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December 2006

Can Viral Marketing Succeed Without Luck?

This is an interesting and timely question that came out of a discussion between Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson on the For Immediate Release, Podcast #197. Neville brought up the viral storm  created recently when Threshers (a UK wine store) offered a 40% discount voucher for Stormhoek wine. Neville also wrote about it on his blog. The storm started with an online offer and quickly spread by social media discussion in blogs and forums to mass media coverage on the BBC. Hitwise's post titled Threshers Voucher Creates Storm Online summarizes the event quite well.

Anyway, what got me thinking was this quote from Hugh Macleod’s interview with Roger Whiteside, CEO of The Thresher Group. Whiteside said

"I have been in internet marketing for years and viral campaigns happen by luck, not by design."

I think the context of what he meant to say was that successful viral campaigns happen by luck. Shel Holtz weighed in and said he believes that luck has something to do with it but that doesn’t mean you can’t stack the cards in your favor when launching a viral / word of mouth marketing or communication effort. Shel references a few books by Seth Godin’s and Andy Sernovitz/Guy Kawaski that talk about the best tactics for leveraging word of mouth with viral marketing.

Now this brings me back to the question asked in the title of this post. Can a viral marketing word of mouth campaign be a success without a little luck? I think luck has a lot to do with whether a viral marketing effort ever becomes a success. Here’s a new viral marketing campaign from Microsoft’s Windows Live Search. Ms. Dewey is a beautifully audacious vixen who is a cross between Trya Banks, Ask Jeeves and the Subservient Chicken. There’s no denying she’s hot, edgy, controversial, sexy, and witty -- in a condescending, I would never date you if you were the last man on earth you sort of way.


The primary target market for this strategy seems to be male tech enthusiasts from around the world. She already has legs in the mainstream US business media.  On my way home from work tonight I heard nice peice about Ms. Dewey on Marketplace, NPR's nighly business wrap-up.

One thought, does this viral strategy fill a void? Seriously, aren’t there plenty of places to go on the web if you want to interact with a virtual woman?

We’ll see if Ms. Dewey turns into the next big viral thing. I think it will take some luck.
I’d like to see another Hitwise report to that stacks this Ms. Dewey Vs. Threshers / Stormhoek discount voucher.

Filed under: Viral Marketing

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on December 14, 2006 12:56 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)