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VOL. 127 | NO. 61 | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lori Turner

Lori Turner-Wilson

Viral Bug Bites Big Brands, Startups Alike

By Lori Turner-Wilson

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Global brands, fledgling startups and nonprofits alike are embracing viral marketing, an electronic form of buzz marketing. It’s where your message passes from person to person without your direct involvement – the technological equivalent of word of mouth.

While all too many viral campaigns fizzle out, those that do take off can generate millions in brand exposure and buzz for years. A variety of messaging strategies can lead to viral success, especially those that are cause related, controversial, entertainment based or incentive driven.

As a nod to its nostalgic brand roots, Coca-Cola launched a series of online riddles through its social media channels, the answers to which took players to a new twist on a vintage game. One such fill-in-the-blank riddle encouraged fans to “Set them up row after row. Knock them down, and watch them go. It’s a toy the whole world knows. The simple joy of “F _ L L _ _ _D _ _ _ _ _ _ _.com.” The answer, FallingDominoes.com, takes players to an animated, Coke-branded, dominoes experience. Just move the on-screen hand to begin and watch the dominoes fall.

Or try this riddle on for size. “EqmgUrkppgt.eqo – shift the letters back two steps, and magically, the symbols might make sense.” Replace each letter with the letter that precedes it by two in the alphabet, and you end up with CokeSpinner.com. The virtual-rendition on the retro game you can play at this site is based on a Thaumatrope, popular in Victorian times. A disk with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to combine into a single image. Slide the bar on screen to spin the disk.

Fledgling startup Dollar Shave Club is a viral marketing phenomenon. Relying almost exclusively on an irreverent online commercial to launch its subscription model for monthly distribution of shaving supplies for men, the company pulled in more than 600,000 online views in just two days, netting 5,000 orders. It was more than just the outrageous commercial that drove interest. Customers were provided with a personalized referral link to share, earning a free month of shaving supplies for every referred order generated.

With over 87 million views, the YouTube sensation Kony 2012 is a viral marketing masterpiece. Designed to shed light on the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony throughout Uganda and central Africa, this documentary does more than educate – it inspires philanthropic Generation Y to take action. The call to action is clear – buy a kit that helps you create awareness in your community, make a donation, and tweet your views to one of 32 influencers.

While viral marketing campaigns are more art than science, if you can paint the right picture, the world sees your message in the mere blink of an eye.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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