Viral Marketing Initatives: Keys to Viral Success

Going viral has become part of modern society’s lexicon, and for good reason! There are companies who have mastered turning advertising into something you want to share with every friend, relative or social connection on the internet. Fifteen years ago if you would’ve told me that I’d be sharing links to commercials, advertisements, or company promotions with my friends for entertainment I would’ve told you to get the heck out of my AOL chat-room! Yet, in 2015, here we are sharing away. So what makes a marketing initiative go viral? Let’s take a look at a few successful viral marketing campaigns and the top five characteristics behind their success.

1. The Emotional Connection behind Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches.

This one brought tears to my eyes. Shedding light on women’s perception of themselves versus how others see them this YouTube video strikes a chord with women. The video generated 3.8 million shares in its first month and 15,000 new subscribers to the Dove YouTube channel in the following two months.

Why it works: The content triggers an emotional connection. You can relate to the women in the video. The message of feeling more positive about who you are, is one I’d want to share with my friends, sisters, mother and especially my daughter. The content speaks to you on a very emotional level. Emotional connection whether that emotion is joy, empathy, disgust, or some other combination is an important part of viral marketing.

2. Lay’s Asks Us to Do Them a Flavor and Interact with Their Brand

Financial incentives always help, but the secret to this viral campaign is asking customers what they think. For the grand prize of $1 million, Lay’s asked its customers to step into the product lab and create the next big flavor. Ideas could be submitted through a Facebook app and by text message. More than one million consumers voted on Facebook, Twitter, and via text. The contest started in 2012 and has continued to be popular ever since. The 2014 winner, Wasabi Ginger was a huge hit at my office.

Why it works: First, you have to have a product people love, who doesn’t love potato chips? Monetary prizes aside, the contest went viral because people by nature want to be a part of something. It gave chip lovers a community as well as a chance to voice their opinion, and everyone’s love’s to share their opinion! The other side of this coin is that Lay’s made voting in the contest super easy by using social media. One click was all it took to cast a vote.

3. Humor Gives Kmart Social Media Gold

Kmart’s Ship My Pants Campaign told consumers about their new shipping program in a way that makes even the most hardened and grizzled of us all double over in a fit of giggles. By 2013 the campaign, which featured shopper’s saying, “I just shipped my pants and its very convenient,” or “I just shipped my bed,” garnered 20 million YouTube views.

Why it works: Laughter is the secret behind this social media success. This initiative went viral for the same reason my 7 year old tells me knock-knock jokes. Everyone likes to laugh and when you see or hear something that makes you laugh you share it. This is one of my favorite funny social media initiatives but I’m sure we can all think of a few more.

4. Nobody Responds Like Old Spice

If you have an audience that is willing to interact, respond! The old spice guy responded to his audience’s social media site comments with 116 YouTube videos over 24 hours, in one of the most intense real time social media campaigns to date. A team of 4 writers, a camera crew and an actor had 7 minutes to record each video, including writing the script.

Why it works: Responding personally to Tweets and Facebook comments surprised and delighted the audience because it was unexpected. However, the sheer amount of engaging, humorous and most importantly shareable content also kept viewers coming back for more. Logging into YouTube everyday to see if their comment had been responded too and what other videos had popped up. This initiative got the captured the audience’s attention, engagement is one of the key factors in a viral social media campaign.

5. Don’t Sell!

Notice what each of the brands we talked about have in common. They all have a product to sell, and yes the ultimate business objective was to increase profits, but not one of these viral campaigns make the viewer feel as though they are listening too or participating in a sales pitch. Remember viral marketing is emotional, if people feel a connection with the content, they are more inclined to feel a connection to your brand.

We can learn a lot from the brands that have already gotten in right in the world of social media. I encourage you to put these 5 point of a successful viral marketing campaign to work in your next social media initiative. Remember it’s all about emotional connection, consumer and brand interaction, a little bit of humor, quick response time, and NOT selling! Feel free to comment below!


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