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A marketing lesson from Dave Chappelle

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Thousands of fans packed Pioneer Square in downtown Portland at 1 a.m. on July 14 to attend a performance by comedian Dave Chappelle. Later dubbed “Davestock” by some in the crowd, the event was truly remarkable.The evening unfolded something like this: Allegedly, Chappelle, while wandering around Portland, told a handful of people he would be doing a free set at 1 a.m. on the steps of the downtown gathering spot. Word began to spread through social networks, via Twitter and Facebook status updates. Anticipation began to build. (As did some healthy skepticism that it was all a hoax.) Chappelle expected a couple hundred people to show up and instead, this is what happened: An utter mob scene -- but in typical Portland fashion, totally chill. I think this is a wonderful illustration of two driving concepts in today’s Web economy: the power of giving something away for free, and the power of social networks to distribute that message for you. Let’s tackle the first concept.A...