In the early 1980s, the Fabergé cosmetics brand produced a now-celebrated television commercial for its “Organics” shampoo in which the spokesperson urged viewers, “If you tell two friends about Fabergé Organics Shampoo with wheat germ oil and honey, then they will tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on.”1 Although it is probably not the first example of viral marketing, this classic piece of paid media is certainly one of the best remembered. Fast-forward some 30 years later, and it is mentioned on more than two dozen websites and has several uploads on YouTube, making it a prime example of a well-amplified brand.
These days, of course, the process of crossing marketing channels can occur almost instantly. In fact, when discussing their strategies, marketers increasingly refer to paid, owned, and earned media in the same breath. Word-of-mouth back in the 1980s was literally that, requiring participants to actually talk to each other, but now, like just about everything else, it is far more complex. Brands are forced to evaluate the relationship between channels, platforms, media, and audiences with each new social campaign.
If the grid is the basis for building long-term relationships with consumers, tent poles are the repeatedly occurring inflection points that keep the relationships interesting. They are cultural landmark moments that drive consumers to discuss relevant and related issues online. They may be one-off instances or perennial ...