Subscribe for updates and more.

Idea Virus

A collection of ideas about Narrative propagation.

The notion that an idea can become contagious, in precisely the same way that a virus does, is at once common-sensical and deeply counter-intuitive. It is common-sensical because all of us have seen it happen: all of us have had a hit song lodged in our heads, or run out to buy a book, or become infected with a particular idea without really knowing why. It is counterintuitive, though, because it doesn’t fit with the marketer’s traditional vision of the world. Advertisers spent the better part of the 20th century trying to control and measure and manipulate the spread of information—to count the number of eyes and ears that they could reach with a single message. But this notion says that the most successful ideas are those that spread and grow because of the customer’s relationship to other customers—not the marketer’s to the customer.

— Malcolm Gladwell, Foreward to Unleasing the Ideavirus

Step by step, ideavirus tactics:

  • Make it virusworthy: If it’s not worth talking about, it won’t get talked about
  • Identify the hive:
  • Expose the idea: Expose it to the right people, and do whatever you need to do to get those people deep into the experience of the idea as quickly as possible. Pay them if necessary, especially at the beginning.
  • Figure out what you want the sneezers to say: Decide what you want the sneezers to say to the population. If you don’t decide, either they’ll decide for you and say something less than optimal, or they won’t even bother to spend the time.
  • Give the sneezers the tools they need to spread the virus: Make it easy for people to spread the idea. Give them a way to send your idea to someone else with one click. Let me join your affiliate program in sixty seconds or less. Reward the people I spread the virus to, so I don’t feel guilty for spreading it.
  • Once the consumer has volunteered his attention, get permission: The goal of the ideavirus marketer is to use the virus to get attention, then to build a more reliable, permanent chain of communication so that further enhancements and new viruses can be launched faster and more effectively, under your control this time.
  • Amaze your audience so that they will reinforce the virus and keep it growing: Where are the Cabbage Patch Kids? Why do some viruses burn out more quickly than others? The simplest reason is that marketers get greedy and forget that a short-term virus is not the end of the process, it’s the beginning. By nurturing the attention you receive, you can build a self reinforcing virus that lasts and lasts and benefits all involved.
  • Admit that few viruses last forever. Embrace the lifecycle of the virus: match expenditures to the highly leveraged moments.

The above is from: Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin.

The goal of a presentation deck is to plant an idea: