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Unleasing the Idea virus

Unleasing the Idea virus

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Published by Johny D. Nguyen
“So, how do we get attention to ask for permission in the first place?”
This manifesto is the answer to that question.
“So, how do we get attention to ask for permission in the first place?”
This manifesto is the answer to that question.

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Published by: Johny D. Nguyen on May 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Scientists wasted hundreds of years looking for the medium by which light traveled. They

knew it was making it through the vacuum of space, through water and through air, but

without a medium, they couldn’t figure out how it worked.

The medium is probably the most overlooked part of ideavirus planning and construction.

It’s so obvious, we often don’t see it.

In Japan, teenage schoolgirls started and built a craze to billion-dollar proportions. They

continue to line up to use a special kind of photo booth. Here’s how it works: You enter the

photo booth (similar to the old Polaroid ones of our youth), insert a some coins and it takes

your picture.

But, instead of giving you four shots on a strip, it prints out 16 little tiny one-square-inch

images on stickers.

Now, what are you going to do with 16 pictures of yourself on stickers? Obvious—share

them with your friends! As a result, every popular Japanese schoolgirl has an autograph book

loaded with dozens or hundreds of these stickers. Sort of like your high school yearbook

signing ceremony, but on steroids.

A friend of mine, Sam Attenberg, developed and patented this technology in the States. And

while it never became a full-fledged virus in the U.S., it did develop pockets of intense

activity in certain hives. Some machines were turning $70 an hour in sticker business, every

hour on the hour for weeks at a time. In Japan, two companies dominate a multi-billion-

dollar industry in Sticker Stations.

So what’s the medium? It’s the person-to-person exchange of stickers. The medium is the key

to the entire virus. Once the first person got the sheet of stickers, the only way she could use

them was by sharing them with 15 friends. But in sharing them, in using the medium

provided, she had to explain where she got them. Boom. Virus spreads.

Unleashing the Ideavirus



PayPal.com is another example of an extremely virulent idea that spread because the medium

was so powerful. PayPal.com is an online service that allows customers of eBay—and other

auction site—customers to transfer money online safely and securely. Now, when you pay

for something you buy on eBay, you can just PayPal.com your money to the person.

Here, the medium is the money. People care a lot about money, and since, in this case, it

solves a time-consuming problem (sending checks and waiting for them to clear), it’s

particularly welcome. And, just as we saw in the Sticker Station example, the act of using the

medium causes us to teach others about the idea.

In both cases, a focus on the medium led to the ultimate success of the virus.

Unleashing the Ideavirus



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