Everyone wants their content to go viral, whether it’s a social media update, a blog post or—of course—a video.
Even though most content campaigns are marathons instead of sprints, there aren’t a lot of brands out there who would say “no” to having a video going viral. It’s pretty much the dream when it comes to marketing.
Only a small percentage of brands will actually have a video campaign go viral, but there’s a lot we can learn from the ones that already have. Let’s take a look at 8 different viral video marketing campaigns and how they accomplished that sought-after viral status for their brand.
1. Dollar Shave Club
If you’re going to have a video about your actual product go viral (which no other videos on this list really do), then you need to make it incredibly entertaining to watch. Dollar Shave did this by using a ton of humor when talking about their product and their brand. They do go beyond the hard sell, ironically enough, by sharing brand impact and mission.
Video marketing can be expensive, but it can yield a big response. Dollar Shave only spent $4500 on this video and received 12,000 new orders within 48 hours of rolling it out. This proves that you don’t need a huge brand established to go viral, you just need the right content and distribution strategy.
2. Budweiser’s Some Waits For You At Home
People like to see brands that are conscious about making the world a better place and this commercial is a powerful, heartbreaking message about not drinking and driving. The thought of leaving my dogs alone, waiting and possibly hungry and scared is devastating to me and I don’t even drink.
The video hooks people in with a cliff-hanger of whether or not the owner will return and leverages the human-animal bond for full emotional impact. It’s a positive message that reinforces the company cares about safe, responsible drinking so you can always come home to your loved ones. This makes the company look good and is a powerful reminder.
3. GoPro’s Fireman Saves a Kitten
Get your tissues ready for this one. This video shows a real story, where a firefighter with a GoPro is inside a house that was on fire. He finds a small kitten suffering from smoke inhalation, and nurtures it back to life with oxygenated some water. He saves the kitten’s life, and you can see him holding it close to comfort it in the end.
This video is incredibly emotional, with a heartbreaking start and a happy ending. No dialogue is needed. The only thing we hear said is “Is everyone accounted for” as the firefighter finds the kitten. The video recorded a real event, making it that much more emotional, and it fits perfectly with GoPro Hero’s tagline of “Be a Hero.”
4. Always’ #LikeAGirl
Always has a female audience, and they use this video to go for a big emotional impact that almost all women will resonate with. There are children and adults alike featured for emotional impact, reflecting on how they’re treated and how the phrase “like a girl” is used so negatively, which we’ve all felt the sting of at some point. It has a positive, inclusive message that lives outside the product. This message is important to the brand and creates an emotional connection there.
This campaign also was created with the intent to go viral (I know, aren’t they all?). They took extra steps to ensure this would happen by clearly featuring the #LikeAGirl hashtag on the video, encouraging people to “rewrite the rules” and share more examples of their own on social media.
5. Cricket Wireless’s John Cena Loves the Internet
Cricket Wireless’s viral video had a well-known celebrity in John Cena, which definitely helped the video’s performance, but there were other factors at play that really helped it to go viral. Cena came across as authentic and the kid was hilarious and it was genuinely entertaining to watch even if you aren’t crazy about John Cena in general.
The feel-good video has a feel-good message where John Cena acknowledges “the internet” for connecting us all and giving him the career he has. He “thanks” the internet, and it feels pretty heartfelt even though it’s clearly an ad. Cricket Wireless has a final slide in the ad that features a hashtag to help the campaign go viral, and their URL. It’s just the right amount of promotion.
6. Extra Gum’s The Story of Sarah & Juan
This video uses powerful storytelling to share the story of a couple progressing through a relationship, with all-too-relatable ups and downs all included. It’s a love story that feels really and tugs at the heartstrings.
The product does show up in this video, but in unobtrusive, organic ways. It feels like the gum, as dumb as this is about to sound, is part of the love story. All couples have their thing, and this make-believe couple had Extra gum appear at prominent moments in their relationship, with the drawn-on wrappers eventually being used in the grand proposal scene.
This had has a seamless product tie-in that’s pretty genius. If you told me I was going to watch a love story from a gum commercial, I could not have imagined it would have worked quite this well. And it actually makes you think about gum as the romantic thing, which is pretty crazy.
7. The Old Spice Man
Could we really have a viral video marketing campaign roundup without featuring the Old Spice Man?
I remember clearly when this commercial went viral. Everyone thought it was hilarious. The fast-pace, the creativity, the humor and the messaging was shared widely. Old Spice commercials did appear on TV, but they went viral on social media.
Old Spice kept the campaign going, and they didn’t let go of the momentum they had. That’s one thing this campaign did extraordinarily well. They created multiple videos and actually ran a campaign where you could tweet at the Old Spice Man and he’d create short micro-videos for specific people.
This had people engaging through the roof, and got a ton of attention for the brand.
The takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to create distinctive characters, and keep your target audience in mind when considering how to connect with them.
8. Google Android’s Unlikely Animal Friends
I know. Another animal video. But we had to include this one, because it’s actually the most shared ad of all time, and it’s an ad. They use classic, feel-good music and people’s love of adorable animals playing together in order to keep people engaged long enough to get their point across.
After watching diverse animal species play together, frolicking through fields and tumbling together, they simply end the video with the company’s message: “Be together. Not the same. Android.”
This is another video that doesn’t need to showcase their product to build brand awareness; their message is clear, and it’s shared an adorable, irresistible, I-have-to-watch-this format.
So What Makes a Viral Video Marketing Campaign?
About half of the videos on this list would have you thinking “cute animals” is the secret to a viral video marketing campaign. While adorable, fuzzy kittens can certainly help things along, the big secret here that each campaign has tapped into is some sort of powerful emotion. Even the campaigns that are funny count, because they really achieve the impact they were looking for; they made you feel something strong enough that you had to share.
Another thing: most of these videos didn’t actually center the product directly.
It wasn’t an emotional video about GoPro—the GoPro just kind of happened to be there, but was still promoted well. Always Pads weren’t really highlighted, but that was okay, because they didn’t need to take center stage.
I want to point out here that none of these videos were controversial. It’s easy to think “viral videos” and think of videos drenched in outright ridiculousness or those that cause outrage, but those strategies are almost sure to backfire very quickly.
There’s another part that goes into the viral video marketing campaigns, of course, that goes beyond great, emotional ideas. And that’s how the video is promoted. Each of these campaigns had slightly different promotional strategies. A few got some time on TV, while others used PPC and huge followings on social media to get things moving.
For most businesses, using a combination of social sharing and PPC video campaigns to give your campaigns the initial visibility they need to go viral is going to be a great choice, regardless of whether you have a big or small social following. The goal will be to get the ad in front of as many relevant audience members as you possibly can so that it can gain momentum in shares.
Creating a viral video might feel unattainable. While it’s certainly difficult, it’s not impossible, and each of the viral video marketing campaigns above prove that it’s something any business can accomplish. If you’re able to create entertaining, emotionally-powerful videos and then promote it well, you can have a viral campaign on your hands. There are a lot of factors that have go into creating a viral campaign, but plenty of other businesses have done it…why not you?
Do you want to create a video marketing campaign that can help you build your business? Learn more about what we can do for you.
What do you think? Which of these viral video marketing campaigns was your favorite? How do you plan to implement their strategies for your business? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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