4 Viral Marketing Campaigns That Took the Internet to Another Level (and Tips on How to Create Your Own)

4 Viral Marketing Campaigns That Took the Internet to Another Level (and Tips on How to Create Your Own)

by | Jan 6, 2020

It’s every marketer’s dream to become viral. Viral marketing is content that spreads at the speed of light and transitions into an internet phenomenon practically overnight. This highly increased exposure – good or bad – generates interest in the brand and potentially more sales.

So what makes viral marketing so successful? Is it the brand’s intensive preparation? Or could it be a spur of the moment Tweet? Or perhaps, pure luck?

Frankly, it could be any of these. Take a look at these three brands that successfully demonstrated the potential viral marketing can have on your business… and the key takeaways you can apply to your own marketing strategy:


During the first few weeks of 2018, the media began reporting on teenagers consuming Tide Pods, as part of the “Tide Pod Challenge.” The trend originally came alive from Twitter memes, which turned mainstream at the end of 2017.


Shortly after, a small YouTuber saw the opportunity to capitalize on this bizarre fad and the first “Tide Pod Challenge” video was born. The challenge escalated and became prominent with young Youtube users, and whether you remember it or not, it created viral chaos.

Naturally, people were getting sick because, well, do we even need to go there? And although Tide had no involvement in the stunt, their brand was – unfortunately – the center of it all and action had to be taken.

Shortly after the challenge swept across the media, Tide sent out a Tweet:

“What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else. Eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA, and we asked our friend @robgronkowski to help explain.”

In addition to their copy playing off the, well, stupidity of it all, they also incorporated influence marketing and brought in NFL player, Rob Gronkowski, to share the message, “NO.”


While this campaign was clearly not part of their anticipated marketing strategy, Tide’s team avoided a crisis in a way that showed themselves as a responsible brand that cares about their consumers– all while gaining brand awareness.

Key Takeaways from Tide’s Viral Marketing:

  • Utilize Influencer Marketing.
  • Don’t run from the issue, embrace and expand on it instead.
  • Turn the viral message into something positive.


On August 12th, 2019, Popeye’s posted an innocuous Tweet promoting their new Chicken sandwich with little knowledge of the impact that followed.

Cute, right? Chick-Fil-A didn’t think so.

A week later, Chick-Fil-A subtweeted them, or called out Popeye’s without directly mentioning their name, with this:

Popeye’s award-winning response? “Y’all good?”


With just two words Popeye’s created a viral whirlwind.

Just about every outlet remotely related to food weighed in, including Bloomberg, the New Yorker, Wendy’s, with special shout outs from Dwayne Wade and Texas Longhorn players.

This viral marketing strategy resulted in locations selling out of the sandwich and, according to industry analysts at Apex Marketing, the free media coverage from the viral campaign was estimated to be worth more than $20 million.

So what can we learn from Popeye’s viral marketing? 

  • Follower engagement exceeds the importance of the amount of followers.
  • Quick and active responses are imperative for more conversations.
  • Make your brand more human by using relevant, funny, and approachable language.

Yanny Vs. Laurel

 If you remember the viral debate on “The Dress,” and whether it is white and gold vs. black and blue, you probably remember how three years later in 2018, Yanny Vs. Laurel became the next big question mark.

When an obscure audio file was leaked, listeners questioned their own hearing: Is the voice saying “Yanny” or “Laurel”? The virality of the debate became a prominent deliberation in pop culture, and brands got in on the action.

Sony incorporated the debate in their copy:


Nesquik added their own branded opinion:


Even the police got involved:


What marketers can learn from the Laurel Vs. Yanny debate: 

  • Getting involved in current pop culture increases brand exposure and allows users to see you as being “in the know.”
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor and/or sarcasm.
  • Incorporating current trends catches people’s attention and humanizes your brand.


Netflix is no stranger to sexual euphemisms. “Netflix and Chill” became a common sexual innuendo back in 2009 and 2019 was no different. In fact, the streaming service provided an opportunity for other brands to take part in the action.

On December 5th, 2009, they sent a Tweet that read, “what’s something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand twitter account?”


This rather risque Tweet garnered a collaboration from other brands with hilarious, entertaining, and engaging responses.

Food brands such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Kettle Chips put their two cents in with these responses:


Tech companies like Firefox got involved:


And even grammar experts, Grammarly provided some insight:


So what can we learn from Netflix?

This is a clear display of how social media is growing into a more laid-back platform. The carefree approach is another personable way of connecting to consumers and vice-versa.

Don’t be afraid to push the limits on social media. Social media has become more than just an advertising platform and has grown into a means to really engage and relate to consumers.

Make 2020 the year of growth by sharing content that probably causes someone to do a double-take.


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