The ultimate guide to viral campaigns

What is a viral marketing campaign?

Viral marketing is when someone creates video or visual content that resonates with their target audience. This content is shared to the point where it spreads like wildfire or goes viral. When a marketing campaign goes viral, a company’s sales, engagement, and brand awareness can all increase dramatically.

“He ran a marathon once because he was on the road. Sharks have dedicated a week to him. Mosquitoes refuse to bite him just out of respect. “

Have you heard of him? Yes, he is “the most interesting man in the world” – a fictional character who drinks Dos Equis beer and stars in the company’s viral commercials.

The commercials – which make me laugh every time – are part commercials, part comedy skits, and have a similar theme, so fans always know when they’re seeing a Dos Equis commercial.

The company addresses its target group of discerning beer drinkers in a committed, creative and humorous way via TV, social media and YouTube. The unique campaign created fans around the world who helped spread it across multiple platforms so that people even dress up as the main character of the Halloween commercial.

Dos Equis may not have been 100 percent sure that their campaign would turn out the way it did, but they had a good idea of ​​its potential popularity.

Likewise, there is no guaranteed way to ensure that your content will go viral. However, there are certain steps you can take to give your marketing campaign the best chance of success.

Many marketers hope that a campaign will go viral – meaning it will be recognized, widely accepted, and influential. But there is no guaranteed formula. However, when you think of some of your favorite viral marketing campaigns, you will notice some general features. Marketers looking to reach a larger audience should consider these attributes when creating their next campaign:

1. It appeals to a target group.

A successful viral marketing campaign takes the target audience into account. For a campaign to go viral, it needs to resonate with viewers and make them feel so strong about your content that they decide to share it with their family, friends, and followers.

Determine who your target audience is in the earliest stages of your campaign creation. Ask questions like: Who do I want to connect with? What content would you feel passionate about? What are their hopes, dreams and values? Why should you care about my campaign? What can I do to make you want to share my content with your social network?

2. It has a strong visual strategy.

Viral marketing campaigns require a visual strategy. This leads potential customers to understand your brand through images.

A campaign should tell a story, and that story is best told with visual elements that resonate with your audience. Your visual strategy needs to be compatible with your brand and audience – it should be interesting, informative, and contain some intrigue like humor or hope.

3. It’s very creative.

Think of your preferred viral marketing campaign. What makes it different from others?

Marketing campaigns only go viral when they have a unique, interesting, and innovative idea. Your campaign needs to be new and attention grabbing.

4. It has emotional appeal.

Have you seen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign? You will feel frustrated, insecure, strong, and confident in just a few minutes.

Each commercial features a person sitting behind a curtain describing what they look like while an artist – who cannot see them – draws their portrait. After the person has described their facial features and the portrait is complete, the curtain is removed. The artist then draws a second portrait of the individual based on what he actually sees.

After the second portrait is ready, the artist places the two drawings side by side. As you can probably imagine, the portrait derived from the individual’s self-description is less attractive than what the artist draws in the second portrait.

In fact, the portrait the artist creates in each video during the campaign is a much brighter and more realistic representation of the individual. This is a message about the self-esteem and beauty in all of us.

The campaign went viral because of its relativity and emotional appeal. You have to make your audience feel like they are feeling something – otherwise, why would they want to share your content?

5. It’s easy to share and promote.

Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s pretty easy to share and promote your content with the rest of the world. You don’t need large sums of money to create successful photo or video content that can be consumed by the larger population.

In order for something to actually go viral, it has to be shared over and over again. This means that you and your company must first share the content in as many places – and in as many ways – as possible. Then you need to make it easy for your audience to share it too.

Enable the sharing, embedding and downloading features of all your content so your viewers can tag their parents on Facebook, notify their best friends on Instagram or download your video to easily turn your content into a memorable GIF. Create calls-to-action or elements that encourage users to send them to their friends.

If an influencer fits your overall message and adds value to your campaign, consider asking a celebrity to promote your content. For example, viewers can find your insurance commercials more entertaining and equity worthy with Peyton Manning or Brad Paisley singing.

6. It will be published at the right time.

You should also consider the date and time that you will be sharing your content. Marketers take advantage of major holidays like Christmas, as well as major events like the Presidential Race and the Super Bowl.

These days, more and more people are flipping through their social media feeds, watching TV, and keeping up to date with current events, which is causing marketers to spend more money on their campaigns.

Likewise, anyone who uses a platform like Instagram knows what I’m talking about when I say the date and time of your posts are important.

For example, if you post at 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday, most people are out having dinner, watching a movie, or just hanging out with friends – which means they most likely won’t be browsing their news feed … at least not like that often like they do on Tuesdays.

After all of that sharing and promoting, you have to wait and see if people will stick to your content or not. In that case, you could possibly have created a viral campaign. If not, you may have to try again.

Check out this blog to see why some older campaigns stand the test of time.

The benefits of viral marketing campaigns

Creating a viral marketing campaign is not an easy or predictable feat. However, if your campaign goes viral it could mean thousands or even millions of new people will be introduced to your brand and buy your products – money in the bank!

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s campaign video went viral, making it a household name. They were then bought by Unilever for $ 1 billion – not bad.

Here are some more benefits of making viral content:

1. You can build your brand.

When a marketing campaign goes viral, your audience automatically learns about your company, your products, services, and your brand. This includes people who may never have heard of your company before. This is how some small businesses take their “big break” and how big businesses stay relevant.

2. You don’t need a big budget.

Some of the most successful viral content is created on a budget. Nowadays, individuals and businesses of all sizes can film high quality videos and take professional looking photos on an iPhone.

Many content creators or people who simply upload a random video have become famous almost overnight. It’s not about resources and budget, it’s about what gets the internet’s attention. Marketers don’t always need a large-scale production with a celebrity to make their campaign fun, surprising, understandable, or informative.

Fun Fact: Jonathan Goldsmith, the man behind the World’s Most Interesting Man commercials, had only played a few gigs before taking his big break when the campaign went viral.

3. You bring your brand in front of a new (and bigger) audience.

Campaigns are considered “viral” if they have a large reach. Businesses have seen increased sales, increased social media engagement, and increased conversation about their brand and products.

This is exactly what happened for Smart Water when they brought Jennifer Aniston on board for their campaign in 2012. The video has over 6 million views on YouTube and their humorous campaigns have performed so well with the public that Aniston was featured in them through 2017.

3 of the most famous virus campaigns

Now that we’ve looked at how successful virus campaigns work and how to start a campaign, let’s look at some of the most popular virus campaigns ever created.

Old Spice: “The Man Your Husband Might Smell Like”

Old Spice discovered that women are buying the men’s personal hygiene products and created an ad that spoke directly to that audience.

The “Old Spice Man” speaks courageously, confidently and with humor directly to the audience. He tells women that anything is possible when your husband uses Old Spice – while sailing shirtless across the ocean, turning sports tickets into diamonds, and riding a white horse on the beach.

This campaign went viral because … well … humor works. It was so successful that it actually boosted the brand’s sales. The commercial received over 55 million views on YouTube, won an Emmy for Outstanding Advertising at the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards, and won the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

ALS: “Ice Bucket Challenge”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge began four years ago and was created to raise awareness about the debilitating disease. For the challenge, you had to pour ice cold water all over your body and then name a friend who does the same. This became a movement that raised $ 115 million in the summer of 2014 alone. Because … who doesn’t want to see a family member or friend pour ice cold water on their head?

Celebrities from all over the world participated, challenged, donated and raised awareness of their famous friends. There was a hashtag of the Ice Bucket Challenge that grew in popularity and allowed the videos to easily spread across multiple social media channels.

Most importantly, the challenge is fun and participants feel part of a larger movement, which is why it remains relevant years later.

Always “#LikeAGirl”

This video became a huge hit as it directly addressed the question of how commonly used phrases can affect a person’s self-image and confidence. In the video, different men, women and boys are asked to “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl”. Then young girls are asked to do the same with an entirely different approach: they show strength and confidence in their movements.

Viewers realized how quickly we use feminine phrases as insults and that doing something like #LikeAGirl should be seen as inspiring and brave.

The original TV commercial, which was released in 2014, had over 65 million views on Youtube, and the hashtag #LikeAGirl is popular to this day.

Check out this blog for more great examples of viral video marketing campaigns.


There is no roadmap to getting your content “viral”. You can check what has worked in the past and try to emulate it. Ultimately, however, it’s about creating great content that connects with your audience and gets them to share it. As you do so, you may find that your brand is the one everyone is talking about.

Originally published May 13, 2021 7:00 AM, updated May 13, 2021

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