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Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

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Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

Read time 9 min read
Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

Improve your content marketing + SEO in 60 seconds! Diib uses the power of big data to help you quickly and easily increase your traffic and rankings. We’ll even let you know if you already deserve to rank higher for certain keywords.


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Are you still aching for your brand or business to go viral, but can’t seem to get it right? You are not alone. This post explores how to get successful viral marketing campaigns with examples.

Across the globe, brands perpetually aim to increase their awareness. It is one of the top digital marketing strategies today, hence the reason why brands are partnering with influencers for an opportunity to catapult their business to success.

Viral marketing, however, is not as easy as it sounds. It is not an exact science and one cannot simply wake up, post it, and it becomes a hit.

Of course, if you have attempted to create viral ad campaigns before, you would know how complicated the task is. Even with the most comprehensive digital plan, the majority of the best viral marketing ads happen by accident. And therein lies the reason why it is so hard to plan successful ones.

That said, should you give up and stick to traditional advertising channels? No. Because, for one, viral ad campaigns incur low costs and are quite effective. That’s why we have crafted this content.

Here is everything you need to know about this digital strategy as well as examples of the best viral marketing drives.


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What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is not a new concept. It was initially referred to as ‘word of mouth marketing’, but its popularity was propelled by the advent of social media platforms.

In a nutshell, viral marketing is nothing more than a marketing strategy brands use to increase awareness. Investopedia terms it as a sales technique that “seeks to spread information about a product or service from person to person by word of mouth or sharing via the internet or email.”

This marketing strategy utilizes social media platforms and the word-of-mouth aspect to increase the awareness of a certain product or service. The objective is to increase sales or conversions through a viral process.

Depending on the type of campaign, the viral content may encompass videos, images, newsletters, interactive forums, and dedicated text messages among others. Good examples of viral content are memes, which are widely shared by people since they can relate to them.

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How Viral Marketing Works

The word ‘viral’ in this marketing technique means something that promptly and widely spreads across a vast audience. This is the basic idea of viral marketing; to create ‘infectious’ content that woos users, causing them to share with their family and friends.

This advertising method is paid for and the ripple effect that is created largely depends on sharing product or service benefits with potential customers, causing popularity while increasing traffic, leads, and return on investment.

Viral marketing techniques are often implemented alongside brand communication strategies such as extensive advertising or dedicated public relations.

Of course, the objective is to find individuals who can drive sales, leads, and conversions through social media networking. The focus is on sharing easy to understand messages that the common person can relate to thereby generating an exclusive marketing niche.

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Tips for Effective Viral Marketing Campaigns

Decide on What You Want to Go Viral 

Before giving viral advertising campaigns a shot, determine your objectives first. Do you want to increase brand awareness, mentions, or just capture the attention of the customer?

Ensuring that your goals are aligning with your viral attempts will help you craft meaningful messages that retain their meaning.

Know the Ins and Outs of Social Media Reporting 

It is the audience that determines what is shared around the social networks. This calls for conclusive knowledge on their preference by analyzing social media metrics such as engagement, keyword performance, traffic, total page impressions, number of clicks, reach, and demographic data. This information can help you know who has the best chances of making your content viral. For example:

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

(Image Credit: Klipfolio)

Evoke the Right Emotion

Effective viral marketing campaigns utilize two human aspects, that is, emotions and memorization. Any content that goes viral evokes an emotional response in people. This is what inspires them to share the content, spreading it rapidly.

When people relate strongly to a message, they will not resist the impulse to share it. The same goes for a message that unexpectedly surprises them. This is what marketers should aim for if they are looking to make their brand messages go viral.

To create an emotional response, you as a marketer should identify the key issues that your audience finds interesting. But it all depends on the kind of emotion you are looking to tap into.

According to OkDork’s research on the 10,000 most shared articles on the internet, Awe, Laughter, and Amusement became the most common emotions evoked with 25%, 17%, and 15% respectively. Others were:

  • Joy – 14%
  • Anger – 6%
  • Empathy – 6%

What the statistics show is that the best viral marketing campaigns need to capture positive emotions, including awe, laughter, amusement, and joy.

Use the Right Characters

Have you ever posted something that you thought would go viral on social media, but turns out to be a disaster? Then someone else posts a cat doing nothing and it immediately garners unprecedented attention?

Well, it’s all about the character. Cats go viral because they are adorable, fun, and joyful. So are most pets. This is a hint to the type of character you should use on your campaign. Depending on the typologies and users you are looking to target, ensure that you choose a character that appeals to them.

Utilize Spontaneous Visible Trends

Viral marketing goes hand in hand with real-time-marketing where businesses utilize instantaneous data to make decisions on the current trends. For your campaigns to have a better chance at going viral, focus your messages on the trends and immediate customer feedback received from customers. This is better than planning months in advance and executing the strategies later.

Also, use the current social media tools and platforms. Image-based content is suitable for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. But, for viral videos, try TikTok. TikTok is the most appropriate platform for viral short videos. The total number of active monthly users on TikTok is more than 800 million with the number of video views in a day surpassing 1 billion.

As such, it makes a perfect platform to create your viral campaign on before sharing it on other social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter among others.

While doing this, utilize hashtags (#) that are catchy and powerful. You can also piggyback your messages onto the relevant trending memes, pop culture, or any other user-generated content to increase the awareness of your brand. This is by far the easiest way to go viral. You can find what is trending on Tik Tok under the discover page, for example:

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

Optimize Content for Quick and Easy Sharing

Before deciding on which platform to use, ensure that your content or message is primed for easy sharing. Don’t confine it to a single account. Optimize it for cross-platform sharing, including social media platforms, blogs, and newsletters among others. Use whatever is available to make the message spread.

Why Viral Marketing?

Viral advertising campaigns can make your brand become a huge hit overnight. The best part is that the only task for you is to come up with a unique and brilliant message to your potential buyers. That said, here are some benefits of viral marketing ads:

  • Budget-Friendly – Viral marketing has a low cost since the significant part of the message is carried out by the users who share your content. This reduces the cost of dispersion, particularly if it is compared with traditional advertising
  • Vast Reach – A viral message, be it in video, text, or image format, has the potential to reach a massive audience across the globe without necessarily investing in a lot of effort or time. This means that whether your business is big or small, it can extremely become famous.
  • Gives Your Brand a Good Perception – Since viral marketing is not invasive, especially if compared to the classical forms of brand promotion, the perception and the interaction of your brand are substantially better. This is because the user is the one choosing to participate and share the brand’s message, and with recognition comes credibility.
  • Builds Your Brand – If your message becomes a hit and is shared widely by audiences, customers will create a personal connection with you, helping your product or service grow.
  • Mainstream Media Exposure – Traditional media still holds a powerful place in creating brand awareness. Through viral marketing, your brand can receive media coverage without having to pay for it. If you are featured by big media outlets, their subsidiaries and other small media houses will follow your story and create more exposure.
  • Easy Lead Generation -Going viral is beneficial for sales, but it also is amazing at creating rapid leads. As people tend to gravitate more into trending topics, some might not be ready to buy from you yet, but once you have garnered enough attention, they will certainly have you in mind when they are ready.

Examples of Recent Viral Marketing Campaigns

1. White Claw Hard Seltzer Campaign 

White Claw introduced the hard seltzer brand in 2016, but its success wasn’t realized until 2019 when viral memes surrounding the product made it popular. For instance:

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

The brand going viral began with the comedian Trevor Wallace’s parody video that soon sparked more user-generated content.

White Claw, as a result, received an organic boost from the user-generated content and began cutting the budget it had invested on TV ads to capitalize on the viral memes. Rethinking its strategy saved White Claw a lot since users were not interested in TV ads, but content that amuses them.

This is an example of just how unintended user-generated content can make your brand successful. In fact, by July of 2019, White Claw had more than tripled the sales to stand at $327.7 million. This forced them to announce a nationwide shortage.

2. Mask Up America Campaign

As part of the initiative to urge people across America to wear masks amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo enlisted the actor Paul Rudd to encourage young people to wear a mask. For example:

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

With the title ‘Certified Young Person Paul Rudd Wants You To Wear A Mask‘ Paul Rudd attempts to emulate the millennial vocabulary while reaching out to the young generation. The video, which was posted both on Twitter and YouTube received 9 million views in a day, and the original tweet garnered 8.2 million views and more than 100 thousand retweets.

Paul Rudd isn’t exactly a millennial, which makes the whole tweet funny. Utilizing the actor’s character from a movie he featured in, Hot Ones added a sense of entertainment and comedy to the health awareness culture. It alluded to the cultural reference and format familiar to the people.

3. Wendy’s: Chicken Nugget Retweet Challenge

In 2017, a Twitter user posted a tweet targeting Wendy’s asking them to name the number of tweets he would need to get himself free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy’s replied with “18 million.”

Carter posted another tweet seeking the help of other Twitter users to achieve his goals. Well, he didn’t exactly reach the goal, but his post became the most retweeted tweet of all time in the same year. Seeing this, Wendy’s chose to reward his efforts. He did get the chicken nuggets.

Viral marketing doesn’t have to be confined to video or image formats. This example shows what your brand should do when it receives positive mentions from customers. Wendy’s hardly thought Carter’s post would go anywhere, but due to his efforts, they encouraged other users to help him reach his goal.

Wendy’s likely didn’t expect this tweet to go anywhere, but when it started to go viral, they encouraged other users to help Carter reach his goal.

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

(Image Credit: Delish.com)

4. The Chicken Sandwich by Popeye

Another example of the most recent viral marketing campaigns is Popeye’s fried chicken sandwich jab at Chick-Fil-A.

In the summer of 2019, Popeye’s introduced a fried chicken sandwich, which broke the internet and sold out quickly. Many people compared it to Chick-Fil-A, one of the competing chicken fast-food brands.

So, Chick-Fil-A decided to post a tweet that purported them as the original creators of the chicken sandwich, to which Popeye’s replied with a sassy comment. This sparked an online conversation that led to people going to Popeye’s to try the fried chicken sandwich and in just two weeks, a two-month inventory was sold out! Here is what that tweet looked like:

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

Capitalizing on the sell-out, Popeye’s urged customers to bring their buns to make a sandwich. During this launch period, the restaurant made close to nearly $65 million in earned media, according to Twitter’s VP of US Client Services, JP Maheu.

In November 2019, Popeye’s announced the comeback of the fried chicken sandwich. Given that Chick-Fil-A is usually closed on Sundays, Popeye’s announced the return of the chicken sandwich by taking a jab at them with a corny video that regenerated the excitement, leading to more sales.

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5. Run for Heroes Campaign

As mentioned earlier, viral marketing doesn’t necessarily have to be in video form, and a good example is the 2020 Run for Heroes campaign, which was among the many social media challenges of the year.

Well, some of these challenges are only for fun, but others are for a good cause. The Run for Heroes challenge was started to raise funds for the NHS using exercise to bring about change.

According to the challenge, one had to run, walk, or cycle for five kilometers and donate £5 to offer support to the NHS staff for their welfare and wellbeing during the fight against coronavirus. Thereafter, you were supposed to nominate five of your friends or family to do the same via social media to create an active and customized way of contributing.

Initiated during the UK lockdown, the challenge ended up raising more than over £5 million for the frontline workers in only one month. Not long after, the campaign became the 2nd largest viral fundraiser in the United Kingdom and the 3rd largest across the world after the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the No Make-Up Selfie.

Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns With Examples

(Image Credit: ActiveSG)

6. Dietz & Watson First-Ever Meat Nut Launch Campaign

During the launch of Dietz Nuts, Dietz & Watson’s first-ever meat nut, the brand enlisted the help of The Office actor Craig Robinson, to market it by sharing zingers about the new product.

Instead of capitalizing on the elevated price tag of a Super Bowl TV promotion, Dietz & Watson widely shared the video on social media platforms. The ripple effect was a successful viral ad campaign that fit the Super Bowl vibe, while still engaging many customers on social media pages.

Better yet, Dietz & Watson made pop-up stores, merchandise, and in-house elements to support the campaign to make it more viral. This is a brilliant example of how to make your content go viral using multiple ways.

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While there is no clear-cut path to making your brand message go viral, the best you can do is get creative, appeal to the emotions of the public, give them what they want, and ride on existing trends to widen the spread and increase awareness. Partnering with Diib Digital will provide you with the unique opportunity to see and adjust your marketing strategy in real time, thus limiting your losses and amplifying your gains.

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Social media is the ideal place to start a viral marketing campaign. YouTube is a great place to share videos that are emotional, surprising, funny or unique. They are then shared on other social media platforms and have the ability to go viral.

Viral marketing has become so successful because it creates curiosity and a desire for the product or service featured. It generates excitement over nothing.

  • Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Campaign. Old Spice is still the king of viral marketing with its humorous and out-of-the-box ad campaigns.
  • Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” Campaign.
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Transparency marketing is letting your customers into your world so they can get to know you and feel your brand’s human side.


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Daniel Urmann

Author Bio:

Daniel Urmann is the co-founder of Diib.com. Over the past 17 years Daniel has helped thousands of business grow online through SEO, social media, and paid advertising. Today, Diib helps over 150,000 business globally grow online with their SaaS offerings. Daniel’s interest include SMB analytics, big data, predictive analytics, enterprise and SMB search engine optimization (SEO), CRO optimization, social media advertising, A/B testing, programatic and geo-targeting, PPC, and e-commerce. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Finance and E-commerce from Cornell University – S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.

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