Two Viral Marketing Campaigns That Shaped their Brands

June 17th, 2021

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Fact: Businesses want high engagement metrics. 

Fact: The first solution they consider is a viral ad campaign. 

Fact: It is cost-effective because your audience does most of the work by promoting your content via social shares and conversation.

Opinion: The first immensely successful viral video campaign was that super sad ASPCA commercial featuring the Sarah McLaughlin song. Tears.

More facts:

A 2021 survey cited 85% of businesses as using videos as marketing tools. With thousands of brands putting videos out daily on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, it can be challenging to stand out. 

Like competing chicken sandwich brands Popeye’s and Chick-Fil-A, some brands have attempted to gain virality by engaging in internet “beef” as a business strategy. 

Meanwhile, the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge used a combination of physical comedy—by dunking yourself or your friends in ice water—and emotion to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and encourage donations to the ALS Association. Like the Dos Equis man or the Old Spice Man, other viral campaigns have become so culturally relevant that people will even dress up like the characters for Halloween.  

These successful viral marketing campaigns are just two examples of the many different ways companies can use social currency to increase brand awareness, demonstrating the practical value of effective viral marketing techniques. 

The viral advertising campaigns listed below, however, not only stood out on social networks but also shaped the marketing strategy for that brand ever since its success.

Let’s look at two very different examples of viral marketing campaigns that both saw immense success but used other tactics and tones.

Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Campaign 

I have to be honest–this one hits me in the feelers. Hard. It was a short film starring an FBI-trained sketch artist named Gil Zamora, if you’re unfamiliar with this viral campaign. He sketches out two portraits of the same woman based on descriptions: one that the woman who is being sketched gives and the other a strangers’ description of the woman.

Zamora did not see the women before he did the portraits, and the women themselves were not aware of the social experiment.

Once Zamora completed the portraits, they were placed side-by-side for comparison, and it became apparent there were significant differences. The portrait based on the woman’s description of herself was less attractive than the portrait based on a stranger’s description.

The campaign aimed to convey, “You are more beautiful than you think.”

According to reports in 2013, the video became the most viewed online video at that time.

Watch the Dove campaign here.

Evokes emotional responses

The campaign here triggers an emotional response with women worldwide who recognize that they’re often their own harshest critic, particularly when it comes to body image. Dove’s values include fostering self-esteem in women, and the video was a poignant way to send that message.

Compelling storytelling format

Watching a social experiment play out is captivating for almost anyone. The raw and honest reactions that these women show have a powerful impact on the viewer, helping to create viral content. It also gives an authentic authority to the message Dove is conveying within the video.

Conveys social values 

Dove was promoting an idea—a vision—rather than a specific product. This is a powerful choice for a brand to make. Using values is a strategy many brands make when building a community of individuals who share the same values. The campaign evoked emotional reactions from millions of people and motivated them to share positive emotions with others in their community, extending the video’s reach.

Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades are F***ing Great” Campaign 

Doesn’t it just feel cathartic to swear sometimes? When there’s nothing left to say, a swear word may be your best option. 

The campaign features Dollar Shave Club’s CEO, Michael Dubin, as the protagonist in the hero’s journey of his brand. Through 90 seconds of absurd content and scripting, Dubin is nonetheless able to communicate all the features of DSC’s razors. 

You should just take 90 seconds and watch the video.

There are polio jokes, a machete, an artful “make it rain” scene, and even a toddler shaving a man’s head in this video. So now you understand what we mean by “absurd.”

“Edgy” campaigns can be challenging to pull off for unestablished brands–it can either put people off entirely or just give the impression you are a middle-aged dad trying on a biker jacket from back in his “wild” days. Yikes. And in an industry as mundane as shaving. Luckily for DSC, this video hit all the right notes.

Dollar Shave Club was almost a completely unknown company before this campaign. Their video is funny and unconventional, adding a little zest into the relatively dull (pun intended) shaving industry.  Humor can be a very powerful device when it comes to telling a story. The “self-aware” nature of the video also inspired multiple other brands to adopt a similar strategy.

Has shock value 

Razors aren’t typically considered funny; never once have I giggled, opening up my third razor of the week cause somehow I managed to throw away the other two accidentally. When this video came out, it started with a simple introduction to the company. Still, it then quickly evolves into a pithy unconventional ad with an unmistakable message: Our blades are f***ing great. Brands like Burger King had also harnessed this viral marketing technique, like when Burger King posted a gross, molding burger to show that they’re a healthier option for their customers than McDonald’s, whose burgers don’t go bad due to chemicals.

Authentic and relatable 

The real draw of this video is how authentic it feels. The low-budget vibe (using the CEO as the star) and straightforward message, combined with the comedic element, made Dollar Shave Club feel like an honest company run by real people. This strategy is excellent for acquiring and maintaining customer loyalty–it’s always a bonus when the customer not only appreciates your products but your brand as a whole.

Tells a story 

Every marketing professional knows that telling the story of the brand is the most important thing to master and communicate. A compelling story will not only convey a message but make that message extremely memorable. The video is an excellent example of how when brands stop playing it safe and use ambitious storytelling, they stand out amongst their competitors. The right story can change the trajectory of a brand like DSC.

Qualities of a compelling marketing campaign

Just to put it all in one spot for you, let’s look at all six of the qualities we have pulled out of the aforementioned campaigns.

  1. Evokes emotional responses
  2. Compelling storytelling format
  3. Conveys the social values of the company
  4. Has shock value to capture your attention
  5. Authentic and relatable content
  6. Tells the brand story

All of these are important ingredients to a viral marketing campaign.

Final Thoughts 

Consider the following statistics:

In 2021, 84% of people said that a brand’s video had convinced them to buy their service or product. The other 16% said their hearts are made of stone (we kid, we kid).

People are also twice as likely to share video content than any other type of content. The more your audience is sharing your content, the less you have to worry about investing in paid advertising or other inorganic forms of marketing. We know the finance team likes the sound of that!

The pressure will only continue to build for brands to create content against all the noise. We are here to help you do that. At NowADays, we use our years of experience in social media and influencer marketing to help you craft bold, exciting, and compelling campaigns that will generate organic buzz and compel people to take action when it comes to your product. We take a unique approach with each of our clients to inspire their target audience to take action and spread content through word of mouth.

Find out more about who we have worked with in the past here

Contact us to blow some shit up.



Dove® Real Beauty Sketches Becomes The Most Viewed Online Video Ad Of All Time | PR News Wire

Dove Real Beauty Sketches | You’re more beautiful than you think | Dove – Our Blades Are F***ing Great | Dollar Shave Club