By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy

Five successful viral marketing campaigns: The Dark Knight Rises, Smartwater, Burger King, Quicksilver, Old Spice

A look at five successful viral campaigns by Marcus Dacombe, operations director, Verridian and a look at why each was successful.


With over nine millions views, the Smartwater video or better titled ‘Jennifer Anniston Sex Tape’ has been a smash hit.

A humorous self-parody, it includes all the attributes of the ultimate viral; cute animals, dancing babies, and a beautiful woman (Jennifer Anniston) acting seductively.

The real reason the video has been successful is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a clever campaign that’s able to parody successful viral videos while at the same time weaving together the same ingredients (humour, sex, celebrity) into its own.


Quicksiliver’s ‘Dynamite Surfing’ campaign drew much controversy when it was released. In the video, a young surfer wearing Quicksilver clothing is seen throwing a stick of dynamite into a lake, creating a giant wave so his friend (Also wearing branded clothing) can go surfing.

The 80-second clip was viewed over ten million times and promoted fierce debate about whether the ad was real or not. It wasn’t, but the brand still gripped the audience it was seeking, by understanding the demographic it was talking to – young extreme sport enthusiasts.

The non-commercial look of the video and the visual effectiveness of the explosions worked perfectly to interest the audience’s need to be engaged immediately, and one which has limited patience for advertisements.

Burger King

Burger King’s Subservient Chicken has racked up 46 million views, making it one of the most success viral videos of all time.

The video features a person inside a chicken suit, and is a humorous nod to adult “web cam” sites. The site allows users to type in commands, and the bird obeys.

While the video was created to reach adults in their early twenties and thirties and communicate the brand’s TenderCrisp chicken sandwich, it’s been so successful across many different demographics because it’s truly interactive for the user.

The content is also highly viral by nature – making the chicken do a handstand for example, becomes more entertaining when it can be shared with friends; lending a widespread appeal to the campaign.

Old Spice

Old Spice has wanted to shift away from being perceived as ‘the older man’s aftershave’, and may have hit success – their new video campaign has been viewed almost twenty million times.

A tongue in cheek self-parody, a young, muscular ‘dream man’ calls directly to women, saying that their man may not be able to look like him – but they can smell like him!

The video’s viral success is down to its clever visuals and broad appeal. While Old Spice’s ‘dream man’ is aimed at women (the main buyers of men’s aftershave) the humour, action and surrealism may appeal to both young men and women – the demographic Old Spice is aiming to win over.

The Dark Knight Rises

An audio video has just launched for The Dark Knight Rises, the third Batman film not scheduled for release until next July. The campaign has consisted of the website going live — sort of. The website is in fact a black screen and all that can be heard is a muffled crowd chanting in the background.

The audio clip has already been shared thousands of times, and caused a hub of activity across social networks such as Twitter.

The genius of the video is in its ambiguity and mystery. The video makers understand the films audience is young, with a large online and social media presence, and they’ve have caught the imagination of these users as try to work out what the video means.

So far it’s been a perfectly executed teaser campaign that proves viral marketing doesn’t need to consist of shocking images and flashy visuals – a muffled chant can work just as well.

The magic ingredient?

While the examples above have all had success, there is no magic ingredient for a successful viral video.

Similar campaigns to the above may not work for all brands; and there are plenty of examples of videos which have failed to set the world alight.

The key to viral success lies in understanding the demographic being targeted. The use of music, mystery, humour and sex will only resonate if it’s appreciated by a brand’s audience.

Those brands who understand this have a greater chance of creating content that appeals to the segment they are targeting, and are more likely to see their message go viral.

Marcus Dacombe, operations director, Verridian