Viral Marketing Initiatives

I have been involved in marketing plans that were expected to go viral. “This is totally going viral,” someone would say. When I was at a local TV-Station, we came up with an RG3/ Dark Knight Returns meme to help promote our NFL schedule for that upcoming season. He was a bright star in the DC area, it was his second season, and expectations were high. 

“Could you imagine what would happen if RG3 retweeted this? It would blow up.” We hoped for our own marketing last-second Hail Mary pass.

One way to go viral is to target people's emotions and get really really lucky

Speaking of retweets, that was another ploy. There were actual plans in place for seeking the attention of another bright DC star, the hip-hop artist, Wale. Planning for an unassuming local rap star to swoop in and rescue a campaign, is a terrible plan. You might as well plan for Wale to also ride in on a unicorn that farts champagne. And even after years of Wale-courting failure, someone would still at some point ask if there was “any chance of getting Wale involved” at brainstorm sessions.

composite of Wale’s new album — click the image for link to his actual album (Wale/ MMG/Warner Records/ Twitter)

[WALE VIRAL TWEET GENERATOR] Hey @Wale [add small talk about weather, or whether Main Source “Live at the BBQ” is the best posse cut ever] I know you heard of [add DC area event Wale has not heard of] please bring unicorn @billgates #HASHTAGS #SNHUSMM

Virality really seems to be less about courting notable people to your cause and far more dictated by the emotional resonance of a combined audience that forms around the message. They make it their movement, too. And typically, it’s a message that hits them in the emotions.


Who wouldn’t want to meet the love of their life in high school and credit a lifetime of happiness to a stick of chewing gum? It really is a sweet and heartwarming mega-commercial (or should I say micro-movie). And it grabbed a ton of views by playing those heart-strings.


There are plenty of marketing campaigns that fall into the make people laugh category. But I really have to mention a Jimmy Kimmel vehicle that stands out. Because when we first saw the clip, it wasn’t a Jimmy Kimmel video, we all thought it was a hilariously bad twerking fail. And who doesn’t fancy an excellent fail video (my personal indulgence is Parkour Fails)?

I love this video for many reasons, but mainly because it is a “clinical study in what goes viral.” An Atlantic article suggests crossing your fingers and praying to Reddit as Reddit can be the engine for virality. Reddit has a ranking system where users up-vote posts and content. If you want to go viral, it will help to go viral on Reddit first. (Abad-Santos, 2013)


You don’t always get to go viral for the reason you want to go viral. You could virally piss everyone off as when Pepsi teamed up with Kendall Jenner for an ad that undoubtedly looked amazing on paper. Bridging the gap between social justice advocates and authority advocates building a more respectful, more loving world. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one person on the creative team equated it to a modern-day “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” Coca-Cola opus. The ad itself did go viral as hell and bridged the masses in condemnation, “tone-deaf” was a prevailing opinion (and lead to a pretty hilarious SNL spoof).


Will it Blend, should not be a surprise to be in my surprise category. It is one of the most successful viral marketing channels of all time and has a kookiness that reminds me of the old internet marketing days. Like in the late 90s when a webcam was positioned inside an Electrolux fridge in Stockholm. Wowing us all (it was the 90s) with images snapped of the “Electrolux Family” every time someone opened the fridge for a cola or bologna sandwich. 

Blendtec’s premise is simple, do you think this blender can blend your favorite stuff from companies like Amazon and Apple? And it’s a bit of shock when the device turns our fave electronics into powder.


Washington, DC hasn’t had the best relationship with women on all sides of the political spectrum and with the current resident of 1800 Pennsylvania Ave, (what with his multiple accusations for mistreatment of women). It opens the door for candidates who are opposed to the current administration on these and other subjects. The right moment for Kim Olson, a kick-ass woman who is also a veteran that exudes Texas. Or, speaking of Doors, MJ Hegar also opened them to viral success. And while viral success doesn’t always lead to votes, it does lead to contributions, the lifeblood of campaigns. 

In the end, if your campaign does go viral, well, let the good times roll! I imagine once the dust settles, you will be expected to replicate that success on your next campaign.  Good luck with that.

What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments!


Abad-Santos, A. (2013, September 10). How Jimmy Kimmel Tricked the Internet into Believing in the Worst Twerk Ever. Retrieved from The Atlantic:

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