Top 20 Viral Marketing Campaigns of All Time
Inspired by the modus operandi of a viral disease, Viral marketing has metaphorically yielded overnight success for several brands big and small. This includes renowned brands like KFC, Dove, Frito Lays and others. Feeding on customer psychology, Viral marketing is the most effective form of marketing strategies in terms of both investment and results.
Theoretically, Viral marketing is a technique that naturally triggers a user’s subconsciousness to perform marketing on behalf of a business through word of mouth marketing. The spark is initiated with any form of a digital campaign including Social media activity or strategic advertisements.
But how can you subconsciously train and trigger users to perform marketing for your brand whom you haven’t even met? To begin with, it is not an easy task, simply because it requires a thorough market research along with a strong self-belief to come up with an idea that can break through. Even after all of that, it is very easy to end up in a mess.
A successful viral marketing campaign is built upon:
- Knowing why people share information rather than trying to convince them to buy a product or service.
- Understanding how and why people communicate with each other about a product.
As the legendary Steve Jobs puts it, “Your customers want to know who you are and what you stand for. Where do you fit in this world”.
This has been true for most of the viral campaigns for over a decade. A closer look at some of the most viral campaigns clearly reveals that they were designed to:
- Make People feel
- Do something unexpected
- Not advertise their products at all or upfront
- Make sequels
- Allow sharing
- Connect with the audience
The Brihaspati Infotech (a leading web design, development, and marketing agency) recently researched such campaigns and concluded with a list of top 20 viral marketing campaigns of all time. With this article, we aim to share this list with you and our thoughts on how all these campaigns utilized viral marketing to umm…. get VIRAL!
So sit back, relax and let’s go through our list of top 20 viral marketing campaigns of all time.
1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
About the campaign: A non-profit campaign created to raise charity and awareness about ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a form of motor neuron disease, took the social media by storm with over 2.4 M+ videos with countless views over the internet.
This campaign was started by a former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who himself suffered from ALS and dedicated the challenge to his friends and family – either make a donation to ALS charity or bathe yourself with Ice water. What followed next is history in the books of viral campaigns.
2. LG Elevator Prank
About the campaign: LG devised this Halloween theme based campaign several years back by placing its life-like IPS LCD displays in the floor of an elevator. When a person enters the elevator, a video is played on the LCD panels, freaking the elevator users by making them feel that the elevator is falling apart.
3. Dove Real Beauty Sketches
About the campaign: Women empowerment and celebrating the physical differences among women has always been the driving force of Dove’s marketing campaigns. While this did backfire on them in 2004 for launching product packaging in different shapes and sizes (depicting bodies of women), they eventually had the most success with the Real Beauty Sketches campaign.
The campaign asked women to explain their own thoughts about themselves to a sketch artist behind a curtain. The sketch was then compared side by side to how they actually look in order to make them realize the perception they had about their own looks. The campaign instantly espoused a positive message, to change women’s attitudes toward their perception of beauty.
4. Red Bull: Stratos
About the campaign: “Red Bull gives you wings” a marketing phrase which was cemented with a death-defying free fall by Felix Baumgartner from 24 miles above the earth. The campaign resulted in capturing the attention of worldwide press – telecasted live over 80+ TV channels around the world, as well as various social media channels including 8M concurrent views on Youtube.
5. Volvo Truck – The Epic Split
About the campaign: Volvo, a global truck brand had Jean-Claude Van Damme stretch his legs doing a full split standing in the middle of the air with one leg on each truck. Yes, the stunts were done under controlled environments but the message about the maneuverability and effectiveness of the truck was delivered precisely with over 72 Million Youtube views.
6. Evian Water
One of the most viewed videos on social media (knowingly or unknowingly) is of Evian’s roller-skating babies.
While the video was a real attention grabber, it was barely linked to Evian’s product. The only branding they did was at the end of the video, summarizing that by drinking their water you will as energetic as these babies. The result: over 3 million views on youtube.
7. Dollar Shave club – sending razor blades automatically
Dollar shave club launched a revolutionary launch video that generated 12,000 new customers within the first 48 hours.
The video simply talked about why dollar shave. A topic that people would want to do instead of talking about it in the public was touched upon emphatically by the Dollar Shave club as they presented themselves with a no BS company.
8. Vodafone – “You and I”
Back in the days when the cellular network Vodafone was known as Hutch, a campaign was launched featuring a pug named Hutch which always followed his master.
This campaign garnered huge success for Vodafone with a clear message being conveyed that wherever you will go our network will be available. The campaign ran successfully for several years until it was replaced by Vodafone’s iconic Zoozoos. However, if rumors are to be believed then Vodafone can bring the Pug back in its upcoming campaign for the 4th quarter of 2018.
9. Lays “Do us a Flavor”
Being a worldwide food and beverage company, Pepsi had all the audience in the world to try out this campaign. They urged their audience to suggest a flavor that the community would like to see in the market. The campaign included a custom Facebook page, hoardings at times square and several television advertisements. The campaign was an effort to generate social media buzz and get the audience talking.
The contest was run in multiple countries and the outcome was over 4 million submissions, 22 million Facebook page visits and a +12% rise in sales over the years.
10. GoPro: Fireman Saves Kitten
GoPro is known to occasionally utilize user-generated content for their own marketing. However most of these videos are stunts performed by enthusiasts who are either riding a sports bike, jumping from a cliff or performing backflips on the top edge of a multi-story building. These videos simply suit that brand and its target audience.
However in one instance, GoPro utilized a video from a Fireman saving a kitten. While the video is nowhere near the brand’s marketing agenda to utilize athleticism, it managed to convey a greater message that you don’t need to perform death-defying stunts to be a hero.
The video managed to generate over 40 Million views on youtube and was equally loved by the extreme sports-loving audience as well as several others.
11. OldSpice “Smell like a man, man”
The commercial released by Oldspice around 10 years back boosted sales for OldSpice by 11 percent in one year. Featuring former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa, the campaign becomes a sensation once it was presented in the XLIV Superbowl and went ahead to receive the industry’s highest honor, the Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix.
The virality was not only boosted by the video but how the marketing team engaged the audience with Mustafa himself replying to user comments on Youtube. The video has since attained over 55 million views on youtube.
12. KFC’s 11 Herbs and Spices
This KFC twitter campaign was one of the most unique and engaging ways that a brand would have ever followed to interact with its audience and generate a PR stunt. While it took extreme patience from KFC for their strategy to bear fruit, it eventually did and had KFC trending on twitter.
The event unfolded as Twitter user Edge (@edgette22) accidentally noticed that KFC only follows only 11 profiles on Twitter. This includes 5 former Spice girls and 6 men named Herb. This added up to 11 herbs and spices, the famous KFC fried chicken recipe. However, this was just the beginning of the ad campaign.
KFC remained silent for weeks till the event was forgotten and then out of the blue, they created an oil painting for Edge. This action made the story viral across the globe.
13. World’s Toughest Job by American Greetings
This American greetings campaign was set up to send a greeting card to your mom’s by making people realize how selflessly moms dedicate their lives to their children. While this sounds like a blatant trick to sell some cards, the video is anything but that. The video “as they claim” is a fake job interview where the interviewer explains the job responsibilities which includes working 24*7 throughout the life without breaks for children.
It is disclosed at the very end that this job is being a mom. The overall experience triggers an emotional response of a user and a subtle branding at the very end without any pushovers gathered over 27 Million views on Youtube.
14. Blendtec’s Will It Blend Campaign
About the campaign: Everybody is already familiar with a common household commodity like a food blender. So how can a brand convince customers for purchasing a new blender? Blendtec’s approach was a video campaign which highlighted that the blender can blend everything, including expensive electronics like an iPhone.
The host of the advertisement blended various electronics including an Iphone – clearly conveying the message that this is one of the best blenders available in the market.
15. Volkswagen Fun Theory
About the campaign: To engage the worldwide community, Volkswagen launched a series of campaigns aimed towards highlighting the fact that people can change their habits if there is a fun way to do so. One of their most viral campaigns had them convert a public staircase adjacent to an escalator into a piano.
This out of the box campaign had nothing to do with what Volkswagen is selling but everything to do with the message that it conveyed about the volkswagen believes and business process.
16. Netflix socks
About the campaign: Netflix provided another example of how a brand can celebrate its fan culture While binge-watching, Netflix users often tend to get asleep, waking up wondering at what point did they stopped watching their favorite show.
Howsoever comical that sound, there were solutions being proposed by the Netflix community on social media. Netflix hopped into this discussion with a solution of their own – The smart socks. Netflix provided DIY instructions where users can integrate the technology into their own socks such that by installing an accelerometer in it which identified if a person has dozed off to send a signal to your tv to pause the show.
17. Google Earth: Saroo Brierley (Homeward Bound)
Google earth’s campaign about Saroo Brierley, a native Indian who was separated from his family on a train and somehow ended up being adopted by Australian natives is more of a from the heart testimonial and that too a well-deserved one.
The video highlights how Saroo utilized Google earth and ended up meeting his lost parents in India. A story that touches all the tender emotions of a human heart has indeed changed user’s perspective towards google’s services. Within no time at all, this video went viral and generated over 27 Million Youtube views.
18. Apple – think different
The Think different campaign was launched by Apple way back in 1997, and the ad still resonates with Apple’s services and their business model. The advertisement celebrated the “crazy ones” or the rebels including Mohammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Edison and others who had a different vision of the world.
Steve Jobs summarized his vision of Apple while launching the campaign that you need to think differently if you are looking to buy an apple computer. Adding that if only any one of these legends were alive and interested in using a computer, then it would have been an Apple.
19. Share a Coke
The campaign was launched by Coca-Cola to increase their sales and increase it did. Coca Cola’s sale increased by 7% after the release of the campaign. The core idea was to gather a list of the 250 most popular names of each country and put them on the bottle label. This way the buyer can simply purchase the coke and share it with any of his friend or family member with the same name.
The campaign was so successful that it was launched over 80 countries and taking cues from the success Nutella followed the same pattern for themselves.
20. Under Armour #iwillwhatiwant
This campaign by UnderArmour was launched to boost sales in their woman product line which was not even half of the men’s product line. Underarmour launched a series of videos featuring six female athletes to inspire the female fan base of all six athletes that choose to be dedicated even after constant criticism in their paths to glory.
Following the campaigns, the company crossed $3 billion in sales with over 10 million views on Youtube.
So what does it take for a campaign like these to go viral? Is it the content that was created or is it the platform where it was published. We believe it’s a combination of a lot of things. Yes, many brands took advantage of the already built audience but we should not forget that once you have an audience that watches your every move, you are also subjected to a lot of criticism for the smallest of mistakes.
As far as similarities between all these viral campaigns, none of these promoted their products or explained why they are the ones that you choose. Instead, they tried to deliver a message to the community which touched emotions on a different level and in many cases surprised the community as well. That is something we believe is the key to create viral campaigns.
What lessons did you learn from these campaigns? Do share your thoughts in the comments sections below.
Author: Kapil Arora
Kapil Arora is a skilled web developer at The Brihaspati Infotech – Web Design and Development Company. Besides analyzing technical requirements of the clients, Kapil also writes about conversion rate optimization and other strategies for success.