viral tactics remain appealing to consumers, according to a recent study from digital marketing firm Sharpe Partners. The survey, conducted in September 2005, reveals nearly 9 of 10 U.S. adult Internet users share content with others via e-mail (the primary delivery channel for viral marketing). Twenty-five percent do so daily, while 63 percent share content once a week. As many as 75 percent include up to six other recipients in their distribution.

When it comes to the nature of the content that's forwarded, humor is unsurprisingly important. Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents share humorous content, jokes, and cartoons. Games are considerably less popular but still represent a viable option for marketers; 25 percent of adult respondents share them with others.

Here's the kicker: The study also finds including overt brand messages in viral content "only slightly" reduces the likelihood it will be forwarded by consumers. Just over half of respondents say they'd be less or slightly less likely to forward branded content, while an astonishing 43 percent say they'd be more likely to do so. Nineteen percent, meanwhile, say brand sponsorship has a positive effect on their decision to forward a message to others.

Great news for marketers, right? That depends. Though it seems consumers haven't had their fill of sharable content, that alone doesn't make a successful viral initiative. And although overt brand messages may not deter consumers from sharing at present, the best applications skew more toward product placement than brand sponsorships.

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