. This certainly seems to have worked in Triumph's case, as its viral video has been viewed more than 1 million times.

Not all viral advertising campaigns are humorous, however. Many play off other emotions in order to connect with the viewer. The video game Halo 2, for example, was marketed with an 'alternate reality game' known as I Love Bees. This game encouraged players to engage in real-world tasks in order to save a mystery, and some even received calls by mobile phone. A large percentage of campaigns, such as the one used to advertise the Triumph Rocket 3, do go for a humorous angle, however.

This article looks at viral marketing and in particular one great example. Triumph Motorcycles used Youtube as a viral marketing technique to spread the word about the Triumph Rocket 3.