7 Powerful Examples of Viral Marketing Campaigns

By Darren DeMatas | 22 Feb 2019

Viral marketing exposes brands to exponential ROI because it generates so much interest and spreads like a virus. Can brands replicate the success of these seven campaigns?

Trying to get content to go viral can quickly become a herculean task. You can get discouraged when the needed publicity doesn’t come in as fast as you like, and you might find yourself running out of ideas.

You also might have viral-worthy content, but not get sales. This is because you need to know how to mix making people share and buy.

Studying what top retailers have done and understanding the elements they used will help you create a campaign that can go viral and get more sales.

Elements of a Viral Marketing Campaign

Certain things make people want to share content. Having the right mix of these ingredients might help you get the ball rolling.

Give Away Something

Giveaways are crowd-pullers. Most people salivate when they see the word “free.” Little wonder it works well for shipping.

The word – free – generates interest fast. If you were to offer a free trip somewhere, or a free product if something is shared on social media, you get a lot of shares, likes, and reposts. Some brands kick it up a notch. Learn from Diamond Candles viral campaign on how to use a free incentive to go viral.

Creates Emotional Connection

Emotions rule humans. Make them feel something. The reason Dove’s real beauty sketches got more than 68+ million views was because of the emotional connection it brought to viewers.

Many brands have capitalised on it. The P&G’s “thank you mom” ads are another.

However, you don’t need only tears or humour. Fear works too, but you have to be careful about how you use it. I haven’t seen many e-commerce brands using it, but some years ago, Take This Lollipop went viral through fear.

Connects to a Good Cause

Many B2C brands have used causes to go viral. Most people remember the ALS ice bucket challenge. The sympathy attached to the cause, and (later on) the influencers made it viral.

One e-commerce brand also using this viral marketing element is TOMS. With every product bought, it contributes to communities and people in need of better maternal care, water, eyesight, shoes, and the fight against bullying. That is one big selling point for them.

To use this right, devote your products and services to a cause you and your potential customers care about.

Gives a Unique View

Another element of many viral marketing campaigns is having a unique or different view of the times, especially when it relates to controversial issues.

These days, people are easily offended by almost everything. Everyone has opinions on childbirth, agriculture, policy, lifestyle; every single thing. A tweet either for or against one side of the argument usually works. Think Starbucks and gun control, and Nike and taking a kneel.

Leave the fence, but before you do, be sure to choose a side that won’t sink you.

Easy to Transfer

Viral content goes viral because it is easy to transmit. If I have to send the message over direct mail, I might not feel as inclined to share it.

Most viral content these days is made online. But, some types of content are easily shared more than others. Some great content types include video, infographics, and short text posts.

But note that it’s more than just placing your giveaway on your store and expecting it to go viral. It needs to be in places where your target audience will see it. Market your material in the right places. Only sticking it on your website won’t do you much good. 

1. Purple Mattress

Very few ad videos get up to one million YouTube views. This one has had more than 169 million, and understandably so. To start with, Purple sells branded mattresses-in-a-box. This viral video shows how good the company’s mattress is when compared to other brands out there. 

It used humour and showed it was giving away the mattress for cheaper than mattresses close to the same quality. Also, it had a good mix of keeping it real and exaggerating. It kept it real for those with sleeping problems by speaking about common back/hip problems potential customers have, and added the “egg” verification test to wow viewers.

The video went viral, paving the way for more sales and marketing resulting in over $75 million in online sales in 2016.

2. Dollar Shave Club

This is one viral marketing campaign hardly needs an introduction. Dollar Shave Club (DSC) offers a razor subscription service, which at the time of its launch was a unique offering. 

To reach and help potential customers understand the business, the CEO developed a video that was simple and funny. 

It also brought a simple solution to a real issue that people deal with – getting blade refills. From it, DSC got over 12,000 subscribers in the first 48 hours, and reported more than $3.5 million in revenue that same year.

3. Squatty Potty

Squatty Potty showed everyone that they had a problem they didn’t even know existed. It taught people the “right way to poop.”

The video mixes poop jokes and showing you how to solve your own toilet issues with a simple product.  This campaign generated a 600 percent increase in online sales.

4. Beardbrand

 Video marketing is powerful, but viral marketing isn’t about videos alone. 

BeardBrand used the whole e-commerce marketing funnel to lure in customers. Rather than just selling products, the business also educated its audience on how to care for their hair and beards. Users can find tutorials on both the company’s YouTube channel and in its blog. This, when combined with a solid understanding of the business’s buyer persona helped the brand take its marketing efforts viral. 

From there, the company blew up from $0 in sales to $120k per month within a year.

5. Threadless

Threadless started off at a time when brands had not started working it hard on social media. A few years later, it did something different that helped the brand go viral – a contest.

People could submit art – in some cases, tweets, the public could vote for their favourites and the winners received small cash prizes. 

The winning designs were sold on the Threadless website, which created a community of designers and an army of followers (customers) who were interested in purchasing because they were involved in the process of choosing the designs that were printed.

6. Hootsuite Game of Social Thrones

I like this example because of how Hootsuite tapped into popular culture. The Game of Thrones series had already caught on with people, and Hootsuite used that to get over one million views and tens of thousands of shares.

It told a relatable story with social media platforms, connecting it to the SaaS it offers, and this is one of the most successful pieces of branded content it ever created.

7. Luxy Hair

Much like Beardbrand, Luxy Hair focused on educating customers which in turn encouraged people to buy from the brand.

It creates YouTube videos on how to style hair that generates millions of views. With the free information the company provides, the business was able to incentivise viewers to purchase its hair extensions. 

If you want to go viral, understand your target audience and invest a lot of time developing a concept that can work for them. You can even go one step further. Sometimes, it’s not the original concept that goes viral, but how you react to feedback from it. 

Finally, make sure your website appeals to your audience as well. 

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