Social Marketing

7 Viral Ad Campaigns & Why They Worked

When it comes to social media, there’s a lot of competition. Social media is a great way for businesses to grow brand awareness and drive traffic, but it can be difficult to stand out from a crowd, especially as a small business. That’s why it can be useful to try to develop a marketing strategy that goes viral, and that makes you trend on different social media platforms.

When you go viral, it simply means that your content blows up on social networks overnight, with lots of retweets, shares, likes, and comments. While there’s no perfect equation for going viral, creating shareable, accessible, and customizable content with the right hashtags can make a big difference. 

10PM Curfew has your closer look at successful viral marketing campaigns and how certain brands and companies have taken the step that helps them grow. 

What Are Some Examples of Viral Marketing Efforts?

Every company is going to need a custom approach to the content they create and the demographic they try to reach. You always want to tailor your viral content to your target audience and marketing message, so there’s a better chance it will reach the right people. 

That means more orders for you and more likes and shares for your content. Here’s a closer look at some of the successful campaigns from marketing history and how you can take away some of the methods and practices for your own small business. 

1. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Everyone remembers the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which was used to help raise awareness of the little-known condition ALS. To participate in the challenge, content creators would tag friends or fellow celebrities and shoot a video dumping ice-cold water on themselves. Creators would then donate to the ALS Association or another related charity.

This marketing content was extremely effective because it mobilized audiences and introduced them to a condition that wasn’t well-known before the marketing campaign. It also reached a lot of celebrities and became a viral trend among celebrities, who donated a significant amount of money to the cause. 

The trend was funny to watch since the ice-cold water made content creators squirm and dance, and the videos were easy to tag fellow creators in, so the trend spread quickly. It was a great opportunity for people to learn about a condition that needed support, all while creating and consuming viral videos. 

2. Snickers: You’re Not You When You’re Hungry

The Snickers viral marketing technique, “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” is both funny and customizable. While it doesn’t have the same shareable element as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which was designed to be repeated by a wide range of people across social platforms, it is both very recognizable and accessible. 

The joke of the content, which has been adapted in several different ways since Snickers first introduced it, is that we become someone different when we’re hungry. It’s an experience we’ve all had, which makes it easy to identify with the content.

It's also a recognizable tagline that is appropriate to the brand and easy to remember. You know exactly what Snickers is trying to say in their ads, and they can adapt and evolve those ads to meet the needs of specific viral content.

3. Red Bull Gives You Wings

Red Bull is recognizable by their illustrated cartoons and specific color palette, but also by their iconic tagline, “Red Bull gives you wings.” The different commercials and ads all showcase characters gaining their wings, which makes this an easy type of content for the brand to reproduce in many different ways.

Another reason why this type of content is so effective at getting the message across is because it fits the actual brand. Red Bull is promoted by content creators who push the envelope and participate in extreme sports and challenges, so the idea of chasing adrenaline is appropriate for the brand’s commercials, whether they’re illustrated or not. 

4. Dove: Real Beauty Sketches

Dove is a hygiene brand that focuses on the lives of real women and has long been associated with themes of confidence, individuality, and self-expression. Part of the reason why the Dove Real Beauty campaign was and is so successful is that Dove knows their audiences very well. 

They have spent many years cultivating an important message of self-love, and their Real Beauty campaign, particularly the Real Beauty Sketches element, is a very good example of successful digital marketing.

The Real Beauty Sketches program was a short film where women were showcased as perceiving their own beauty and the beauty of strangers. It highlighted a universal female experience, where women think of others as more beautiful than they think of themselves, and the approach was both heartening and personal. 

The quality of the film, in addition to the important message of the campaign and of Dove itself, are the reasons why the sketches were so successful and why the Real Beauty campaign is still in the works today.

5. Shot on an iPhone

Shot on an iPhone was a master class in making the most of hashtags and making viral marketing work. It both showcased the remarkable capability of the product and created a trend in which literal millions of people participated — up to 15 million, in fact.

The premise of this campaign was very simple, which is part of the reason it was so successful. All a person had to do to participate was to share the best photos they had taken with an iPhone on either Instagram or Twitter and to use the campaign’s hashtag, #ShotonaniPhone. The promise of a big prize, like a featured position in Apple advertising, was a huge draw, and people shared their content worldwide.

Each time a new contestant would enter, more people would see the hashtag, and thus the campaign grew. It was very successful, and Apple continues to run variations of the contest today. 

6. Love Is Love

Another way that brands can engage in successful viral marketing, and make the most of modern marketing techniques, is to tap into the trending social and political movements, so long as it’s appropriate for their brand. One such example is the rising trend of Pride participation, which can be seen in a lot of different companies’ branding each year during the month of June.

While some critiques can be levied against companies simply utilizing social justice issues when they fit their needs, this can be a really effective way to show your demographic that you stand with them. 

Pride campaigns have run the gamut from partnerships with content creators to the latest Ford truck ads, where driving through a puddle washes off the mud to reveal the LGBTQ Pride flag below. This is a method that can be easy to customize for your brand.

7. Most Interesting Man in the World

Many different brands will also create characters or mascots for the brand. Just look at The Most Interesting Man in the World, which was created for the beer brand Dos Equis. 

The mascot character of the most interesting man became so accessible and fun to customize that it was made into a popular meme for a time and adapted by both the brand and outside content creators many times over. The ability to customize and personalize this type of content is one of the reasons why it was so successful.


Creating viral content can be difficult and overwhelming, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When developing marketing content, it can be very useful to look at the types of content that have been successful in the past and use them as inspiration for growing your social media channels and developing deeper customer relationships.

The different types of brands and campaigns that have been successful over the years have really varied, from tapping into social issues to creating recognizable mascots to challenging customers to share content for the chance to win a grand prize. 

All of the companies know their audiences well, and they know how to create accessible and shareable pieces of content that will really resonate with the consumers that they’re most trying to reach.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to make viral content marketing, SEO, or digital marketing work for your small business, 10PM Curfew is the team you can trust. We’re dedicated to providing social media marketing support and matching marketing experts with content creators that will help them grow. 

We even make it easy to join our team, so you can make the connections that make the difference. Find out how viral marketing techniques can work for your business with the support of our team today.


How To Identify Your Business’s Target Audience | Forbes

What is ALS? - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis | The ALS Association

Young women, do you need more confidence? This is how to get it | Gaby Hinsliff | The Guardian

Marketing in the Age of Resistance | Harvard Business Review