Viral Email Marketing Example from Grandma

By | August 22, 2013

You know those emails that get forwarded to you?

Cute pictures. Funny YouTube videos. Political tirades. Stuff that was disproven by Snopes years ago, but still gets passed around.

Most of those emails are non-commercial, and don’t lead to any sort of monetization. But what if you could harness the power of viral email for your own benefit?

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think, and I’ve seen it done many times.

A few days ago, I received an email forwarded from my wife’s grandmother, who typically forwards a few emails every week.

What was unique about this particular email is that it was actually an advertisement, yet she was compelled to forward it to her friends and family. Here’s a copy of it…

Email forwarded

I’d like to break down some of the key ingredients that caused this email advertisement to go viral.

First, you’ll notice that the subject line is somewhat provocative. This is a critical component of a viral email. In this case, the subject line was…

Bet you don’t know this about Obama

To make this a somewhat unusual example, this one was actually a paid advertisement, with a large disclaimer at the top of the email. However, I think the disclaimer was offset by the fact that the email was sent by a trusted source; in this case the Washington Guardian, which is owned by the Washington Times.

The email followed the classic AIDA copywriting formula…


At the end of the message was one small link, which made it seem very non-spammy.

Now here’s the part that may surprise you…

The link goes to a SALES VIDEO!

sales video example

If you’ve been around the Internet marketing world, you’ll recognize this as a very typical “PowerPoint style” sales video, with words on plain white slides, and a voiceover. However, there are some things about the sales page that I think helped allow the initial email to go viral.

The attention getting headline connects perfectly with the source email, so it does not feel like a bait and switch.

The page is very plain, and does not LOOK hypey. I think that’s a big key, because again it doesn’t look like a typical mainstream marketing piece. It looks more like an informational presentation.

If you click to leave the sales video, you’re taken to an “Exit splash” page, in typical Internet marketing fashion…

exit page example

Lo and behold, the exit page is a written sales letter, with the same content as the sales video. Again, the page is very plain, and does not look hypey. There is one simple subscribe button at the bottom. Had there been a bunch of “buy” links on the sales video or the exit page, I think it would have raised red flags for most viewers and prevented it from going viral.

Lastly, I noticed that the advertiser is also implementing a remarketing campaign through banner ads. Since I had visited the sales page, but didn’t buy, banner ads for the very same offer and similar offers from the same advertiser began to follow me around the web…

exit page example

I don’t know what the conversion rate and results are for this advertising campaign, but I’d rate it an excellent case study, and a marketing style worth emulating in a variety of different niches.

(Note: I also make no claims regarding the advertiser or the product from the case study. I did a little research and saw that they’ve been involved in plenty of controversy… legal and otherwise. I certainly don’t recommend doing anything illegal or unethical. But the principle stands… this is how to get people’s attention. In this advertiser’s case, they’ve even had “news” articles published by respected media outlets about their video.)

As always, you are welcome to post your questions and comments below 🙂

Have a great day!

28 thoughts on “Viral Email Marketing Example from Grandma

    1. Laura Bean

      So I just watched your last lesson on goals and I was thinking how am I going to reach my goals I set. Then I read this. So my question is, all those junk emails we get in our box can we use those to forward our business link to? Trying to figure out how to get leads for my business. New at this.

      1. Eric Post author

        No I would not recommend that. I teach list building in depth in lessons #59-70. The main idea is to attract targeted traffic to your website and get those people onto your subscriber list.

  1. Peter

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Despite the fact that I actually received this same email because I am on their list I didn’t really twig onto the potential of this strategy.
    Your opening paragraphs about the typical viral email left me wondering where the connection with marketing might be and having read the main piece I’m now thinking that the missing piece here may well be in using an interesting image in the initial bait email, ideally right at the beginning i.e. Words & image to capture Attention. (AIDA)

    Every one likes a visual right?

    I have quite a few emails coming in every day & have noticed some of those from “Authority” sites have email messages that resemble their web pages with images all over the place. As a marketer it looks like a good way to capture the readers attention, particularly if the message was a lot more concise but left the reader with an urge to see more & click through to the actual web page.

    Just my thoughts.
    Peter G

  2. DB

    How is this viral?

    It’s a good ad-the same type Stansberry always uses-but why would anyone send this to someone else?

    Isn’t the definition of viral something that gets picked up and re-sent thousands or millions of times?

  3. Eric Post author

    Good points.

    In regards to the typical viral email, there are different types…

    Some are pictures. Others are purely text-based, and go viral because of their content. In this example, it went viral because of the subject manner and content which was presented in a provocative way that didn’t look like an advertisement.

    Yes, a compelling picture at the beginning could be a good way to help an email go viral.

    Regarding email messages that resemble the company’s website; a big benefit of this is branding and consistency. While over time, the consistent branding of the emails might not particularly catch the subscriber’s attention due to their aesthetics, what it does is creates trust, and generates expectation. When the subscriber sees the familiar-looking email, they trust the brand, and they know they’ll be taken to good content when they click the link.

  4. Eric Post author

    By my definition, viral marketing doesn’t have a minimum number attached to it. How viral was this example? I don’t know. Grandma shared it with her friends, so I would assume many other people did too.

    Why would they send it to someone else? Because the subject matter is incendiary, and speaks of scandal.

  5. Eric Post author

    Grandma was not the marketer, she just forwarded the email. It looks like maybe I was not clear enough and confused some people, 😉

  6. David Lynn

    The parent company for Stansberry is Agora, Inc., a 4 or 5 hundred million dollar publishing company, mostly financial, health & international travel. They spend MILLIONS on testing ad campaigns. You can BET they’ve tested picture vs no picture many times, and if a picture worked better, there’d be a picture. They even have a subsidiary, AWAI (American Writers & Artists Institute) where they teach people all about copywriting, graphics, strategy, etc., all from a marketing & sales perspective.

  7. Tony

    I thought you were very clear. Granma thought it was interesting and sent it on to her friends and family. You got it and your marketer persona took over and dissected it. Good insight and good case study.

    1. Melodie Licht

      Yep – I got the message too! I receive many of this type email from my friends – who often overlook the gist of the email but are hung up on a phrase or photo. What I found interesting was the ‘remarketing’ at the end of Eric’s post! What a technique! Great post Eric, and insight!

  8. Eliza

    America’s issue? Please give me a break!
    I read my bible well and if you believe in
    the revelation of God instead of man, read this;
    Psalm 125:1-5

  9. Duane

    Grandma was a little to foggy to notice that this was an ad she was forwarding..
    Yes, I have clicked on some of the enticing headlines by “Stansbury and Associates” (They operate under a few other names as well) and everytime these powerpoints were a load of crap.
    This is a copywriting company operating under several names and charging ripoff sums of money for junk financial information…(basically “secret” information giving you free money…) I can’t believe anyone sends them money….

  10. billy

    It seems that by using the president’s name
    (Controversay) People are inclined by nature
    to see what they had to say. Like shock and hah!


  11. John Gibb

    hey Eric

    What a catchy subject line…
    “Bet you don’t know this about Obama”

    My head is spinning with new ideas for split testing subject lines in AWeber for my campaigns…


    “Bet you don’t know this about email marketing”

    “Bet you don’t know this about blogging”

    “Bet you don’t know this about ranking sites in 2013”

    Wow… do you see the potential here?

    Obviously you don’t want to over do this approach, but it gives us out of the box thinking ideas, is it?

    Thank you!

  12. June Burns

    Wow! Not sure I understand all yet. Keeping for future study. Still have much to learn. Have website and products but still trying to learn how best to market.

  13. David

    I find this a good read and it tell us here what out on the internet here and use president’s names.. thanks Eric

  14. adhy

    great inspiration for marketing method. But thanks for this ideas eric.I,m your fans in Im field.

  15. John Nats

    Hi Eric very interesting post, some useful information on viral email marketing. This is definitely something which could explode your business.

  16. Chuck Holmes

    This is a great breakdown of the email! Creating viral emails is a good goal if you can do it. If you can have a messages sent to hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, that can lead in a lot of new traffic, leads and sales at your website. Following these tips is a good start.

  17. Chris

    Ok so ive never left a post yet but never had trouble yet either. Im inCo Springs just by the way. Im on lesson 29 and im trying to get my html onto the internet for my very first web site! Totaly awesome for me cuz i am the greenest and and most iliterate of newbies! Anyway im having trouble with the filezilla thing …it doesnt like my password???? Im sorry to bother you with such small problems but have nowhere else to turn. Im using windows 7. I baught my domains from you and used your afiliate links everytime u put them out i even baught your no cost income lesson series before i found erics tips! help me out please. Im so close!

    1. Micah

      Hello Chris,

      It might be an issue with case sensitivity. You might simply want to double-check which letters need to be capitalized. Also make sure there are no extra spaces, if you are pasting in your username or password.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 50 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here