The owner of Kent’s Meat and Gro­ceries viewed a botched break-​​in of his Red­ding, Calif., con­ve­nience store from a mon­e­tary per­spec­tive: $500 in dam­ages. Rocky Slaughter, on the other hand, a 2010 grad­uate who founded the mar­keting and PR agency Sugar Pine Media, con­sid­ered it a golden oppor­tu­nity to pro­mote the mom-​​and-​​pop shop.

The footage of the bun­gled bur­glary had already gone viral once, when police released the sur­veil­lance tape with the hope of iden­ti­fying the sus­pect. In the video, the sus­pect throws a rock at the store­front window, trig­gering an alarm; fright­ened, the sus­pect runs away and falls on his face.

Slaughter repur­posed the orig­inal video, speeding up the clip and adding music evoca­tive of the zany theme song from The Benny Hill Show. The ad—which has been fea­tured on national news pro­grams such as Good Morning America and gen­er­ated almost 1 mil­lion YouTube hits—promotes the store by pro­claiming that it sells “award-​​winning New York pas­trami so good some people will do just about any­thing to get it.” The bur­glar has yet to be caught, but the clip has already paid div­i­dends for Kent’s and Slaughter alike.

Their pas­trami is selling like hot­cakes,” Slaughter said, “just flying off the shelves.”

The majority of Slaughter’s clients in Redding—local banks, law firms, con­struc­tion companies—have never employed an agency like his, which spe­cial­izes in social media and track­able web-​​based campaigns.

Kent’s was an excep­tion. It hired Slaughter’s agency to pro­mote the launch of its online store. The viral ad has accom­plished that goal, and has also boosted busi­ness at the counter.

The ad’s suc­cess is indica­tive of a viral campaign’s poten­tial impact on expanding any kind of busi­ness, regard­less of where it’s located. But, said Slaughter, “Until busi­nesses see that it can work, they’re often skep­tical of social media and that kind of mar­keting in general.”

Slaughter, a self-​​described “serial entre­pre­neur,” sharp­ened his busi­ness acumen at North­eastern. As an under­grad­uate polit­ical sci­ence major, he netted a six-​​month job with the Kendall Jackson winery, using social media to pro­mote the brand to the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. He also worked on co-​​op building a post­card busi­ness and teamed up with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator, to create a startup that would have let bar patrons con­trol the venue’s sound system with a smart­phone appli­ca­tion. Nei­ther took off—the post­card busi­ness “barely broke even,” Slaughter said, and the stereo app “just wasn’t a very good idea”—but the entre­pre­neurial cul­ture on campus helped him develop skills that would prove useful in future endeavors.

IDEA and the Entre­pre­neurs Club were great resources and taught me lessons that I couldn’t have learned any­where else, and co-​​op allowed me to get out in the real world and do things on my own,” Slaughter said.