When it comes to Internet marketing, viral was the magic word in 2014. This was a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows for companies who dared to make the most out of their online marketing efforts.
Once again, YouTube was the social network of choice for achieving virality in 2014, which itself is a word that entered the venerable Oxford English Dictionary only a couple of years ago. Still, virality is exactly what Internet marketers are looking for, although not every effort to go viral succeeds, and sometimes it is achieved for the wrong reasons.
The companies below certainly achieved viral marketing status in 2014, and each of them has a story that allows us to learn more about the business of going viral.
Turkish Airlines: Great Food and Football
Every four years, marketers and advertisers seek to take advantage of the greatest global sporting event. The 2014 FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil, an exciting nation that is widely considered to be the spiritual home of football. In 2013, Turkish Airlines launched a social media campaign starring star Argentine striker Lionel Messi and basketball luminary Kobe Bryant as they traveled around the world taking selfies. For 2014, Turkish Airlines brought back Messi and paired him against the spectacular striker Didier Drogba from the Ivory Coast.
Instead of taking selfies, Drogba and Messi set off on a post-FIFA World Cup global mission to discover the world’s most epic food. The hashtag #EpicFood resulted in an epic 60 million views on YouTube, and it became a trending item on Twitter on more than one occasion. What can we glean from this campaign? That great football stars plus interesting and delicious food are a great idea during a World Cup year.
Apple: Solo2 Beats Headphones
Hipness is a factor that Apple has always strived to achieve. Since the sad passing of Steve Jobs in 2011, Apple has fully embraced social media marketing as a means to showcase the company’s coolness factor. In the late summer of 2014, Apple acquire Beats, the manufacturer of high-end personal audio products endorsed by hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre; by November, Apple had already designed a new set of Beats headphones, the Solo2 Wireless.
To promote its new Beats product, Apple rolled out a campaign that did not take long to achieve virality under the #SoloSelfie and #BeatsByDre hashtags. With the help of celebrities such as hip-hop diva Nicki Minaj and reality TV stars Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Apple took advantage of video selfies, which are a rising social media trend, and encouraged Beats fans to share their self-made creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Hip celebrities plus social media engagement make up a winning formula for virality, something that Apple accomplished well.
Pizza Hut: The Flavor of Now
In 2014, an American pizza giant chose to reinvent itself with bold changes in its menu and a very visible marketing campaign. Pizza Hut revamped its website, changed its working uniforms, introduced new ingredients, rolled out new dough combinations, and chose a strategic time of the year to promote a witty YouTube video. The Flavor of Now campaign was about brand revolution, and its flagship YouTube video asked the opinions of older Italian people who know a thing or two about pizza making about the new recipes. As expected, the Italian pizza makers were not thrilled.
The Flavor of Now video received hundreds of thousands of views in just a few weeks, but it was also subject to mixed opinions. Some advertising analysts thought that the video was too snide for its own good, but it also prompted discussion across social networks and on cable TV news program; as a result, the branding effort itself went viral. Pizza Hut was also wise to roll out this campaign just before Thanksgiving week, which happens to be a busy time for pizza delivery across the United States.
Budweiser: Puppy Love
Like Pizza Hut, iconic American beer brand Budweiser is in the midst of a rebranding effort. The emblematic Clydesdale horses of countless Super Bowl TV commercials are being retired; nonetheless, Budweiser made sure that its fine steeds would always be remembered with one of the most memorable commercial spots ever: a tearjerker of a video featuring sweet Labrador retriever puppy that forms a loving bond with a magnificent Clydesdale. With more than 50 million views and shares, this marketing idea went viral and made the retirement of the Clydesdales easier on fans.
In the end, 2014 was a very solid year for online marketing, and the above examples of achieving virality will certainly pave the way for even more clever and creative campaigns in 2015.