I just finished reading marketing guru Seth Godin's manifesto Unleashing the Ideavirus (you can download it here), probably one of the most relevant pieces on marketing ever written. While reading it, I thought of a great example of a successful Ideavirus.
I'm sure by now everybody on Facebook is familiar with the application Mafia Wars, an application created by Zynga. The growth of this application has made it one of the most popular on Facebook ever. After reading Seth's thoughts, I understand why.
First, Mafia Wars was without a doubt remarkable (worth remarking about). How many other things do you have going on in your life that allowed you to pretend you are a mafia kingpin- killing, maiming, and extorting money?
Second, the application was incredibly viral. Every time you log in to the application, it gives you a prompt to "invite people to your mafia." This turned its users into promiscuous sneezers spreading the ideavirus for their own personal gain. The more people you invite, the bigger your mafia got and thus the more powerful your mob became. This scalability of Mafia Wars made it so that the more people that joined Mafia Wars, the better the individual user experience became.
Third, it had a hive with a definite vector. It became big with college kids first who then gradually started running out of people to invite, so they started inviting family and friends who were out of college, bringing Mafia Wars across the early adopters chasm to the general public.
Fourth, it had a great amplifier, Facebook. 'Nuff said...
Fifth, it was incredible persistent. People logged on more than once a day (I was one of them) to use their points and check their bank account. Foolish yes, but persistent, definitely.
Sixth, and probably most importantly, Mafia Wars traveled through a virtual vacuum. There were other applications you could download on Facebook, but none that allowed you maim your friends and amass a fake fortune. Utter genius.