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Mannequin Challenge & Viral Fads

Colleen McCormack
Marketing Specialist

We’ve seen them. We’ve participated in them. Viral fads such as the Harlem Shake, Mannequin Challenge, and Ice Bucket Challenge jump in popularity fast and fall just as quickly. Institutions sometimes get involved with these seemingly unimportant crazes, and end up seeing amazing results! Viral fads bring relevance, and top of mind engagement to your institutions, as well as a gateway to new students.

Remember “the dress” from February 2015?   Posting about this silly and already viral controversy would have helped with both reach and engagement. It opened doors to new audiences and engages current students too. Top of mind awareness rises. If your potential students are watching, creating, and engaging with the Harlem Shake videos, your institution may want to be in that mix. Take a look at what the University of Utah did in 2013.

It is not always easy to get young prospects talking about your brand. So why not bring your brand to a conversation they are already having?

Best Practices in Fad Marketing

  • Stay on brand. If you have to modify or change your brand to fit the fad, it is not worth doing. And really, modifying a fad to fit your brand should be relatively simple. If you wish to participate in the mannequin challenge, make sure your message is clear. A great example is from the University of Toledo.

  • Don’t confuse fads and trends. Often, administrators dismiss trends as fads, and fads as an unnecessary investment of resources. On the other hand, it’s also easy to mistake fads for trends and commit to much time to something that will not last. The difference between the two is this:
    • Trends affect your overall strategy, such as social media marketing.
    • Fads are the tactics utilized in an already existing strategy, such as posting a selfie.
  • Stay relevant. At most fads will be viral for a few weeks to a couple of months after their initial popularity. Act fast or your 18-year-old prospects will make fun of you for being out of date.
  • Share on social media. This may seem like an obvious one, but not all fads are internet sensations.  Always share with the world when you do something, that seems like everyone else is doing.

On the other hand, not all fads are worth chasing. A previous blog by Travis discusses this shiny object syndrome in relation to recent movie releases. You can read it here.

Fads, when used correctly, have great value, and can give amazing results to institutions. Keeping a fad on brand, and utilizing it in the correct time frame will boost engagement, increase top of mind awareness, and open the university to new audiences.  Keep your ears on the ground, and eyes on social media to be on the watch for the next viral fad!

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