by Ana Gotter December 13, 2018

8 Viral Video Marketing Examples and What We Can Learn From Them

Viral advertisements are the unicorns digital marketers constantly seek, but only a few can get right. Because a viral advertisement can spread messages as quickly as possible through social media, viral marketing campaigns tend to drive marketers crazy because there isn’t a universal answer to what makes an audience tick. Instead, marketers have to change their formulas when creating new ads and hope their viral content will pull the kind of attention they want.

Fortunately for professionals in digital marketing, changing campaign formulas is easy once they understand the consistent elements found in all areas of viral marketing. This understanding will help marketers better resonate with their audiences no matter what the subject of the viral marketing campaign is.

How Can Viral Marketing Affect Your Business?

Viral marketing refers to the organic distribution of a message, product, or service through deliberate efforts. Because social media has caused distribution rates to continuously increase, viral marketing has become essential for brands to survive. If they want growth and popularity, brands will have to learn how to adopt the right viral marketing efforts that appeal to the masses.

The good news is that once a company masters its viral marketing effort, it can reach a new level of success — a level that isn’t attainable by solely relying on traditional strategies.

Viral marketing can impact a business in two major ways. Here’s a quick look at each. 

1. Significant Growth That Will Help Future Viral Advertisements

Because a great viral marketing campaign can create exponential growth in little time, you will be able to use your traffic to easily bring attention to any new ads. This means that because you were able to catch your audience’s attention the first time, they are now aware of your brand and will be looking forward to your next viral marketing campaign. As long as your advertisements have excellent storytelling, resonate with your followers, and contain imagery that forces conversation, you will not have to do any extensive distribution work — your audience will take care of that.

2. Increased Conversions

Thanks to viral marketing, you won’t have to put so much effort into social media to show why potential customers should invest in your product or service. The buzz your viral marketing campaign generates will showcase your company’s value and will take your audience (and potential customers) through the sales funnel naturally. 

The best part about increasing conversions through viral marketing is that they affect all areas of your business. Once you raise your number of conversions, you will have more flexibility to optimize other areas of your company, like revenue management and brand equity.

What Makes Viral Marketing Campaigns Effective?

It’s important to remember that all effective viral marketing campaigns take targeted consumers into consideration. For you to have a successful campaign that’s comparable to the number of viral marketing examples out there, you have to be sure that the product or service you want to sell builds a connection with your audience. This involves triggering the desires, pain points, questions, and statements they wish they could address themselves.

Below are some questions to ask yourself when building effective viral marketing campaigns that are consumer-focused:

  • Who do I want to connect with and why?
  • What would they be passionate about?
  • What would resonate with them visually and why?
  • What are their values and dreams?
  • Why would they want to share the viral marketing campaign that I’m creating?
  • What can I give my audience to make them share the product or service I’m offering?

Once you’re able to answer these questions, you’ll be able to create a campaign that is just as good — if not better —  than the viral marketing examples that have taken over social media recently.

8 Successful Viral Marketing Examples To Learn From

Reviewing past successful viral marketing campaigns is a great way to get inspired. It also offers insights into what other companies and organizations got right and what they could have possibly done better. Here’s a look at eight viral marketing campaigns that were a hit with online audiences.

1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was started in 2014 as an effort to raise awareness and funds for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The challenge was easy: all people had to do was pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads and challenge a minimum of three others to do the same and donate. Soon, it became viral and wildly successful, with more than 17 million people worldwide posting their videos and encouraging others to participate.

Three primary factors of the Ice Bucket Challenge made it the epitome of a great viral marketing campaign: 

  1. Urgency
  2. Simplicity
  3. Emotional appeal

The campaign made it clear to participants that if they completed the ice bucket challenge within 24 hours, donated, and challenged others, they could potentially save an ALS sufferer’s life. By using the three triggers at once, the campaign turned into a widespread, valuable call-to-action, letting viewers know that increased participation meant more people with ALS would get the help they need.

2. Budweiser’s “Someone Waits for You at Home” Video

Most people are familiar with older, raunchier ads for Budweiser. But in 2014, Anheuser-Busch launched a marketing campaign that shone a different light on the popular beer brand. In the viral video “Someone Waits For You At Home,” the brewer brought attention to the serious side of alcohol by featuring a young man bonding with his dog, and the idea of him not returning to this canine companion after a night out drinking with his friends.

The campaign’s intention emotional trigger was obvious. Not only did Anheuser-Busch use the human-animal bond as leverage but it also depicted the dog as more than just a pet — the animal is like a family member, and your alcohol choices affect them, too. By taking this viral marketing route, Anheuser-Busch was also able to show that the company and its Budweiser brand truly care for the wellbeing of its consumers.

3. Hyundai x BTS Campaign

Instead of just releasing simple content about environmental healing, in early 2021, Hyundai took its efforts a step further by teaming up with the K-Pop group BTS. The Hyundai x BTS collaboration resulted in teasers and a short documentary about the importance of hydrogen, letting Gen Z-ers and younger millennials know that they’re the ones who are going to suffer most from environmental damage if they don’t make the right changes now.

Through the star power of BTS and engaging, quick imagery and infographics, Hyundai was able to make dense information about technology, economies, and hydrogen accessible to its target audience. Gen Z-ers and younger millennials are known to be more visual, having been raised on YouTube and Instagram. Knowing this, Hyundai made sure to keep the video’s information straightforward and concise so it could be easily digested by its audience while still being entertained.

4. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Video

Old Spice realized it needed to change the way consumers viewed its products, so the deodorant brand decided to re-direct its viral campaigns, focusing on the younger generation. The result was a fast-paced, funny video with an attractive man telling a female audience that their significant others could smell like him if they used Old Spice. Of course, the video went viral almost immediately.

By changing their targeted audience, Old Spice was able to create a more in-your-face campaign that gave it the freedom to create content that had sex appeal and humor — two elements that younger generations like. Also, because the message was blatant, Old Spice subtly urged consumers to not forget about the video. Even if a viewer didn’t run out to buy Old Spice immediately, they probably told someone about the company by sharing YouTube links, which in turn results in more organic brand awareness.

5. Planters’ “Baby Nut” Super Bowl 2020 Ad

During the 2020 Super Bowl, viewers were able to witness the funeral of Planters’ longstanding mascot, Mr. Peanut. With a mourning Kool-Aid Man and Mr. Clean in the background and one teardrop bringing the birth of Baby Nut, the message that Planters wanted to convey was not clear. Audiences wanted more, and, soon, #RIPeanut and #Babynut flooded social media.

It wasn’t the oddness of the ad that garnered attention. It was the fact that our culture is obsessed with great stories and tiny things. Planters found an opportunity to stand out with existing viral campaigns featuring Baby Groot, Baby Yoda, and even Boss Baby — all of which have enough of an in-depth story behind them to keep audiences entertained. By bringing in a baby of its own and promising an exciting tale that bordered on an action film, Planters was able to transform their platform, raise brand awareness, and gain attention from different audiences they weren’t able to attract before.

6. Cricket Wireless’ “John Cena Loves the Internet” Video

Cricket Wireless’ feel-good viral video with John Cena comes across more like a heartfelt message than an ad. In it, he plays chess with his young interviewer, shares some laughs, and then gives thanks to the internet for connecting him with all of us and giving him the career he has. With a simple image and #JohnCenaLovesTheInternet at the end, Cricket Wireless’s video had just the right amount of promotion that kept it from feeling insincere.

It’s easy to see why the video went viral quickly. Through John Cena’s authenticity about his success, Cricket Wireless was able to convey the message that it’s not like any other mobile carrier — that it’s had enough achievements to know that people always come first. Instead of talking about sales, bills, or phone add-ons like other businesses, the carrier re-directed its campaign to focus 100% on consumer feelings and entertainment. Viewers can watch the ad on YouTube as much as they want and enjoy it without feeling as if they’re being bombarded with sales pitches.

7. Popeyes’s Chicken Sandwich Craze

Popeyes was able to make its chicken sandwich go viral in 2019 by taking advantage of social media with snarky replies, not-so-friendly competition, and scarcity. Even though the fast food chain released its product during a time when chicken sandwiches were especially popular, Popeyes stood out by showcasing a new, witty brand voice that resonated well with users.

The reason why Popeyes’s social media antics and sandwich exclusivity worked so well together is that the marketing campaign’s subtle messaging made customers feel as if they had to have the sandwich to be part of the trend. It was as if those who had the sandwich were the only ones who could fully appreciate the company’s sassy remarks and could understand the inside jokes. Ultimately, by keeping the sandwich exclusive with a random tease on social media, Popeyes could continue to keep its viral campaign alive and make people fight to be a part of its platform.

8. Always’s “Like a Girl” Campaign

Always’s “Like a Girl” campaign first went viral in 2014 with a three-minute video that featured men and women being asked to do things “like a girl.” The short video shows audiences how even though some might think of the phrase as an insult, it actually should be taken as a term of strength and empowerment.

The groundbreaking campaign helped solidify the brand’s legacy by being honest and hitting the pain points women experience daily due to sexism. Because many of these same women buy Always products, they can feel more comfortable knowing that the company is their ally and won’t hesitate to speak up for them.

Knocking Out Viral Marketing Campaigns Is Not Impossible

Even if there’s no precise road map to help your viral ads skyrocket, studying what was successful in the past can give you insight into what moves audiences and what captures their attention. This can help you craft viral marketing campaigns that are effective and speak to consumers.

No matter what you do with your next viral marketing campaigns, you need to be sure that your product or service resonates with your audience. They will be the ones sharing your information and raising your brand awareness organically, so make sure that you’re creating valuable viral content your audience will remember rather than forget.

  • Video Advertising

Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter is a freelance writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at

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