Viral Marketing is Not Your Father’s Marketing Campaign

I try to leave work at work, I do, really. But then I go and check the mail and the latest issue of Expressions, the super cool magazine for Emerson College students and alumni, has arrived and the cover story is about nontraditional marketing techniques and how it’s being used to create a maximum impact. I won’t even lie; I ripped the magazine from my mailbox and bounced up my apartment steps to go read it, because, yes, I have become that much of an Internet marketing nerd. I hope you’re happy, Bruce. [Don’t know about Bruce, but I like it when you prove that you’re nerdier than me. –Susan]

I’ve always been really proud to have attended Emerson* because as a uniquely media-focused school, they’ve always been somewhat ahead of the times, encouraging students to experiment and become competitive today instead of tomorrow. When I saw that viral marketing merited a 6-page spread in the semiannual magazine, I was once again a proud parent of my little alma mater.

The article starts out a little slow talking about guerilla marketing and referencing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force debacle that went down in Emerson’s backyard. It even spouts off that guerilla marketing, word of mouth, product placements, and mobile marketing webisodes are the fastest growing segment of the media sales economy, according to the 2006 Communications Industry Forecast. That’s all fascinating in a way that totally makes my eyes water.

By page two, however, we were on to the good stuff, talking about the benefits and the reach of Internet marketing tools like viral marketing and online webisodes. The article specifically mentioned the viral online campaigns like Dove’s Real Body promotion, IKEA’s Steal Me initiative, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, Timberland leather billboards, the crazy stuff put out by truth®, and of course, all the controversial Crispin Porter + Bogusky projects.

Why are marketers turning to these more social forms of advertising? Because it’s the only way to compete in a space that has become some loud users can’t hear you even when you’re shouting at them. Marketing has evolved into being able to reach people at different times and, to steal a totally awesome cliché from the article, marketers are "learning to fish where the fish are". (I’m sorry, I had to.) In order for marketers to get their message across, they have go where their audience lives and present them with a personalized message.

A totally creepy, yet kinda cool, example of this is the new "spotlight" device being tested out by Court TV. The "spotlight" is basically just an audio device that broadcasts a signal to shoppers as they walk past products. Court TV has recently been using the device in New York bookstores to promote its new murder mystery show. When customers walked pasted the mystery section in select bookstores, a voice would whisper, "Hey you, can you hear me? Do you ever think about murder?" Now, that voice may scare the daylights out of you, but it would also get your attention. Message delivered.

Several of Emerson alum also chimed in with accounts of how they were able to use viral marketing in their daily job functions with companies like MySpace, MTV, the television show Veronica Mars, Motorola and beyond.
Interestingly, Jayk Gallagher, an ’04 alum and YouTube sensation quoted in the article, attributes his professional success to alternative marketing. He shares his story of being cast in an MTV/Motorola campaign that used webisodes during college and how that set the stage for him to become a pro in online promotions early on in his career. His ability to use viral marketing helped him created a niche for himself in an otherwise saturated market and eventually got him a one man show, booked for a commercial by Sun Microsystems, and later a job developing their online viral ad campaigns. Did I mention he’s 25?

Jayk is just one reason why the older marketing execs who believe traditional advertising is still hip enough to meet all their needs, need to think again. The young kids are coming for you, and they’re smarter, better connected, and more equipped than you think they are.

Emerson College and schools across the country are training young marketers in social media and viral marketing. I took a look at Emerson’s updated course catalog and I’m seeing classes I wish would have been around 3 years ago when I was still a student. There are classes in:

  • Media Management Strategies
  • Interactive and e-Communication
  • Online Brand Management

When these kids get out of school, are you going to be able to compete with them?
*Well, I was proud. Then I noticed a new addition to the course listing:

Seminar in Media Arts: Deconstructing TV’s Buffy
4 Credits
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an extremely “full” text, playing on ideological fault lines (the “Hellmouth,” if you will) throughout its 96 hours. The series, self-consciously generic in conception and execution, allows this course to examine the histories, theories, and traditions of the musical, melodrama, comedy, silent film and horror genres. Through the “buffyverse” (a media space that includes spin-offs, comics, games, and books, but also such unofficial forms as fan fiction), students will have the opportunity to examine how the media product in a digital/industrial society, like the mythic folktale in other cultures, serves as a site where society collectively speaks to itself, confronting basic human issues in a familiar context. By investigating issues that our culture has returned to time and again, often presenting conflicting answers to the same troubling questions, students will be able to examine the socially constructed nature of our relationship to our culture and the social world, our own bodies and ways of thinking.

Oh, the shame. [No kidding, it’s taken them this long to have a Buffy course? For shame! –Susan]

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (1)
Filed under: Social Media Marketing
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One Reply to “Viral Marketing is Not Your Father’s Marketing Campaign”

Keri Morgret

Lisa, was the instructor for VM402 listed as a V. Fox by chance?


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