6 examples of things that went crazy viral

Viral dandelion

There are many ways to promote a business or a cause, but none quite as powerful (and frankly, just plain fun) as word of mouth. Word of mouth can mean different things for different people, but the important thing to remember is that it gets people repeating your story (or a part of it) to others for a reach far and wide beyond where it started.

In other posts we take a look at if and how we can deliberately catalyze word of mouth, but today I wanted to give you some inspiration from a variety of different companies and people whose message scored some amazing word of mouth and went crazy viral.

1. The Ice Bucket Challenge

At first glance, dumping a bucket of ice on your head in the name of ALS awareness makes as much sense as defiantly growing a mustache for a month to raise awareness for prostate cancer. But after more than 2.4 million videos engaged in it, this internet challenge that started in 2014 is a successful campaign. It managed to raise upward of $100 million that went into research of the disease, including a big-data genetic sequencing project which has pinpointed a gene likely associated with ALS.

Ice bucket

2. Google Earth 4.2

Back in 2007, Google released a video of their newest version of their geobrowser Google Earth. If people already thought it was neat to be able to explore planet earth on multiple levels, the new feature of this update really blew them away – Google had added the ability to also explore stars, planets, and constellations.

The video was shared on several science and technology outlets, and has over 22.5 million views. Not that Google needs cheap publicity, but this video is an example of how a simple description of a really cool feature can be celebrated by millions and spread through word of mouth.

3. The Cronut

What could possibly be better than a croissant and a donut? Something that is both at the same time, of course.


The Cronut was invented and trademarked by Chef Dominique Ansel. Following its launch in 2013, the Cronut was originally covered in a piece covered by Grub Street. Word of the magical pastry quickly spread worldwide, making it “the most virally talked about dessert item in history.”

To this day, their bakery has long waiting lines, which they use as an opportunity to delight them by serving them coffee and treats, and introduce them to some of the bakery’s other products.

4. Denny’s Buys Beets

Following the breaking news of Apple’s $3B acquisition of Beats by Dre, the national diner chain Denny’s decided to use the buzz around that to get some word of mouth of its own. By tweeting a simple pun, they rode the wave of media attention to having more people engaging with their brand.

Denny's buys beets
With over 2000 likes and retweets, they certainly gained a whole lot of attention at a very low cost, and positioned themselves as humorous and fun.

5. Zappos

Zappos is one company that really gets it in terms of word of mouth. Instead of capitalizing on moments to newsjack social media conversations or creating videos made to go viral, they invest a ton in providing extraordinary customer experience. This is because when your business model is driven by returning, loyal customers, you have a natural incentive to budget for making their experience the best. Zappos’ impressive sales figures is the kind of solid proof we like to see – that being awesome to the people you serve makes your profits awesome, too.

“We kind of have a different approach because we really want our customer service to be a lot more personal. Our goal is to actually develop a personal, emotional connection with each customer through every interaction.” Says Tony Hsieh, Zappo’s CEO.
“The way we do it is really by making company culture our number one priority, rather than take a lot of money and spend it on paid marketing or advertising. We instead invest it into customer service and the customer experience, and let our customers do the marketing for us.”

6. Batkid’s Adventures with Make-A-Wish

The Make A-Wish-Foundation, a non-profit that aims to give hope, strength, and joy to children facing serious life threatening illnesses.
Miles Scott, a boy who battled leukemia, wished he could be Batkid and fight crime in a city. Make-A-Wish of the Greater Bay Area organized an extremely elaborate day of adventure for him as Batkid alongside Batman. This adventure included a Batmobile, special effects,  reporters, and infamous villains.
Making this wish come true went beyond everyone’s expectations (except maybe Miles’). Thousands of volunteers around the city joined in participation as Batkid’s fans. Needless to say, social media and the press picked this story up and it really blew up, warming people’s hearts and improving traffic and donations for Make-A-Wish.

We hope these have given you a taste of what different kinds of word of mouth successes look like, and inspired you to pave the path to your own success.

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