EXCERPT: 'Viral Loop'

For eight years Goings earned a low six-figure income, until federal law mandated smoke alarms and Sears came out with First Alert, which it pro-moted in a national advertising campaign. Goings sold his interest in the business for a few million dollars, getting out before the price of smoke alarms fell from $100 to as little as $5. He took a job at Avon and eventually moved to Tupperware. Aware that cultural changes in the United States made a referral model a hard sell, he turned the company's attention overseas. Within a few years Tupperware's home party social-networking model was exploding across Latin America and Asia, where women, like their American counterparts thirty years earlier, were expected to stay home and raise the children. By 1996, it had earned 95 percent of its profit abroad on sales of more than $1 billion, and was spun off as an independent company.

Since then Tupperware has grown into a global concern, with $2.2 billion in revenue, encompassing cosmetics, kitchen tools, small household ap-pliances, and toys. After an ill-fated attempt to once again sell Tupperware in retail stores like Target, it returned to its classic party plan roots. Today Tupperware's viral loop continues unabated. Somewhere in the world a party occurred just in the time it took you to read this sentence. Almost 120 mil-lion people in one hundred countries will attend a product demonstration this year. And all of this was accomplished without the benefit of the Internet, which makes up less than 2 percent of sales.

But the frictionless Web would prove to be a potent force for businesses that followed Tupperware's viral-loop example. And they would expand further and faster than anything Brownie Wise could have ever imagined.

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