I for one do not beleive that "loosing" your state of the art, yet to be released equipment (eg 4th generation iPhone) is the most efficient method of advertising. However, there is no doubt that this is one of the many ways that technology companies engage "viral" marketing techniques. But what is viral marketing? And how can you make it work for you?
Viral marketing uses technology to increase the dissemination of information about a product, group or idea. Primarily this increases brand awareness, and thus sales, but it has also been used successfully as part of social, political and environmental campaigning.
The first, and most important problem is that viral marketing is, well, viral. Once it is out there you, as the producer, have no control over it's distribution or subsequent use. This is fine for a product which every one thinks is going to be, on the whole, wonderful. However what happens when the product is not liked, has flaws or is otherwise ridiculed? Well Bill Gates could certainly sympathise with this after the blue screen of death incident at the Windows 98 press conference. Before you can engage in viral marketing, and appreciate its beauty, you have to be prepared. Your beautifully planned and executed video will be distorted, mashedup and re-spun like the brokeback mountain spoofs or the countless Lego stop animation videos (the best in my opinion is the drinking song). Search for "viral marketing gone wrong/bad/funntly/etc" and you willbe able to waste oodles of time.
So my first tip for those poised to embrace viral marketing is to make sure that you, and you're product, are likely to be well received. Otherwise good publicity will rapidly turn into unwanted publicity. On the other hand if you simply embrace it with a wry sense of humour, you are likely to come out shining.
As a consumer, rather than a producer, of viral marketing, my main complaint is that it is anoying. Yes the sneezing panda is cute, but it stops beig cute when my inbox is so jammed with emails about it that I can't get any actual work done. So viral marketing will only work if you are happy to annoy your consumer.
Viral marketing is really just part of the more extensive gorilla marketing craze. Gorrilla marketing covers techniqes on the edge of acceptability, both ethically and legally. For example, think of the fathers for justice campainers who absail off buildings and the endless posters for local bands plastered on the walls around any city. The more imaginative you are, the more you are likely to be noticed in the sea of information overload.
And that is what viral marketing is about, it is about being noticed. It harness lines of communication between inivisuals such as social networking, blogs, txts, email and (occasionally) irl conversations. And what is the secret of becoming the "thing" that everyone is talking about? No matter what you do, you need to make them smile.
And it's not enough just to make someone smile just once. You need to be persistent with your marketing. You can't just write one blog article and then expect that everyone will flock to your site (believe me, I know) And the more you try to create a viral marketing event, the more you are likely to fail. You can give viral marketing a shove in the right direcion, but, like all the best things in life, it can't be forced.
Advertising techniques have advanced with exponentially this century, so rapidly that the consumer is struggling to keep up. There is so much information which flies at you from different directions. And you never quite know what you should pay attention to, and what you should ignore.
So loosing the iPhone 4th generation once may have been part of a carefully planned marketing strategy. But loosing a second one? Well that's just carelessness.