Aug 27, 2009

Fwd: Huge Virus Warning! -- true (You have to read this post)


Hi All,

I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing up for this virus!

I checked, and it is for real. Get this E-mail message sent around to your contacts ASAP.

You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled 'POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK,'regardless of who sent it to you. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.

... If you receive a mail called' POSTCARD,' even though sent to you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN.

It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept..



Yes, it is true. This was the exact email that hit my Inbox on August 24, 2009. I was sitting innocuously on my laptop when this 'Huge virus warning!' barged in. Sent to the entire office by a colleague who would got it from her friend.

My initial reaction was to smile and ignore. But if you have read 'Made to Stick' and you are a marketer by profession and love making presentations, you probably should take a closer look and learn something from his 'hoax' email. You would be dumb to ignore it.

Try sending an email to your friends/colleagues asking them to use the brand of soap your company sells or the latest upgrade your software firm is selling. How many of your colleagues would care? More so, how many would take the pain of forwarding it to 'everyone' in their office and within days it would reach to thousands and thousands?

An urban legend, like this Postcard from Hallmark, achieves this miracle no marketer can ever pull off. Remember the mail which said, 'Coming August, Mars will look bigger than Moon. This will again happen some 1000 years later..."

Any student of class X will tell you that Mars can never appear as big as Moon because for that to happen it will have to stop revolving in its orbit and come crashing down to Earth. Common sense. Yet, the moment you get such a mail, you send it to everyone you know. Amazing.

So what makes this 'Postcard from Hallmark' such a hit?

First, it is unbelievable stuff.
A huge virus comes and burns your hard disc. There is no cure. Just because it has reached your inbox, means you need to shut down your computer. It is the unexpectedness that catches our attention.

Second, it is credible. Atleast, the email invokes a lot of authorities in the field of anti-virus like Norton, McAfee, Snopes and even CNN to make you believe the lie. If you don't believe it why would you spread it to all your friends.

Third, it has some catchy stuff which appeals to the reader. He remembers it. It is not just another computer virus. We all know what a computer virus is and normally does. It is a virus which 'simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc'. It is a super virus. Remember, Microsoft just called it the 'most destructive virus ever.'

Fourth, there is a call for action.
The reader is told multiple times to 'forward it to all friends and colleagues'. If you remove this call for action (what the reader should do after reading), especially the one at the last, the message will lose 75% of its effectiveness. It won't spread as much.

Lesson for all marketers (remember, all presenters are marketers):
To get your audience interested, to make them attentive and to ensure they spread your ideas, give them something worth talking about. Give them a huge virus which fascinates them. Let their imagination run wild. Embed the above four elements which make this hoax a hit. If people can believe a hoax and spread it, they can definitely be made to believe and spread your truth.

If you happen to be making a presentation where the desired outcome is that your word should spread. Ask yourself, what have you put in the presentation that is 'spread-worthy'? Don't look for the answer in your software. Look for the answer in the content. Also remember to add a call to action at the end.

If you enjoyed reading this post then email it to one friend of yours. The one who will enjoy the most after reading this post.


  1. very interesting comparison.. nice thought!

  2. It is indeed interesting to see how much there is to learn from these things. A hoax email contains so many lessons for us as communicators/marketers.

    Be it a hoax email or any other message, humans behave in the same way. Hence as marketers, we need to study human behaviour.

  3. You mirror my thoughts here poza! Have always wondered at the effect of catchy key words like this (with simple formatting like bold, quotes, caps and may be a small color change). Off late I have been using these techniques big time in my presentations to good effect. One it helps people to focus on the most key aspects, two it gives the presenter a good sense of the trail of points in the slide. Keep up the good work!

    Cheers, SN

  4. Thanks SN. Why don't you share some of your slides with me? You can delete the confidential stuff. I would like to share it with all our readers.

    Real life examples are always the best way to understand and learn.