Image from the 2012 Finger Lakes Mud Run TV commercial
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Viral video and marketing campaigns have something in them that captures
the hearts and minds of the people who see them... to the point that they feel
compelled to share it.

There's no magic formula for making a video or marketing campaign that will
go viral, but there are some common traits that have been established over
the years, among the wildly popular videos. They often apply to marketing
campaigns as well.

Both are typically short. Under two minutes for a video and two weeks to two
months for a marketing campaign. They're usually funny or humorous in some
way. There's no outright marketing or sales pitch in them (or if there is, it's a
very gentle pitch. Finally, they're usually original... something that hasn't been
seen or done before.

Oreo Cookies' Daily Twist, P & G's (Proctor & Gamble's) Olympic Moms, and
Dollar Shave Club are three examples of viral marketing campaigns and
videos that broke the rules...


The campaign put Oreo at the center of many water-cooler conversations for
months. Oreo published a daily photo that used an Oreo cookie to illustrate an
important event of the day, such as the Mars Rover landing, Gay Pride Day,
and the Summer Olympics. Oreo used the images as cover photos on its
Facebook page and on other social media platforms. The campaign created
tremendous growth for Oreo's Facebook page, which now has over 29 million

The Takeaway: Viral isn't a "once and done" thing. Done properly, as in
Oreo's case, it can stretch out over a period of time and generate sustained
awareness and interest in your brand.


Dollar Shave Club broke the rule about using an outright sales pitch in its
video, and scored four million views in its first four days online. Dollar Shave
Club continues to sell truckloads of razorblades every month. It's blog is
entertaining and it's quirky contests keep the irreverant spirit going daily. Its
success has spawned a virtual publicity machine with coverage by CNN, The
Wall Street Journal, BBC, NY Times and more.

The Takeaway: Dollar Shave Club used a little bit of planning, some humor, a
few rehearsals, and not a lot of money to make an outright pitch for its product.
Plan your video out (if appropriate) and rehearse it to the point that you look
natural, not forced... especially if you're planning to make an outright sales


Olympic Moms was created for, and released during, the Summer Olympics.
It breaks the common traits about length and being funny. Adweek named it a
Top 10 of 2012 and I.P.R. named it the Number 1 Commercial of 2012.

The Takeaway: Conventional Wisdom says you have to be funny or dirty if you
want your video or marketing campaign to go viral. Olympic Moms proves that
wrong. There's nothing funny or dirty here, just a hearwarming tribute to Moms
everywhere that touched the hearts and minds of enough people to generate
more than 10 million views. Timing and a tribute to a major event happening at
the time also help. It's also important to note that Olympic Moms is targeted at
an audience that's very likely to buy P & G products... Moms.

The Bottom Line

While there are no hard and fast rules that will make a video or marketing
campaign go viral, the ones that do typically have some of the common traits
we mentioned at the beginning of today's tipsheet.

The most important thing is to be authentic and original.

If you're doing a video, try to do something that's more than just a "talking
head' looking at the camera. Plan your video out versus just turning on the
camera and trying to be perfect the first time you hit "record"; have your script
or comments memorized.

Posted on 12/6/12
How to Break the Marketing Rules
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