Mikko Hypponen recently took the internet by storm with the unveiling of the ‘Malware Museum‘ – a viral website which produced a nostalgic reaction across a generation still dreaming of a simpler, more ‘pixelated’ time. Viewed by more than 100,000 people and covered by numerous media outlets, it’s safe to say that it was something of a hit.

For those who are extremely confused at this point, the ‘Malware Museum’ is a collection of images left on home computers by hackers in the 1980s and 90s. The viruses are of course now obsolete but what has been left behind is oddly fascinating.

While I perused this strangely mesmerising world, two things dawned on me. Firstly, the fact that the museum will no doubt inspire a form of alternative retro art exhibition/cafe hybrid on Shoreditch High Street. But secondly, and far more importantly, this extremely simple site provides a valuable lesson for the world of PR, marketing and communications. A point which I’m sure would be supported by F-Secure; the cyber security firm that has subsequently raked in coverage from the likes of the BBC and the Guardian.

So what lessons can be learnt from the ‘Malware Museum’?

Before the site began to do the rounds on social media, I for one was not thinking about 90s virus screenshots. Yet here I am writing about them. The website highlights how an individual, brand or agency can create interest for any topic, regardless of its age, relevance or niche. Creative ideas are the currency of communications and although a topic may not be in the spotlight it doesn’t mean that the potential isn’t there. Creating your own conversation rather than contributing to someone else’s is a valuable practice, one that allows you the freedom to drive engagement and influence what is being talked about. And what could make that more clear than the extremely niche, yet viral museum?

I am not suggesting that every company should create their own retro themed online exhibition to engage their audience. However, the museum highlights the strength of creative ideas. Contributing to ongoing conversations in one’s industry serves its purpose. However, having the ability to generate an idea as original as the ‘Malware Museum’ which engages your audience, prompts a conversation which you are at the centre of and encourages a personal and even emotional response is very valuable.

Communications in industries such as cyber security can become stuck in familiar patterns. The ‘Malware Museum’ demonstrates the power of being different and could hold the key to unlocking an engaging campaign.

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