11 Examples of Viral Marketing Campaigns

Viral marketing. The term just sounds sinister,   doesn’t it? Like its name implies, it’s a way of spreading your message like a virus from person to person. How do you do it? By creating content that begs to be shared with others. Sometimes, it’s a funny video. Other times, it’s a unique application that performs a really cool function.

So, which companies have used viral marketing to spread their brand to the masses? Here are 11 viral examples we can learn from.

1. Hotmail- Hotmail is one of the most classic examples of successful viral marketing. They offered free e-mail to the masses, and simply attached a signature at the bottom of each e-mail message that promoted their free service. Every single e-mail sent by a Hotmail user contained this message, thus spreading it like a virus. Recipients would see the ad, and as a result, they too signed up for Hotmail.

2. Subservient Chicken- Burger King’s 2004 viral marketing campaign for their chicken sandwiches shows just how fun going viral can be. The Subservient Chicken was a man dressed in a chicken outfit who would perform whatever action you commanded him to. Just one day after the site’s launch, one million people had already given their commands to the subservient chicken.

3. Watchmen- One of the most recent examples on this list, Watchmen’s viral campaign has consisted of fake newscasts and mock PSAs. Judging from the buzz online, these videos are doing their job. Fans are pumped up, and anxiously awaiting the movie’s release.

4. Jack in the Box- The latest Jack in the Box campaign is another new example of viral marketing. During the Super Bowl, Jack in the Box ran a commercial (in some regions) that featured Jack getting hit by a bus. The commercial urged people to visit . Unfortunately, the site wasn’t ready for the surge in traffic, and it crashed during its biggest chance to go hot.

5. Dark Knight- The Dark Knight viral campaign was one of the most widespread of its kind. It included everything from websites for Gotham Cab company to a real life campaign for Harvey Dent. The point is this—the campaign engaged people on a different level. And you can’t argue with the results. The Dark Knight made ridiculous amounts of money at the box office and on DVD. Of course, there were other factors involved (Heath Ledger’s death, and just how great the film looked,) but the viral campaign succeeded in creating unprecedented amounts of hype.

6. Transport for London- This is one of my favorite examples on the list, because I can say from personal experience that I helped spread their virus. In this video, you’re asked to count how many times the white team passes the basketball. Of course, there’s an unexpected surprise that accomplishes two things—it makes the video highly share-worthy and it promotes their message without shoving it down your throat.

7. Smirnoff- Smirnoff’s viral “Tea Partay” video was an instant hit. It features preppy, Ivy League white boys doing a rap about throwing a tea party. The video just begs to be shared with others, making it a viral success.

8. Dove- The Dove Evolution viral ad is effective because it sends a unique, positive message about the true definition of beauty. And this video really did spread like a virus. Not only did it get nearly 2 million hits within a month’s time, but it also received attention from top TV shows Ellen, The View, and Entertainment Tonight.

9. Peerflix- At the time of launching their viral campaign, Peerflix was a new company offering P2P DVD trading. Playing off the Hollywood theme, they created an online paparazzi game that made participants capture scandalous photos of celebrities. Within just 90 days, 2 million people had played the game, and 5% went on to view the Peerflix website. That’s a significant boost in brand exposure.

10. Bob Dylan- To help promote his greatest hits boxset, a viral campaign was created that allowed users to send messages in the form of the classic Subterranean Homesick Blues video. I love this idea because it’s simple, effective, and engaging.

11. Simpsons- When the Simpsons Movie came out, it boasted one of the biggest opening weekends of the year. While it’s easy to say this was because of the show’s illustrious history, the producers believe there’s more to it than that. In fact, they said the viral marketing campaign was the reason for the film’s great success. This campaign consisted of everything from changing 7-11s to Kwik-E Marts to allowing online users to “Simpsonize” themselves.

Which viral marketing campaigns are your favorites? Share them in the replies!


Written by Ryan Lum

Ryan Lum is the founder and editor of Creative Guerrilla Marketing. He is passionate about creative marketing, social media and design. Connect with him on LinkedIn,Twitter or Google+


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