Posts Tagged ‘society’

Virals Continued: Is religion the ultimate viral?

September 26, 2008





As a follow up to my previous entry on viral marketing, I have been looking for natural examples of the viral effect in society. It turns out that many of these have already been identified and are called “memes”.


A meme consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a culture just like a viral campaign. The more beneficial a meme is to society the more it spreads, the less beneficial the more quickly it dies out.


Dances, cultural traditions, catch-phrases and even well-known theories are all examples of memes. Some memes were very useful (e.g. wearing animal skins) whilst others served no purpose at all, but were copied anyway (e.g. putting feathers in one’s hair).


But perhaps the most consistently successful type of meme is religion (or perhaps religion itself is just a collection of memes…) Religion can unify your society, it can make your armies fight harder, it may reduce the chance of civil unrest (how many rulers have been ordained by God?), it can lower the chances of spreading disease (e.g. no sex before marriage), it can reduce crime, it can provide a basic code of laws and so on. Little wonder more successful cultures had religion!


So next time you want to make a viral that works, take a look back through history. Viral marketing is as old as we are. For now the tip seems to be “make your viral as beneficial as possible”, but this has also shown me that humans have evolved to copy and pass on information. We have literally evolved to be susceptible to viral marketing!

Susan Blackmore on Memes:


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