Unleashing the Ideavirus

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Unleashing the Ideavirus is claimed to be the most downloaded eBook of all time.[1][2][3] The book was written by marketing author Seth Godin and released for free on the internet in 2000. It has since been translated into 10 languages and published in both hardcover and paperback form.


Unleashing the Ideavirus was Seth Godin’s 3rd book (after eMarketing and Permission Marketing) and follows on from Permission Marketing. In Permission Marketing Godin explained how to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers. The book was based on marketing to people who had shown an interest in your product/service.

The problem is the book did not detail how to attract the attention in the first place. In response to this popular question, Seth wrote his Ideavirus manifesto.

In July, 2000, Fast Company published the Ideavirus manifesto by Seth Godin in two parts. The eBook was released for free with the permission to post, e-mail, print and pass it along at will.

The book was released in the same year as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (Malcolm wrote the foreword for Unleasing the Ideavirus). Both books use similar terminology. Malcolm Gladwell uses epidemics instead of Ideavirus, and connectors, mavens and salesman as opposed to sneezers.


Interrupting people is an inefficient approach to marketing, and one doomed to failure. Instead marketers should strive to spread ideas. An Ideavirus is an idea that moves and grows and infects everyone it touches. An Ideavirus is based on customers marketing to each other.

The book refers to hives and sneezers. Hives are the groups of people to whom the idea has some specific relevance, sneezers are the people likely to spread your idea. A successful Ideavirus requires the sneezers and weezers infecting the hive.


Why ideas matter[edit]

Interruption marketing is inefficient, and it's easier than ever to ignore marketing through technology such as TiVo and the internet. Viral marketing is an Ideavirus with a product/service at its centre.

A successful Ideavirus is cheaper and more effective than advertising will ever be. It provokes people to take respond, perhaps in kind.

The increased advent of technology has connected people more than they have ever been. Today an Ideavirus can spread faster than ever.

How To Unleash An Ideavirus[edit]

Unleasing an Ideavirus is not an exact science. However, there are many ways to increase your chances of an Ideavirus spreading. Most importantly, the idea has to be worth spreading. There needs to be something unique and worthwhile which will make sneezers infect others.

There are two types of sneezers: the promiscuous sneezers and the powerful sneezers. The promiscuous can be motivated by money and rewards to sell ideas to a hive. The powerful sneezers are typically those who have established authority by setting a trend and cannot be bought. A powerful sneezer can be worth many more times a promiscuous sneezer.

Two effective ways of spreading an Ideavirus are thus to reward promiscuous sneezers e.g. The Amazon affiliate program. Or make it easy for powerful sneezers to recommend your idea e.g. Digg/Del.icio.us tags.

Another tactic is to go entirely viral in nature. The more a product is used the better it becomes and spreads. Fax machines, e-mail and Polaroid did this.

The IdeaVirus Formula[edit]

An Ideavirus formula comprises a combination of eight variables. There are Sneezers, Hive, Velocity, Vector, Medium, Smoothness, Persistence and Amplifier.

Impact and Influence[edit]

Seth Godin’s book in itself was an Ideavirus, released for free on pdf small enough for people to e-mail each other. Coupled with Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, Don Peppers’ One to One Communications and Doc Searls' Cluetrain Manifesto, this book formed a core change in the way organisations undertake marketing. Seth Godin has since claimed to have benefited greatly from the spread of this book through increased speaking engagements and a mass following.

The book remains available for free at http://www.sethgodin.com/ideavirus/downloads/IdeavirusReadandShare.pdf

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Self-evangelism: How the top self-branders sell themselves". Valleywag.com. 2013-11-19. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  2. ^ "Seth Godin, Marketing Visionary, Online Marketing Company, Permission Marketing". Marketingcrossing.com. Retrieved 2013-11-24. 
  3. ^ "Top 50 Marketing Blogs To Watch In 2008". Evancarmichael.com. Retrieved 2013-11-24.