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Saw The Viral, Bought The T-shirt

There is a class of viral campaign that uses personalized badges or buttons on people’s sites to drive traffic (do we have names for different classes of virals yet?). One such campaign is “The Cyborg Name Generator”: created by the endlessly fascinating “Lore Sjöberg”:
The name generator site is incredibly simple. You enter a name, pick a cyborg body, and the site spits back a funny “Cyborg Name” for you.
Of course the first thing a new class of blog-happy youth want to do is share their cyborg name with friends, so Lore provides them with the code to add the image and a link back to the generator so they can add it to their blog/site.
This in itself is a great example of getting something to go viral by *making it about the individual* spreading the message and personally I think these will be the most effective campaigns in the long-term. (See Wedding Crashers’ “Trailer Crashers”: for another popular example).
But that’s not my main reason for pointing out Lore’s site.
There are two interesting things we can learn from Cyborg Name Generator…

First, details matter. Lore made this a while ago and it was only after making a few technical tweaks that it really took off. As he “says on his blog”: :
bq. I recently made some changes to Cyborg Name. I thought they were minor changes. As it turns out, directly after the changes, Cyborg Name completely took off among the Livejournal scenesters. At this moment, it looks like about one out of every twelve new images posted to Livejournal is a Cyborg Name image.
So don’t give up on things too soon. Keep tweaking and testing to see what the optimal approach is. And get the techies involved early to avoid putting up technical roadblocks that might hamper the spread of your message.
Secondly, businesses don’t have to be big. When thinking about setting up a business online – particularly e-commerce – most people default to “I’ll be Amazon for curried noodles” or something like that. They imagine a virtualized version of a traditional store with lots of selection, interesting information, check-outs and the like.
Lore tells us:
bq. Meanwhile, of course, my bandwidth has gone through the freaking roof. The site is now more popular than Brunching was at its height. However, people seem to be ordering shirts at a fairly steady clip, especially now that we’re taking pre-orders for black T-shirts, so — crossing fingers, knocking wood, and hugging a leprechaun — it looks like we’ll be able to afford the eventual bill.
What “companies” like Cyborg Name and the brilliant “Woot”: show is that you can do the exact opposite. You can create demand for something that no one thought they’d ever want and then fill that desire almost immediately. This is exactly the kind of stuff that “Seth Godin”: is on about these days. One item *sold at the point of desire* can be a business all by itself.
So what do you do after getting your own Cyborg name? Why see what the kids names would be to spring something new on them for a change. And now I can send them the viral _and_ the T-shirt of the viral!


  1. Daniel Brennan
    Daniel Brennan September 9, 2005

    Making the Viral campaign truly personal seems to be the key to success (excluding the truly humorous “Numa Numa” dance type rarities).
    The Wedding Crashers trailer is certainly a great example. Applebee’s New York Dunk Tank ( is another one. Not so much fun on its own but when you put your own face on it (or your Mother In-Law) the whole experience changes.

  2. Buzzoodle Ron
    Buzzoodle Ron September 12, 2005

    Sometimes it is not about the tweek that needs to be made. Sometimes your audience will find a new use or way around your offering to do something new, fun, novel…
    LinkedIn is struggling with people wanting to connect with others they do not know. Even though the software was designed with your close network in mind.

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