3 February 2023 1404 words, 6 min. read

7 examples of viral marketing that have made the rounds on the web!

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
Viral marketing is based on the massive propagation of content produced by a brand. It is a method that lends itself well to sporting events, just like ambush marketing. Moreover, it effectively promotes consumer goods and strengthens branding. But what […]

Viral marketing is based on the massive propagation of content produced by a brand. It is a method that lends itself well to sporting events, just like ambush marketing. Moreover, it effectively promotes consumer goods and strengthens branding. But what exactly is this process? And above all, what are the most outstanding examples of viral marketing? Here is a clear definition of the concept and 7 recognized cases of inventive brands to generate even more virality!

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What is Viral marketing?

Viral marketing refers to the phenomenon of spreading information through customers. It is of paramount importance for brands. Indeed, the public plays a key role in sharing positive messages about companies. Finally, the objective is clear to commercial actors: to stimulate and capitalize on word-of-mouth.

We are talking about a practice that was present even before the arrival of the Internet, although it has changed everything. In today’s circumstances, viral marketing campaigns can quickly reach a larger and more qualified clientele. (Van der Lans et al. 2010)

To do this, brands must play on four factors that are critical to viral marketing success:

  • contents, as getting the attention of customers simplifies their memory of the marketing message
  • the structure of the social networks solicited because of their significant impact on campaign performance (Bampo et al. 2008)
  • the behavior of the receivers of the message, but also their propensity to propagate the intentions of the brands
  • and think about “seeding” strategies to encourage a faster adherence of customers to brand values (Stonedahl et al. 2010; Hinz et al. 2011)

Applying viral marketing well: examples, research, and segmentation

As you can see, this marketing process is based on the virality of the content disseminated. Thus, the specialists in influence marketing do everything to set up widely spread campaigns. For this, there are several ways to create the ultimate content:

  • conduct secondary research to understand the customer’s behavior better
  • work on its target marketing to identify and target opinion leaders.
  • or be inspired by methods that have worked in the past. Indeed, the latter is more likely to influence word-of-mouth around your brand positively.

We will dig into this last point in this article through several examples of viral marketing. Our selection contains 7 case studies of content distributed over the last decade.

viral marketing examples

7 outstanding examples of viral marketing

We now propose you watch and analyze several examples of viral marketing. Here are the cases of Dove, Old Spice, Volvo, Heineken, Red Bull, Nike, and Dollar Shave Club. They are known for their online virality and have contributed to the history of digital marketing.

Dove – Beauty Sketches

Let’s kick off the festivities with an ad dealing with self-acceptance. As part of its overall self-esteem project, Dove began a campaign in 2013 called “Beauty Sketches.” The video “You’re more beautiful than you think” now has over 70 million views on YouTube!

We want to highlight this example of viral marketing because it combines all the ingredients of a successful campaign. First of all, its cinematography captures the viewer’s attention. But also, the testimonies seem authentic, which simplifies our ability to identify with the actors of the ad. Finally, it sends a very positive message to customers who have a complex about their physical features. Doing so encourages them to share the brand’s values: brilliant! As a result, Dove creates a strong bond with this audience.

The campaign in question is available below.

Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Now, look at Old Spice, an American men’s grooming company. With its “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, the brand quickly became known for its boldness. Below, you will find the most famous ad of this operation: a 30-second commercial with some 61 million views.

The main strength of these different videos is the delivery of the message embodied by the actor Isaiah Mustafa. Moreover, its marketing target seems clear, and its staging is offbeat. Finally, its short format makes it suitable for massive sharing on social networks. The Old Spice campaign will meet great success with the arrival of the actor Terry Crews. These ads are an example of viral marketing to research for a good understanding of customer behavior.

Volvo – The Epic Split

Viral marketing is one thing. But creating a legendary ad is not for everyone. In 2013, Volvo released “The Epic Split”: the brand opted for nonconformity and creativity. This spot’s strange but fascinating character is undoubtedly why it has 116 million views 9 years after its publication! Its impact is such that it is now one of the most easily recognizable memes on the Internet.

Volvo became an example of viral marketing by using Jean-Claude Van Damme in a bold idea. The brand was also one step ahead of its competitors. Indeed, it was understood that it was time to generate virality on the Internet before focusing on television. Thus, positioning yourself on an alternative channel can be a good way to differentiate yourself.

Contact IntoTheMinds to strengthen your differentiation strategy

Heineken – The Cliché

Now, let’s go to Brazil to research the case of one of the best examples of viral marketing. Through its campaign “The cliché,” the beer brand Heineken plays with prejudices based on gender. In this case, it plays on the emotions of the viewer. Indeed, the short film (to be viewed below) surprises its audience by inverting the typical clichés between men and women. Thus, it is not the men who “free” themselves to watch soccer without their companion, but the opposite!

Why did the company opt for this marketing message? Because it has targeted its audience well, it gets closer to the customer by soliciting his emotions. At the same time, Heineken takes the opportunity to reinforce its branding. Thanks to the advertising format, it recalls its exclusive partnership with the UEFA Champions League, a prestigious sporting event.

Red Bull, an example of viral marketing through sport

Let’s stay on the theme of sports, particularly extreme sports. And who is better than Red Bull to illustrate this theme? Indeed, the Austrian brand is known all over the world for its massive investments in sports. Today, Red Bull sports its name:

  • in its sporting events (Cliff Diving World Series, Flugtag, and so on)
  • through its shareholding in soccer (RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg)
  • through its Formula 1 team (Red Bull Racing)
  • and in other projects of stratospheric scale

However, the company gave a lesson in viral marketing in 2012 with Red Bull Stratos. The campaign then involved Felix Baumgartner in a never-before-seen free-fall project. The operation was successful: the skydiver even broke the sound barrier! Nothing is impossible in the eyes of the brand. That is the motto it would like to transmit to the public. The whole spirit of this message is felt in its commercials, as shown in this example of viral marketing released in 2013:

Nike – Write The Future

Nike has used great means to prepare for the World Cup in South Africa global event. In this context, the brand released “Write The Future” in 2010. The spot tells the societal consequences of a soccer match, emphasizing the heroism of the players.

Just like the viral marketing examples of Volvo and Red Bull, Nike sees things in a big way. In just 3 minutes, the short film features world stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer. In short, the company is partnering with big influencers by proxy to embellish its awareness. So, it’s not only a lesson in viral marketing but also in influence marketing!

Dollar Shave Club accelerates its growth through viral marketing

Finally, let’s conclude this article by mentioning the example of viral marketing embodied by Dollar Shave Club and its co-founder Michael Dubin. In 2012, the brand saw its first investors inject $1 million into its business. In the wake of this, Michael Dubin took the opportunity to put himself on stage in an offbeat way. He praises the benefits of his razor blades in a humorous but sharp tone. And it must be said, the success is immediate!

Despite a lesser brand awareness, the video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” still has 28 million views. Indeed, the company recorded 12,000 orders within 2 days of the video’s publication. Dollar Shave Club will continue to grow until Unilever acquires it in 2016 for $1 billion.


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