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What is Viral Marketing & What are The Pros & Cons? (Examples)

Have you ever stumbled upon a video or meme that left you laughing or thinking about it for days on end? Chances are, you’ve come across a piece of viral marketing.

It’s a strategy that can turn a simple message or piece of content into a global phenomenon in a matter of hours. From the infamous “Charlie Bit My Finger” video to the Ice Bucket Challenge, viral marketing has been responsible for some of the most iconic and memorable moments in internet history.

But viral marketing isn’t just about creating something that’s fun or entertaining. It’s a strategy that can drive real business results.

So, whether you’re a small business owner or a marketer at a large corporation, viral marketing can be a valuable tool in your arsenal. With the right approach, creativity, and planning, you can create content that captures the attention of millions and helps your brand achieve its marketing goals.

What is Viral Marketing & Is it Relevant in 2023?

Viral marketing is a technique that uses social media and other online platforms to spread a message or promote a product through word-of-mouth or sharing.

The idea is to create something that is so interesting, entertaining, or useful that people feel compelled to share it with their friends and followers, who then share it with their friends and followers, and so on until it reaches a massive audience.

Think of it like a virus (hence the name “viral marketing”) that spreads from person to person, infecting everyone in its path. But instead of making people sick, it makes them laugh, think, or feel something, which is ultimately what drives them to share it with others.

The key to viral marketing is to create content that is highly shareable. This could be anything from a funny video, a meme, an infographic, a blog post, or even a simple tweet. But whatever it is, it needs to be something that resonates with people on a deep level and makes them want to share it with their network.

But is viral marketing still relevant in 2023?

Yes! It is still highly relevant in 2023, and it’s likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

The widespread use of social media and other online channels has made it easier than ever for businesses to reach a large audience with their message, and the potential for a viral campaign to generate massive buzz and engagement remains as strong as ever.

By creating content that is highly shareable and tapping into the power of social media, businesses can amplify their message and reach a wider audience than they ever could through traditional marketing methods.

The Pros & Cons of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing has become one of the most popular and powerful marketing strategies in recent years. While viral marketing can be highly effective at reaching a large audience and generating brand awareness, it also comes with its own set of pros and cons that must be carefully considered.

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1. Reach a Massive Audience

One of the biggest advantages of viral marketing is the potential to reach a massive audience quickly and cost-effectively. By creating content that resonates with people and encourages them to share it with their network, you can potentially reach millions of people without spending a dime on advertising.

2. Low Cost

Viral marketing is a low-cost marketing strategy since it relies on word-of-mouth marketing and the power of social media sharing. Creating a viral marketing campaign does not require a large marketing budget or a team of experts to develop, which makes it an ideal option for small businesses and startups with limited resources.

3. Increase Brand Awareness

By creating content that goes viral, you can increase brand awareness and visibility. Viral marketing campaigns are often shared widely on social media, blogs, and other online platforms, which can result in a flood of new visitors to your website and social media pages.

Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign is a great example of a viral marketing campaign that increased brand awareness. The campaign featured a series of humorous commercials featuring the “Old Spice Guy,” which quickly went viral on social media and resulted in increased brand awareness and sales for the company.

4. High Engagement

Viral marketing campaigns are often highly engaging and interactive, which can create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm among your target audience. This high level of engagement can lead to increased brand loyalty and customer retention in the long run.


1. Difficult to Predict

Viral marketing campaigns are notoriously difficult to predict. Even with the best planning and execution, there’s no guarantee that your content will go viral. This unpredictability can make it challenging to plan marketing budgets and determine ROI.

2. Limited Control

Once your content goes viral, it’s out of your hands. The content can be shared, commented on, and even manipulated in ways that you didn’t intend, which can be challenging to manage and control.

The recent “Tide Pod” challenge is a great example of a viral marketing campaign that was difficult to control. The challenge involved people filming themselves eating laundry detergent pods, inspired by the brightly colored and tempting-looking pods.

While Tide, the manufacturer of the pods, did not intend for this to become a viral marketing campaign, they had limited control over the content and messaging that emerged around the challenge, leading to negative publicity and even calls for a product recall.

3. Short Lifespan

Viral marketing campaigns tend to have a short lifespan, and the content can quickly become outdated or irrelevant. This short lifespan can make it challenging to sustain the momentum and impact of the campaign in the long run.

4. Risky Content

Creating content that goes viral often involves taking risks, which can be both good and bad. While some risks may pay off and lead to a highly successful campaign, others may backfire and result in negative publicity or even damage to your brand reputation.

Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign is a great example of a viral marketing campaign that took a risk. The campaign involved encouraging people to “sacrifice” 10 Facebook friends in exchange for a free Whopper. While the campaign generated significant buzz and increased sales for the company, it also raised concerns about privacy and the ethics of sacrificing social connections for a fast-food burger.

By understanding the potential risks and rewards, you can make an informed decision about whether viral marketing is the right approach for your business.

Viral Marketing vs Guerilla Marketing

The two powerful marketing techniques are often confused with each other. While they do share some similarities, they are actually quite different.

Viral marketing is all about creating content that is highly shareable and has the potential to spread like wildfire across social media and other online platforms. The key is to create something that resonates with people on a deep level and inspires them to share it with their network. The goal is to reach a massive audience quickly and cost-effectively.

On the other hand, guerrilla marketing is all about creating unconventional and often surprising marketing campaigns that catch people off guard and leave a lasting impression. It’s about using creativity and ingenuity to promote a product or service in a way that is unexpected and memorable.

The term “guerrilla marketing” was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book “Guerrilla Advertising”, and has since become a popular marketing strategy for small businesses and startups. The goal is to generate buzz and create a buzz around the brand.

In short, while both viral marketing and guerrilla marketing can be highly effective in promoting a brand, they approach it in different ways.

Examples of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing campaigns can take many different forms, from clever social media posts to entertaining videos or games. Here are a few examples of successful viral marketing campaigns that have captured the attention of millions of people

The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral marketing campaign that helped raise awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) in 2014. It was a social movement that captured the attention of the world.

The campaign was so successful because it was fun, engaging, and easy to participate in. It also had a clear purpose: to raise awareness and funds for ALS research.

The challenge was simple – dump a bucket of ice water over your head, post a video on social media, and challenge your friends to do the same. It quickly caught on, with celebrities, politicians, and even athletes taking part. The campaign had a massive impact, raising millions of dollars for ALS research and increasing awareness of the disease.

According to the ALS Association, the challenge raised $115 million in just eight weeks, compared to $19 million in the same period the previous year.

In the end, the Ice Bucket Challenge was more than just a viral marketing campaign – it was a symbol of hope and a reminder that together, we can make a difference.

Read More: Video Email Marketing: Engage Your Audience and Drive Conversions

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club is a monthly subscription razor service that used viral marketing to promote its service in 2012. Their first advertisement featured the CEO of the company, Michael Dubin, making a humorous pitch for their service.

Dollar Shave Club’s viral marketing campaign was a game-changer for the industry. The humorous pitch and catchy tagline “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” quickly gained traction and helped increase sales for the company.

According to reports, the viral marketing campaign helped Dollar Shave Club reach 12,000 orders within the first 48 hours of the ad’s release. The success of the viral marketing campaign even led to the company’s acquisition by Unilever for a reported $1 billion.

Dollar Shave Club’s viral marketing campaign was successful because it was relatable, humorous, and provided a unique selling proposition. By offering a monthly subscription service for razors, the company was able to differentiate itself from traditional razor companies and offer a more convenient and affordable option for customers.

Overall, Dollar Shave Club’s viral marketing campaign was a prime example of how a creative and engaging campaign can lead to significant growth and success for a company.


Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” campaign is a great example of how viral marketing can be successful in real time. During the 2013 Super Bowl, when the power went out in the stadium,

Oreo quickly responded with a tweet that read, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” This tweet went viral, receiving over 15,000 retweets and over 20,000 likes in just a few hours.

The success of this real-time marketing effort highlights the power of viral marketing in today’s digital age. By responding quickly and creatively to an unexpected event, Oreo was able to generate a massive amount of engagement and brand awareness.

This campaign also showed how social media platforms like Twitter can be an effective tool for viral marketing, allowing companies to reach a large audience quickly and easily.

Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign

Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign is one of the most iconic examples of viral marketing in recent years. The campaign, which started in 2004, aimed to challenge beauty standards and celebrate the diversity of women’s bodies. It included a series of ads featuring real women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and skin colors, instead of the typical airbrushed models we were used to seeing in ads.

The campaign was an instant success, generating a lot of buzz on social media and traditional media outlets. It went viral, with people sharing and discussing the ads on various platforms, leading to over 3 million shares in its first month.

It also generated a lot of positive sentiment towards the brand, with many women feeling that the ads were portraying a more realistic and diverse image of beauty.

Overall, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was a groundbreaking example of viral marketing that challenged beauty standards and celebrated diversity. It was successful not only in generating buzz and engagement but also in increasing sales and improving brand perception.

In conclusion, by leveraging the power of social media and other online platforms, businesses can create unique and engaging content that is designed to be shared across the internet.

The Psychology of Viral Marketing: Why It Works

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through your social media feed and coming across a viral marketing campaign that just spoke to you? Whether it’s a heartwarming video, a hilarious meme, or a thought-provoking article, viral content has the power to captivate and engage us in ways that traditional marketing simply can’t.

But what is it about viral marketing that makes it so effective?

At its core, viral marketing taps into the psychology of human behavior and our innate desire to connect with others.

For starters, viral marketing plays on our emotions. Whether it’s joy, sadness, or even anger, emotions are what drive us to engage with content and share it with others. When we come across content that makes us feel something, we’re more likely to share it with our friends and family, which in turn helps the content go viral.

Viral marketing also taps into the power of social influence. We’re often influenced by the opinions and actions of those around us, whether we realize it or not. When we see that a piece of content is being shared by others in our social network, we’re more likely to engage with it ourselves, as it signals that the content is popular and worth sharing.

But perhaps most importantly, viral marketing plays into our desire to belong. As social creatures, we crave connection and community, and viral content has the power to bring us together around shared experiences and interests. When we share a piece of viral content with our friends and family, we’re not only engaging with the content itself but also signaling our identity and values to those around us.

Overall, the psychology of viral marketing is complex and multifaceted, but it all comes down to our innate desire to connect with others and be part of something larger than ourselves.

Is Viral Marketing Right for Your Brand? Factors to Consider

Viral marketing is an effective strategy for building brand awareness, driving sales, and promoting new products. However, it’s not the right strategy for every brand. To determine if viral marketing is right for your brand, there are several factors you should consider:

  1. Marketing Goals: What are your marketing goals? If you’re looking to increase brand awareness and engage with your target audience, viral marketing may be a good strategy. However, if you’re looking to drive immediate sales, viral marketing may not be the most effective approach.
  2. Target Audience: Who is your target audience? Viral marketing campaigns are most effective when the content resonates with your target audience. Consider whether your audience is likely to engage with and share the type of content you’re planning to create.
  3. Resources: Do you have the resources to create and promote the content? Viral marketing campaigns can be resource-intensive and require a significant investment of time, money, and creativity. Consider whether you have the resources to create and promote the content effectively.
  4. Risks and Challenges: Are you prepared for the potential risks and challenges? Viral marketing campaigns can be unpredictable, and there is always a risk that the content will be poorly received or generate negative feedback. Consider whether you’re prepared to deal with these challenges and have a plan in place to manage any potential issues.
  5. Brand Image: Is viral marketing in line with your brand image and values? Viral marketing campaigns can be edgy or controversial, so it’s important to ensure that the content aligns with your brand image and values.

By asking these questions and carefully evaluating your goals, audience, and resources, you can make an informed decision about whether to pursue a viral marketing campaign for your brand.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it – the mysterious world of viral marketing. It’s all about creating content that resonates with people and inspires them to share it with their network.

With the right approach and execution, viral marketing can help your brand reach new heights and connect with audiences in a meaningful way. If you can do that, you could be well on your way to becoming the next big thing on the internet.

Good Luck!

Further Reads:

Network Effect: Types, Advantages & Disadvantages!

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM): Definition, Pros & Cons!

21 Gen Z Slang & Terms That Marketers Must Know

Effective Marketing: Build A Business Strategy in 9 Simple Steps!

AI in Email Marketing: How To Use it, The Benefits & Challenges!

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