Viral Marketing — Before My Space and You Tube

Posted by John Park on Sep 2nd, 2008
Sep 2

word of mouth marketing


A few days ago, I was in a car with my Art Director, Albert.  As we always do, we had just stopped by a Starbucks after lunch to get our afternoon dose of caffeine.  As we were driving away, he started to tell me a story.  The story was about an experience he and his wife had at a Starbucks drive-thru.  He first tried to order an ice coffee.  They were out.  He then ordered a large coffee.  His wife ordered the same.  Unfortunately, they were in the process of brewing a fresh pot and he was told to pull forward and park while they get the coffee ready.
A few minutes later, one of the employees came out to the car with two freshly brewed large coffees.  As Albert reached for his wallet, the Starbucks employee in green said “It’s on the house.  Thanks for waiting.”  Obviously, this event had a very positive impact on Albert and his wife because here he was telling me all about it.  I asked him how many times he had told that story so far.  He had told the story twice before and he was pretty sure that his wife would have told the story a few times by now.  He didn’t even know it but he had now become an ambassador of Starbucks.  He was in essence an unpaid consumer salesperson because of a $4 customer service gesture.
Whether it was calculated or not, Starbucks deserves credit for having an employee make such a call and for having a corporate environment where an employee is allowed to make such a call.
Before there was My Space or You Tube, viral marketing used to be called something else—word of mouth.  As we all do our best to keep up with the “Techies”, don’t forget about the power of this important phrase.  Through your own personal actions and by encouraging a workplace culture that values customer service and superior quality, you will inevitably create ambassadors for your business as well.  There are no greater sales persons than unaffiliated third parties proudly spreading the word about your business.


How many unpaid business ambassadors do you have working for you?


One Response

  1. Katherine Says:

    Great story, John! I realized when I read it that over the weekend I told someone to go to Lens Crafters to fix an eyeglass problem — and the reason was that they make small repairs for free and then you keep talking about them — and maybe even buy a pair of frames (like a did)…and at this particular gathering YET ANOTHER person had the same report about Lens Crafters. Great word of mouth viral marketing, eh?

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