Dubious marketing term which has catalysed reams of high-minded rhetoric, such as the lengthy post from Salimfadhley above, with its evangelical tone, specious oriental term, and meaningless 'example'. In theory, viral marketing is any form of marketing which spreads itself - forced word-of-mouth, in other words.

In practice, it's the art of filling usenet, Amazon.com's user reviews, online forums and - yes - Everything2 with short adverts for things that 99 per cent of the audience, no matter how well targetted, neither want nor need. Viral marketers argue that the remaining 1 per cent will fall for it; but who wants to appeal to just 1 per cent?

In the short-term it is appealing to the in-house publicity departments of companies because it is cheap; in the long-term it will have the effect of making people distrust and abandon these channels because, when it comes down to it, people don't want advertising, they want independent opinion.