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Viral Marketing: Advertising With A Twist

One of the things we are always doing here is looking for ways to advance the industry. Obviously we try to have the kind of content that will help move the industry forward, but this attitude also includes pushing industry marketing to the next level.

When we started PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, a sister publication of the Pundit, we worked very hard to raise the marketing sophistication of the trade. It was common at the time for an ad to consist of little more than a contact name, a phone number and a line saying “shipping sweet corn from May to July.”

We spent a lot of time and money helping people do better, more sophisticated ads that would help their businesses grow.

Now with the Pundit, we’re helping people find new ways to market using the power of the Internet.

One type of marketing we are working with companies on is called Viral Marketing. The basic idea is to use the power of the Internet and people’s own relationships to get a message spread. This both decreases costs, because you need only get the message to certain key people, and increases effectiveness because people are likely to be more receptive to messages sent by friends, family, co-workers, bosses, etc., than they are going to be receptive to messages from perfect strangers.

A lot of this is focused on consumer marketing but it has application in the trade as well. If, for example, you want to get a message to all the buyers of perishable food at Wal-Mart, well, one of the most effective ways would be to focus on creating something that Bruce Peterson, Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager of Perishables at Wal-Mart, thinks is valuable enough that he wants to forward it to everyone. Or, a marketer might piggyback on valuable content produced by something like This is a kind of viral marketing that fades out once your target audience — in this case, Wal-Mart buyers — is reached.

Do the right job and you will probably get 100% readership by your target audience and a degree of attention that would be difficult to duplicate.

We love working on these kinds of efforts because the core in these efforts in the trade is great content. Our goal is to create something sufficiently insightful that people want to forward it to people they have influence with.


With consumers, a lot of the effort is funny jokes or videos, especially if you are targeting younger consumers.

Here are some examples:

Burger King lets you tell this subservient chicken exactly what you want it to do.

Heinz has had great success with this Ketchup Against Tomato Cruelty campaign

Folgers Coffee has a Tolerate Mornings campaign. Lower the shade and click on the TV for a video getting wide play.

And Carlton Draught has this very big ad about beer.

But marketers are just beginning to experiment with the potential. User-generated content is all the rage. The original Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos video has now been seen over six million times. You can see it right here. Just click on the button on the left next to the megaphone.

The transition is to a different type of marketing. Not only technologically but also in terms of goals.

Starbucks, for example, has developed its Cheer Pass Central, which is getting a lot of attention. The goal is to have people do good things for others during the holiday and then “Pay it Forward” to another person.

Starbucks will start it off, giving out free passes to movies, metrocards for the New York Subway and other freebees. They also give a numbered card and ask you to “Pay Forward” this kindness to another person and give them the card.

Everyone can go online and log in with the number and explain the act of kindness they gave or received. The idea is to see how long a “chain of cheer” can be sustained.

In theory you can be given a card in New York and watch it on the internet as it travels the whole world.

It is another kind of viral marketing and another way to use the Internet.

Which means this is probably as good a time for a commercial message as any. As we are in budgeting season, we hope you will consider the Pundit worthy of support in 2007. Please don’t hesitate to contact my associate, Ken Whitacre, right here to learn more about how we can help bring the influence of our content together with the reach of the Internet to make your marketing more effectuive.

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