Top 8 Viral Marketing Campaigns Online that were Hyper Effective

Every time I watch the early seasons of the famous entrepreneur show “Shark Tank”, the naive founders of these small companies always have the same strategy to grow.

“We will just make a marketing campaign that goes viral and our business will succeed!”

– every single business owner on Shark Tank

Well.

It’s not that easy.

Creating a successful online marketing campaign that goes viral is sort of seen as the pinnacle of online marketing these days. But even though a lot of people are desperate to succeed on this matter, very few people manage to get more than a couple of thousand views on the Youtube video they’ve worked so hard with. That’s the hard truth.

So what does it really take to create a viral online marketing campaign? Can we find some elements in these successful campaigns that other businesses can learn from?

Before we start this article, let me quickly present myself. I am an online marketing professional with more than 12 years experience in the field. I’ve worked in businesses that have desperately tried to create viral marketing campaigns – and failed.

That’s why I wanted to create this interesting article about some of the best viral marketing campaigns the world has ever seen.

Top 8: Viral Online Marketing Campaigns that every marketer should know about

Let’s get to it.

#1: Lacoste & Endangered species campaign

Photo: Instagram, Lacoste account.

In 2019, Lacoste chose to create a limited edition of t-shirts.

Instead of having their famous crocodile on the left side of the chest, they replaced it with several endangered animals.

First of all, that’s a brilliant idea. Secondly, that’s the exact type of content that has a huge possibility of going viral.

I was super interested to get a hand on one of the shirts, but Lacoste did something even more genius to limit the number of t-shirts being sold.

At the time, there was 589 Iberian Lynx left in the world. Therefore, Lacoste only produced 589 polo shirts with the Iberian Lynx logo on!

Genius marketing. Absolutely genius marketing.

If you want to read the whole press release from their partner IUCN, feel free to click this link right here.

Why did it go viral?

  • Content regarding endangered animals has a very high risk of being shared a lot in social media

  • Lacoste is an extremely strong and valuable brand

  • The fact that the polo shirts were made in a super limited edition made people want them even more

PS! Just for fun, I went into Ebay and saw if any of these shirts were sold second-hand. And I found a couple. The cheapest one was sold for 27,000 Thai Baht – which equals about 850 USD! 🙂 See screenshot from Ebay below.

Screenshot: Ebay.

#2: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Screenshot: Youtube

What most people saw:

Celebreties posting videos of themselves with some assistant pouring ice water over their head.

What the ALS Association saw:

A hyper relevant and extremely successful marketing campaign that really accelerated the fight against ALS.

According to that same organization, the overall donations from 2013 to 2014 went up by 187 %! That is madness. (Source: Als.org)

And it clearly shows that celebrities can use their power in a very positive way if they’re just trying to do so.

Why did it go viral?

  • It gave celebrities the chance to focus on themselves in a bizarre and fun situation, which they obviously love.

  • Most people found it very nice to see celebrities try to be creative in the way they performed the ice bucket challenge

  • After all: supporting donations for ALS treatment is a good thing that most people can get behind

And….if you for some reason want to see the whole video of Donald Trump doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a couple of Miss Universe contestants….here you go:



#3: Dunkin Donuts – “The Dress”

Screenshot: Twitter

Do you remember that extremely annoying picture of a dress that circulated all social media channels back in 2015?

A picture uploaded by the Scottish singer Caitlin McNeill literally went extremely viral after she posted it on Tumblr. Celebrities in all types of talk shows all over the world discussed the color of that dress. Was it blue? Black? Or was it white and gold?

Impossible to say.

Well. This viral campaign isn’t about the actual dress. But Dunkin Donuts knew very well what they were doing when they posted a picture of two donuts next to each other on a white plate.

With the text “Doesn’t matter if it’s blue/black or white/gold, they still taste delivious”, Dunkin Donuts literally broke the Internet.

As you can see from the screenshot attached, more than 2500 people retweeted and 3800 people “liked” the post.

Why did it go viral?

  • Making fun of current events increases the chance of going viral
  • Everyone likes donuts, I guess? 🙂

Bonus material: Lego

The Danish toy manufacturer Lego also managed to make a funny tweet that was related to the whole “dress situation”:

Screenshot: Twitter

#4: #LoveWins by Visa & Mentos

Screenshot: Twitter
Screenshot: Mentos

These days, it’s not rare that worldwide companies show their support to gay marriage and the LGBT community.

Back in 2015, it was different. It was new. And it was bold.

Two of the companies that set the standard back then were candy manufacturer Mentos and credit card provider Visa.

After the US Supreme Court made it legal for all states across the US to accept gay marriage, both companies posted a photo on their official Twitter account to support the decision. In addition to that, many of the companies already back then started the trend of using rainbow logos as their profile picture.

The world can be so nice sometimes.

Why did it go viral?

  • Because the US Supreme Court Decision had been talked about a lot in the media

  • Before this campaign, there were no significant worldwide companies that spread pro-LGBT messages on their official social media accounts

  • After all: the campaign was very brave and supportive to a large community

#5: “Batman: The Dark Knight” – Best Viral Movie Marketing Campaign done by Hollywood ever

What the people behind “Batman: The Dark Knight” did, was extremely well-planned.

When you start to read about this marketing campaign, you understand why it went viral. In fact, the campaign was so successful that it even won two prices at the famous Cannes film festival:

  • Lion Cyber Grand Prix Award
  • Lions Silver Cyber Award

…and for those of you who are not too interested in the film industry: that’s huge. Very huge.

So what was the Dark Knight viral marketing campaign all about?

Instead of me writing 200 words about this marketing campaign, I would rather use some help from this amazing Youtuber who explains the concept in 4 minutes and 27 seconds.



Once you’ve seen that Youtube movie, you probably go: WOW! That was AMAZING!

And it was.

Why did it go viral?

  • Interactive campaigns will very often make people eager to participate

  • “Batman” is a super strong brand

  • All the elements in this marketing campaign really engaged the audience. And if we know one thing, it’s that “Batman” got a super engaged audience to begin with.

#6: Dove: “Real Beauty” Drawings from a sketch artist

Screenshot: Youtube

This one is probably my favorite of all the viral online marketing campaigns out there. And that’s not because it got the most views, earned the most money or is somehow connected to a brand that I prefer to buy products from.

But because it helps people to understand that they are beautiful.

The campaign worked like this:

  • A sketch artist and several women meet up in a room.
  • Based on the DESCRIPTIONS of themselves, the sketch artist creates a drawing of the pictures.
  • And an astonishing result.

As you might understand, all the women describe themselves as much uglier compared to what they really are.

With more than 69 million views (and counting), this is one of the most successful online viral marketing campaigns done by a private-owned profite-seeking company ever.

Watch the whole video

I would really encourage you to watch the whole video – it only takes 3 minutes:



Why did it go viral?

  • It makes people feel good about themselves, which is very often a key thing in marketing campaigns for beauty companies.

  • The campaign helps people who might not have the best confidence.

  • Dove does have a high marketing budget…which obviously helps to kickstart the viral campaign.

#7: Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

I was only 20 years old when this commercial came out in 2010. Yet, I was old enough to remember all the jokes and memes that came with the Old Spice commercial.

If you google “Viral Marketing Campaigns Examples”, I can almost guarantee you that all the lists will have this commercial on top. For some reason, it became super popular.

What’s the concept?

The concept is a series of Youtube movies and commercials where a handsome man talks to a woman. The woman is supposed to be the person sitting and watching these commercials.

With sentences like: “Does your man smell like this?” and “Now look at your man…and back to me….and back to your man….and back to me”, the whole commercial is about making a comparison between the guy in the advert and the partner of these women. It’s sort of an interactive commercial…without being interactive at all.

If you understand what I mean.

Anyway: have a look. It takes you 30 seconds.



Why did it go viral?

  • This was one of the first viral marketing campaigns that took Internet by storm.

  • Handsome guys talking directly to women should always work out quite well..?

  • It’s very sharable. You can only imagine the number of women who sent these to their partners/husband with the message: “Maybe you should become like this guy? 😉 “

#8: Pepsi Jeff Gordon Commercial – Test Drive

If you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you might remember this viral prank by Pepsi Max back in 2013.



The concept was quite simple – yet hilarious. Make the famous NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon go into a test driving at a Chevrolet car dealership in the US. And just let him do his job – and record it.

Of course: you need some type of tweak to the film in order to make it relevant for the Pepsi audience.

But what’s interesting is the outcome of this viral online marketing campaign. It ended up driving many million extra views to the Pepsi Youtube channel.

It’s impossible to know exactly how much revenue that could be generated from such a campaign. However – we do know that the brand got a lot of publicity.

Why did it go viral?

  • Everyone loves NASCAR and fast cars

  • If there’s one thing that always go viral on the Internet: it’s pranks. People love to see other people get pranked.

  • The video itself is not so product-focused, which helps people to see through the fact that it’s actually created by a private-owned company

Pros & Cons of Viral Marketing for Businesses

You might think that “all PR is good PR”?

It’s not that easy. Many businesses are afraid of their marketing going viral – due to a wide range of reasons. Let’s try to summarize the advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing.


Advantages

  • You will get a lot of free reach

  • Whenever a person voluntarily share your ad on various social media platforms, it literally has zero cost for the business

  • It can sometimes be more effective as it’s not marked as an actually commercial

  • These viral marketing campaigns might, in many cases, contribute to a large growth in your business

Disadvantages

  • You got no control of where you marketing material is spread

  • Viral campaigns can also be negative*

  • Spending a lot of time on TRYING to create a viral campaign might waste your time

  • You’re not able to track the reach nor the actual effect of the marketing campaign

*= For instance, H&M launched a new kids collection some years ago. They put a black kid in a hoodie with the text “Coolest monkey in the Jungle”. That ended up being quite a controversial campaign – even though H&M probably did not mean anything racist at all.

It’s worth mentioning that H&M apologized for that campaign in the end (read the full story in The Guardian).

Other relevant marketing articles

Are you interested in marketing?

In that case, I got something for you. The articles I write on marketing and business tend to be very popular for some reason. I’ll show you some of the other stuff that I’ve published in the past:

FAQ

✅Can viral marketing campaigns happen offline?

Not really.

If a brand gets a lot of offline publicity, we don’t really call it “viral”. Mouth-to-mouth marketing is not viral marketing.

✅What should I do in order to create a successful viral online marketing campaign?

Any good online marketer would chop off their left arm in order to know the recipe of creating a successful viral marketing campaign.

What I recommend that you do is to take a very close look at the examples in this article. If you can identify the key factors that make a campagain go viral: you’re at least closer to succeed than you were when you woke up today.

✅Does viral marketing need to cost anything?

It doesn’t. If a marketing campaign goes viral, it means that it gets organic traffic due to the fact that its being shared by other people outside the company.

3 thoughts on “Top 8 Viral Marketing Campaigns Online that were Hyper Effective”

  1. Haha Lego knows what’s up!! If there’s one thing Danish people know, it’s brand reputation and marketing.

    #DanishDynamite

  2. Not that it really matters for the subject of your article, but the Pepsi advert is obviously fake. No way that they could pull that off in a country like the US without receiving a 100,0000$ law suit in return.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top