A pair of stories came out in InformationWeek yesterday about how companies use "viral" or "buzz" marketing to spread excitement about, and use, of their wares. One of the things that the story mentioned was the d.school class that Diego and I taught on Creating Infectious Action, which focused on getting students out into the world to do things like Firefox adoptions, promote hip-hop artists, and saving by young people. The main story talks about the different ways that companies implement this kind of marketing (and I am quoted as saying that, they often have a lot less control over it than they admit, which I believe). I was especially delighted to see the sidebar "The Sacred and Profane" about the impressive accomplishments our wonderful students had in spreading Firefox, producing over 10 websites in two weeks, some of which were extremely successful and others that were extremely clever.
To extend my brief quote in the main story, the thing that bothers me about the way that venture capitalists and others talk about viral marketing and other management techniques is that they focus so much on the rare successes, but rarely talk about about all the companies that have done the "right" things, and failed. On the other hand, I don't really blame Steve Jurvetson (who is one the smartest, and probably the nicest venture capitalists I know) for wanting to talk about hits Skype and Hotmail so much, and the failures he has been involved in so little. If you care about internal rate of return (rather than failure rate) he is doing mighty well!
PS:Check-out metacool if you want to see the talk that Diego and I gave about our class and the panel that followed. It is a grainy video, but I thought interesting.