Viral Marketing Initiatives

The top 5 characteristics of viral campaign are:

Newsworthy Content

It’s really without saying, viral content can be likened to what’s newsworthy.  Its newsworthy because it invokes massive of word of mouth sharing that ends up making news across different media, even across continents.

Such is the case in the Oreo’s timely ad at the Super Bowl in 2013, “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.”  It made news because Oreo took advantage of an opportunity in a short space of time, cleverly and humorously at an event that is already spotlighted in the news, and where thousands of people are gathered.  Moreover, Oreo recognized a fortuitous moment and responded relevantly.  In essence in the middle of the news, Oreo became the spotlight of the stadium and of breaking news.

This means, create to inform, entertain, and/or persuade.

What makes a viral campaign newsworthy is represented in the recent campaign by Harvard black students “I, Too, Am Harvard.”  Their campaign have black students with signs bearing messages of racial devalued experiences from white students at Harvard, “Lucky to be black, so easy to get into college,” one of the many considered derogatory comments.  The campaign by the black students at Harvard is to inform on their experience.

However, the first thing that makes the campaign newsworthy is the coverage it received in the individual views on Tumblr, YouTube, comments, word of mouth shares and other schools taking up the baton and reporting on similar experiences on other campuses nationwide and as far away as Oxford.

Buzz Feed reports more than a million views in the first few days, and the photos launched on Saturday and by Monday it had gone viral (Butler).  The news media now has a story and a ready made audience of newsworthy content.

The second, is the fact that the students storytelling reaches across different channels/platforms. Where Oreo failed, that is according to Bonin Bough, Mondelez VP of global media and consumer engagement, reported by The Drum, “despite the thousands of reweets the Dunk in the Dark real-time tweet achieved, sent during the blackout at the 2013 SuperBowl, it also highlighted the failing of social marketing by its singular channel trappings.”  The Harvard students’ campaign content is newsworthy because it’s presented on several media platforms as a play, a photo gallery on Tumblr, and YouTube.

Third, the content that moves not only the masses but also reaches institutional powers to promise change is newsworthy.  Harvard, interim president, Donald Phister acknowledges that, the school could not ignore its black students experiences at Harvard (WNYC). Phister praises the students on their personal reflections and on starting the debate (Kahn).


Timing is another factor in viral endeavors.  This is exemplified in both Oreo and Harvard black students’ campaigns.  The strategy that Oreo used is to target Super Bowl fans in real time and create content in real time.  This strategy allowed for taking advantage of opportune moments.

The “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign is also happening at an opportune time since no other time in history would have yield this national and global response.   No other time in our media or technological history would the campaign have made such an impact on replicating similar experiences across campuses and creating what interim President Phister refers to as an opening debate. This is to say a discussion will follow with opposing viewpoints, moreover public.  In other words, our technological age is responsible for the success of the Harvard black students’ campaign.

Built into the Process

Adam Singer from The Future Buzz on digital marketing and online PR makes the point that creating viral content should be included in the process.  By this he means, what you want to share should be built into your targeted audience natural environment, “natural element of the process?” (p. 2.) of sharing content.  The tools that facilitate sharing are: widgets, badges, RSS feeds, and social commenting (SNHU). This allows users to act upon their emotions, grab content to share, use badges that direct people to social media site, and leave comments on pages.  Further when thinking about process, “Less steps are better, and try to combine the sharing with one of your steps.  Have less than three steps, two is even better” (p. 2, Singer).

About people

Research suggests viral is linked to both emotional valance and physiological arousal.  This study finds that people are more prone to share for altruistic reasons, and often for positive and upbeat ones because it makes people feel better.  It also found that negative content while having a lesser priority for users, still plays an important role when distinguished by states of heightened arousal, anger and anxiety and low state of arousal, sadness.  The former increases the likelihood of sharing and can be useful in business objectives (Berger & Milkman).

Interactive Content

Create a personalized experience that is engaging and entertaining such as videos.  Encourage comments and users’ involvement (SNHU), such as playing a game or participating in a survey or competition.



Berger, J., & Milkman, K. (2011).  What Makes Online Content Viral?  American Marketing Association, 1-11.

Butter, B. (2013, Mar. 5). ‘I, Too, Am Harvard.’ Black Students Show They Belong.  Retrieve from     harvard-black-students-show-they-belong/

Kahn. J. P.  (2014, Mar. 6).  ‘I, Too, Am Harvard.’ Campaign Highlights Black Students Frustrations.  Retrieve From                                                                          

Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark Super Bowl tweet ‘a hug win’ and ‘a huge failure’ states Mondelez digital chief.  The Drum.  Retrieved from 

Singer, A. (2009, Feb. 26).  10 Secrets For Creating Viral Content [Web log post].  Retrieved from

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