What Is Viral Marketing? | Definition, Techniques & Impact

Viral Marketing is a promotional strategy that banks on the internet’s rapid spread of information. Have you ever shared a trendy video or post online? That’s the essence of viral marketing! We leverage existing social networks to create content that is so engaging or novel that people feel compelled to share it, much like a virus that spreads from person to person. Viral marketing can propel a brand’s recognition to sky-high levels overnight. But be careful! The key lies in striking the perfect balance between entertainment and promotional content. If done right, it’s marketing gold, but if overdone, it can backfire. So, ready to catch the ‘viral’ fever?

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Principles of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is a powerful marketing technique that aims to create a message or content that spreads rapidly and extensively among a large audience. The success of viral marketing campaigns hinges on a few key principles:

  1. Compelling content: To create a viral marketing campaign, it is crucial to develop content that is captivating, exciting, and share-worthy. This content can take the form of videos, articles, images, or any other format that resonates with the target audience.
  2. Emotional appeal: Viral marketing campaigns often leverage emotions to drive engagement and sharing. By tapping into emotions like humor, surprise, awe, or empathy, marketers can increase the likelihood of content being shared.
  3. Seed targeting: Identifying influential individuals or communities within the target audience and strategically distributing the content to them increases the chances of the campaign going viral. These “seeds” act as catalysts for spreading the content further.
  4. Easy sharing mechanics: To facilitate and encourage sharing, viral marketing campaigns often leverage social media platforms and incorporate easy-to-use sharing buttons and tools.
  5. Tracking and monitoring: It is essential to track and monitor the campaign’s progress closely, analyzing data such as shares, likes, comments, and conversion rates. This helps to refine and optimize future viral marketing strategies.

Techniques and Strategies of Viral Marketing

The success of a viral marketing campaign relies on employing various techniques and strategies:

  • Storytelling: Using engaging narratives helps captivate the audience, making them more likely to share the content.
  • User-generated content: Encouraging users to generate and share their own content related to the brand or campaign can significantly increase its reach and impact.
  • Influencer partnerships: Collaborating with influencers who align with the brand’s values and target audience can amplify the campaign’s reach and credibility.
  • Contests and giveaways: Offering incentives like prizes or exclusive access can motivate users to participate and share the campaign.
  • Embracing trends: Keeping up with current trends and creating content around them can help a campaign gain relevance and virality.

Impact and Benefits of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing can have a significant impact on a brand’s awareness, engagement, and ultimately, its bottom line. Some key benefits include:

  • Increased brand visibility: Viral campaigns have the potential to reach a vast audience, increasing brand exposure exponentially.
  • Enhanced engagement: Viral campaigns often generate high levels of engagement, such as likes, comments, and shares, as users actively participate in spreading the content.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Compared to traditional marketing methods, viral marketing has the potential to yield high returns on investment as the content’s viral nature amplifies its reach.
  • Building brand loyalty: Viral marketing campaigns that resonate with the target audience can foster a sense of loyalty and emotional connection, leading to long-term brand affinity.

Real-life Examples of Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns

Several brands have executed successful viral marketing campaigns. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

  1. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: This social media sensation in 2014 involved people dumping buckets of ice water on themselves to raise awareness for ALS. It generated millions of videos and social media mentions, significantly increasing awareness and donations for the cause.
  2. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”: Old Spice’s humorous and memorable commercials featuring Isaiah Mustafa quickly became viral and transformed the brand’s image, attracting a younger demographic.


A successful viral marketing campaign relies on several factors. Engaging content, emotional appeal, targeted seeding, ease of sharing, and diligent tracking and monitoring all contribute to its success. By creating compelling content that resonates with the audience, strategically distributing it, and tracking its performance, campaigns have a higher likelihood of going viral.

Viral marketing campaigns come with some inherent risks, such as potential negative backlash or unintended consequences. A campaign that is perceived as offensive, insensitive, or inauthentic can harm a brand’s reputation. Additionally, lack of control over the content’s spread and the unpredictable nature of virality pose risks in terms of brand messaging and reputation management.

Viral marketing can have a profound impact on a brand’s image. A successful viral campaign can bolster brand perception, increasing positive associations and attracting new customers. However, it is essential to carefully plan and execute campaigns to ensure alignment with the brand’s values and messaging, as any misstep can negatively impact the brand’s image.

Social media platforms play a pivotal role in viral marketing, providing the infrastructure for content sharing and amplification. Social media allows users to easily engage with and share content, exponentially increasing its reach. Brands often leverage social media platforms to distribute their viral campaigns and tap into the vast audience present on these platforms.

Measuring the success of a viral marketing campaign requires tracking and analyzing various metrics. Key indicators include the number of shares, likes, comments, and overall engagement. Additionally, tracking conversions, website traffic, and brand awareness metrics can provide insights into the campaign’s impact and success.