It should come as no surprise that the internet has become a major jumping-off point for viral marketing campaigns.  The ease and quickness with which information spreads on the web makes it a prime target for viral marketing experts.  Because of this, the internet has seen more than it’s fair share of successful (and not so sucessful) viral marketing campaigns over the years.

Below are 5 examples of online viral marketing campaigns the enjoyed major success on the web.

1.  Hotmail Email Signup Campaign

One of the first, and most successful, examples of online viral marketing was Hotmail, a free web-based email service.  For this campaign, simplicity was the key- each email that new Hotmail users sent out included a link in the footer encouraging people to sign-up for free.  As more and more people began to sign up for free Hotmail accounts, more and more people were sent the emails with footer links.  This online viral marketing campaign brought Hotmail hundreds of thousands of subscribers in only a few months.  The success of Hotmail’s viral marketing campaign lead Microsoft to eventually purchase the email service.

2.  IKEA Facebook Picture Tagging Campaign

This recent viral campaign is a perfect example of how social media sites can be leveraged for promotion.  IKEA was looking for a way to promote the opening of a new store in Malmo, Sweden.  To help, IKEA brought on ad agency Forsman and Bodenfors, who came up with the ingenius idea:  create a Facebook profile and upload pictures of various IKEA showrooms.  The first person to tag their name to a particular product got to take it home for free.  Word of the free giveaway spread like wildfire across Facebook, and soon, pictures of IKEA showrooms and products were being shared across thousands of people’s Facebook profiles.  Below is a video outlining how IKEA and Forsman and Bodenfors pulled it off.


3.  The Dark Knight Movie Promo Campaign

Before the release of the film The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. hired 42 Entertainment to drum up some online buzz for the movie- and boy did they ever.  42 Entertainment created a number of websites, such as, based off of characters and story lines in the film.  Through the sites, users were encouraged to participate in a variety of scavenger hunts and other activities to unlock theatrical trailers, photos, and hidden messages.  The sites also promoted fan interaction by having them submit pictures of themselves dressed like the Joker in order to unlock a digital copy of The Gotham Times, a fictional newspaper which unlocked several other sites.  All in all, the online viral marketing campaign worked.  The Dark Knight raked in over $158 million in it’s opening weekend, which is the biggest opening weekend of all time.

4.  Burger King Chicken Campaign

To promote their new TenderCrisp chicken sandwhich, Burker King enlisted ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), who develped “The Subservient Chicken” campaign.  This campaign combined the new TenderCrisp sandwhich with BK’s longtime tagline, “Have it Your Way”.  Along with television and print campaings, CP+B created “The Subservient Chicken” website where people could enter commands that were carried out by an actor in a chicken suit.  Simple and fun, the website brought in millions of visits, going a long way to promote Burger King’s new product.  “The Subservient Chicken” campaign also earned CP+B a Gold Clio Award in the Internet category.

5.  Million Dollar Homepage

Alex Tew came up with the idea for the Million Dollar Homepage as a way to help pay for his college education.  Basically, the website consisted of a 1000 x 1000 pixel grid, with each pixel going for $1.  Starting in August of 2005, word of the site spread quickly across the web.  By January, the site had earned Alex $1,037,100.  Since the success of the Million Dollar Homepage, several pixel-selling sites have popped up, aiming to capitalize off of idea.  The Million Dollar Homepage is a prime example of how the right mix of simplicity and creativity can create the perfect online viral campaign.



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