Viral marketing is a kind of advertising that uses the interconnected nature of the Internet to build awareness in a product rather than utilizing traditional — and dare I say Stone Age — modalities such as print (basically dead trees), television (who even watches television anymore?), radio (the knobs in your grandfather’s car right above the ashtray he wouldn’t let anyone touch), or billboards (really big signs) in which the marketing message moves in only one direction. The idea of viral marketing is to create something mysterious, perhaps using a puzzle, that engages with the prospective consumer’s imagination without letting on that it’s an advertisement. If it works, the potential consumer then Gchats a friend or fires off a tweet or updates their Facebook status to say something like, “Hey, what do you make of this thing?” thus infecting another person (hopefully a male between the ages of 18 and 35) with the early stages of a disease that will eventually become a full-blown case of brand awareness. In this way, the infected consumers multiply, ravenous and viral, driving traffic to the product’s website, clicking “like” buttons, and creating hashtags on social media.
With viral marketing, the more bizarre and confusing the presentation the better. You want to grab people with something they’ve never encountered before and really make an impression. You will perhaps remember Burger King’s eerie Subservient Chicken campaign from the early aughts. It was built around a website — SubservientChicken.com — that featured what appeared to be streaming webcam video of a man in a chicken suit taking orders from the people who were watching over the Internet. I may or may not have wasted several hours of a workday on the puzzle of the Subservient Chicken, politely asking him to perform a few mildly profane acts — his website had the word “subservient” in it, after all — for which I kept getting turned down. It took a little while before I realized there wasn’t actually a man with surprisingly high self-esteem wearing a chicken suit somewhere in Romania. Of course, by then I had told everyone I knew about the not-actually-all-that Subservient Chicken.
But that is neither here nor there. I am here to tell you about Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor Jr., the 31-year-old, long-haired, vegan power-hipster CEO of LexCorp, who is totally a real person and a super cool dude to work for, according to a recent fawning profile in the gilded virtual pages of Fortune. “Alexander Joseph Luthor Jr. is a 31-year-old wunderkind,” writes our anonymous staffer, and you know when those dry, arch-capitalists at Fortune and their ilk start throwing around German loanwords that things are about to get serious, “who transformed an aging petrochemical and heavy machinery dinosaur into a tech darling of the Fortune 500 in what some call a superhuman feat.” I mean, it’s not like he leapt a tall building with a single bound or turned a string of Dairy Queens into a tech company, but sure, that’s impressive, I guess.
How did such a young man achieve so much so soon? Just like all the best and the brightest do — he inherited it from his father, Lex Luthor Sr. The elder Luthor died suddenly in 2000 in not-at-all-suspicious circumstances, just in case you happen to be wondering why Fortune mentioned this twice in a 1,000-word profile about his son, first as “unexpectedly” and then “untimely.”
The East German émigré, who passed away unexpectedly in 2000, arrived on our shores with nothing, but managed to carve out an empire of oil and machinery. By all accounts, he accomplished this feat through sheer grit and ferocity. His enemies, of which there are many, would also probably add “viciousness.”
Of his late father, Luthor says, “He came from a country where the government, in the guise of protector, had absolute control over the citizens. That drove him. I get it. Heck, I’d hate to see that sort of thing happen over here.” I would also hate that, PRESIDENT OBAMA.
The article continues:
But the achievements of LexCorp’s founder pale in comparison to the astonishing accomplishments of the younger Luthor, who was the youngest ever to be named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year and included on the magazine’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.
Sure. I mean, Lex Sr. did manage to escape a brutal communist dictatorship to carve out an international oil and machinery conglomerate on his own. So, maybe “pales” is strong, but whatever. I get it.
Like many young entrepreneurs of his generation, Lex Jr. understands the importance of employee perks to motivate the workers in a high-pressure atmosphere. LexCorp has its own vegan food truck (which parks in the parking lot, I guess?), a rock climbing wall, and lord knows what else. Luthor likes to chill by adding to his world-renowned collection of meteorite crystals, which, I’m sure, will come in handy one day for something.
At the end of the piece, Luthor teases a new, unnamed project, which he promises “will change the world forever.” What could that be? Lex won’t come out and talk about it, but suffice it to say that “It’s about safety. This is a product that will protect you, and everyone, from threats you don’t even know about yet. I don’t want to scare anybody… much. But there are a lot of threats out there, and they’re here today.”
Much like the Subservient Chicken, I find myself wondering what makes this guy tick.
I suppose we’ll find out more about him and his wonderful, world-protecting mystery product on March 25, 2016, when the Lex Luthor biopic finally opens in theaters nationwide.