Featuring the best social media marketing campaigns that went viral around the world. How your brand can leverage on these ideas to reel in audiences and grip impressions. 

1. Evoking Emotion: The Unsung Hero by Thai Life Insurance

Created in 2014 by Oglivy & Mather Bangkok, this ad was named the best ad of the year with a meaning message that left anyone who watched it in tears. Garnering 6 million views in a week, this campaign created a whole new meaning to marketing by weaving an emotional appeal through portraying a man simply doing ordinary acts of kindness. 

Key Takeaways:

Emotion is a very powerful way to speak to your audience. A study analysing 1400 campaigns showed that advertising with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with only rational content. This is because the human brain processes emotion more easily. Emotions are also linked to long term memory which is why people tend to remember emotional advertisements a lot better than factual ones. 

2. Humour: Ryan Reynolds’ Detective Pikachu Prank

On May 2, 2019 an anonymous twitter account “Inspector Pikachu” posted an alleged link to the full Detective Pikachu Movie (to be released on May 8). Ryan Reynolds (voice of Pikachu in the movie) simply tweeted the link and it instantly went viral with crazy fans hoping to receive a leaked premiere of the movie.

However, this link led people to a 1hr 42min video of Detective Pikachu dancing, claiming over 4 million views in its first 24 hours. The entire stunt turned out to be an epic troll by Warner Brothers which soon became one of the smartest marketing campaigns made, creating massive promotion for the movie. 

3. Highlighting Values: Gillette

Gillette released a revolutionary ad in January 2019 tackling the issue of toxic masculinity. In 24 hours, the tweet received over 1 million mentions and 250,000 shares by mid February.

Key Takeaways:
This campaign brought about mixed reactions with many people realising the importance and need of a message for boys to grow up as respectful men. At the same time, the ad also had significant backlash by several men who felt “attacked” and stereotyped by it. Ultimately, Gillette was able to achieve what it set out to do with this campaign which was to get people to talk about the issue at hand and create an impression that it was a brand with meaning.

4. In the Moment: Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark

“One of the most buzz-worthy ads of the Super Bowl on Sunday wasn’t even a commercial — it was a mere tweet from Oreo during the blackout.” – Huffpost 

The 2013 Superbowl was met with an unexpected blackout inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Within minutes of the power outage, the marketing team at Oreo (with the help of their agency 360i) designed, approved and released the ad on the spot. This tweet went on to be retweeted 10,000 times within an hour. 


Key Takeaways:

This is a perfect example of how a successful ad need not cost millions of dollars. Oreo was able to think quickly and capitalize in the moment, surprising thousands and bringing about the best real-time marketing campaign to date. Customers take interest in brands that are able to adapt and stay relevant with their content. 

5. Giveaways: Owndays – Singapore


Founded in Japan, Owndays, an optical shop, expanded to Singapore in 2013 where it quickly rose to fame after their “Follower Discount” Campaign in 2018. This campaign allowed customers to trade followers and likes for store credit which can be used to purchase new eye wear. 


Key Takeaways:

This campaign went viral instantly as Singaporeans realised the great deal they were being offered. In addition, the campaign was able to market itself as more and more people posted it on Instagram. Owndays managed to create a sense of #fomo (fear of missing out) across social channels, motivating people with the need to be part of the movement. This campaign was so well received that Owndays had to call off the campaign before it was over due to “overwhelming responses”. This inevitably led to many angry people who felt cheated by the brand. Therefore, if you ever embark on a similar campaign, either be prepared for it to go viral or indicate clearly that it is only “while stocks last”.

6. Self Esteem Campaign: Dove

This campaign gathered more than 114 million views in a month and skyrocketed Dove to become the top brand in the industry. It created a unique and meaningful story behind the soap company and established a deeper connection with customers. 


Key Takeaways:

Fernando Machado, VP of Dove Skin noted that the success of the ad was because “the campaign evoked an emotional reaction in millions of people that inspired them to share the positive message with others. Beyond just the millions of views and publicity impressions, it is the outpouring of testimonials from around the world that are exciting us.”  Dove was able to provide a universal message that resonated with everyone who watched it.

7. Social Movement: The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a campaign created to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This challenge involved a person drenching  themselves in ice cold water, posting it on social media and nominating other people to follow suit. Started by Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, the challenge gradually went viral and was able to raise more than $115 million for the ALS association. It was reported that more than 17 million people posted videos of themselves taking the challenge worldwide, including celebrities like BIll Gates, Barack Obama, Justin Bieber and Oprah.


Key Takeaways:

The reason why this challenge exploded to the proportions that it did was because it managed to involve celebrities and influences who went on to tag other famous people. Ultimately each celebrity expanded the reach to millions of fans who went on to tag their own friends, creating a domino-effect throughout the world. Successful marketing can be achieved by leveraging on your connections. The challenge was also simple enough for people to do and the nature of the challenge allowed a lot of space for individual creativity.

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Chao Quan Choo

Chao Quan Choo

UI Designer at OFFEO