How Can You Go Viral?  

Going viral has become the Holy Grail of digital marketing ten + years ago. The ability to create content that spreads like wildfire across the internet can propel brands to unprecedented levels of exposure, engagement, and ultimately, revenue.   

But how can you go viral? What can we learn from some of the most famous viral campaigns? This article is here to answer these questions. 

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Examples of Viral Marketing Campaigns

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” took place in 2014, aiming to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

The challenge involved participants dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads, capturing the moment on video, and challenging others to do the same within 24 hours or make a donation to the ALS Association.  

The campaign quickly gained momentum, with numerous celebrities, athletes, and ordinary people taking part and sharing their videos on social media. 

Why Did the Ice Bucket Challenge Go Viral? 

Here are a few reasons:  

  • Simple and participatory concept: The Ice Bucket Challenge had a straightforward and easily replicable concept. It provided a clear call to action and allowed anyone to participate by either completing the challenge or making a donation. The simplicity and inclusivity of the campaign encouraged widespread engagement. 
  • Humour and entertainment value: The sight of individuals voluntarily drenching themselves in ice-cold water created a humorous and entertaining spectacle. The element of surprise and the reactions of participants added to the amusement factor, making the videos highly shareable and engaging. 
  • Social media amplification: The campaign leveraged the power of social media platforms, particularly Facebook and YouTube, to spread the challenge rapidly. Participants tagged friends and family in their videos, creating a chain reaction and encouraging others to join in. The viral nature of social media allowed the campaign to reach a global audience. 
  • Celebrity participation: The involvement of celebrities played a crucial role in driving the campaign’s virality. Their influence and large social media followings helped generate widespread attention and encouraged their fans to participate.  
  • Emotional connection to the cause: While the campaign had a humorous side, participants and viewers were reminded of the purpose behind the challenge: raising awareness and funds for ALS research. The combination of humour and a meaningful cause made the campaign impactful and memorable.  
  • Peer pressure and competitiveness: The 24-hour deadline and the challenge aspect of the campaign created a sense of urgency and fostered a spirit of friendly competition. Participants were motivated to complete the challenge and nominate others, while those nominated had significant peer pressure to contend with, especially when nominated publicly on social media.  

The Ice Bucket Challenge became a cultural phenomenon, raising millions for ALS research and significantly increasing awareness about the disease.

The “Share a Coke” Campaign

Another example of a viral marketing campaign – this time, one that advertised a product – is Coca-Cola’s 2011 “Share a Coke” campaign. 

The campaign aimed to reinvigorate the brand and strengthen personal connections with consumers. It involved replacing the Coca-Cola logo on bottles and cans with popular first names and terms of endearment. People were encouraged to find bottles with their own names or the names of friends and share them on social media using the hashtag #ShareACoke. 

Why Did “Share a Coke” Go Viral? 

Here’s why the campaign went viral: 

  • Personalisation and emotional appeal: By incorporating individual names on Coca-Cola products, the campaign created a sense of personalisation and emotional connection. People felt a special affinity with the company when they found a bottle with their name or the name of someone they knew. Ultimately, the campaign tapped into the desire for recognition and created a feeling of uniqueness. 
  • Social media integration: The campaign encouraged people to share their personalised Coke bottles and experiences on social media platforms. User-generated content showcasing the personalised bottles drove further engagement and participation. 
  • Word-of-mouth marketing: The campaign’s personalisation element encouraged people to talk about it and share their experiences with others. Whether through offline or online conversations, the campaign generated significant buzz and sparked conversations about finding and collecting different names on Coca-Cola bottles. 
  • Inclusive and universal appeal: The campaign featured a wide variety of names, including popular and uncommon ones, ensuring widespread appeal and helping the campaign resonate with a broad audience. 
  • Nostalgic packaging: By featuring classic and retro design elements on the bottles and cans, the campaign tapped into nostalgia. It evoked a sense of fond memories associated with Coca-Cola and its iconic branding, which resonated with consumers across generations.  

The “Share a Coke” campaign became a global phenomenon, expanding to numerous countries and languages. It generated significant social media buzz, increased brand awareness, and contributed to positive brand perception for Coca-Cola.

Viral TikTok Campaigns

If your audience consists of Gen Z and millennials, you definitely want to use TikTok for marketing 

TikTok is THE place for viral content these days, and that’s partly due to its algorithm.  

Unlike other platforms, it’s easier for creators to rank higher without a pre-existing following. Videos are recommended to users based on their interests, so content from accounts they already follow is not necessarily going to be prioritised over new content.  

In addition, the more engagement a video receives, the better its chances of reaching a large audience. Once a video leads to likes, comments, shares, completions, re-watches, and account follows, the more likely it will reach a wider audience. In other words, things can snowball quite easily.  

To boost the chances of virality on TikTok, collaborate with influencers, participate in trending challenges, and use hashtags to amplify your reach. Some examples of successful, viral TikTok campaigns are detailed below. 

#GymShark66 Challenge

Gymshark is a UK-based fitness clothing retailer. In 2019, this niche campaign combined influencer marketing with a contest where winners would receive a year’s supply of Gymshark products. To participate, users had to work out for 66 days and post before and after photos, which the company states is based on the concept that it takes 66 days to form a habit. The campaign received more than 1.9 million likes, 12,576 comments and 45.5 million views 

The added benefit of this campaign is that it encourages users to make positive changes in their life that perhaps they’ve intended to do for a long time. Combining it with a contest increases motivation and for those who stick with it and get results, they will form a positive association/emotional connection with the brand, forming long-term loyalty.


This campaign by Bagel Bites amassed 3.6 million views within a month after its launch in December 2020. This was also a contest, featuring a $10,000 prize. To enter, users had to make videos using the company’s classic 90s Jingle – this could involve lip-syncing, dancing, remixing, etc. 

The campaign came at a good time – during lockdowns, people were bored at home and the company intended to help people stay entertained. Using a jingle from the 90s also played on people’s nostalgia.  

More Tips on How to Go Viral

The examples above demonstrate how factors like participation, humour, entertainment value and emotional connection all contribute towards a campaign going viral. Below are some more tips to keep in mind. 

Tap into Emotions and Tell Compelling Stories 

I’ve addressed this already, but it’s so important that it warrants emphasis. Emotional content has a profound impact on viewers and increases the likelihood of sharing, so whether it’s joy, surprise, nostalgia, or empathy, evoke emotions that resonate with your audience. Create content that touches their hearts, stirs their curiosity, or provokes a strong reaction.  

In addition, humans are natural storytellers and are drawn to narratives, so craft compelling, emotionally charged stories around your brand or products that captivate and inspire. Whether it’s thought-provoking or uses humour, the act of storytelling can generate a powerful response that encourages people to share your message. 

Be Original 

While it may sound obvious, it’s important to highlight the importance of thinking outside the box if you want to stand out in a sea of content. Develop unique and innovative ideas that capture attention and differentiate your brand. Incorporate humour, unexpected twists, or interactive elements into your content to make it memorable and shareable. 

Leverage Visual Content 

Humans are hardwired to process visual information; in fact, the retina transmits 10 million bits of information per second. It’s therefore no surprise that visual platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok have gained such vast popularity.   

Another reason that visual content is more shareable is that it quickly conveys information and evokes emotions. So, make sure you invest in high-quality images, videos, and visually appealing design elements.  

Timing and Trending Topics 

Timeliness is crucial in capturing the attention of online users, so keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics and create content that aligns with popular conversations or events, injecting your brand’s unique perspective. And remember to use related hashtags where appropriate to ensure discoverability.  

Engage and Respond 

Once your content starts gaining traction, actively engage with your audience, responding to comments promptly and authentically. Encouraging conversations and building relationships with your audience will foster brand loyalty and encourage them to continue sharing your content in future.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you now have a much clearer idea of how to go viral. Achieving this type of exposure is a potent strategy for expanding brand awareness, reaching new audiences, and driving business growth. Of course, there is no magic formula that will guarantee that your content will go viral, but by implementing these strategies, you will greatly increase the chances.  

If you need any help with your marketing campaigns, don’t hesitate to get in touch – my team and I would be delighted to assist. 

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