Chapter 1: Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns

Posted on October 28, 2019 | Updated on January 8, 2021

Successful viral marketing campaigns resonate with your audience so much that they share your content with others. Sometimes, viral campaigns are planned, but more often than not, they simply go viral because the brand is spot on with the target audience and captures their attention with engaging or interesting content. When people hear about a product from someone else, it has a 59 percent credibility factor offline and 49 percent credibility factor online. The beauty of successful viral marketing campaigns is the ability to reach more people than you ever thought possible as others share your brand message. There are many methods of creating a marketing campaign with the potential to go viral. Learn how to think outside the box by studying some of the more interesting viral campaigns, such as the following five, and what they do right.

1. Valentine’s Day “Love Bigger” by Moonpig

The most successful viral marketing campaigns appeal to the brand’s target audience. In Moonpig’s marketing campaign, they tap into a need people have on Valentine’s Day to show how much they care for someone and then show a young couple with him showing up with a large Moonpig greeting card. They also mention they offer flowers and are running a sale. Since their target audience is millennials, it makes sense that most of the characters in the commercial are younger and that they offer a discount, which is appealing to this group. Although the ad appeared on television, they also added it to their YouTube channel, where it’s been viewed hundreds of times. They also share material to their social media networks for further exposure. Takeaway: Before creating an ad figure out who your audience is. You can do this by:

  • Studying internal data to learn where your customers live and any other similarities among them
  • Using Google Analytics to figure out geographic location, times of day they visit your site and what types of sites they come to your site from
  • Digging into social media insights and see what similarities your most active followers have

The more patterns you notice, the more accurate your buyer persona. A buyer persona allows you to create an imaginary person — or multiple people — who represent your typical buyer. Run any campaign past the preferences and needs of that buyer.

2. #AskEddie by Southern Rail

In a unique twist on social media marketing, Southern Rail let a 15-year-old take over the management of their Twitter account and created the hashtag #AskEddie. Eddie has a sharp wit and quick answers for almost any question you might imagine. After not much time, Eddie Smith had taken the hashtag #AskEddie viral. He just simply told them to ask him questions. It took a few hours, and he had over 6,000 likes and more questions coming in about everything under the sun — not just rail travel questions, such as “Can you drive a train?” and “Should I eat chicken fajitas or chicken Thai green curry?” Eddie answered every question, sometimes seriously and sometimes with humor. Takeaway: If the approach you’re using in your marketing campaigns isn’t working, try a fresh approach. You can:

  • Bring in new ideas by gathering input from departments outside of marketing
  • Ask your customers what they’d like to see
  • Have fun with your audience

You never know when you might have an Eddie on your payroll, and their skills are going untapped. Humor is an excellent quality that attracts new users to your brand.

3. Giant Chocolate Like Thumb by Cadbury Dairy Milk

When it comes to successful viral marketing campaigns, figuring out how to grab the interest of online users is key. Cadbury Dairy Milk came up with a campaign where they’d build a giant chocolate thumb using only their Dairy Milk bars and livestreaming the entire process. More than 350,000 people around the globe watched the construction of the giant thumb, and they gained about 40,000 new followers. Takeaway: Find elements of your business people love and present it uniquely. People love chocolate and love Facebook likes, so the Cadbury campaign was a no-brainer. Try to:

  • Create something new out of your product or present in a unique way
  • Livestream the creation of the design on Facebook or YouTube
  • Pump up your followers by advertising the event ahead of when it starts

With a little artistic planning and creativity, your video will go viral and bring you new followers.

4. Fashionably Late? by Oreo

When the great debate about whether a dress was black and blue or white and gold raged on social media, several brands hopped on board the trend with their advertising campaigns. Probably one of the most brilliant was Oreo and their Fashionably Late campaign. Instead of arguing about the color of the dress, they provided images of two cookie packages, one gold and white and the other black and blue (golden Oreos versus chocolate Oreos). Takeaway: Find a trending topic and add your unique perspective to it that ties into your brand. Remember to:

  • Include an image that shows your product
  • Find an interesting hashtag that taps into the trending topic to take advantage of the extra traffic
  • Be sensitive — it’s okay to tap into something such as #thedress, but not okay to use a tragedy to drive traffic to your social media page and won’t yield the results you’re seeking

Have fun with your customers and show them you’re aware of the latest trending topics by relating them to your brand or product.

5. So Real It’s Scary by LG

LG wanted to show how realistic their new computer monitors were, so they came up with a prank to pull in an office building. They replaced the floor of the elevator with their screens and hooked up cameras to record the reaction of those who saw graphics of the elevator floor falling away. Everyone had a great time with the simulation, and it showed just how realistic the images are. The video gathered more than 47 million views and 251,000 likes. People shared the video all over the internet and added their thoughts to the brand’s social media profiles. Takeaway: Show your product in action. Consider the following:

  • What is unique about your product compared to competitors?
  • How can you show off your product in a unique way, so people get the benefits of it over other brands?
  • Don’t be afraid to pull a prank as long as it’s in good fun.

Remember to keep your audience in mind. For example, if you sell financial services, then you might want a more serious approach than what LG took here. 

Tap Into Emotion

Most successful viral marketing campaigns tap into some type of user emotion. Think about the problems your typical customers face (pain points) and figure out how to solve those problems. Present the solution in a fun way and watch your meme, photo, post or video go viral.

The Small Business Marketing Guide     CHAPTER 2: Influencer Marketing


The Small Business Marketing Guide: Introduction

Chapter 1: Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns
Chapter 2: Influencer Marketing
Chapter 3: Conversational Marketing
Chapter 4: CMS Marketing
Chapter 5: Brand Marketing
Chapter 6: Scarcity Marketing
Chapter 7: Transactional Marketing
Chapter 8: FOMO Marketing
Chapter 9: Neuromarketing
Chapter 10: Close Range Marketing
Chapter 11: Guerrilla Marketing
Chapter 12: Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Chapter 13: Target Marketing
Chapter 14: Diversity Marketing
Chapter 15: Undercover Marketing
Chapter 16: Cause Marketing

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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