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I Heard it Through the Grapevine

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Despite popular belief, the Internet is not the father of "viral marketing."

In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Viral marketing, which is just a fancier name for word-of-mouth marketing, has been around for as long as people could communicate. The only contribution made by the Internet - as well as the printing press, the telephone, the ratio and the television - is that once the word is out, it can get around faster than ever before.

But getting the word out in the first place is something the majority of businesses - even many that claim to be viral marketing masters - simply don't know how to do. Others don't recognize its benefits, or feel that their product doesn't lend itself to a viral marketing campaign.

Whatever the case may be, one fact remains: Viral marketing campaigns have a greater return on investment than virtually any other promotion strategy - if you do it right.


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C. Whan Park is the Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. He is co-author of a recent book on brand admiration, which blends years of best-practice thinking from academia with the real-world practice of marketing. He is internationally recognized as one of the most frequently cited researchers in the area of consumer behavior.

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