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9 Viral Social Media Campaigns That Shaped 2016

by | Feb 27, 2017 | Social Media

Social media campaigns – a well thought out and successful one – can really bring a new type of excitement to a brand; it is what plastic surgery is to a Kardashian’s behind – a whole lot of attention.
And with the ever growing climb of social channels and their intrusion into our daily lives from the hashtags, memes, viral videos and the like, social media marketing has become more important than ever.

The year of 2016 gravitated heavily towards social media marketing, which explains all those viral crazes you experienced last year. So below is list of some amazing and unique social media campaigns that you are sure to learn from and should take into 2017.

Share Your Ears – Make A Wish Foundation

The #Shareyourears campaign was a simple and extremely effective move from Disneyparks in which people across the globe could share an image of themselves through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
For every picture that was uploaded Disneyparks would donate $5 to the Make-A Wish-Foundation, initially with a cap of $1 million dollars:

At the end of campaign Disneyparks donated over $2 million dollars to the make a wish foundation, after the resounding number of mickey mouse ears over the internet.

What made this campaign such a hit was Disneyparks team up with TINT – social media aggregators – to display their social media entries on their websites to drive audience engagement and boost campaign awareness. The end results was the #share your ears campaign trending on Facebook and Disneyparks doubling their initial pledge to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

Overall result: Along with becoming a trending topic on Facebook the Share your ears hashtag was shared over 200,000 times on Instagram.

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Love At First Taste – Knorr

There’s a saying: You never truly know you can love someone unless you share the same taste in food. Some might disagree and say this just means you’re stuck sharing every meal you have for the rest of your life.

Nonetheless, Knorr’s #Loveatfirsttaste campaign proved the saying to be correct, in a simple, intimate and highly rewarding campaign.

The social campaign was the end result of research that found people to be attracted to each other based on their taste in food. It went viral to an extent that on the release of its video on 25 April 2016, the video received over 7 million views on youtube in a day.

The advert itself is a step away from the Knorrs usual product oriented advertisements. Instead they tug on your heartstrings with a clever approach to storytelling, making emotional connections relying on your (the audiences) memories of those wonderful firsts in dating.

Overall result: Almost one year after the release of the campaign, the video has no garnered over 60 Million view on youtube. Which is a little less than double from its 33 Million views in the first month of the campaign!

Ballot Brief Case – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

When instragram stories came out early last year, you would of been forgiven for noticing the stark similarities to Snapchat stories. Even more so, that it should’ve spelled the demise of Snapchat itself.
But despite those whispers, Snapchat continues to be a way for marketers to flex their creative muscles with unique marketing campaigns.
Case in point, an unsuspecting Snapchat success story this year came from financial firm PwC.
Probably unknown to many is that one of PwC’s more glamorous yearly jobs is being responsible for the Academy Award ballots, delivering the results to the awards ceremony in Los Angeles via briefcase.
So last year, the company had the bright idea of using Snapchat to document the journey of its #BallotBriefcase as it made it’s way from New York City to the Academy Awards.

The story and hashtag #BallotBriefcase gained a ton of support whilst simultaneously introducing PwC to a whole new demographic of budding accountants, while increasing its social impressions on Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.

The #BallotBriefcase campaign proved that you don’t need to be a ‘cool’ brand to use Snapchat, but when appealing to a younger demographic, it may be the only way to gain the most traction. As always, the more ‘raw’ feel of Snapchat means that although you do need a strategy, you don’t need fancy marketing materials or a big budget to reap the rewards.

Overall result: In PwC’s application to be nominated for the Shorty Awards-which they would also win- the company testified to their increase in visibility thanks to the campaign. Receiving 1,062 mentions (12.3 million impressions) on twitter, and 406 mentions on instagram (126,000 impressions) in the first three weeks of the campaign.

No Dakota Access Pipeline – Movement By The People

Last year, the standoff for the No Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock demonstrated just how instrumental social media can be when it comes to getting people behind something and actually bringing about action.

In support of the Sioux tribe (an ancient group of Native American Tribes), social media was struck by a tsunami of users across the U.S whom started using the hashtag “NoDAPL” to express their sentiment against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Native land.
What began as a peaceful struggle soon turned into video footage of authorities using excessive force, which only added fuel to fire in support and attention of those at Standing Rock.

People all over the nation started checking in on Facebook at Standing Rock with the hashtag NoDAPL in response to police using social media to monitor activists whereabouts; with everyone checking in, the issue started to trend and gain more coverage in the news and in conversations everywhere.

Petitions to stop the pipeline gained thousands of signatories. Soon, the cause attracted the support of bigger groups including thousands of Veterans all over the U.S who committed to flying to the site of the standoff to stand with the people of Standing Rock.

Not only that, but the movement also reached influential actors most notably Leonardo Dicaprio and the Divergent Series’ Shailene Woodley and many more.

Overall result: Eventually all the support from veterans, actors and thousands of tweets, facebook mentions and shares, led to the halting of the plans altogether.

Make What’s Next – Microsoft

The tech world has a diversity problem — and Microsoft seem to be the pioneers in making a change through their Make What’s Next campaign for women in tech.

In the #Makewhatsnext campaign, Microsoft highlighted just how big the problem actually is with an eye-opening video featuring a group of girls. The girls are asked to name both male and female inventors. And while the girls can easily list male inventors, like Alexander Graham Bell, none are able to pinpoint even one female inventor.

Near the end of the video the girls are told of number of female inventors like Martha Coston, the creator of signal flares, and Mary Anderson, who keeps our vision intact during rainstorms by inventing windshield wipers.

A thought provoking campaign like this, leaves a lasting impression long after the video has finished- inspiring not only those girls, but the men and women of the world to encourage them and wipe away the stigma of women and science.

Overall result: The campaign is still going as Microsoft implement programs and opportunities for young women to take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses in university. All while notching up over 2 thousands mentions on social media and over 1 million views on Youtube.

Earth Hour (UK) – World Wide Fund (WWF)

The #EarthHourUK campaign was effort focused on encouraging to be take an hour out of the day where they would switch off their non-essential light in order to show a united concern towards the future of the planet.

Launched by WWF, the social media campaign was started while being in partnership with TINT and Exterion Media by displaying the message on LCD screens across the UK. The campaign was driven to raise awareness among people about the safety of Earth.

By capitalizing on the social media capabilities available to us now, the #EarhourUK campaign was one of the most intrusive and engaging campaigns of the year.

Overall result: it’s hard to pinpoint the impact of this specific campaign as earth hour is an ongoing movement since early 2015, however this particular marketing movement is highlighted for its innovation to reach the audience in the way that it has.

You Never Lamb Alone – Meat And Livestock Australia

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), known for their part piss-take, part serious messages, was at it again late last year with a much-talked about push for spring lamb. The advert spoke about diversity and stemmed from the idea many Australians felt they weren’t being represented in mass media.
Shot in one, clever and hilarious take, the ad features indigenous Australians, an Olympian, Rugby League player Greg Inglis, model Samantha Harris. Other Aussies present include Greek-transgender comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, television presenter Luke Jacobz, Bengali-Australian actor Arka Das and a long list of Australian extras.

The best thing about the campaign is its timeliness. it takes the sensitive topics held dear to Australian’s from every background and tells us to accept, share and laugh with our fellow Australians. The sheer diversity in the ad, makes it a worthwhile experience for everyone to see, which is harder to do than you might think.

Overall result: Though the campaign gained most of its traction via Australian television and notching up just under 1 million views on youtube. It’s caused plenty of discussion over social media, which was most likely the intended focus.

Daily Show Hidden Videos- Comedy Central

When a television giant Jon Stewart decided to step down from the beloved satire and commentary show, The Daily Show, there was much anticipation and curiosity as to who would take up the mantle and continue the legacy.

Taking advantage of the excitement were the good fellas at Comedy Central who ingeniously took to Google Adwords and social media to promote the show.

The network bought Google ads with links to exclusive videos surrounding Trevor Noah’s name coupled with popular search terms such as: Trevor Noah girlfriend, Trevor Noah age, Trevor Noah gay, etc — stuff that the masses usually search for upon looking up celebrities.

The videos were unlisted and un-embeddable so the only way they could be accessed were through manual search.

To help spur on the chatter and engagement on social media, Comedy Central did not disclose how many of these videos were around nor what keywords yielded mystery videos. This fueled the thrill of the hunt and made the campaign buzzworthy and exciting.
If you’re not interested in playing the search game, here is the link to every Trevor Noah related video.
Overall result:The campaign really took off once outlets such as UPROXX, slate, Reddit and the A.V decided to get amongst the search game. They would search for the videos and then give fans clues to their discoveries, in turn creating an even bigger buzz from spectators.

With the strategy being so successful, Google Insights featured the campaign in one of their case studies. By February 2016, the campaign had amassed a total of 38 million impressions which lead to 2.8 million views. In addition, Google reported that viewers watched more than 85% of the videos on average. The creative strategy earned the brains behind the campaign a nomination from the 2016 Webby Awards for Best Use of Data Driven Media.

Deadpool- 20th Century Fox

There was absolutely no way on earth anyone could of missed the marketing messages of Deadpool. NO WAY. Marvel are somewhat giants in TV and Cinema right now, and they certainly had a jolly old time demonstrating their marketing capabilities with Deadpool.

In true Deadpool fashion, the movie’s content (both through digital and traditional means) were as crass as the character himself. This created a cult-like following around the anticipated and well received Deadpool movie .

From obnoxious billboards, to hilarious teasers, trailers, and tv spots, and of course — social media. On social media, the team created custom character-inspired emojis and went as far as to even fabricate a Twitter feud between Wolverine and Deadpool.

Overall Result: The campaign made for an exciting, unpredictable, and engaging social story that fans followed. The Marvel team also created a whole stash of hilarious short videos and published them across multiple social media channels. Fans were absolutely jumping for joy and those new to the character were definitely intrigued.

What were some of your favourite campaigns from last year? Let us know in the comments.


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