GUEST BLOG by Marian Salzman is CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America
“Viral marketing” sounds sinister, doesn’t it? Nobody wants to pass on a virus, whether biological or computer.
Marketing viruses are different, though; people are happy to pass them on—and marketers like nothing more than to see them erupt into full-scale pandemics.
Although closely related to the centuries-old practice of buzz marketing (same purpose, different pathways), viral is a relative newbie in the marketer’s arsenal. It didn’t exist until the Internet started gaining traction in the ’90s. Then it took off fast as marketers came to realize that just as computer viruses could spread in an instant around the world, so, too, could word of new products, services, or promotions. Hotmail was the first to make a big splash with it. Who could forget those Hotmail emails, all carrying the clickable footer “PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.” Hokey? Sure. Effective? Definitely. The rate of sign-ups followed the classic hockey stick curve into the millions.