What is Viral Marketing? (Explained With Examples)

08 November 2023

What is Viral Marketing? (Explained With Examples)

Viral marketing is a powerful strategy that has gained significant buzz in recent years. With the increasing popularity of social media platforms and the rapid spread of information, viral marketing has become an integral part of many successful marketing campaigns. In this article, we will delve into the concept of viral marketing, its definition, advantages, and disadvantages, as well as provide you with some illustrative examples to help you grasp the concept better

What is Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is a marketing technique that relies on the rapid spread of information and ideas through various online channels. The goal of viral marketing is to create compelling and shareable content that captures the attention of the target audience and encourages them to share it with their networks. When a message goes viral, it spreads quickly, reaching a large number of people and creating a buzz around a product, brand, or idea.

Viral marketing can take many forms, including videos, memes, infographics, blog posts, social media challenges, and more. The key element that differentiates viral marketing from traditional marketing strategies is the organic spread of the message, driven by the audience's genuine interest and willingness to share.

1°) What is Viral Marketing?

1.1 - Definition of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing involves creating and implementing a marketing campaign that aims to quickly and exponentially spread a message to a large audience. It harnesses the power of social networks and word-of-mouth referrals to increase brand awareness, engagement, and ultimately, sales.

A successful viral marketing campaign often taps into existing online communities and uses compelling content to capture the attention of the audience. The message needs to resonate with the target demographic and evoke strong emotions that will motivate people to share it further.

For example, a clothing brand may create a viral marketing campaign by releasing a video showcasing their latest collection. The video could feature influencers wearing the brand's clothes in unique and visually appealing settings. By creating visually stunning content that resonates with the target audience's sense of style and aspiration, the brand can generate excitement and encourage viewers to share the video with their friends and followers.

1.2 - Advantages of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing offers several distinct advantages over traditional marketing strategies. Firstly, viral campaigns have the potential to reach a massive audience in a short span of time. By leveraging the power of social networks, a well-executed viral marketing campaign can go viral and generate immense exposure for a brand or product.

Secondly, viral marketing is highly cost-effective compared to traditional advertising methods. While traditional marketing often involves significant investments in media buying, creative development, and distribution, viral marketing relies on the organic spread of the message, reducing the need for extensive financial resources.

Lastly, viral marketing can create a strong emotional connection between the brand and the audience. When a message goes viral, it often sparks conversations and encourages people to engage with the content. This increased engagement can lead to improved brand loyalty and customer retention.

For instance, a food delivery app may launch a viral marketing campaign by creating a social media challenge where users are encouraged to share pictures of their most creative homemade meals. By tapping into people's love for food and their desire to showcase their culinary skills, the app can generate a sense of community and excitement, leading to increased user engagement and retention.

1.3 - Disadvantages of Viral Marketing

While viral marketing can be highly beneficial, it also comes with a set of challenges and potential drawbacks. One disadvantage is the unpredictable nature of viral campaigns. Despite the efforts put into creating shareable content, it's impossible to guarantee that a campaign will go viral. The success of a viral marketing campaign relies heavily on external factors, such as timing, audience receptiveness, and competition.

Furthermore, viral marketing campaigns can also attract negative attention. Online communities have a tendency to scrutinize viral content, and if a message is received as insincere or inauthentic, it can damage the brand's reputation. Additionally, viral campaigns need to be carefully planned and executed to avoid any potential legal or ethical issues.

For example, a tech company may launch a viral marketing campaign by releasing a controversial video that sparks a heated debate among viewers. While the intention may be to generate buzz and engagement, there is a risk of alienating a portion of the audience and damaging the brand's image if the message is perceived as offensive or insensitive.

2°) Examples of Viral Marketing

2.1 - Example in a Startup Context

A well-known example of viral marketing in a startup context is the Dollar Shave Club campaign. In 2012, Dollar Shave Club released a humorous video promoting their subscription-based razor service. The video quickly gained traction on social media platforms and garnered millions of views. The success of the video catapulted Dollar Shave Club into the spotlight, leading to a surge in subscriptions and significant business growth.

Building on this success, Dollar Shave Club continued to create viral marketing campaigns, releasing videos that humorously highlighted the frustrations of traditional razor shopping and the convenience of their subscription service. By consistently delivering entertaining and relatable content, Dollar Shave Club established itself as a leader in the industry and successfully disrupted the market dominated by established razor brands.

2.2 - Example in a Consulting Context

A consulting firm named McKinsey & Company created a viral marketing campaign in 2010 called "What Matters." The campaign aimed to highlight the importance of data in decision-making. McKinsey created a series of visually appealing infographics and shared them on various online platforms. The captivating visuals and thought-provoking insights quickly attracted attention and generated widespread sharing, establishing McKinsey as a thought leader in business consulting.

By leveraging the power of data visualization and presenting complex information in a visually appealing and easily digestible format, McKinsey effectively communicated their expertise and positioned themselves as a trusted source of insights and guidance. The viral campaign not only increased brand awareness but also attracted new clients and strengthened existing client relationships.

2.3 - Example in a Digital Marketing Agency Context

In 2014, the digital marketing agency, Wieden+Kennedy, launched a viral marketing campaign centered around Old Spice, a popular men's grooming brand. The campaign featured a series of quirky and humorous videos starring the "Old Spice Guy." The videos quickly gained traction on social media platforms, generating millions of views and attracting a new, younger audience to the brand. The campaign's success significantly boosted Old Spice's sales and brand awareness.

Wieden+Kennedy's viral marketing campaign for Old Spice demonstrated the power of humor and creativity in capturing the attention of the target audience. By creating memorable and shareable content, the agency successfully revitalized the brand's image and positioned Old Spice as a modern and relevant choice for men's grooming products.

2.4 - Example with Analogies

Analogies are a powerful tool in viral marketing. For instance, Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, created a video series called "Will It Blend?" In these videos, Blendtec tested the durability of their blenders by blending unusual objects, such as iPhones and golf balls. The videos went viral, showcasing the blenders' strength and generating a massive buzz around the brand.

By using the analogy of blending everyday objects, Blendtec effectively communicated the power and durability of their blenders in a fun and engaging way. The viral videos not only increased brand awareness but also drove sales as viewers were intrigued by the blender's capabilities and wanted to experience it for themselves.


Viral marketing is a dynamic and engaging marketing strategy that harnesses the power of social networks and word-of-mouth to spread a message quickly and effectively. By creating compelling and shareable content, brands can generate immense exposure and significantly increase their reach. However, viral marketing also comes with its challenges and risks, necessitating careful planning and execution. By understanding the concept of viral marketing and exploring relevant examples, marketers can harness the power of viral campaigns to drive brand growth and engagement.

About the author
Arnaud Belinga
Arnaud Belinga
Arnaud Belinga is the Co-Founder & CEO at Breakcold. He talks about Sales CRM use, marketing & sales. He loves Surfing 🏄‍♂️ & Skateboarding 🛹️.
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