Coronavirus, The Virus That Went Viral – When Going Viral Sucks

By Max Ringelheim,
Alloire’s Business Development Manager &
Founder of the blog, podcast, workshop, and book “When Going Viral

The concept of a virus going viral seems a bit odd on the surface. Almost like a paradoxical statement that I never imagined I would have to cover.  However, the extent to which the coronavirus (COVID-19) has gone viral for all the wrong reasons and taken the world by storm believe it or not has some lessons to be learned by marketers and business people everywhere.

Since mid-December, different portions of the world have been completely gripped by the negative implications of the coronavirus and this WHEN GOING VIRAL SUCKS moment. What first started in China slowly migrated to western nations across Europe and North America. As the virus moved west it continued impacting billions of people around the world and eventually turned into a health pandemic. This health pandemic has now caused a global financial crisis with experts struggling to find where and when the light at the end of the tunnel is.

The coronavirus is certainly a WHEN GOING VIRAL SUCKS moment for obvious reasons. For one, billions of people are feeling isolated and bored due to social distancing. Second, millions of people are going to lose their jobs as their employer closes its doors or slashes staffing headcount to try and frantically keep their books balanced given the dramatic slowdown their companies are seeing. Everyone is upset this health crisis took place and no one is happy about the repercussions we are currently facing as a result of it.

When thinking about some of the reasons this health pandemic has gone viral it’s easy to simply just think the reason relates to the hundreds of countries and billions of people the virus has impacted. That’s true, but what about the reasons and moments that are underpinning this virality? For marketers out there trying to create viral campaigns or entrepreneurs trying to start viral businesses, I think there are deeper lessons to be learned which can be taken away from this WHEN GOING VIRAL SUCKS story.

Below is an analysis of the four reasons why the coronavirus has gotten as wild as it has, and some lessons learned that people can take away from them.

2. NBA Suspension Bombshell –>

On March 12th, 2020 the NBA decided to suspend its season indefinitely after one of it’s most talented players 7 foot center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had contracted the coronavirus. When this decision was made by commissioner Adam Silver, it literally felt like the entire United States froze in its tracks. Arguably the most popular sport during the months of November through June was all of a sudden suspended for a reason that no one ever could have seen coming. Immediately after this decision was made, it felt like everyone from the government, to the general public, immediately started taking this pandemic more seriously. All of a sudden something that people loved was taken away from them during one of the most competitive, evenly balanced and popular seasons of recent memory. For businesses the viral takeaway to be mindful of is the power of bombshell type moments. Bombshell updates can play a major role in anything going viral whether that’s a new product release or a new product issue. When you inform your customers of major bombshell updates you need to be mindful of what the positive and negative ramifications of that news can have on your business.

3. Local / National News Media Coverage –> 

The Coronavirus has infiltrated the national and local news media at astonishing proportions. You can’t turn on local or national news right now without the broadcast being at least 75% towards Coronavirus. This kind of coverage is fueling the viral spread of this story because people literally can’t avoid it. Every television channel you turn on is covering the latest updates of the coronavirus and every newspaper page you flip is highlighting the same updates. This health crisis has also caused a financial crisis globally which is now forcing other niche business news stations such as CNBC to cover the story non-stop. The deep intertwining of this health crisis causing a sharp decline in the stock market now forces these specialized news stations to cover the coronavirus as well.  Although people who know me well are familiar with my extreme LOVE/HATE relationship that I have with the mainstream news media covering silly and unimportant news stories, this kind of coverage of coronavirus has felt warranted and less biased than typical news broadcasts. When trying to launch a viral campaign it’s important to remember how important earned media and press coverage can contribute to the initial and sustained viral effect your campaign can have.

4. Emotional Alarms Triggered –> 

People care deeply about their health and when a virus is looming that could jeopardize your health the alarms in people’s minds go off. People begin getting concerned that the virus can impact them, their loved ones and potentially result in casualties for people in their close network. If you’ve followed the “When Going Viral” blog you’ll know how strongly we feel about how emotions can contribute to stories going viral. In this case the emotions people are feeling are emotions such as concern, sadness, unknown, surreal, as well as many others. These kinds of emotions are creating a fear factor inside of people that is causing a stimulating effect and resulting in people wanting to consume the coronavirus topic as much as possible. It feels like people won’t stop talking about the coronavirus until any one of these emotions mentioned begin to feel at ease. For people in the marketing or business world, If you’re trying to go viral you want to make sure either your product or campaign directly stimulates a strong emotion in people. If you’re able to generate major emotional responses from people based on whatever it is you are doing you could have some of the pre-conditions needed to create a viral moment.

During these troubling, scary, and unprecedented times, our hope is that people will be able to dig deep, stick together and come out stronger than ever once this virus passes. Although this is a WHEN GOING VIRAL SUCKS story there are some other positive viral stories that are emerging in relation to coronavirus about people showing extreme acts of kindness and we’re very excited to see this. We hope some of the lessons learned analyzed above can assist you in creating upcoming viral campaigns while also staying safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Max Ringelheim
Alloire’s Business Development Manager
Founder of the blog, podcast, workshop, and book “When Going Viral

When Going Viral was created by Max Ringelheim after he was responsible for cofounding 2015’s viral Hoverboard fad with his super popular company PhunkeeDuck. When Going Viral is all about educating entrepreneurs on the cautions, concerns, and warnings associated with a business going viral. It is also dedicated to analyzing the latest positive and negative viral stories and the reasons they go viral. You can learn more at: and by following @whengoingviral on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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