Have you heard about a video or a marketing campaign that recently went viral? What do people even mean when they say an advert has gone viral? Do businesses make their outreach campaigns go viral on purpose as part of their viral marketing strategy, or is it usually just a coincidence? We will be answering these questions in this article today.

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is something we hear about every day. People are talking all the time about an image, a video, a slogan, or a melody that has gone viral on social media and is spreading at the speed of light. But what is the viral marketing definition? Did the business whose campaign went viral just get lucky? Or are there other factors involved in a viral campaign?

Viral marketing is an action plan that makes an advert or campaign about a brand, product or service go viral, that is, spread very fast. A campaign that goes viral is constantly being shared by individuals, particularly on social media, with all and any of their friends and others in their social network.

![]( =602x401)Viral campaigns are those that generate potential consumers’ interest in a product or brand in a way that they feel like sharing it with others. Since users themselves like to share the content, the message spreads very fast. Even if one person only shares it with two others, each of those two individuals could share it with five more people in their network. This is how a viral campaign demonstrates a snowballing effect and passes from person to person with the speed of light (you might say).

However, there is a downside to viral marketing as well. Since the message in a viral campaign is spread by users or consumers, they hold all the control in the way the message is perceived. If the message is not designed in a way that’s acceptable by the mass audience, the company’s brand image could be at threat. This is why viral marketing is also said to be a double-edged sword. If the message is misinterpreted, the business might suffer a loss instead of seeing a rise in sales. But a successful viral campaign can do wonders for a brand.

The common platforms or the natural habitat of viral marketing are social media. The most widespread method of a campaign going viral is that it is created as a unique, funny, or emotional video and uploaded on YouTube. People start viewing the video and feel inspired or entertained, so much so that they begin to share the YouTube video link on their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

Sometimes the video from YouTube is embedded into the brand’s website and starts going viral on social media from there. This happens when the website is integrated with the brand’s social media profiles.

Screenshot of a Strikingly user's website showing social media icons

Image taken from Strikingly user’s website

These brand videos can either be uploaded on YouTube as shown or concealed. In the former, users know that they are viewing some branded content. In the latter, the brand name and the brand’s participation in the video are revealed later, probably towards the end of the ad.

If you are using concealed viral marketing techniques, you will need to be extra cautious that your users do not feel cheated, deceived or tricked, because if they do, your viral campaign would end up having a negative impact on your brand. Make sure that your viral campaign never appears spammy or goes overboard in any other way. If people are scared that you will scrape their personal information if they view your ad, then they will start avoiding it at all costs. Going viral might also cause a massive influx of new customers who gain interest in your brand for only a short while, and then disappear. If this is what happens with your viral campaign, then you will only be able to reap short-term benefits. You won’t be able to get many new loyal customers who stay with you for years. If this happens and you’re running your business online, you won’t see an upward sales trend or site visitors in your website analytics.

 Screenshot of Strikingly user's website analytics

Image taken from Strikingly

In most cases, a campaign that goes viral has a well-prepared viral marketing strategy behind it. But elements like luck, preparation, and creativity also play their roles in it. In order to come up with an effective viral marketing strategy, a business needs to understand how a viral campaign works. This can be best explained with viral marketing examples.

The Benefits of Viral Marketing for Your Business

Here are some of the benefits of a successful viral marketing campaign.

1. Low Marketing Costs

Since your users do the job of spreading your message to more and more people, and of course they do not charge you any money for their service, your marketing campaigns get a much larger reach at a really low cost. You do not have to spend an extra dollar or cent to pass on your brand message to one more person. The shareability of your viral campaign helps you develop your brand equity, with minimum effort on your part.

2. Extensive Reach

As mentioned above, your campaigns get extensive reach through viral marketing. You do not have to worry about running more ads or increasing your ads budget for reaching out with your message to more people. This is the reason that sometimes we see a campaign started by a very small company going viral. The company might just be a startup and not have enough budget to run an extensive marketing campaign. Yet the shareability of its advert could make it go viral and get spread across large crowds without any added costs. It’s possible that the company just created a simple website, and inserted social media icons on the site’s footer as shown in the image below. Whoever visited the website and saw the campaign liked it so much that they straight away shared it with their friends through social media, by clicking on the social media buttons they found on the site.

Strikingly user's website showing social media icons linked to social media profiles

Image taken from Strikingly user’s website

3. No Invasion of Privacy

Viral marketing is not like direct marketing where the brand representative himself delivers the message to each and every person to whom it gets across. A viral campaign is one that is passed on to more and more people by the users themselves. These users share it with their friends and so on. Therefore, a viral message is seen as a friendly message and not received with resentment. Users do not feel like their privacy is being invaded. They are more open to understanding the message and potentially sharing it further.

4. Enhanced Credibility

Since viral campaigns are usually shared on different social media platforms, they are able to penetrate the users’ handphones and most commonly used apps. This enhances the brand’s credibility. It is as if the brand is now a part of all the users’ lives. If your campaign goes viral, your brand name will appear on everybody’s feed. This can make it the topic that everybody brings up at a party. If you manage your viral marketing strategy well, this could become your ticket to an instant rise in sales.

Successful Viral Marketing Examples

The best way to understand how a viral campaign works is by discussing successful viral marketing examples.


This was a campaign that went viral in 2018. It started with a single tweet that caused an online pandemonium. The campaign was about the brand’s announcement that they were changing the brand name from IHOP to IHOb. The mystery was that nobody knew what the new letter ‘b’ stood for.

For a whole week, everyone just kept guessing what the ‘b’ could stand for. The brand intrigued the crowd even more by, instead of resolving their confusion, started playing along with their speculation. This added fuel to the fire, causing further speculation, curiosity, and confusion.

Finally, the brand revealed that the hidden meaning of the ‘b’ was ‘burgers’. As a result of this viral marketing, IHOP earned more than $113 million in social media and their burger sales skyrocketed. Although the campaign was a little bit controversial, it is an example of a successful viral marketing campaign.


Sometimes the best viral campaign is one that really seizes the moment. A very good example of this is Oreo’s tweet called ‘Dunk in The Dark’. This viral campaign came out during Super Bowl 2013.

The campaign was not strategically planned but nevertheless became very popular due to its quick-wittedness. The tweet went completely viral and started being cited by marketers frequently. Hence it was a very successful viral marketing campaign.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge was launched by The ALS Association in 2014. The purpose of the campaign was to raise funds for the brand’s medical research as well as create brand awareness.

The challenge asked users to record themselves pouring ice water over their head, and then get three other people in their network to follow suit. This viral campaign got millions of participants, including several celebrities like Donatella Versace, Bill Gates, and Oprah. As a result of this viral marketing campaign, the brand was able to collect $115 million as donations.

These were some successful viral marketing examples. One way of creating a viral campaign is to build fabulous content for your brand’s website. If you do not have a website for your company yet, you can build one yourself using a simple-to-use website builder called Strikingly.

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At Strikingly, we love to see our users’ businesses grow. That’s why we provide features that help you integrate your website with an online store, payment gateways, social media, order management, website analytics, and more.