A viral marketing campaign works like magic and causes a domino effect once initiated. While some ads might come and go without audiences noticing, some have effectively risen to the spotlight.
Viral marketing campaigns can be less expensive than traditional digital marketing services. While there is no guarantee that a campaign may go viral, brands can take steps to make it work and catch mainstream media’s attention.
In this article, we'll dive into the ins and outs of viral marketing campaigns, including strategies that work and examples of viral marketing campaigns that swept the internet.
Table of Contents
What Are Viral Marketing Campaigns?
The term “viral” refers to something that spreads quickly. Viral marketing involves creating content that resonates with the target audience and promoting it on social media, where it can get many shares. Promoting channels include TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where content can get public recognition in less time than traditional methods and spread like wildfire.
Viral content is emotionally resonant, surprising or unexpected, creative, valuable, and easily shareable. These attributes inspire the audiences to share the marketing message, which leads to exponential growth, as audiences’ exposure defines digital marketing trends.
Eight Viral Marketing Strategies
The everyday essentials of viral marketing strategies include the message, the messenger, and the environment. Here’s how brands can refine their viral marketing strategies:
- Appealing to a Wider Audience
- Posting on the Relevant Platforms
- Using Strong Visuals
- Integrating Creative Elements
- Triggering Emotions
- Making It Easily Shareable
- Integrating Authenticity
- Sharing the Content at the Right Time
1. Appealing to a Wider Audience
Ideal viral marketing campaigns consider the audience at the core. The campaign must resonate with the audience and make them feel strongly about the brand so that they can share it on various platforms.
The initial stages of campaign creation call for identifying the target audience. The campaign can be made appealing to the audience with the following questions:
- Who to connect with
- The content that makes them feel passionate
- Their hopes, dreams, and values
- Focusing on pain points and key challenges
- Persuasion that increases shares
2. Posting on the Relevant Platforms
In 2023, 4.89 billion people regularly use social media. For content to go viral, it should be shared by millions and posted on a platform your target audience is most active on.
Social media dramatically affects people’s purchasing decisions — 76% confirm they purchase products seen in social media posts. Instagram, for example, is great for photographs, whereas TikTok is great for video material, such as the ALS ice bucket challenge.
3. Using Strong Visuals
A viral marketing campaign requires strong visuals that help audiences understand by telling a brand story. The campaign visuals must be intriguing, informative, and entertaining enough to trigger emotions.
4. Integrating Creative Elements
Brands should review their favorite viral campaigns' elements to determine what worked best for them. Producing creative elements requires careful planning and brainstorming to add a unique, engaging, innovative angle to their campaigns.
5. Triggering Emotions
A campaign's emotional appeal and relatability can spark magic in creating a trending piece. A viral marketing campaign must incorporate a trigger and a pain point and demonstrate how the audience would feel after using it.
This may elicit feelings of sympathy, surprise, shock, or interest. The campaign can even focus on boosting self-esteem and self-confidence. Campaigns centered on creating goodwill allow audiences to stick to them for longer.
6. Making It Easily Shareable
To go viral, content needs to be shared multiple times. Hence, it is vital to make content easily shareable and promotable. If the content has no share option, users will have no way to share it. Add sharing, embedding, and downloading options so users can send it, tag themselves or download it.
Efficient calls to action (CTAs) compel people to share content. Influencer or contextual marketing can also make the content go viral due to the influencer’s vast audience.
7. Integrating Authenticity
Campaigns should be authentic so that audiences can gauge them amidst the noise. Inorganic or forced content can drive them away. Also, your content will hardly go viral if audiences have seen it elsewhere. If the content is good, it can become viral without needing a lot of extra promotion.
To make content go viral, it needs to be interesting and inspiring so people want to spend time and share it with others. Engaging content helps people interact with the brand and get their questions answered. Stories can also inspire people to read and share content with others.
8. Sharing the Content at the Right Time
To improve their marketing strategy and increase the chances of their content going viral, marketers should pay attention to current events and create content that aligns with them. Timing is also important, such as sharing content around holidays or other important events. This helps audiences stay engaged with viral content on social media and TV.
Advantages of Viral Marketing Campaign
Since viral content can grab the attention of people all around the world, it can skyrocket awareness, visibility, and sales. When done properly, digital marketing brings the following benefits:
- Strengthens the Brand
- Boosts Credibility
- Works With a Smaller Budget
- Promotes a Brand to a New and Wider Audience
1. Strengthens the Brand
When a brand goes viral, it increases visibility and becomes more recognizable. This also helps strengthen the connection with the audience and creates strong brand awareness. Since the content is shared many times, it can reach a global audience without extra effort, which can even lead to people developing personal and emotional connections with the brand.
Some marketing tactics are pushy or forceful, which may annoy audiences, pushing them away rather than developing trust and loyalty. Viral marketing places the ball in the audience’s court to participate, view and share the campaign’s content.
3. Boosts Credibility
As viral marketing is non-invasive, it holds more credibility for the audience. It doesn’t force or coerce the audience into liking and sharing content. Instead, the audience decides to interact and purchase.
4. Works With a Smaller Budget
Viral content is usually created with a small budget, substantially cutting down marketing and distribution costs. Filming high-quality videos and posting high-definition pictures isn’t as difficult as before and eliminates brands’ need to buy advertising and media space.
5. Promotes a Brand to a New and Wider Audience
A wider audience determines viral campaigns, but the turning point is when a viral campaign continues to reach newer prospects. This leads to increased sales, better social media engagement, and word-of-mouth.
How To Add More Value to Your Viral Ad Campaign?
While some may consider that lucky guessing would work, it’s hardly so. Creating viral content is about creating user personas, conducting market and customer research, and crafting unique and compelling content that resonates. These steps help brands to get the pulse of what the audiences will love, leading to a breakthrough moment for the brand.
With digital advertising snowballing, the various options available make the viral marketing campaigns’ scope limitless. If you are running out of ideas, there is nothing like taking cues from industry leaders and top digital advertising agencies.
Five Viral Marketing Campaign Examples
Here are some of the most successful viral campaigns of all time:
- ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
- Apple ’Shot on iPhone’
- Oreo ’Dunk in Dark’
- Dove ’Real Beauty Sketches’
- Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets Retweet
1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, known simply as Ice Bucket Challenge, was initiated to increase awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and raise funds for cure research. Many famous people, including Bill Gates, joined the campaign to promote awareness.
Participants filmed themselves pouring a bucket of ice water on their heads, either on their own or with the help of someone else, which captured the attention of individuals worldwide, encouraging them to participate in the campaign too.
The movement quickly became planetary popular through social media and helped raise over $220 million. In addition, even after the campaign, donations towards ALS remained 25% higher than the previous year.
2. Apple ’Shot on iPhone’
Apple, a well-known high-tech equipment manufacturer, understands the necessity of an engaging marketing strategy to preserve and enhance customer loyalty. Apple created the Shot on iPhone campaign along with the iPhone X launch to highlight their cameras' extraordinary capabilities.
The campaign encouraged users to share photos shot with their iPhones on social media; it successfully attracted the interest of consumers who were amazed by the product's quality. As a result, users began filming and creating content, producing stunningly spectacular images that could only be identified as ”Shot on iPhone” photos or films. The campaign became viral.
3. Oreo ’Dunk in Dark’
During the Super Bowl, marketers face intense competition with 30-second ad slots costing millions of dollars. However, in 2013, Oreo came up with a brilliant viral marketing campaign that bypassed the need for expensive ad slots with just one tweet.
When the power outage at the Mercedes Superdome caused a delay of over 30 minutes, Oreo responded quickly by tweeting, "Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark."
This tweet quickly spread across social media and became one of the most viral marketing campaigns ever. Oreo's ability to act fast and use humor in their response allowed them to divert attention from the game and, instead, direct it towards their brand. Oreo's tweet significantly impacted the marketing world, demonstrating the power of social media in promoting a brand.
4. Dove ’Real Beauty Sketches’
Dove Real Beauty Sketches demonstrate that viral marketing campaigns don’t have to be funny; they can be equally popular by being emotional and touching.
Gil Zamora, an FBI-trained forensic artist, created two portraits of each woman, one based on her own description and the other provided by a stranger. The difference between the two is impressive.
The video demonstrates the gap between how women perceive themselves and how others view them; it is powerful because it highlights the daily struggles women face, and almost every woman can identify with it. It can also serve as a guide for marketers who want to connect with their audience emotionally.
5. Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets Retweet
Another viral marketing campaign started on Twitter. In 2017, a user asked the chain fast-food Wendy's how many retweets he would need to get a free year of chicken nuggets. Wendy's set the bar at "18 million" retweets. Carter asked for help to achieve his target and the Internet came to his aid.
However, his tweet didn't reach 18 million retweets (to this day, it gathered “only” 81.4K), but Wendy's got so much attention that they rewarded his efforts.
Viral Marketing Campaigns: Key Takeaways
Viral marketing campaigns can reach a broad audience, increase brand awareness and generate revenue. However, it is important to create content that resonates with the target audience and aligns with current events.
Marketers must also be careful not to cross the line and create negative publicity. While positive viral content can lead to a loyal customer base, negative buzz attracts attention but has the opposite effect.
By considering these factors, businesses can create effective and successful marketing campaigns that could go viral. Another option is to contact dedicated digital advertising agencies to help them craft compelling and engaging content with viral potential.
Viral Marketing FAQs
1. How do you carry out a viral content marketing campaign?
Although there is no universal recipe that guarantees virality, the following steps increase your chances of your content marketing campaign going viral:
- Research your target audience
- Choose the right social media platform
- Create content with viral attributes (entertaining, emotionally engaging, surprising)
- Publish content at the best times for the given platform
- Boost content with paid advertising for maximal reach
- Partner with influencers in your niche to increase visibility
- Measure results
2. Why is viral marketing important?
Viral marketing allows brands to reach an audience they could never target with traditional marketing campaigns. Greater reach means more prospects, more sales, and more revenue.
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