Viral Marketing Initiatives

There is no exact recipe to make a certain marketing effort go viral. With that being said, there are certain characteristics that help foster the virality of these efforts. The internet is full of people trying to create viral posts and most of them are unsuccessful. In this post we will look at 5 of the top viral marketing characteristics that successful viral marketing initiatives possess.

1. Be relevant and timely. No one wants a Christmas post in April or a campaign about how your vehicle handles well in the snow in Florida. Plan your marketing initiatives and be strategic. Holidays and seasons happen at the same time every year so take advantage of it! One great example of a company that has a firm grasp on this concept is Westjet. Most people saw what they did last year during the holidays, if not you can check out my post here or just watch the video below.

This effort took a lot of planning and resources but was orchestrated perfectly delivering the miracle of Christmas to random individuals. This video boasts over 36 million views and puts a positive connotation in everyones mind about their brand.

2. Be easily shareable & easily accessible. In order for things to go viral people must share them. If it is difficult to do so, or difficult to find the posts, a marketing initiatives virality is doomed from the start. There are plenty of social media outlets to choose from just make sure you do so strategically and have a plan. There is no need to create a video about your brand and host it on your site when Youtube is one of the largest search engines in the world and they specialize in video. Just make sure when this is done, your brand is prevalent within the post and it is easy to navigate back to your website from the outlet you choose by adding links.

3. Connect on emotional level. Studies done by Buffer app and Fractl show that connecting with your audience on an emotional level is crucial to a viral post. Every demographic has different emotional responses to different stimuli so be sure to know your target market. (Libert, 2014) All the marketing folks out there already know that though! The post above from Westjet triggers many positive emotional responses which can be attributed to its success. One trend I have been noticing is utilizing the element of surprise as a tactic and has been proven to be successful. Many of the Old Spice ads use it with constantly changing and intense video ads but one of my favorites was done by TNT. The ad was called A Dramatic Surprise on A Quiet Square and its purpose was to inform residents of Belgium that TNT was being added to their cable lineup. With over 51 million views this ad successfully did that and then some. It brings the viewer through a roller coaster of emotions which plays to TNT’s brand which is Drama and is an excellent example of a successful viral campaign.

4. Type of content – text, video or images? People love video, especially if it keeps them engaged. Marketers must be cognisant of the length but video is proving to be a more and more successful medium of content creation. When sharing posts over social media a study by Huffington posts show that long form content (articles/ blog posts with more words) is more likely to be shared than short form. (Kagan, 2014) Also, when these articles get shared over the major networks, MAKE SURE TO ADD AN IMAGE. This is crucial and could mean the difference between a viral posts and it being overlooked.

5. Make posts that people want to share. People will only share things socially that is going to make them look and feel good. A thought provoking post is a great thing for thought leaders to share and a everyone likes a funny post because come on, who doesn’t want to make their friends laugh. A post that is boring or negative is not likely to be shared. Taking pieces from all the above tips and molding your initiative to connect with your market, is a great place to start.

These are just a few of the variables that can set a viral initiative up for success. They do not guarantee a viral video but a combination of a couple of these mixed with great content is a great place to get started!


Kagan, N. (2014, June 13). Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us. Retrieved October 29, 2014, from
Libert, K. (2014, July 15). The Science of Viral Content: Which Emotions Make Us Share? Retrieved October 29, 2014, from
Libert, K. (2014, June 3). 13 Lessons From Upworthy & BuzzFeed: Viral Content’s Secret Sauce. Retrieved October 29, 2014, from

3 thoughts on “Viral Marketing Initiatives

  1. AJ – you bring up some really good points about what makes it possible for content to go viral. While there is no guarantee that anything will go viral, I think that if a initiative has these 5 characteristics that you describe, it has a good chance. The WestJet video definitely captures many of those (I may not share it now, because it’s Halloween, but I may just bookmark it to share it at Christmas time). During my research I, too found that “content is more likely to become viral the more positive it is” (Berger, 2011, p. 5). “Consumers often share content for self-presentation purposes or to communicate identity, and positive content is shared more because it reflects positively on the sender” (Berger, 2011, p. 2). Nice post.
    Berger, J., Milkman, K., (2011). What Makes Online Content Viral? American Marketing Association. Journal of Marketing Research. Retrieved 10/30/14 from

  2. You mention that to go viral, the content should be positive or make you feel good. Why then do you think content that surround negative topics, like AT&T’s distracted driving campaign, or #bringbackourgirls, go viral?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.