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On fark.com they list a bunch of news stories. Like slashdot, the sites linked on Fark often go down because of so much traffic. On Fark they call this “getting Farked”.

Guinness had a promotion where you filled out a form on their web site and you got a free bar towel. It got linked on Fark. I’m guessing someone got fired over the fact that probably millions of bar towels were requested. It became a running joke on Fark that no one was ever going to see a free bar towel. I filled out the form, too. Long after I forgot all about it, my free towel arrived. I was impressed that they kept their word even though they probably lost a boat load of money on the promotion.

But my email address went into a database somewhere and lo and behold years later I get some direct email marketing about the Guinness web store. I happen to love Guinness. I immediately went to the store and spent about $70 on pint glasses, a shirt and a wallet. Yes, I will pay for the privilege of advertising Guinness.

My $70 purchase easily paid for the free bar towel. They should rehire that person that got fired. Their promotion worked and they are building on their relationships with their customers.

Lessons from this? One — the viral marketing via fark.com was extremely successful. Give things of value away for free and people will respond. If the promotion had been to be entered in a drawing for something, I would not have filled out the form. Give stuff away. Two — follow up with the people who respond and give them an opportunity to give you money. Many will. Even those that don’t are giving you an opportunity to market to them. They opted in. Capitalize on that.