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Monday, February 21, 2005

Let's catch the viral marketing virus

Viral Marketing has long been a buzz word. And continues to be. It is amazing the kind of things advertisers do. McDonalds had the Lincoln Fry campaign, which started as what looked like an ordinary blog (except some people soon expressed doubts about the seriousness of this blog - and they were right).
The blogosphere has finally been "found" by the advertisers. And while some try to influence the bloggers for free word-of-mouth, others just freely sponsor it, like Sony sponsors Lifehacker for 25k a month.
Funnily enough, T-Online opened a section on their site for all the ads that have been sent around via email. (Unfortunately they don't have the "fake" ones of Ford (the evil Ka) and the VW (Suicide Bomber))
And while they publish this, Adland speculates, that the newest talk of the blogs - the hacked Paris Hilton files (see also Gawker, they seem to have transcripts) - is actually a viral setup by T-Mobile (who are a distant cousin of T-Online). Quite a few of the comments at metafilter, which adland refers to, smell some bullshit marketing, too.
On the other hand, let's not forget, how Google is promoting it's GMail: by invitation only. Once you're in, you get to invite 50 of your friends. And since there was a certain press hype already, most people I know are / were eager to try it. So by making access artificially difficult, Google made sure that the invites spread like fleas. (However, now there seems to be an abundance of invites available, as people advertise to give away their invites to anyone - I think Google overestimated the amount of friends people can possibly have that won't get their invites from anyone else at the same time.)
Though these attempts are mostly hype based (in the case of Paris Hilton also celebrity spiced), there are some companies that take a more scientific approach to finding the influencers.
Keith Bates describes some of them and their methods. Basically, it's about setting up databases of the 10% of the population that will take your message to the other 90% that listen. And ultimately it's about feeding these people with the information on YOUR product.
Everyone in the process of making a buying decision will seek advice. And most of this advice is sought through these "everyday experts". We all know them. They know everything about PCs, mobile devices, kitchen interior or cars. Their opinion forms our buying decision more than any advertising can ever do.

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