Think of the last influential brand story you came in contact with. Got one? Perfect. Need a little help? How about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the eccentric Old Spice Guy? Now keep those in mind.
The mathematical theory used to predict the spread of diseases is known as epidemic models. The simplest model has two parts, an infection rate (the spread of infection from contagious to non-contagious) and a removal rate (the rate at which those infected become no longer contagious), each with a given value of 0 to 1. After the introduction of one infected individual and a removal rate of 0, the disease follows what is known as a logistics curve.
The infection spreads and slowly gains traction. As more and more become infected, the curve turns upward and eventually reaches a plateau as those who are contagious come in contact with less and less of those who are not.
Now think back to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the The Old Spice Guy. Graph their virality and you will have an outcome very similar to the logistics curve.
The concept is released, the sharing starts and the story begins its ascent as engagement rises. Bouncing from person-to-person, this is the most important stage of engagement. If the removal rate begins to rise, the story never reaches its potential audience and sizzles out to a standstill. With a successful story, it eventually clogs your news feed and maxes out on what’s trending. The story reaches its maximum potential contagious users.
What makes these stories different from the one you told last weekend? The difference is that these stories stick with their audience because they are memorable, vivid and tellable. The Old Spice Guy can be easily communicated to others. The concept is loud, causing a reaction and a connection. With a strong infection rate and a low removal rate, more individuals come in contact with the story and share its message.
A brand’s story is inseparable to its identity. An infectious story will stick with a brand—positive or negative. The Domino’s Pizza Turnaround is a wonderful example of a brand’s identity overcoming negativity through a story their users can connect with. Whether or not you choose to eat Domino’s, the story is crafted to be shared and remembered.
There is no formula for virality, but a memorable story starts at the first infection.