Zombie Marketing: How to use Combined Relevance to Go Viral

If you like my stuff (or zombies) please, nominate me for a Shorty Award, thanks.

I’ve given my science of social media marketing presentation a few times now, and one of the points that has stood out as an audience favorite has been a tactic I call combined relevance.

I did a survey a little over a year ago where I asked people why they shared content online, both one-to-one (as emailing or IM’ing a link to a single person) and broadcast (like Tweeting a link to thousands of followers). In both cases the faraway most common answer was relevance. Respondents often said things like “I saw something and it made me think of one of my friends,” or “It seemed right up my friends alley.” When talking about broadcast sharing, the answers were similar: “I knew my audience would find it interesting.”

And if you take a second to think about why you send links to people this seems pretty obvious, but how as a marketer can we capitalize on this?

The answer is Combined Relevance.

Way back in early ’07 when I was doing Digg marketing type stuff, I had a weird little idea in the shower one morning. What if I mashed up a USB device and an absinthe spoon?

Absinthe, of course is a supposedly hallucinogenic alcoholic drink from the turn of the century. Its pretty gross actually (being very potent and anise flavored), and in order to make it more palatable, you have to put sugar in it. Absinthe spoons are these fancy slotted spoons that are placed on top of a glass of the green liquor, you put a sugar cube on the spoon, drip water onto it and the absinthe gets sweeter.

So I whipped up a quick site, USBAbsintheSpoon.com (it was far more sparse back then) and added a photoshopped image of a USB connector attached to an absinthe spoon along with some cryptic text “They said we couldn’t do it, but we did… Tell us why you want one.” Very few details about what the thing even did.

In a couple of hours it was on the front page of Digg and mentioned by a ton of sites, including mega-gadget blogs Gizmodo and Engadget. In under 24 hours there were over 500 comments on the site declaring their love for my creation. I ended up fielding calls from small town TV news stations who wanted to run “weird gadget” segments on it (I politely declined). And months later it was still being mentioned in articles like the world’s dumbest USB gadgets.

Why did it “go viral?”

It combined two seemingly distinct interests, gadgets and Victorian era intoxicants. Picture a Venn diagram. On the face of them you wouldn’t think there was much overlap, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of geeks into absinthe. And everyone who saw it and knew one of those geeks sent it to them, because holy-crap-this-is-right-up-so-and-so’s-alley.

I’m really into zombies, big time zombie nerd. Movies, books and I even used to have a studio where I painted them. I’m also into marketing. So if anyone who knows this ever saw an article about marketing to zombies, you’d better believe I’d be sent the link a hundred times.

By combining two apparently unrelated niches you can create a piece of content likely to go viral with people who just happen to be into both things. Give it a shot and let me know how it works out.

Oh and by the way, you know what the best social media marketing lesson we can learn from zombies is? Friends and family are the most contagious.Digg