8 Viral Marketing Examples (and What You Can Learn From Them)

“How can I make my business go viral?” Every entrepreneur who wants to increase awareness, engagement, and sales would ask this question.

Often, it may seem like going viral happens at random. While that can sometimes be the case, the truth is, certain factors increase a campaign’s likelihood to go viral.

Want to know what they are? Read until the end of this post.

We’ve also included a list of the best viral marketing examples from well-known brands and our own users here at UpViral. There are a ton of valuable lessons you can take away and apply to your marketing campaigns.

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is a method that’s used to encourage people to spread the word about a company online or offline. People spread information similar to how a virus gets transmitted from one person to another ― fast.

There are two ways to increase word-of-mouth (WOM):

One is Traditional word-of-mouth where there’s very little to no effort from a marketer. Rather than planning everything from start to finish to encourage word of mouth, you leave things to chance.

You put something out and when people see it, it’s up to them to actively share it with their friends without restrictions. If they share a positive message, this benefits a brand tremendously. Meanwhile, negative messages backfire.

Two is Amplified word-of-mouth where a marketer plans and structures a viral campaign. The marketer decides the message to be shared, how it should be shared, whom to share it with, and where to share it. Usually, a marketer offers an incentive to motivate their audience to share the campaign. The right incentive will increase the campaign’s potential to go viral.

This blog post focuses on amplified WOM.

So, yes, implementing a viral marketing strategy can turn a business into an overnight success. 🔥 The key? Know what makes your audience tick.

How Does A Viral Marketing Campaign Work?

These are the elements involved in an amplified viral marketing campaign:

  • Product or service – What do you want to promote and go viral? It could be your product or service that’s yet to be launched or that hasn’t been selling well.
  • Messenger – This is you, the creator of the viral campaign and the source of the marketing message. As the messenger, it’s important to set goals for your campaign. Think about what you want to achieve as a result. Is it to grow your email list? Increase your social media following? Boost sales?
  • Recipient – This is the receiver of your message. If your message resonates well with your audience, they will immediately share it with their friends. Then their friends will share it with their connections. The cycle continues.
  • Marketing channel – Rather than using a single channel to promote your product or service, leverage multiple channels. These include email, social media, blogging, and even advertising (paid social or paid search).
  • Reward or incentiveGive away something that resonates with your audience as a reward for sharing your message. It could be your own product or service or something else related to your niche that you can get from Amazon.
  • Mechanics – You need to determine the actions that people should take when spreading your message and to earn the incentive you’re offering.

The Benefits Of Viral Marketing

What is the importance of viral marketing for businesses? Viral marketing can help a business in any niche with the following:

  • Brand awareness – Create some buzz around your business using viral marketing. If you can get people to talk about you, you can reach a vast audience in such a short time.
  • Social proof – Viral campaigns often result in lots of user-generated content like testimonials, photos, and videos. Raving fans will be happy to share their thoughts about your business. You can then leverage user-generated content to boost social proof, leading to more conversions.
  • Cost-effectiveness – With viral marketing, you’ll only be spending money during the initial phase of your campaign. For instance, advertising your campaign on Facebook to gain traction. Once your ad catches your target audience’s attention, they’ll be continuing the work of spreading your content. You won’t have to keep on running that ad for a long time.
  • Lead generation – Time and again, viral marketing has proved to be a powerful way to grow your leads. If you can effectively nurture the leads you’ve collected, you can spark new and repeat purchases.

Companies in various industries use viral marketing to reach their goals. These industries include but are not limited to personal care products, music, food, and more.

Top 5 Viral Marketing Campaigns to Take Inspiration From

Below, we’ve compiled campaigns from brands that did viral marketing successfully. Find out why they worked and how you can use their strategies for your own campaigns.

1. Dollar Shave Club

In March 2012 Dollar Shave Club, an American company that sells razors got a huge boost from its YouTube video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.” The video starred DSC’s founder Michael Dubin. The video wasn’t the kind that you’d normally expect in a razor ad. It was personal, funny, unique, and had just the right length.

Within a few days, the video got 3 million views and thousands of people visited their website and subscribed.

Possible reasons for going viral: 

  • It featured the founder himself who did most of the acting. People got a sneak peek into Dubin’s personality. This helped them connect with the brand.
  • The video took people behind the scenes by showing some of DSC’s employees and its warehouse.
  • At the beginning of the video, Dubin hooked his audience with an irresistible offer “For $1 a month we send high-quality razors right to your door.”

2. Old Spice

We won’t list the best viral marketing videos without including Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign. Everything about the video was catchy, from the scenes to the opening lines “Hello, ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me.”

To date, the video garners over 58 million views on YouTube. Even Oprah said that she was “rushing to get Old Spice.”

Possible reasons for going viral: 

  • Real data was used as the basis for the ad targeting. It revealed that women were responsible for 60% of purchases made on men’s body wash products. Thus, the video was made to speak directly to women.
  • The introduction used a great opening line that grabbed attention and convinced the audience to watch until the end.
  • It featured a well-known subject ─ actor and former football player Isaiah Mustafa. Not just that, but he was half-naked which appealed to a female audience.

3. Spotify

Image credit: Spotify

Spotify rolled out its new Wrapped campaign in 2019 which included all the songs, artists, and podcasts that its users discovered during the year. This campaign became a viral success. According to Spotify, over 60 million users engaged with this in-app experience. Millions shared their playlists on Twitter.

Possible reasons for going viral:

  • Advertising also played a role in Spotify’s campaign success. The company leveraged offline ads ― inside a train station in Brazil, for example.
  • Spotify made sure that users can share their playlists on various social media platforms and even tag their favorite artists.
  • Sharing personal music collections on social media made non-Spotify users jealous. This viral experience sparked FOMO (fear of missing out) and encouraged new signups!

4. Starbucks

Image credit: Starbucks

Starbucks gained public attention when it launched its magical, candy-colored Unicorn Frappuccino. According to Business Insider, the point of pulling off this campaign wasn’t to promote good food but rather to garner people’s attention and drive store traffic.

Starbucks was able to save millions in advertising, thanks to word-of-mouth and social media sharing.

Possible reasons for going viral: 

  • Unicorn Frappuccino was marketed as a limited-time offer. Imposing deadlines often convince prospects to act quickly. Nobody wants to miss out on great opportunities.
  • People posted their own unicorn frappuccinos on social media which convinced thousands to give it a try too.
  • Starbucks wasn’t afraid to try something out of the ordinary. Instead of the usual brown-colored drink, they explored pink, purple, and blue. This made the product stand out.

5. Dove

One of the best viral marketing videos is Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches.” Within 2 weeks, the video garnered 3.17 million shares, making it one of the most shared ads of all time. If you’re a woman, and you watched the video, you’ll be hooked by its pretty powerful message: You’re more beautiful than you think.

Possible reasons for going viral:

  • Dove leveraged content that elicited a powerful emotional response from its target audience ― It sparked hope, joy, acceptance, and self-love.
  • The content resonated well with its viewers because it was based on a real survey. Dove’s data revealed that over half of women worldwide agree that they are their own worst beauty critic.
  • Dove partnered with YouTube which boosted the content’s discoverability.

3 Viral Marketing Campaigns Using UpViral

If those brands we just mentioned were able to hit the bull’s eye through viral marketing, you can, too. Using the UpViral platform, our users were able to do viral pre-launch campaigns, contests, and giveaways.

1. Bunkie Life

Image credit: Bunkie Life

David Fraser and his wife started a bunkie business. To promote it and generate sales, David did a 26-day contest using UpViral. He gave away his own product (a bunkie) as the prize and got these impressive results:

  • 34, 297 leads
  • $300,000 in sales
  • 2,546 new Instagram followers

Read the full case study here.

2. Anthony Van Dort

Image credit: Flexifoil Kites

Anthony runs a family-owned business that sells durable kites. He heard how UpViral could help him attract new, highly targeted leads. So, created a sweepstakes contest using the platform. His contest landing page wasn’t too fancy but it had the right elements such as quality graphics and understandable copy.

These were the results of his campaign:

  • 4,576 leads
  • New social media followers
  • Increased app downloads

Read the full case study here.

3. Check City

Image credit: Check City

Short-term lender Check City has done giveaways for years. But this time, they needed a technology that would help scale their campaigns and boost their social media interactions. That’s when they decided to sign up for UpViral. This led to amazing results which included:

  • 4,550 total leads
  • $136,458.28 worth of traffic
  • 5k shares on Facebook

Read the full case study here.

Final Thoughts

Getting your business to go viral may seem challenging at first, but it’s not impossible. With the viral marketing examples we just revealed, you can grow from zero to tens/hundreds of thousands of leads, followers, and paying customers.

There is no one way to go viral but rather a combination of strategies. More often than not, it requires using your common sense ― understanding your target audience, creating content that resonates with them, using FOMO, and tapping into emotions.

If you need a complete solution that lets you create viral marketing campaigns from the ground up, give UpViral a try. You can even get started for just $1 and enjoy full access to all features like custom pages, unlimited rewards, leaderboards, and more!

Got some thoughts to share on viral marketing? Need help with your campaigns? Leave us a comment below.