3 posts categorized "viral"

04/29/2009 Viral Marketing in the Time of Pandemic

As If Swine Flu Wasn't Enough, Now an EarthquakeImage 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

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11/13/2008 Warning! Sites advocate and market at the same time.

I’ve run into two sites lately, both who are warning of dangers while trying to increase sales. They take very different tacks in doing so. The comparison gets a little challenging, since one comes from a social welfare state and the other comes from an independent profit driven company.

The first is CrimeMedicine.com and comes from the Swedish Läkemedelsverket. It’s the equivalent of our FDA; they approve all medical products for sale in Sweden. “Aha!” you might say. “You can’t compare that with product marketing.” Well, yes and no. You see most, if not all, Swedes buy their medicines at state owned pharmacies. So their FDA has a clearly vested interest in driving sales through the state stores.

CrimeMedicine.com takes you behind the scenes of online pharmaceuticals sales. They do this through one of the best interactive video interfaces I’ve ever seen. At each step of the video story you can click through for more detail, including Google maps of illegal pill making in suburban apartments. It doesn’t look like there’s much there, but I was surprised at the depth of info. And it helps that the video feels right out of a solid investigative journalism tradition.


Of course, if you don’t know Swedish, it’s hard to keep up with the story. But it’s a pretty jarring site to drive home the point that there’s something dangerous out there, even if we don’t pay it much attention. I mean I’ve gotten so much of this type of spam, I’ve never really thought about the seedy underbelly of this stuff. Yuck.

And the intro screen is great. Not what you expect at all.

Seeing the CrimeMedicine site made me think of Seventh Generation’s new campaign at ShowWhatsInside.com. Seventh Gen makes environmentally safe household cleaners and they’ve been the leaders in this space for a while. Now that green is hot, all of the big guns, like P& G, are getting into the game. The new campaign wants people to take a critical look at what’s inside of the competitors’ products, because there are quite a few “green” household products that contain toxic material.

It’s a great idea to promote consumer activism in a way that helps consumers, and sells more products for Seventh Gen. But their approach is almost the opposite of the first site. No jarring realism here, but some very soft ideas, like build a tree, an ingredient widget and a fun customizable tee shirt with your own ingredients. Yes there is video, but it’s the kinder, gentler type.


Both sites have some pretty disturbing stories to tell. CrimeMedicine tells it in a hard-hitting way using some great interactivity.  ShowWhatsInside does it through some user-generated content. Personally, I had a hard time quitting CrimeMedicine; it felt like there were a lot of good layers there. It certainly made me react more in my gut than the Show site.

Surprisingly enough, neither site did a great job in providing tools to spread the word.

10/31/2008 Elf Yourself is Back

You only have to wait 10 more days until you can Elf Yourself for the 2008 holiday season. The OfficeMax campaign is probably the most viral online effort ever. And why not? People love seeing themselves and Elf Yourself lets you see yourself and others in a short, entertaining Web dance-o-mercial. My favorite last year was when my sister put all of her pets, cockatoo included, into the mix.

Of course OfficeMax isn’t the only one doing this. Time Warner Cable just launched Fame Star, where you can create your own trashy Hollywood rags to riches to rags story online. I don’t know why it’s so funny seeing yourself with weird hair, but there it is. This one is really mixes it up, as it keeps reusing your picture in different places. Well done, Time Warner.


I have to admit, though, that my favorites are on JibJab. While you have to pay for them, last year they let you send one on Valentine’s Day for free. It was, without a doubt, the best virtual strip-o-gram my wife’s every received, judging by how many times she looked at it, and how much she laughed at it. 


On the weirder side is the Baby Maker at VW’s Routan Boom. I didn’t get it. It didn’t do much, nor could I adjust anything. Maybe it’s the cross-dresser in me, but if it doesn’t make a movie, like the previous examples, I’d rather play around with something crazy like you find on SevenTeen.com.

Pffdd946e3adc4f724eb8684b73c918a9_7920001All of these are good, non-serious viral examples. Let people waste some time and have a good laugh, and they’ll share it. Whether that translates into sales is another question.

But from a branding stand point, if you can make a person’s day more enjoyable, especially in tough times like the next few months, you should come out ahead.

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