Kate joins us from the land of leprechauns and Guinness. She began her career in Whistler, Canada, working as a social media content creator and skiing as much as possible.
Every business dreams about the massive exposure of a viral marketing campaign. After all, thousands upon thousands of people sharing and talking about your brand is priceless.
Companies spend big hiring influencers, content creators, or even a digital marketing agency to create ads that stick, but only a precious few ever truly break through and become truly viral.
From the absurd and surprising, to the heartfelt and powerful, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the best viral marketing campaigns of all time.
In 2012, the previously unknown Dollar Shave Club made waves with their “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” campaign. The video follows the quippy young CEO Michael Dubin as he swans around his warehouse, poking fun at the ridiculousness of the shaving industry. He offers a simple, no-frills solution to a common problem; stop spending $20 a month on razors. Instead, join his club for $1 and he’ll send you a f**ing great razor.
Dollar Shave Club somehow managed to transform the typically boring topic of “shaving” into something that got the internet buzzing. Today, that video has over 27 million views. In 2016, it was reported that Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion in cash. That’s a lot of dollar bills.
Just in case you were living under a rock in 2010 and missed the very handsome and smooth-talking gentleman you see above. His name is Isaiah Amir Mustafa, and he quickly rose to fame as the star of the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign created by the geniuses at Wieden+Kennedy.
Addressing the “ladies” at home, Isaiah describes all the possibilities that can happen if their man smelt just as great as he does. It seems this sentiment struck a chord with the internet. On the first day of the campaign, the video received 5.9 million views, and has since climbed to a sumptuous view count of 59 million, at one time earning itself the #1 All-Time Most Viewed video on YouTube. Pretty impressive if you ask us.
Some say this campaign’s success came from the fact that Old Spice marketers discovered that women buy 60% of men’s body washes. They capitalised on this knowledge and created a campaign for a male-centred product targeting a female audience, a clever insight that made marketing agencies around the world take notice.
Typically, the beauty industry bombards women with unattainable standards of perfection. Dove turned all that on its head in 2013 with a marketing campaign that encouraged women to appreciate their natural beauty. Dove had an FBI trained forensic artist, Gil Zamora, draw blind portraits of various women based on their self-descriptions. He then drew portraits of these same women, this time based on a description from a stranger they had met earlier.
The big reveal shows the two portraits side-by-side, with notable differences. The portrait based on the stranger’s description was noticeably more attractive than the portrait based on their own description. This forced women to recognise their distorted self-perception and to reconsider their view of their beauty.
This stunning campaign received a whopping 50 million views within the first 12 days of its release and 180 million to date. Interestingly the campaign didn’t mention Dove’s products at all, yet sales rocketed from $2.5 to $4 billion post-campaign.
There is no denying the Always “Like a Girl” campaign was made to pull on the heartstrings. They launched the campaign to tackle gender stereotypes, specifically the negative perceptions surrounding the phrase “like a girl”.
The video centred around a social experiment, where the Always creative team held a fake casting call with a mixture of young men, women, boys, and girls. They asked them to perform activities like running or fighting “like a girl”. The older kids acted in a self-deprecating way, appearing useless and silly.
When the younger kids were asked to perform these same activities, however, they acted much differently. The children performed with confidence and self-belief, running and fighting as hard as they could, revealing that “like a girl” was not a belief that occurred naturally in girls, but a pejorative hoisted on them as they get older.
Soon after the campaign was launched, the hashtag #LikeAGirl began trending on Twitter, with many celebrities joining the cause. The campaign reached global fame, raking in 90 million views on YouTube from over 150 countries. They achieved actual results with 70% of women and 60% of men claiming that “The video changed my perception of the phrase ‘like a girl’.” Sure, there is a long way to go in terms of challenging gender stereotypes, but Always made some serious headway.
The Weetabix “baked beans” mayhem is probably one of the more bizarre viral campaigns we’ve ever seen, launched early this year. In a daring tweet, the UK Weetabix team sent out a picture of their traditional Weetabix pieces slathered in a spoonful of Heinz baked beans with the caption, “Why should bread have all the fun, when there’s Weetabix?”. The response from the internet was astounding as everybody shared in their disgust over the shocking combination.
The campaign also spurred a truly hilarious Twitter thread which had every brand from KFC to Specsavers offering their opinion on the awful pairing. This ingenious marketing stunt had Weetabix trending for the first time on Twitter. Some people even claimed this campaign momentarily broke the internet. Check out some of the hilarious responses below.
Purple’s 2017 viral marketing campaign, “Goldilocks Bed Expert,” was a tremendous success. The video alone drove $75 million in sales and hundreds of millions of views. The campaign is an ode to the much-loved fairy tale “Goldilocks and The Three Bears”, but in this case, Goldilocks uses some raw eggs to validate her extensive mattress knowledge. This very quirky and humorous campaign captured the attention of the masses, inspiring many viewers to post videos of themselves re-creating the “raw egg test” on their own Purple mattresses.
Purple had a clever marketing strategy from the beginning. Instead of just waiting for its video to go viral, Purple put actual money behind its ads. The company invested strategically into social media advertising and placed its videos in front of viewers who shared the content. While the campaign indeed had all the ingredients to go viral, Purple didn’t have the built-in audience that Gillette, Always, and Dove had, so paid marketing was the missing piece to push “Goldilocks Bed Expert” into viral territory.
It started out as a quiet day on August 12th, 2019, when Popeye’s tweeted about its new addition to the menu: a chicken sandwich. A few days later, Chick-fil-A sent out a tweet about its own classic chicken sandwich, to which Popeye’s responded, “Y’all good?”.
While Chick-fil-A never replied, Popeye’s tweet spurred a Twitter war (now known as the “Chicken Sandwich War of 2019”). The war raged between fast food brands, all claiming they had the best chicken sandwich. The debate then spread far and wide, as the public argued over which brand they preferred.
People went out in droves to taste these chicken sandwiches and play their part settling the historic dispute. Many restaurants reported selling out early due to spiking demand. The Twitter feud was remarkable for Popeye’s brand awareness, causing them to walk away with 25,000 new followers. The amazing thing? Not one dollar was spent to produce or promote this viral magic. No commercial was recorded. No airtime was purchased. The great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019 was started with a simple, two-word tweet.
Anybody else feel like grabbing a chicken sandwich?
Let us know below!
Subscribe to our blog and get awesome digital marketing content sent straight to your inbox.