Viral marketing is a strategy that encourages individuals to pass a marketing message along to others, resulting in exposure throughout social media.  This could mean endless amounts of shares, re-tweets and conversations, all for free with your marketing message attached.  Even the most skilled marketer might not be able to achieve viral content, but companies have continued to embrace the speed of social media in hopes that their marketing campaigns become viral.

Below are five characteristics and examples of marketing messages that went viral over the past few years that marketers can learn from.



In 2015 the Squatty Potty was released with a very funny clip of a unicorn going to the bathroom and leaving a rainbow surprise.  At first I thought this video was a spoof of a fake product, but then I realized it was a real product being sold.  If we see a video or a post with a humorous message, we are more likely to share it with others.  This video continued to be shared throughout the internet and had over 10 million views in the two months since it launched (David, 2015).  This super viral sensation catapulted the product to #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Toilet Training Potties & Seats category (David, 2015).


Watch the video here


Unique and Memorable

Recently in 2015 the movie “Straight Outta Compton” came out and prior to the movie release, they created a “Straight Outta Somewhere” meme generator.  This meme generator allowed people to fill in the “Straight Outta …” blank with the name of their hometown or even a creative punch line.  Within 9 days of the site’s launch, over 7 million people visited the site, 6 million people created memes, and over the course of two days, #StraightOutta was retweeted more than 15,000 times per second (DeAngelis, 2015).  This viral marketing helped support the movie campaign and kept the audience talking about the movie.


You can still create your own at


Drives Emotion

Save The Children created a powerful marketing campaign in 2014 and it definitely made me shed a tear.  This video shows the point-of-view of a child refugee and powerful imagery of what the child is going through.  With all this emotion circling the internet, of course the video blew up on social media garnering over 51,000,000 views and counting (David, 2015).  Using the video and the hashtag #helpisontheway, Save the Children used this emotional content to gain attention on their cause.


See the video here



This is one characteristic that is probably the most important! Keeping your marketing message simple (and it doesn’t look like you are trying too hard) can always help your marketing initiative go viral.  During the Oscars in 2014, Ellen was tasked by Samsung to take a selfie on her Samsung phone with Meryl Streep, but the selfie turned into an amazing celebrity-packed picture.  This simple picture was tweeted by Ellen and two days later and it had 3.2 million retweets and nearly 14,000 web pages had embedded the tweet, which at that time had been seen 32.8 million times (Goodwin, 2014).  This photo definitely helped the campaign to advertise Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.



In 2013 there was an unexpected blackout during the Super Bowl.  Along with the blackout came an unexpected tweet from Oreo, “You can still dunk in the dark”.  Oreo’s real-time social media marketing stunt won a prestigious Clio award and had lasting effects around the advertising industry (Cassinelli, 2013).  With the most expensive commercials being playing during the Super Bowl, this unexpected tweet seemed to have the most impact.  This post helped encouraged other brands to focus on real-time events and showed that even the simplest and unexpected tweets have the most impact.


When you create a viral marketing message, you want to make sure your post includes one of the characteristics above to pull the viewer in and make them want to share.  Your images should be real, touch on a current event, speak to your audience in a manner that is relevant to their lives, and perhaps pull an emotional string or two in order to be successful (Shupe, 2014).  As long as your marketing campaign is creative and simple, you too can create a successful viral social media marketing campaign.



Cassinelli, A. (2013). 13 Best Social Media Campaigns of 2013. Postano. Retrieved from

David, E. (2015). Top 10 Influential Social Media Campaigns of 2015. Adhere. Retrieved from

DeAngelis, K. (2015). 5 Insanely Clever Marketing Campaigns That Went Viral. Waterfall Blog. Retrieved from

Goodwin, D. (2014). 5 Best Viral Marketing Campaigns Of 2014. Momentology. Retrieved from

Shupe, R. (2014). Creating Viral Social Media Marketing Campaigns. Business to Community. Retrieved from