As someone whose job sometimes calls for implementations of “viral marketing” online, I’m very interested in the power of consumers to evangelize a company, product or service. I don’t use this blog to that end, but I thought I’d mention a great article in New Scientist that I found via Scoble. The article briefly describes how word of mouth can influence the sales of books, but the learning could be applied to other categories as well. At the same time, Doc Searles points out an interesting discussion going on over at Church of the Customer: Exposing stealth Marketing.
Now I’m very afraid of Stealth Marketing, because I think at some level folks should know what company is behind the message, otherwise they might start using their power AGAINST your brand. My mother-in-law will be happy to know that I wouldn’t sell my soul to any company using stealth practices ;-) . I much prefer the practices of viral marketing and buzz marketing. Create something memorable and easy to pass along, also easily tied to your brand, and let consumers do your work for you. That’s why companies do online advergaming and why Jib Jab spawned so many imitations. If your brand can be seen as innovative, fun, funny and easily accessible – especially if folks can share that feeling – you’ll be a winner.
At least that’s the hope. We’ll see how folks come to view this kind of marketing, especially in light of the whole Armstrong Williams debacle and the raging debate about blogger ethics.