Viral marketing, tipping points, early adopters and other new ideas

Experts run around promoting the lastest and greatest ways for people to spread the word about their product or service. We all know that people talking about us and our products or services helps. The Internet has added a new twist to how to leverage all that.

Much has been written over the last few years of another new trend, which is to have “paid” endorsers ask for the product in a public setting. This has been used with alcoholic beverages in bars. Getting the “cool” people to order a specific brand to creates buzz, and, ultimately, sales.

Turns out this idea is not even close to new. In the new book, The King of Vodka, author Linda Himelstein tells the story of Pyotr Smirnov. In the later part of the 1800s, Smirnov used this exact same idea to help grow Smirnov into the leading vodka. Well, not exactly the same idea, but close.

Turns out Smirnov didn’t bother with cool people. He hired panhandlers and paid them to fan out and “demand Smirnov vodka” at Moscow bars. Sales boomed.

Within eight years Smirnov was selling over $7M (in today’s currency) in vodka. My mother once told me there is “nothing new under the sun.” And perhaps we all best remember that as we look hard for something new, a great old idea may be overlooked.


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