Alex Ecklund Discovers Viral Marketing While Watching the Annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Says Author of 'The Casual Christian'

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“An unknown person or ministry can reach a very wide audience and get discovered, because of the viral capabilities—because they are watching." Markus Pfeiffer, digital media professor at Regent University. The First Case of Viral Marketing Occurred at Pentecost, says the author of The Casual Christian.

Viral Marketing

"An unknown person or ministry can reach a very wide audience and get discovered, because of the viral capabilities—because they are watching trends.”

Perhaps the first time you heard of viral marketing was when the middle-aged spinster, Susan Boyle, auditioned on the popular TV show, Britain’s Got Talent. She was a very dowdy, unimpressive contestant who had no previous record of accomplishment other than a single CD that sold about a thousand copies. But her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserable left the judges slack jawed. The video soon appeared on YouTube and within a week had become the most viewed clip in their history with over forty million hits. In this age of instantaneous global communication, such sudden exponential spread of information is called “going viral.”

A more recent example of viral messaging came when Alex Ecklund updated his facebook status after reading comments like these by young women who were watching the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, “I’m going to have to hit the gym after this” and “I’m going to starve myself for a week.”

Concerned about the message the show was conveying, he posted the following, "“I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model.” Proverbs 31 is a biblical reference to the qualities of a virtuous woman that have nothing to do with looks and everything to do with character. Responses both positive and negative immediately flooded his wall.

This type of viral response is the holy grail for marketers. As Markus Pfeiffer, a digital media professor at Regent University, says, "An unknown person or ministry can reach a very wide audience and get discovered, because of the viral capabilities—because they are watching trends.” (, 3/15/2012).

Capturing a trend and riding it is like catching the big wave on Hawaii's Banzai Pipeline. You and your product are suddenly thrust onto a huge stage that you never would have reached through regular marketing methods. The potential for increasing sales or promoting a message is exponential and has launched careers that otherwise may never have materialized.

"The gospel is the most compelling message of all time because it tugs at a need we all have for spiritual restoration. If any message has the potential to go viral, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet we try to quarantine that virus in the familiar confines of our church buildings and programs," says Craig Olson, author of The Casual Christian.

The first recorded example of a message that went viral in the Bible was the massive response to the gospel at Pentecost. The book of Acts describes the scene this way, "Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4)

Apparently the Holy Spirit caused such a great commotion that it drew a crowd of Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate a national holiday - the day that commemorated their exodus from Egypt under Moses. They were amazed that these Galilean Jews were all speaking in their native tongues.

Pentecost had the makings of the perfect viral moment. The timing was right. Jews had gathered from all the surrounding countries for a religious holiday. It came while the land was still abuzz with the news of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. News of these momentous events was fresh in everyone's thoughts. So Peter struck while the iron was hot, urging the people to confess their sins and turn to Christ. And the result, according to the Bible, was that about 3000 people were baptized and added to the church that day.

One can increase opportunities for viral moments by moving church ministries into the public arena and meeting people on their own familiar turf. Community centers, civic centers, club houses, restaurants, retirement homes, public auditoriums, believers’ homes, public parks, hotel conference rooms, movie theaters, camps and recreation centers all hold more promise for creating viral moments than the traditional church program held on the church campus.

Equipping believers to minister to each other in practical ways, utilizing social media, replacing small groups with extended faith families and programs with ministry task forces that meet needs on the ground, are all ways ministry can be organized to capitalize on viral moments. For more information on how to transform your traditional church ministry into a dynamic vehicle for capturing viral moments see The Casual Christian by Craig Olson.

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