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How to Go Viral and Get Famous


MarketingSherpa’s boasting a case study on how to get famous with viral marketing in one year (available free for a limited time). The subject of the case study isn’t the type of company I think of when I think “viral marketing success”—Arbor Networks is an enterprise security software company. But they made a goal for 2006 to be their “Big Year of Fame,” and created a comprehensive viral marketing strategy to accomplish their goal.

They set three ground rules for the campaign:

#1. Don’t blow your budget on a single campaign
#2. Don’t rely entirely on one single media
#3. Look different from the rest of the pack

To comply with Rule #1, Arbor diversified their campaign to attack in various forms, including podcasting, blogging, and an online game, while still maintaining the output of their popular white papers.

In accordance with Rule #2, Arbor also decided to promote their campaigns offline as well as offline, through media including:

  • Press releases and notes to individual reporters
  • Trade show booths, activities, and sponsorships
  • Postal direct mail (postcards) to key prospects
  • Online ads in trade publications
  • Print ads in trades
  • Glued-in offer cards on different pages in the same magazines
  • Email ads in trade ezines

Their multi-tiered offline attack helped to attract more visitors online.

Arbor performed a bit of corpus study for Rule #3. By collecting and displaying all the print ads for companies in their sector, they discovered that all of the ads looked the same—even down to the same color (blue, the color of “trust”) and lack of the human element. By analyzing the competition, Arbor was able to ensure that their ads stood out from the rest of the pack.

They premiered their online game and blog at trade shows. They took pictures with people there and posted them to Flickr. They featured “real people” in their print ads (made to look like ads for ABC’s Lost). They also launched a fictional, serialized podcast (a la FOX’s 24) about an organization under attack from computer security terrorists.

How’d they end up? With more than 40,000 blog readers and 24,000 downloads of the first episode of the podcast alone. The podcast did well enough that they’re adding a second “season.”

The moral of the story? Use Arbor Networks’ example and go viral to get famous. Oh, and it couldn’t hurt to rip off a popular TV series or two.