Going viral is usually a very cost-effective strategy for marketers as they create a brand or product message that reaches a large audience during a short period of time. So, how can you create a viral marketing campaign? Predicting which campaigns will go viral is almost as hard as judging when campaigns will go viral. To help solve the Internet mystery of virality, I put together a list of the 10 best viral marketing campaigns from the last 10 years. This post contains reviews of 5 genius marketing campaigns (in no particular order) but stay tuned for Part 2 and learn about the remaining 5 campaigns and how they became a viral success. Without further ado, here are 5 of the best viral marketing campaigns:

1. Dove, Real Beauty Sketches (April 2013)

As a part of their Real Beauty campaign, Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video presented a social experiment that went viral in 2013, generating buzz from millions of people, and women in particular, around the world. According to Dove, only 4% of women across the world consider themselves beautiful, leading to the idea that women are too critical of themselves. Since its release, the video has been viewed in 110 countries and received 114 million views in the first month alone, becoming the most viral ad of all-time.

The Real Beauty Sketches video allowed Dove to target their key demographic by emotionally connecting with female viewers. From a marketing perspective, it was refreshing to see a campaign express why women should love themselves exactly the way they are, rather than selling a specific product that challenges women to better their appearance. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was remarkably inspiring, and a game-changer for others in the industry who continue to portray women in their ads as photoshopped models rather than showing their “real” beauty.

2. Volvo, The Epic Split (November 2013)

Volvo presented a video that captivated online viewers and became one of the top viral ads and most talked about and spoofed commercials of 2014. Martial arts actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme, steadily performs “the most epic of splits,” a stunt in between two Volvo trucks driving in reverse, demonstrating the stability and precision of Volvo engineering.

The combination of a beautiful sunset in a secluded desert, in Van Damme’s words, “a body crafted to perfection,” and Enya’s angelic voice all during the nerve wracking clip, was the perfect recipe to show viewers that Volvo’s precise steering is how this incredible stunt was pulled off. The strategy Volvo used to reach and entertain viewers well beyond the “truck driver” target audience was impressive. Anders Vilhelmsson, Public Relations Manager for Volvo Trucks explains how Volvo’s creative team adopted a strategy of producing YouTube films that would create attention, inform and entertain audiences. This is exactly what Volvo pulled off, releasing even more stunt videos in addition to this one. According to Vilhelmsson, when talking to Volvo’s salespeople all over the world, “One of the first things prospective customers bring up in conversation is the viral film.”

3. Chipotle, The Scarecrow (September 2013)

Chipotle’s three-minute, animated video “The Scarecrow” went viral without the popular Mexican grill spending any money on paid media. As part of its “Food With Integrity” campaign, the video served as a trailer for a free iOS game, offering users a buy-one, get-one free coupon for Chipotle food items. Chipotle’s video, animated beautifully, depicts our nations issue on factory farming and processed food while entertaining audiences with the scarecrow’s journey. Similar to Chipotles mission, the video showed preparation of wholesome and unprocessed ingredients for the public to “cultivate a better world.” The free scarecrow game reached 500,000 downloads in the first six weeks and the short film earned 6.5 million YouTube views in the first two weeks of its premiere.

The continued viral success has not only increased brand awareness but has risen sales for the company, educating people where Chipotle’s food comes from and the benefits of quality ingredients. This campaign is a successful, ongoing strategy that marketing professionals could absolutely learn from.

4. Evian, Roller Babies and Baby & Me (July 2009 & April 2013)

As a part of Evian’s “Live Young” campaign, the water brand released two viral videos, “Roller Babies” in July 2009 and “Baby & Me” in April 2013, respectively earning a Guinness World Record for views. It’s estimated that close to 90% of the video views were generated through shares across various social channels and networks, with one third of those views coming from a mobile device. If that doesn’t demonstrate the power of video, I don’t know what does! The advertisers of Evian wanted to present their product as water that keeps adults young at heart. They brought this idea to life by portraying dancing/roller blading babies in their video ads, symbolizing energy and youthfulness all while humoring their viewers.

Throughout the years, Evian’s Live Young campaign has lived far past its two viral videos (no pun intended) including print ads, other media ads, and even events. The Live Young campaign was able to initiate the audience’s nostalgia towards their youth, creating an emotional tie between them and the brand. So kudos to you, Evian, for reminding us of our youthful and innocent childhoods by interacting with your amusing branded messages.

5. Old Spice, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (February 2010)

Before the Old Spice “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign, the brand was in search of recreating its image and relating to young men rather than being viewed as an ‘elder mans’ product. So, naturally out of left field, with a 30 second commercial in 2010, Old Spice brought a whole new definition to brand recreation. Using its weakness as a strength, 70-year brand heritage Old Spice was ‘experienced’ and well positioned to be an expert on masculinity and being a man. Enter actor Isaiah Mustafa as “The Old Spice Man,” portrayed in the video ad as the ideal man any ladies’ man could be… and smell like… if only he wore Old Spice.

The commercial became an overnight success and cultural phenomenon, generating online buzz from the campaigns target male audience, as well as a female audience. The breakthrough campaign lead Old Spice to be the #1 male body wash and deodorant brand in the United States. Although this ad had mixed reviews, I agree at first impression the commercial is the opposite of say, Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches message. However, it does catch viewers emotions in a more playful way. Old Spice creating Mustafa as the ideal “man that your man could be” to women, plays up the perfect man stereotype in a way that doesn’t undermine “real” men, but rather represents Mustafa as a Fabio-like persona a “real” man embodies when he uses Old Spice products.

So there you have it, a brief description of the first 5 of the 10 best viral marketing campaigns in the last 10 years. So far, we can conclude that content varies between every consumer, if you create an ad campaign that’s as entertaining and informative as it is emotionally intriguing, it can catch on and earn viral views from audiences. Stay tuned for my next post with 5 more of the best viral marketing campaigns! Until then, feel free to express your thoughts or opinions in the comments section below.


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