An evil viral marketing campaign

Staring at the computer screen for too long?

“You will go blind!”

“You back will ache!”

“You can get carpel tunnel syndrome!” (whatever that is)

And you have a gajillion dollar industry of :ergonomic” office chairs, keyboards, accessories, pillows, screens, academics…

Fear is a great motivator to buy something. Call it the health industry if you want, I have no preference. But I do have 1 question for you.

Will more & more people be required to use computers in the near future? For longer hours… for work, study, and looking like you’re working or studying?

Yes! Trust me, I predict the future accurately half the time.

And based on this obvious, exploding trend in more people having to spend more time on the computer… let’s pretend for a second, I am an unethical marketer, who is so EVIL and smelly.

This might be a difficult exercise, but just pretend, ok… And I will share with you how easily, viral marketing concepts can be applied to very quickly, rip-off a whole generation of computer users.

STEP 1 – Planning the viral message

I want a message that will spread itself. And the message has to induce purchase. I choose… “Long hours on a computer cause you to develop deformities”

And for this message to spread, the packaging must be

1. an image of something disastrous, undesirable, and horrific

2. easy enough for anyone to imagine it happening to anyone at all, especially themselves

3. in a form which is easy to re-tell (even exaggerate) and spread

4. induce a specific call-to-action – to tell others!

Read more on “What makes an Idea Viral” by Seth Godin

STEP 2 – Backing up the viral message

I will need Scientific research to correlate various types of bodily deformities to staring at computer screens. How? I look for wannabe scientists and universities, and offer profit sharing from sales of my line of posture-care products.

STEP 3 – Spreading the message

My chosen packaging comes in the form of the story of one woman… Let’s call her Julia.

To begin the spreading, I will send the following email to a few friends who recently forwarded me some expired petition, lame parable, or unfunny joke…

Are you on a computer reading this? Do you know if your body posture is correct? Be careful…

Julia Lee works in the Silicon Valley, doing web-development. One day, she looks in the mirror… to find that

  • her right shoulder is higher than her left shoulder
  • her right wrist is bent to the right
  • her neck muscles are over pronounced
  • she has a permanent squint/frown
  • her spine is crooked
  • her thighs are huge and flabby
  • her left boob is noticeably saggier

See the attached BEFORE and AFTER photos of Julia.

This can happen to anyone!

Scientific research done by XXX discovered that Julia, and XXX people suffer from similar symptoms because of  long hours on the computer.

Some people are more prone to develop symptoms than other people. The only way to prevent this is either stop using computers, or start using posture guards, such as Postur-Armor, or VivaGuard.

But beware! Separate research has identified specific products which claim to be useful in prevention, to be even more harmful! Click here to learn more.

Forward this email to your friends who spend time on the computer if you don’t want them to end up like this!

* Additional pictures of normal office people in lazy, or over concentrating positions (but very normal positions people get into)… “IS THIS YOU? Do you sit like this? It could happen to you!”


Note: I used 2 brand names in the email. This is because I don’t want to seem like I’m promoting one brand. But of course, I own both brands.

And the email leads them to learn that my brands are the only brands that work, and every other brand will mess you up.

Note also: I mentioned Julia works in Silicon Valley as a web developer. This is intentional, as geeks are good information disseminators, and very likely to relate to the message.

I can also email a version that appeals to parents, too. Using words like “Young people” and “In this day and age”. Parents are great customers when it comes to stuff for their beloved children.

There is a lot of ways to play this, when you nail the right message.

STEP 3 – The business model

How does the email convert to purchases?

When you have people worried, and looking for your products, this isn’t too difficult. Here is one (very simplified) approach…

People search for Julia’s story, the research, or the products. I must lead them to my website. SEO, Google Adwords, and YouTube videos of “The Research” will be my weapons of choice.

When they arrive at my website, the order-taking will be straightforward. A professional looking website targeted to CORPORATE CUSTOMERS who will buy in bulk. You can request for a sales call or brochures etc for your office. Household customers can buy them off resellers.

Supply-side, I’ll repackage someone else’s products with my new brand (and give them a generous cut of the pie).

When I feel like it, I sell the business to OSIM or OGAWA who are spending millions on old-school advertisements and roadshows (but are ethical enough not to send fabricated stories over email).

STEP 4 – Do the villain laugh

Muahahaahr. Seriously now.

Nobody should ever fabricate stuff to make people part with money.

Yet politicians, villains and marketers throughout history have used people’s fears and hopes and emotional hot buttons, spreading messages to play up panic and such… to make them cast votes, buy junk, and install child safety car seats.

But it’s not all that bad.

Like any powerful tool, it can be used for good, too. If you were in charge of spreading some good values, you may use the very same consistencies found in viral messages (how they are packaged to replicate themselves and initiate some action). Heck, you can even coin it “religion”

And you can read about that plan, here =P

9 comments on “An evil viral marketing campaign

  1. Praveen Rajan February 4, 2007 7:43 am

    Comprehensive piece – bravo! Good reminder on how fear plays a crucial part in marketing.

  2. khailee February 7, 2007 5:45 pm

    im honored to receive this complement from you! good work with lifelogger. seems like the only other so called web2.0 outfit around these ere parts..

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  4. Venus July 27, 2009 7:40 am

    Good thing found at your blog about email marketing! Welldone! You have placed a good information on your blog. But, I want to talk something more about email marketing. Actually, it is not too easy as it seems. Most of the people are under misconception that collecting email IDs and using a bulk email sender can make you successful. But it is not. What do you think? Actually, most of the businesses these days are not selling one product. They are selling different products for diff. niches and for the different markets. So, in this case they should have the different lists of bulk email IDs. Email Marketing is being difficult in these days. But still experiments are being done by a lot of people and companies. I usually keep on trying the products of the different companies. Now a days, some wonderful products are coming in the market that can give you great earning opportunities. I do not want my comment considered as spam here so will not discuss about my blog, but if you visit my blog then you will find, how I am using different products for my email marketing these days and making a lot Really! When I found your blog about email marketing, It was great one and I could not stop myself writing comment? But, last thing, I want to ask, Do you offer newsletter to your visitors or not? Do you know any kind of program to make effective newsletter? Waiting for reply – Thanks – Regards

  5. Strang November 7, 2009 1:33 am

    hey, I didn’t know where to contact you but your web design layout was off on firefox and internet explorer. Anyways, i just suscribd to your rss.

  6. magic article rewriter coupon March 13, 2010 4:56 pm

    Article marketing is one of the best methods to bring visitors to your website. It is a simple and serious way to market your business and/or services.

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