What is Viral Marketing? Examples of Great Campaigns

Staff Writer
Last Updated
December 29, 2023
Table of Contents
tocitem toc-h2
tocitem toc-h3

Organic engagement is worth its weight in gold in the marketing world, and nothing produces it faster than viral marketing. Yet, viral marketing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of traditional advertising. This could be due because it relies on several factors for success, all of which are not always under the control of the brand that creates the campaign. 

Yes, well-designed strategies are typically behind these viral campaigns, but it is also due to creativity and luck. 

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing refers to any strategy that encourages consumers to share a marketing message with their social network, thereby increasing the influence and exposure of a brand. In other words, it is the social media equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing. 

Creating your own viral success will not be easy, but a good starting point would be to learn from some of the best viral marketing campaigns to hit the internet. Our top ten are listed below.

Best Viral Marketing Examples: 10 Campaigns Worth Checking Out


When the Mercedes Superdome's power went out for 30 minutes in 2013, Oreo's reaction to the incident on Twitter would create viral marketing history. All it took was a dimly lit image of a solitary Oreo that featured the words  "You can still dunk in the dark"  and the caption "Power out? No problem." Oreo's perfectly timed joke quickly garnered over 20,000 Facebook likes and Twitter retweets. 


Wendy's most famous viral campaigns, like Oreo's, began with a small tweet.  Wilkerson Carter tweeted at Wendy's in 2017 asking to trade retweets for a year's worth of free chicken nuggets. In good spirits, Wendy answered with "18 million," as the magic number. 

While Carter's tweet did not reach 18 million, it was the most retweeted tweet at the peak of this campaign. Wendy's probably didn't expect this tweet to blow up, but when it did, they encouraged their followers to help Wilkerson get those free chicken nuggets, driving brand engagement by capitalizing on the momentum. 


 Dove's Real Beauty Sketches viral video in 2013 is proof that not all viral campaigns have to be funny. The video, which featured an FBI-trained sketch artist, aimed to change how women saw themselves, thereby spreading a message that empowered Dove's audience. And Dove's audience rewarded their empathy

 The Real Beauty video has been viewed over 163 million times and even bagged the Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival. 

4.Burger King

Burger King’s Subversive Chicken campaign shows how interactive marketing can help your campaigns go viral. In Burger King’s case, all it would take was a simple, yet brilliant website that allowed visitors to command a guy dressed up in a chicken suit to do whatever they wanted. One million people had given their instructions to "subservient chicken" just one day after the site went live. 

5. Aviation Gin 

Sometimes the best viral campaigns are inspired by the folly of other brands, just ask Aviation Gin. 

When Peloton launched an ad for its exercise bikes that got a lot of press for all the wrong reasons, Aviation Gin turned Peloton's bad press to their advantage. They hired the actress from Peloton's disastrous ad and filmed her drinking Aviation Gin with her friends while still looking dazed from her ordeal with Peloton. Aviation Gin's outside-the-box ad campaign got over 9.4 million impressions on Twitter in just a few days after it's release. 

6. Blendtec 

Blendtec is proof that even in a dull niche, your marketing campaigns can go viral. After all, who would have predicted that blenders could become so popular?

Blendtec, found a way when they launched their clever video series, "Will It Blend?" featuring several well-known items that were either destroyed or survived after being spun in their blenders. The viral video series which also served as a powerful product demonstration increased Blendtec's brand exposure tremendously.


 Peerflix was a startup company offering peer-to-peer trading of DVDs when they launched their viral campaign. In keeping with their product offering(hollywood films), they created an online paparazzi game in which participants were tasked with capturing images of celebrities. In 90 days, over 2 million people had played the Peerflix game. 


IHOP's viral moment came when they announced on Twitter that they would be changing their name from IHOP to IHOb without explaining what the "b" in the new name stood for. Withholding this seemingly insignificant piece of information sparked a frenzy as people attempted to decipher what the letter B stood for. IHOP fuelling the frenzy to a fevered pitch. When then revealed the word behind the B - Burgers. This campaign earned IHOP over $113 million in increased sales and awareness.

9. The ALS Association 

The viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was started  in an effort to raise funds and awareness for those suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease. The challenge was simple – dump a bucket of ice water on your head, challenge three other people, and make a donation to the organization. The simplicity of the challenge paid off as the Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $11.4 million in less than a year, more than ten times the amount raised in 2013.

10. Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club was virtually unknown until they began using viral campaigns to spark conversations about their brand. Dollar Shave Club founder, Michael Dublin's comedic but serious monologue in the video made the brand so relatable that the results were spectacular - over 12,000 people signed up for the service within 48 hours of the video's debut on YouTube.

Viral Marketing Campaigns: What’s Next? 

The key to preparing for your brand's viral moment is to remember to create distinct brand messages that resonate with your audience, so your brand can stand out in an online landscape rife with pushy sales pitches. Simply provide your customers with a compelling reason why they should choose you over the competition.

"Cardinal Digital's Adwords Services helped me get 11 new customers per week! Just a couple days of advertising, and I was booked through the weekend."
Olaf Polarbear
Oasis Air Conditioning
Get in touch with us now

We work with an experienced team of marketers and media strategists to help deliver the most optimal results for your business objectives.

Thank you for reaching out! Our team will review your info and reach out if there's a potential fit.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.