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Viral advertising in 4 minutes: examples and types 23 May, 2020   

Viral advertising in 4 minutes: examples and types

It happens that you see such a video on the network that it is simply impossible not to share with friends. And you kind of understand that the brand is behind it, but it doesn't look like direct advertising. And everything is packed so brightly, shockingly or ridiculously that I want to discuss with others. So we pick up the viral advertising and distribute it until we «get sick». We look at examples of how and why this mechanism works, what its pros and cons are.

What is viral marketing and why does it work

This strategy is effective for several reasons.
Viral marketing — these are all methods of advertising distribution, aimed at ensuring that consumers themselves share information about the brand. Such an advertisement is called viral because it spreads exponentially, like an epidemic — from one “carrier” to many at once.

- «It doesn't look like an advertisement.» Often, even a brand is mentioned in passing, which allows even those who usually do not trust advertising messages to win. The user believes that he is sharing a photo or video, and not just mentioning the brand.
- A catchy plot — it can cause shock, tenderness, laughter. In a word, any reaction, except neutral.
- Entertainment — for example, a video that is not inferior to the best clips in special effects. Or it shows what no one has done before.
- Comes from friends, opinion leaders, “disinterested” people. All those whom we are accustomed to trust — they will not advise anything bad. Even if such a person does not praise the product directly, it still attracts attention.

To be effective, viral advertising does not have to include all of these aspects. One is enough — if only she went hype. For example, the Adidas video does not contain anything shocking, but it looks so impressive that you want to put it on your wall:
Viral advertising is also effective because it is distributed on the Internet. This allows you to quickly reach the maximum number of potential consumers. But it does not necessarily run only online — there are varieties of viral ads that work offline. They are also described in the article.

Viral advertising: the history of the concept

The term «viral strategy» was first used in 1995 by a team of strategists at Chiat / Day in Los Angeles (now TBWA LA) to launch the first PlayStation. Thanks to a cunning scheme, the involvement of opinion leaders and the dissemination of information by insiders, the prefix in six months became No. 1 in its niche.
The phrase “viral marketing” was introduced by Jeffrey Raport, first mentioned in his article «The Virus of marketing» for 1996.
In the same year, Hotmail, a free email service, put this strategy into practice. The company spent the start-up capital on equipment and personnel; there was almost no money left for advertising. Instead, the team posted in each letter the link «Get Free Hotmail Email». So many recipients of letters have become new users:
Hotmail Subscribers Grow After Viral Marketing
As a result, in two years the company spent $ 500,000 on advertising and received 12 million subscribers. For comparison, their competitor, Juno, took $ 20 million to get just a third more subscriptions than Hotmail.

Types of Viral Marketing

There is no generally accepted classification of viral marketing types, but several approaches can be distinguished.

  • Word of mouth. Specially hired people seem to accidentally praise the product among the target audience.
  • Gossip and scandals. For example, celebrities can specifically launch a duck on the eve of a movie or album. Example: a viral video in which actor Svetlakov allegedly fights at a wedding. It was intended to warm up the audience on the eve of the release of the film «Bitterly.»
  • Attracting an opinion leader. Unlike direct advertising, it should not only sound the memorized text, but demonstrate that it uses the brand and considers it worthy.
  • Distribution of information for a fee. The brand offers a gift or discount for the user to repost messages or news. For example, to receive them you need to join a group or repost information about the competition in order to take part in it.
  • Teaser. Often used for offline advertising. For example, an intriguing inscription is posted on a billboard without any advertising messages or brand mention. This is already attracting attention. A week later, another bill appears on the same billboard, and only after a while — the main advertising message.
  • Humor. Campaigns in which a brand can look at itself with irony are especially effective. This fundamentally distinguishes viral marketing from standard advertising, where the business is extremely serious about its advantages. This approach works well in areas that are not at all associated with jokes.
  • Insider information. People avoid what is being imposed on them, but seek what escapes them. «Leakage» of information about the upcoming release of the game, book, concert is the best way to foster interest in them.
  • Veiled advertising. This may be a website or news that does not even remotely resemble a brand. Most often, this can be fun content that people willingly share on the network to laugh with friends.

Viral Advertising: Examples

Finally, a few illustrative examples. They differ greatly in message, but each of them quickly and successfully «infected» users. These examples clearly illustrate that success is important not just in a single component, but in compliance with viral marketing principles.

Old Spice

The brand is famous for its advertising, thanks to humor and a non-standard approach. So, their viral video for 2010 brought the brand the following results:

  • for the 1st day, the campaign gained 6 million views — this is more than Obama’s speech after winning the election;
  • on the 2nd day, the video became the eighth among dozens of the most popular online videos;
  • on day 3 there were already 20 million views;

Amazon Alexa

This video has been recognized as one of the best viral videos of 2018. Amazon Echo launched it to support sales of the smart device Echo Spot, which interacts with Alex’s voice assistant. The campaign was launched during the Super Cup to reach as many of its fans as possible.
According to the plot of the video, Alex loses his voice, and then celebrities come to the rescue, who replace her. The video featured actor Anthony Hopkins, chef Gordon Ramsay and even the creator of Amazon himself — Jeff Bezos. 

Hotel CitizenM

The television commercial Swan Song, created by the creative agency Kesselskramer for the New York hotel of the CitizenM chain, caused a rather mixed reaction from the audience, but got a rather big viral coverage and heated discussion on the Internet. Why? See for yourself.

The viral effect of such an advertising campaign ensured a 34% increase in hotel occupancy last season;

The hotel’s net profit increased by various estimates to 55%;

Traffic on the company’s website grew by 300%.

Summary: the pros and cons of viral advertising


1. A non-standard approach allows you to break through the «white noise» from advertising offers that surrounds the modern consumer. Competent viral advertising is well remembered and creates a wow effect.
2. This can be cheaper than the traditional approach. For example, it is not necessary to hire a professional photographer or cameraman, pay for standard promotion channels.
3. An opportunity to reach a new audience that would not know about you before. Your message will not only be seen by potential customers that you usually focus on. Relatives, friends of friends and other people who in the long term can become buyers learn about the brand.
4. If a family member, friend, celebrity or opinion leader talks about a product, this increases brand confidence. Especially if it looks like a sincere recommendation, and not an explicit advertisement.


1. Once a virus campaign is launched, it is impossible to control what happens next. Content is distributed on its own, and market conditions may change. If there is a negative, you will not have a «turn off» button, unlike contextual advertising.
2. The effectiveness of viral marketing is difficult to measure — you do not control the channels through which users will distribute your advertising. It’s also difficult to predict the return on investment in viral marketing in advance. Some campaigns are quickly becoming popular, others may fail.
3. Outrageous, which is often used in viral advertising, can do a disservice. There is always a chance that there will be people whom she will offend. Indeed, cultural and social norms for many people are different. Viral ads that are distributed with negative reviews can cause huge damage to the brand.

May 23, 2018

viral advertising

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