How Viral Marketing Has The Potential To Promote Or Destroy Your Brand

Everyone wants every piece of their content to go ‘viral’, whether that means a tweet is re-tweeted 500 times, a YouTube video has 2,000,000 views, or a blog post has 300 comments. Many companies believe that social media and online marketing isn’t “Worth it” if they aren’t getting high numbers.
While this isn’t always the case (especially if the target market is small or the content isn’t right for their industry), viral success can greatly benefit a company, especially if it is built around a new product that can experience increased sales.

While going viral doesn’t have a set formula or set of steps to follow, there are a few general ideas that can help your commercials, campaigns, or content catch on and spread faster.

Embrace The Weirdness

Skittles has some strange and unique commercials (to say the least),  both online and on TV.


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Weird, yet it has gotten press coverage and at the time this article was written, it had over 2.7 million views. Skittles has introduced other Skittles Touch videos, including Skittles Girl:

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Other viral campaigns based on weirdness include by OfficeMax and the cute Kia Soul Hamster commercial. So what do guys in cat costumes, elves, and rapping hamsters have in common? they are all unique and make people feel like a part of the fun while the brand is creating something memorable.

Let The Community Have Control

Mountain Dew ran a great marketing campaign via Facebook last year when they let Facebook fans vote for the next flavor of mountain Dew as part of the DEWmacracy, a marketing campaign that also implemented TV commercials, Billboards and YOUTube videos submitted by users who were split into ‘Flavor Nations’.

Another great community-involved viral campaign that is still live today is Burger King’s ‘Subservient Chicken’ which allows users to type in a command to the chicken and watch him obey. This was a tie-in to their slogan, ‘Chicken the way you want it’.

(Note to see more viral marketing campaign examples, check out “15 of the Best Viral Marketing Campaigns” on ProspectMX’s blog.)

When users have control, they have more of a connection to what they are experiencing.

Don’t Force It

There are several various examples of viral marketing failures, with one being, a campaign from 2005-2006 where two guys were producing and uploading YouTube videos where they were rapping for a PSP from their parents for Christmas.
Internet users realized it was a ploy and called Sony out on it, who eventually released this statement:
Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn’t a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP. -Sony Computer Entertainment America

Sony admitted their mistake and tried to move on, which gives opportunities to gain back customers’ respect and loyalty.

Air Your Dirty Laundry

Sony owning up to being the creators behind is one great example of how a company can own up to their mistakes in viral marketing and the negative feedback they may receive online. Noelle Weaver of AdAge wrote that in order to be successful with viral marketing, companies should heed the following guidelines: Good advertising doesn’t rely on tricking, lying to or deceiving your target audience.

  1. The consumer is smarter than you think, alternative marketing tactics must be genuine, authentic and in today’s world, transparent.
  2. Today’s interest in brand politics means that everything you do will come under scrutiny from someone. See number 2.
  3. Involve your consumer in the brand conversation, give them the tools to do so and they will repay you four-fold.

Viral marketing should be unique, community-driven, and transparent. Any attempts to do otherwise may backfire and create more negative press than good. Focusing on innovation instead of potential success is the best way to craft a successful viral marketing campaign.

Stock image from Shutterstock, used under license.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social


About The Author: runs her own social media and search marketing business, MoxieDot, where she helps clients grow their online presence. She was voted one of the top 100 marketers of the year by Invesp in 2009 and has worked for Yelp,, and Bounty Towels.

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  • Rick Vidallon

    Unfortunately tasteless or brainless advertising sells. I am referring to the ads that feature half-naked women in the ‘Crap Daddy Hosting’ commercials. Even though they are worst hosting company in the world is doing quite well. WAIT. Let me rephrase that ( they are the worst hosting company in the known universe)


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