Image by hmerinomx via Flickr
Watching the Swine Flu influenza spread and the reaction to it has got me thinking about viral marketing. A pandemic is the definition of viral marketing: unsuspecting people receiving something they absolutely do not want and doing everything they can to shield themselves from it or cure themselves of it.
As a marketer, that’s the last thing I want people to feel about content or messages I send. I want them to enjoy receiving them and want them to feel generous enough to pass them along. If that’s the case, how did we ever end up with a term like “viral marketing?” I mean, we like viral marketing online, but we hate online viruses. Any one else see a contradiction here?
According to Wikipedia, Tim Draper coined the phrase in 1997 to describe Hotmail’s e-mail marketing. Since marketers and agencies love buzz words, the phrase took off and is now the darling in this YouTube era.
I think another reason the phrase resonated was that it reeks of secret power: marketers as mad scientist, cooking up new schemes to unleash on unsuspecting people and turning them into carriers to infect new people with our ideas. You can almost hear the “Bwa Ha Ha” behind it. The idea of covert control behind this idea is agency aphrodisiac.
If we think that marketing is changing and that it’s now about giving people something they want to have and want to talk about, then maybe it’s time for a new name for viral marketing. Of course, we have to come up with something sexy to sell it. Or maybe not. How many times do we hear clients ask for a viral campaign rather than ask for a content campaign? Which is what viral is all about.
Maybe we need to connect Viral Marketing to Swine Flu so tightly, that no one will ever ask for it again! When someone says viral, we whip out our facemasks and marketing tamiflu and put our clients in quarantine.
We should think of new terms to describe what this is all about. I’m no copywriter and I’m sure others will come up with better terms, but I’m thinking of things like:
Munificent Marketing or maybe Lavish Marketing
Face it; I don’t want any one infecting me with flus or YouTubes. Lavish something on me instead.
Anyone else have a better name for this