Thursday, January 26, 2006

Viral Marketing - cure or cause...

Viral marketing - buzz word of the dot-com and genX era. It's still thrown around as fresh, new, hip.

The trouble is that viral marketing is truly the only way any passion gets spread from one person to many people. Anyone in advertising who thinks that their major TV commercial with one showing will persuade one person to buy one product is delusional. Apple couldn't, in 1984 or today, honestly claim that their product would help any one person escape from the shackles of conformity, but their ads certainly did create a centrally accessible and memorable image for those who chose to convert to the cult. This membership mentality led people to use the products in a way that showed others that they, too should use the product.

A biological virus does not get spread if the virus is know to the host (unless the host is pathological). I will willingly "Tell a Friend" about a product or service if they ask, and if I truly believe in that product or service. But, I will not share the love about anything (sorry about the evangelical religious implications, but this is fundamentally true) without a reason. I choose not to wear designer clothes that highlight the designer's name; I might if the designer paid me to do it, but instead, we seem to pathologically love to pay more of our hard earned money to be walking commercials for overpriced sweatshop clothes. You might find me wearing a shirt with a Gibson or Fender guitar, not to sell the shirt but to evoke a feeling and share the image.

To instill this feeling in consumers so they pass along the love and desire for a product of ours, we must follow simple rules. Make better products, make products people want (are you listening, Ford and Chevrolet?), price them accordingly, and create a common, desirable, attractive image that makes people want to join the club. This truly is Viral Marketing in a way a "Tell a Friend" affinity or reward program can never be.

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