The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Is it viral? Enter the false learning curve.

I’m about halfway through reading MarketingSherpa’s Viral Marketing Hall of Fame 2006: Top 12 Campaigns You Should Swipe Ideas From. I’m a bit behind the times. This information is from April, 2006. Other than being reflexively offended by a terminal preposition, the question nagging in the back of my mind:”Are these examples of viral marketing?”

When I encountered the statement, “I learned that viral interest is fleeting,” in case study number three, New Rules of PR, I decided that the answer was probably “no.” Word-of-mouth marketing fizzles out, but viral marketing takes on a life of its own. There may be some use for referring to successful and non-successful viral marketing campaigns, but it may be more useful to talk about viral and non-viral campaigns in the same context.

In other words, the answers you get may depend upon the questions you ask. Asking why did this viral campaign not work may be less useful than is asking “Is this viral?” The difference is that the latter forces examination of basic premises, and reduces the temptation to tinker with irrelevant details.

All this looks like an example of what Peter R. Scholtes called the “false learning curve” in his book, The Leader’s Handbook: Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done.

The gist of the false learning curve is that the terminology of a new way of thinking is adopted long before the new ideas sink in, are assimilated, and change behavior. New sexy words get tacked onto old actions.

If in doubt, it is time to re-read Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin.


Written by Tom Fox

09/13/2007 at 5:37 am

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