Viral marketing has reached an unusual degree of representation in recent years. And it is that, in these times, to exist means to be visible . Or, in other words, if you are not visible, if you are not easily located, it is as if you do not exist. With this in mind, the best visibility strategies have the term viral attached.

If you get a campaign that is absolutely visible, that is, that is viral, that everyone sees, you have a much better chance of selling and, therefore, of existing. Viral marketing is responsible for the development of theories and strategies in this field.

In this article we are going to talk about the characteristics and advantages of viral marketing , we are also going to leave you some tips, which we consider essential when developing a campaign of this type.

What is viral marketing?

Let’s start with the definition of viral marketing to play it safe. If we follow the definition of both concepts, we discover that marketing (whose most appropriate word in our language is marketing) refers to the set of principles that are put into practice to improve the sales of a business. Viral, for its part, is used to refer to content or a message that spreads rapidly through social networks (at the speed of a virus).

Although the term “virus” has a negative connotation, this concept has been given a twist, using it positively, taking into account that a message that spreads at the speed at which a virus spreads is a successful message in marketing terms.

Now, what is viral marketing ? In short, it is about the environment within the world of advertising that is responsible for creating advertising campaigns that are striking enough so that in a short time many people see and share them, achieving an immediate and abysmal level of visibility.

Viral marketing manages to generate interest and potential purchases of a product through messages that circulate at high speed . This is possible, not only because of its reach (it reaches a lot of people) but because of its attractive nature (it causes those people to share it on their own networks). Thanks to these two elements, the campaign is brutal in scope.

The viral marketing meets those practices that focus on getting a massive visibility through social networks; studies the mechanisms through which brands can generate interest in users and theorize based on successful practices.

The history of viral marketing

Viral marketing has a long history. However, it was not until 1994 that people began to talk about him. The critic and researcher Douglas Rushkoff coined it for his book Media virus in which he presents an analysis of various techniques that emerged in the first great wave of Internet advertising reach. Rushkoff argues that if a message with these characteristics reaches a sensitive user, capable of being conquered by the message, said user will become infected and not only will take over the product but will also try to get their relatives to do the same.

The first viral marketing campaigns , which are the ones that Rushkoff analyzes in said book, consisted of strategies carried out by email providers in which they added their own advertising to the end of users’ outgoing emails. These messages managed, and we say it with Rushkoff, that those “sensitive users” would sign up for the service.

With the absolute interference of the Internet in all planes of life, viral marketing became one of the most used strategies to achieve greater visibility. The chances that our message will reach a “sensitive user” are very high; therefore, any campaign well done has all the potential to go viral if it is spread through the right channels.

Viral marketing is highly recommended given its great scope (it allows reaching people from all over the world without making a large financial investment), its low cost (hard work is done by users, and the brand benefits), it is not invasive ( users have the possibility to choose to participate in visibility) and speed (in a short time the message will achieve its purpose, being able to be echoed even in traditional media). Obviously, it is one of the great advertising inventions of our time.

How to calculate virality

At this point, it is impossible not to wonder how likely a campaign is and what requirements it must meet to go viral. We’ll see. Virality is not magic, it does not depend on intangible elements to exist; in fact, it can be measured. So, if you want to present a good viral marketing campaign , you must consider the measures.

Virality brings an unusual transformation to a business, surprising growth, which will positively affect the brand. But it is not something that depends on luck: with attention and effort you can make your brand go viral. For this, it is important to analyze the results of each campaign.

Generally, virality is approached in the wrong way. Most of the people analyze it from the ego: how many invitations have I received, how many people have shared my content, how many views my video had, etc. However, it is a very superficial way of analyzing a viral marketing campaign. As in any area of ​​life, the strength of these strategies lies in invisible elements, in things that occur in the background, which underlie the viralization process. And, we must take them into account and analyze them, if we want our campaigns to be more successful every day.

One of the fundamental elements that you must analyze is the viral coefficient of your brand. The concept of viral coefficient was defined by Jeremy Liew and refers to the viral growth capacity of a site whose main indicator is the number of new users who come to it from current users. This data allows you to understand how many of the people involved in your site are collaborating with your visibility, that is, how many of the users you have are truly “useful” for your brand. The more effective your work is, the more likely you are that whatever you do will receive the impact you expect.

With a high viral coefficient, the platform will grow organically and consistently. Between one campaign and the next, there is probably not a very pronounced fluctuation of shares on the site. This means that it is not going to happen to you that one day you are very successful and the next day that value plummets. Why? Because all the sensitive users who arrive will feel identified with the brand and will be willing to support it.

Another element that is measured and is important is the viral speed. How long does it take for a campaign to deliver results? Many times it happens that an old content is viralized by actions in the present. The value of old content that goes viral, however, is less than that of a fresh, contemporary campaign. Therefore, you should aim for your impact to be as instantaneous as possible.

If the ratio between the coefficient and viral speed is high, then your campaign will probably give you the results you want.

How does viral marketing work?

A question often asked by those who are new to viral marketing is why does some content go viral and others not? Or, put in another way, what makes a content go viral? We will tell you how a viral marketing campaign works step by step.

Viral marketing begins when a company launches an advertising campaign. It begins to spread it through the channels it considers appropriate and passes the message to users, encouraging them to share the content.

The next step is for a large number of users to come to the campaign, feel touched by it, and disseminate it, giving it a massive degree of visibility.

But you should know that it is not always appropriate to consider a viral campaign, it depends on many things. Therefore, when planning your strategy you should think about whether or not it is suitable for your project and for what you want to advertise. If the answer is positive, then you will have to analyze the channels depending on the audience you want to reach. But let’s go on.

How does the virality formula apply to viral marketing?

Although, not everything responds to a strict formula. If we stick to certain ideas, we have a better chance that our content will go viral. Knowing some keys can be of great help when looking for visibility.

The long content is more viralizable . Contrary to what many people believe, long videos and long texts have a much better chance of achieving visibility. Of course, the content must be of quality, with a lot of detail, but that it responds to the concerns that potential clients may ask.

The image should never be missing. Without photos or videos you will not be able to viralize your content. The difference in visibility between content with an image and content without an image is abysmal. In fact, memes and videos are the type of content that has gone viral the most in recent years.

Types of viral marketing

There are many types of viral marketing whose purpose is to attract the attention of users and provoke a reaction in them. Depending on our brand and what we are looking for, it will be more convenient for us to opt for one and the other. A good alternative is to work with all the elements merged.


Through this type of advertising, an attempt is made to reach the heart of the user. Appeal to your emotions and provoke a positive reaction to our project. It is very useful for companies that work with beauty, health or well-being.


It is a type of campaign that compensates for the support of users. Those who bring friends to the brand will have benefits that can be a certain profit of money or greater benefits with the company. The incentive for the user is to get something in return if they collaborate with the diffusion of the brand. It is very useful for advertising services or brands that offer goods of general interest.


It is one of the strategies most used by companies dedicated to entertainment. It consists of spreading a false rumor that is attached to an advertising campaign. The messages usually have a double meaning and, generally, they deal with a controversial subject.

Lucky / chance

Many times the success of a campaign lies in being at the right time and place. Luck exists but, sometimes, it’s just about finding your opportunity and launching yourself to get a massive response from users. Being opportunistic is a good attitude to be successful, and there is no one better than the telecommunications companies to teach us it, which have managed to develop powerful viral campaigns in precise times.

Covert Marketing

It is a strategy that consists of organizing a marketing campaign in such a way that its advertising nature is not noticed. The aim is to offer an informal message that indirectly motivates users to participate. It is very useful for brands that offer intellectual or creative goods. Begin by talking about what creation means to end up selling a course or something like that.

Examples of viral marketing

Here are some examples of viral marketing that have been so successful that we can learn from them.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark”

Any lover of marketing knows the advertising with which the Oreo brand conquered the hearts of all fans, nothing more and nothing less than, the NFL League. In 2013, while the “Super Bowl” was broadcasting there was a power outage. The brand then launched a tweet: “You can still dunk in the dark” (“You can still dunk the cookie in the dark”). Next to an image in which a dark screen was seen that was revealing an Oreo cookie approaching the camera. Boom! Few advertising campaigns so appropriate in time and space.

Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich

Another example of viral marketing is that of the Popeye brand and its chicken sandwich. In 2019, it announced that it was launching its first chicken sandwich, that it responded to a great deal of research and that, finally, it came to be offered as something different. The firm, which has a history of more than 40 years in the fast food market, did not have to work hard to gain visibility. It was enough for him to keep the sale of this new ingredient on his menu for 15 days and then stop manufacturing it. In short, millions of users on social media spoke about the dish, shared photos and demanded its return. The company, which already had enough visibility, went on to out-sell McDonalds and Burger King.

Dove Royal Beauty Sketches

Without a doubt, beauty product brands are the ones that most need to innovate. And so did Dove. He hired an FBI cartoonist to make a robot portrait of various women, taking into account their own description of themselves. Then, he portrayed them, guided by the description of other people. While the first portraits highlighted the less advantageous characteristics of women, the second were more caring and highlighted the strengths of the appearance. What they were trying to prove is that women tend to be highly critical of themselves and generally misrepresent themselves, differently from how they are often viewed by others. The campaign was a resounding success, making it the most viral video of all time .

Wendy’s Chicken Nugget Retweet Challenge

The most shared tweet in history is from a teenager: Carter Wilkerson. One boring afternoon he decided to start a joke with the fast food firm “Wendy”. “How many retweets do I need to get a year of free nuggets?” He asked. 18 million! Was the answer. Just trying, Carter got down to business. In a week it had surpassed 2.6 million retweets and continued to gain more and more popularity. But she achieved something even more impressive: within a month she surpassed Ellen DeGeneres, who had the record for the most retweeted message in history with her Oscars photo in 2014. A campaign that came as a joke and delivered unthinkable results.

Viral Marketing Techniques

If we think about viral marketing and its characteristics , we discover that there are various techniques that, applied, can greatly contribute to the success of any campaign.

Technique 1: Target the Right Audience on the Right Channels

If you know who you are addressing, you have a better chance of getting your proposal right. Recognizing your audience and communicating with them through the most productive channels is an excellent strategy to make your content go viral.

Technique 2: Create Videos

In this age, videos are the best alternative to get a brand viralized. Taking into account what you want to achieve, it is important that you work on a video that targets your audience. The tone, colors and characteristics of the material must be carefully taken care of in order to achieve a forceful campaign.

Technique 3: Offer valuable things for free

A good way to viralize your content is to offer something valuable, which you know can be useful for users. If in a video you tell that at the end of the participants they will be able to enjoy something that you know they are interested in, you will have a good chance of success. Who doesn’t like to get something nice for free?

Technique 4: Create an emotional appeal

One of the keys to viral marketing is to target emotions, something that can only be achieved through empathy. If your brand maintains a distance with users, if you cannot create a message from the heart that reaches the hearts of users, you will have much less chance of viralizing your campaign. Create a strong message, target the emotions and pierce the hearts of the users with your words.

Technique 5: do something unusual

In the unusual and the innovative continues to be the pulse of all success. Try new things, try to do something that no one else is doing, and sell it as something new. Surely, you will have much luckier than if you follow the same model as everyone else.

Technique 6: Social reach

Get your content moving, try new ways to reach out to the same people, and make your campaign go viral. Insistence, many times, is the great secret of all advertising . Try to reach a large number of users, of different ages and tastes.

Technique 7: Reinforce the campaign

The insistence, we said, is extremely important when it comes to viralizing a campaign. Strengthening a campaign means doing new things every time; test through different channels, with different audiences. But insisting is not the same as becoming tiresome. This is important to keep in mind, because otherwise your effort could be counterproductive.

When to apply viral marketing techniques

Here we propose some things that you can take into account to put into practice everything you have learned so far and improve your campaign, until it becomes viral.

When you want to reach the young

Young people are the potential clients that should interest you the most, since they are the ones who make the best and most use of new communication tools. To achieve this, try to create an attractive message but also that involves them in the desire to form a better world. Offer the opportunity for experiences that can excite them and you will earn their respect.

When you want a global audience

Make sure your message is broad, so you can reach a diverse audience. If you focus on one country, you may be less likely to become massive. It tries to address issues that affect us humans around the world and tries to offer an innovative and enthusiastic point of view.

When your marketing budget is low

If you are on a tight budget, then try to use it efficiently. Remember that users are your best allies. They will take care of making your content viral: be close, work with a brand commitment and you will have guaranteed success.

When your brand needs credibility

Posing a viral campaign to get a boost for your brand is a very good idea; whether you need to strengthen the relationship with your audience or if you have proposed to acquire new clients. If you manage to create a clear and reliable image of your brand and approach the campaign in the right way, you have a good chance of succeeding.

When you want rapid growth

A viral campaign can bring you a large number of clients in a fleeting time. If you want to jump start, it can be a great option. Remember the importance of a viral marketing campaign working immediately to have more prestige.

When you don’t want to invade home

If you don’t like to be reinforcing your own campaign and you want to enter many lives without wearing down your brand image, a viral campaign can help you. Users will be in charge of giving you visibility, without you having to constantly communicate.

When Viral Marketing Techniques Are Helpful

But, as we already mentioned, viral marketing techniques are not always adequate. Because it depends on what we need, the product or service we advertise and what we are offering in exchange for the support.

However, when you consider a campaign of these characteristics, there are three things that cannot go wrong for the world.

The general message

A viral campaign can only be successful if it has a strong message. To show the incentive of your brand and the alternatives of realization that are contemplated, try to create an innovative and attractive material. If you show that your brand is involved with making positive changes in the world, then it is very possible that you have a great way to go.

Time and its surroundings

Knowing how to seize the right moment, like Oreo, is essential to running a successful viral marketing campaign. If you can establish a good relationship between time and environment and make it compatible with a strong message, it will surely work.

The message or channel chosen

The message, the time and the environment are fundamental, but so is the channel. Knowing how to choose the right medium so that your brand is visible and your campaign is successful is another key to viral marketing. Analyze your audience, talk with them, until you know their interests and be able to propose a viral campaign that will lead you to win.


As you will see, although you are not sure of everything, good viral marketing planning can help you get that visibility you expect. Try to understand what interests your users the most and try to offer them something that excites them and leads them to get involved. You’ll see amazing results in no time.