Memo to PR Team—We Want Our Own #alexfromtarget

Ellen DeGeneres and Alex Laboeuf

Everyone who daily gets commands from the corner office or from clients to launch viral campaigns is trying to crack the code of success behind the #alexfromtarget Twitter hashtag. Even the New York Times got into the act, putting its reporting weight into solving the mystery of why a 16-year-old Target employee named Alex Laboeuf, who just a few days ago had 144 Twitter followers, now has 658,000 followers.

It all started, according to the Times, on Nov. 2 when "a young woman named Abbie" posted a photograph on Twitter of Alex on the job at Target. The photo and hashtag caught fire, and within two days Alex was a guest on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Target claims no responsibility for #alexfromtarget, although on Nov. 3 the company wrote on Twitter, "We heart Alex, too! #alexfromtarget". CNET reported that a company named Breakr was claiming to be the engine behind the viral success of #alexfromtarget, but this may be akin to a fictitious radical group in the 1970s taking credit for a hijacking.

Target, and Alex, are the beneficiaries of #alexfromtarget, and meanwhile everyone else is wondering what lessons can be learned from its wildfire nature, beyond acknowledging the raging hormonal force of teenagers.

Taking the cynical view that this was a staged campaign—or even assuming that it was a random, unplanned event—timing would be the most important takeaway. The nation's focus has been centered on the stress and anger of the midterm elections—the perfect moment for a sweet and empty antidote like #alexfromtarget.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI