The ripple effect is based on an outward flow of energy and motion starting from a central point as the result of a single action. When applied to marketing, the ripple effect is demonstrated by the growing influence or impact of a product or message that began with a single point of genesis. It is not important what form this genesis takes, as long as it spreads the idea and the brand among your target segments.
The ripple effect often begins with a single idea, comment or endorsement that gains attention and starts the ball rolling. In the world of social media, ideas expand quickly, and the attention they get can expand from a trickle to a raging river nearly instantaneously. Although some ripple marketing takes on a life of its own, there are ways to begin the trend slowly over time. Planting the seed of positive commentary, attractive imagery and ad campaigns that leave something of an open question for the consumer creates interest. Ads that leave the consumer guessing what the product is, thinking about how it can help her or in any way wanting to know more provide incentive for the consumer to investigate further. Initiatives that keep the product front-of-mind, while ensuring that it maintains its original image or status, are some of the most effective.
Once the trigger event has occurred, it is up to the marketer to maximize its impact and extend its lifespan as much as possible. For example, if your brand suddenly gets attention due to the commentary of a local celebrity or well-respected member of the community who has posted positive opinions, exploit those opinions in several different campaigns to reach all target segments. Make the statement a focal point of your efforts so it carries the trend forward on the strength of the endorser's popularity. A big part of ripple effect marketing success is understanding when an opportunity arises and seizing it. Once the ripple effect has begun, it is the task of the marketer to enhance its spread while remaining out of the way to allow it to take its natural course. Nothing can bring the ripple effect to an end faster than off-message campaigns that interrupt the course of events already in motion.
Technology has made it easier to create a following in some cases. The many forms of marketing made possible by online points of contact such as email, tweets, smartphones help the marketer to keep in contact with the consumer on a more regular basis than print or broadcast marketing ever could. As a result, a product and its marketing can become a part of everyday life for the consumer who is kept in the loop through a carefully designed and consistent set of messages and interactive initiatives. These tools create high-tech word-of-mouth marketing that ripples through the target segment and provides invaluable exposure for the brand.
The lasting effects of a marketing ripple effect can pay dividends for years to come. For example, some social sites began as underground fads catering to a certain segment of the market. The "cool" factor made them interesting and popular, and this was parlayed into a global trend. People today use social media as a legitimate tool for marketing and interaction, and it was all started by a small clique of insiders. Understanding who your market is and how to best attract them without bombarding the marketplace with adverts is the key to the ripple effect theory of marketing. Ideally, a successful use of the ripple effect has your consumers promoting your products for you with very little investment or long-term effort on your part.