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Nvidia's Crop Circle: 3 Viral Marketing Tips

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on January 07, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Nvidia crop circle in California that baffled countless onlookers and garnered massive national attention proves that outlandish viral marketing stunts can pay off big time.

The tech company hired world-class crop artists "to explain that our new Tegra K1 processor, with 192 graphics cores, can do things no other technology -- on this planet, at least -- could."

If you're inspired to try to a sneaky publicity stunt of your own, keep these viral marketing tips in mind:

  1. Obtain the necessary permissions. Nvidia had to get permission from a farmer to make the elaborate crop circle on his private property. To carry out your viral marketing stunt, make sure you obtain all of the necessary permissions from people and places, such as releases from individuals or permits and licenses from a city.
  2. Get signed nondisclosure agreements. Secrecy is an essential component of viral marketing. Nvidia likely required the crop artists, property owner, and anyone else involved in the massive operation to sign a nondisclosure agreement. People in your viral marketing campaign should also be sworn to secrecy in a legally bound manner. If not, someone could spill the beans and you'd have no legal recourse for your stunt being a total bust.
  3. Provide disclosures when needed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established guidelines that prohibit "word-of-mouth" marketers from endorsing products or services for pay without disclosure. On a similar note, steer clear of "astroturfing," the practice of creating a false impression of independent support online. Never have employees post comments on third party blogs or message boards posing as satisfied customers. Doing so could lead to heavy fines for unfair trade practices and false advertising. To avoid any legal ambiguity in your viral Twitter campaigns or other viral social media tactics, include disclosures when possible.

Well played, Nvidia. Well played.

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