Thursday, November 06, 2008

How Two Tech Guys Created A Viral Food Sensation

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Bacon Salt was the invention of Dave Lefkow and Justin Esch, two former employees of Seattle startup Jobster. The idea for Bacon Salt came over dinner one night. This is how they tell it:

“While on a business trip together, we had the chance to sit down for dinner and eventually, the conversation turned to our mutual love of bacon. It was then that Justin told Dave and another coworker named Kara about his idea for Bacon Salt. Kara, who is a vegetarian, loved the idea. Dave, a card-carrying carnivore and Midwesterner, loved it even more. Even the waiter at the fancy restaurant loved it.”

Working in a startup gave them a strong understanding of what was required to get a business off the ground, but venture capital for untried food products isn’t as easy to find as funding for a Facebook application.

Lefkow and Esch needed some seed capital to get the idea rolling, so they turned to the most unlikely source: Amercia’s Funniest Home Video Show. A video of Lefkow’s daughter took home $5,000 in prize money, and this kick started the company.

Along with a traditional website and blog, Bacon Salt was promoted strongly across social networks. Along with Lefkow’s YouTube account, Bacon Salt created groups on Facebook and MySpace. Thrown into the mix was a Twitter account and even a Zazzle store.

The aim was to build viral brand awareness while keeping costs low. None of the accounts I visited had huge numbers, but from what I’m told, they were enough to plant a viral seed.

Word of Bacon Salt grew, and within 3 months of launching the product Bacon Salt was popping up in the strangest of places. WWE magazine ran a story on Bacon Salt, along with some mens magazines, PC Gamer and even The New Yorker.

Initially Bacon Salt didn’t have any distribution deals, offering their wares by online order only, but this soon changed as the press continued to build. What started as a viral internet campaign turned into positive mainstream media coverage, and consumer demand for Bacon Salt in their local supermarkets.

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