How #CheerioChallenge helped alum’s startup go viral

No one really planned the #CheerioChallenge. It just happened.

Last summer, a dad stuck on a couch with a sleeping newborn on his lap stacked five cheerios on the baby’s nose. Then, he snapped a photo. The photo went viral. The father, along with his co-founders of an online community called Life of Dad, knew they had a hit on their hands. They challenged dads to stack as many Cheerios as possible on their sleeping children. Tens of thousands of dads responded to #CheerioChallenge.

David Guest

David Guest, BSBA ’98, is one of the co-founders of Life of Dad. He shares the back story of the online dad community and how his triple major in Marketing, English, and Film Making at WashU has helped fuel his career.

1. What prompted you to create the Life of Dad online platform?

I created Life of Dad in 2010 with a good friend and business partner named Tom Riles. We met while on jury duty for two weeks in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, I had recently become a father and his wife was expecting. We began collaborating on making some funny videos about fatherhood, and once we ventured into that landscape, we saw that there wasn’t one centralized place for all the fathers of the world on the internet.

We created Life of Dad as a hub for content and connections around the journey of fatherhood. At Life of Dad, our community celebrates the adventure of fatherhood as one of the greatest experiences a man could ever hope to have. So in fact, Life of Dad is much more than a blog. We have a Facebook community of over 1.4 million members, and we have a thriving website and app that helps connect dads all over the world.

2. Has Life of Dad turned into a full-time job?

I certainly put in enough hours for it to be a full-time job, but I also work as a screenwriter and teach film making classes. Our company now generates a good deal of revenue, but we have chosen to put those resources toward hiring new sharp people to grow the business, which has brought our team to roughly twenty full time and part time employees. I love writing and teaching, so the diversity of my work life is proving to be successful for now.

3. What were you doing before you became a dad and digital entrepreneur?

After graduating from WashU, I earned an MFA in Film Production from the USC School of Cinema-Television. I had numerous jobs in Los Angeles, including working on The Bachelor TV show.

Photo that ignited the viral #CheerioChallenge campaign.

4. Did Cheerios contact you after the photos started going viral and want to advertise or promote the Cheerios Challenge with you?

Once the Cheerio Challenge started to take off, we mobilized our whole team at Life of Dad to make the most of it. We created a coordinated system to push and promote the Cheerio Challenge through all social media channels and through our own large and highly engaged audience.

At Life of Dad, we had the experience of working with many of the world’s biggest and most well known brands, so we had the ability to directly contact General Mills and their PR team. We reached out to them and created a brand partnership between Life of Dad and Cheerios, and this all happened literally on the day that the Cheerio Challenge was going mega viral before our eyes. It was very exciting, and the partnership with General Mills proved to be amazing.

Life of Dad won the prestigious Cannes Silver Lion for Promo & Activation for their #CheerioChallenge campaign with General Mills. The Cannes Lion award is recognized globally as a touchstone for creative excellence in communications.

5. Is having a viral campaign the best or only way to attract a lot of attention online?

No, absolutely not. The truth is that no one can predict when something will go viral. It’s like trying to predict the exact time and place lightning will strike. So, the secret is to consistently put out strong, interesting content.

You also want to have a team infrastructure ready to work when something you create does capture the public’s attention. Part of the success of the Cheerio Challenge was the fun idea, but the other part of the success was our ability as a team to help push it way up into the stratosphere of the world’s attention.

6. What did you study at Olin?

I earned a B.A. in Marketing at Olin, which I did almost entirely in my senior year while at WashU. It was my third major. I had already earned majors in English Literature and Filmmaking. My parents urged me to get the degree at Olin, and I’m so glad that I listened to them. The success I’ve had with Life of Dad would have never happened without the knowledge and business mindset I gained through my studies at Olin.

7. Did you plan or want to be an entrepreneur?

One of the best experiences I had at WashU was creating The Super Top Secret Student Film & Art Festival. I had this idea to create an event that combined a screening of student films with live performances, live poetry readings, a student art gallery and a big dance party with a DJ. The event was a big hit, and most of the school came to it. The event even went on for a year or two after I graduated.

WashU was so incredible in their support of this event, and its success gave me a unique direction in my life. I saw that by pushing out a collaborative idea, oftentimes talented and outstanding people would join in and add to its success. This made any idea that was created by a team inherently stronger than something that a person could do individually.

In many ways, this is the spirit of entrepreneurship, and I had the wonderful fortune of being able to discover it first hand while at WashU. The very same spirit is at the heart of everything that happens at Life of Dad.

8. What’s next for Life of Dad?

At Life of Dad, we have a tremendous community of fathers around the world. We strive to help every dad on the planet celebrate the adventure of fatherhood. We have interviewed many celebrities about their journey through fatherhood, including LeBron James, John Elway, Ice Cube, Mark Cuban, Jim Gaffigan and many others.

Any dad can download the Life of Dad app either through iTunes or by texting “Dad” to 444-999. We’d love to have everyone check it out.

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