The Mannequin Challenge: What brands need to know about viral trends


Social media agencies who promise viral success are not being very honest with you. And indeed, investing large sums of money in a project that you’re confident will ‘go viral’ is wishful thinking at best. Don’t get me wrong, success as a result of a viral hit is totally worth spending money on great content creation, and it’s probably the best thing that can happen to a brand on social (as long as you’re not going viral for the wrong reasons!). But there is no viral formula, it’s much more of an art than a science. The creativity, the uniqueness and the clever thinking of the idea is the essence of its viral quality. However, there are some scientific elements that can be learned and exploited. Just like medical researchers can study the why’s and how’s of viral diseases, so can social media nerds learn from past viral crazes.

Let’s look at the latest viral phenomena as a live example. Currently the mannequin challenge is sweeping the globe with everyone from school kids to Paul McCartney being filmed standing very still, usually in an action pose. Most of the time it’s accompanied by the song ‘Black Beatles’ by Rae Sremmurd, which is inching closer and closer to the top of the charts – viral trends usually deliver success in mysterious ways! Now it’s important to remember that the mannequin challenge isn’t one piece of viral content like a heart wrenching video or a funny meme, it’s a trend that encourages mass UGC, like your ice bucket challenges or Harlem Shakes.

The biggest reason the mannequin challenge was so successful is the element of participation. You need at least two people to do it and the more people join in, the better the resulting video is. You don’t even have to talk to the camera, all you have to do is stand very still to take part. At the same time, you can create elaborate poses that garner more attention. This means the shy kid in class can still join in by sitting still at his desk, and the prom king can handstand in the middle of the classroom. Both are able to be a part of the video.

So if your brand wants to generate awareness by setting off a chain reaction of mass UGC, these are definitely things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple so that anyone and everyone can take part
  • Make sure people can get creative with it, allowing a sense of competition between groups
  • Think of something that gets better the more people join in

We’re not saying you’ll be the next mannequin challenge, but you’ll certainly be able to yield a lot more UGC for your efforts.

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