The original viral marketing

I’ve settled into a routine as of late on this blog: a book review every week or so, thoughts on unusual or incredibly significant gaming news, and the occasional thought piece. These are the most fun to write, and they usually start when I see an article on something that’s not directly related to gambling and think, hmmm, how could this affect the casino world?

On the spur of the moment, I’ve decided to tag these as “deep thought” pieces, not because I’m especially profound, but in homage to the great Douglas Adams. In other words, I ripped the category off from him–it’s the name of the second smartest computer in history. In all likelihood, they will be on the shallow side.

As I was driving to work today, I was thinking about viral marketing, which is being bandied about as a revolutionary new form of marketing. Basically, this is manufacturing word-of-mouth advertising for a new good or service. By tapping into existing social networks, viral marketers spread news of their product like, well, a virus.

So viral marketers work at creating the pretense for excitement about something that most people know nothing about. The best example I can think of right now is the hype surrounding Gabbo from The Simpson’s episode Krusty Gets Kanceled.

It seems to me that gambling types have been doing viral marketing for quite some time. The original viral marketer was the humble shill. What’s a shill? I’m glad you asked:

One who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.
v. shilled, shill·ing, shills
To act as a shill.
1. To act as a shill for (a deceitful enterprise).
2. To lure (a person) into a swindle.

definition of shill by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

Through a mean twist of history, just as viral marketing has become an accepted business strategy, casino shills are practically non-existent. Card rooms often have prop players, but they aren’t skills per se, because they are just there to fill the seat, rather than to induce players into betting unwisely.

Perhaps, under the rubric of viral marketing, some enterprising casino marketing exec will propose bringing back shills. Of course, they wouldn’t call them shills–they would call them “members of the street team” or something like that.

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