Welcome to the Future of Marketing

Viral marketing is something I’ve heard of before, usually in the context of neat little sponsored online games, or more recently in the form of things like I Love Bees, an alternate-reality game made as a promotion to the forthcoming Xbox game, Halo2 (which I know jbc will be waiting in line for). The idea is to make something that people naturally forward around to each other, usually with email subject lines like “this is 2 kewl!!!”.

But this little gem really brought it home for me. The inimitable somethingawful.com, unending source of subversive online humor, recently posted hank-makes-it-flat.com as their “awful link of the day”, an honor reserved for the worst of teen fan pages, goth poetry blogs, and shameless fetishist webrings. And it falls right into that mold: a guy obsessed with flattening shit. But check the registration information for the domain name and you’ll find it belongs to Digital Oxygen Inc. which specializes in various forms of online marketing including creation and seeding of viral marketing campaigns. This probably explains why Hank makes it a point to mention in a few places on his page how cool (and flat!) his new Motorola RAZR cellphone is.

Score one for Motorola — somethingawful just got played. To quote now-dead web comic Leisuretown:

“All that cutesy-clever uNdERgrOuNd-type bullshit you’re into? Fun stuff that nobody knows about? Stuff that’s ‘sacred’ to you? We stuck it there.”

(Apparently this kind of thing is actually called stealth marketing, which is kinda more disturbing even.)

6 Responses to “Welcome to the Future of Marketing”

  1. hossman Says:

    Technically, i think the term “stealth marketing” is more applicable to sites like this. To me, “viral marketing” is more about things like online news sites with “email this story to a friend” links. Viral marketing isn’t about tricking people, it’s about leveraging each of your existing users, to turn two or more of their friends into new users.

  2. ymatt Says:

    Hm, could be, although that particular site seems like the kind of thing people forward around, pointing out how crazy it is. It’s a stealth virus or something.

  3. Stephane Says:

    This is Stealth marketing, not viral marketing.

  4. carla Says:

    In any case, check out (if you haven’t already) William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. I loved it (much more than the first book, about which I ended up thinking “Eh,” even though lots of people liked it), and its commentary on these subjects is quite entertaining.

  5. ymatt Says:

    Heh, I think you’re the third person I’ve heard recommend that book in the last couple days. I’m actually reading Diamond Age at the moment… I’ll have to check PR out.

  6. carla Says:

    Yeah, I got to PR by way of Stephenson, too. I’m waiting for The Confusion to be in paperback (I take public transport, and, after my experience lugging Quicksilver around, I’m buying the paperback, oh yes i am, even though we have hardcover Confusion at home). I liked Diamond Age way more than I expected to–it helped that I’ve read a lot of Anthony Trollope, so the conventions of the Victorians in DA were seen through that lens, too. Let me/us know what you think when you finish it.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.