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Lakeridge Health gives clinic on viral marketing

Genius – pure genius.

That is the only way you can properly describe Lakeridge Health’s latest HR recruitment campaign. In a brilliant case of news-jacking, the Durham region, Ontario hospital was able to create a viral campaign to drive recruitment, engage people across the country and extend its brand.

The campaign is in response to aLakeridge Health highly controversial law currently being proposed by the governing Parti Québécois in the province of Quebec.The new law will ban public servants from wearing religious clothing such as a kippah, turban, hijab or large crucifix.

To draw medical professionals who must already feel under fire, the Hospital used the political debate to market themselves. The poster has a picture of a female medical professional wear a hijab. Beside her reads “We don’t care what is on your head. We care what’s in it.”

The poster went viral almost immediately, was reported on national news networks and got a discussion going across the country. Hundreds of people commented on the poster on Facebook, many of them sharing it on their own news feeds.

Lakeridge’s Facebook page has been inundated with inquiries about jobs in so many different fields, and the Hospital reported that as of this morning it had 78 employment applications. They have engaged with people online who’ve voice their support, and probably most important of all, have shared with the world their organization’s culture and values. Not bad when you consider all it took was a poster and some PR.

The institution provided a clinic of its own to marketers looking at how to create their own viral marketing. However, while some think there are defined elements to making something go viral, I don’t believe this to be true. There are simply too many independently moving factors to define what goes viral – especially considering if it was, you could make anything travel through the internet like wildfire. But looking at this case study, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances:

  • Play off an emotional issue – Quebec politics tend to be an emotional issue for all Canadians, not just Quebecers. Lakeridge knew this, and used it to start a discussion. When creating a marketing campaign using an emotional issue, the primary purpose isn’t to sell your product, but to start a conversation. Fulfilling one will accomplish the other and will increase the chances of it going viral.
  • Take a calculated risk – Was it right or wrong to use the situation for their own purposes? Debatable. Could this have blown up in their face? Maybe. But your marketing campaigns don’t go viral by playing it safe.
  • Stand up for what is right – Many may disagree with me on this, but a reason this campaign got so much support was because people saw it as an answer back to the Quebec politicians supporting this law. The law is very undemocratic, and the hospital’s message was something people could support to show that Canada is about unity and inclusion, not racism and bigotry. Anytime you can market something while standing up for what is right, consumers will look at your brand positively and tell everyone they know about you.
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About Greg Markey

Greg is a social media and digital marketing consultant who loves writing about business, technology, innovation and startups. He holds a degree in political science and history from St. Francis Xavier University, as well as a diploma in Journalism from Algonquin College. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and three kids..

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