The Impact of Viral Campaigns

Do you remember when females posted on their Facebook page their name and color of their bra, or “I like it on the floor” to help spread breast cancer awareness? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of posting the status of where I like to put my purse with “I like it on the counter.” Although these Facebook memes went viral, did they really accomplish the goal of creating real-life action to help cure breast cancer?

A viral campaign is a marketing technique to intentionally spread a message quickly (Dave, 2018). You also might remember the ALS ice bucket challenge where you either had to donate money to ALS or dump a bucket of ice-cold water over your head. Yet again, I’m guilty as charged and dumped a bucket of ice water on my head. In my defense, I was a broke college kid and needed money for tuition and couldn’t spare to donate money to another organization!

The ALS challenge offered a choice for consumers: donate or dump water over your head; whereas the breast cancer Facebook memes was simply creating a post on your wall. No one donated money, volunteered at a hospital, or signed a petition (Mahoney & Tang, 2016). What changes could’ve been made to make more of a difference to breast cancer causes? It’s simple: use action-oriented mobilization approaches.

Here are some simple action-oriented approaches to leverage a viral campaign:

  1. Set a call-to-action. Ask your audience to share about your campaign with others to keep your campaign alive (Dave, 2018).
  2. Attract celebrities to join in on the challenge. You can reach masses by including celebrities and influencers who make contributions and help spread your campaign (Dave, 2018).
  3. Create a sense of urgency. The ALS challenge gave nominated participants 24 hours to accept and complete the challenge.
  4. Use multiple marketing challenges. The Breast Cancer awareness viral campaign was only on Twitter. The challenge should’ve been on Twitter, YouTube and the news.
  5. Create a platform discussion to develop customer relationships. The Facebook memes should’ve included sharing information about breast cancer prevention or stories of breast cancer survivors to create an emotional experience for Facebook users.

One of the biggest indicators of mobilization or viral success is creating emotional real-life experiences. Cyberactivism and other prosocial movements have a natural advantage to social media mobilization strategies because social media reflects the interests and passions of everyone actively on the internet. According to the World Health Organization, social mobilization is the process of bringing together all societal and personal influences to raise awareness of and demand for health care, assist in the delivery of resources and services, and cultivate sustainable individual and community involvement (WHO, n.d.).

As more users view the memes or were listed as a nominee for a challenge, the more social observability which in turn leads to participants taking further action to support a cause because it satisfies their need of being generous, engaged, and honorable (Sherer, 2015). Social mobilization aims to facilitate change and utilizing social participation to share a post to create awareness or follow through with an action of donating money can help spark behavior change in communication (Mahoney & Tang, 2016). Audiences are now being communicated from the bottom-up versus talked down to by media messages (Mahoney & Tang, 2016).

Brands looking to create a viral campaign need to have a strong and trusted mission statement because they must be willing to give up control of their brand narrative by allowing users to create and design media content (Mahoney & Tang, 2016).  Users of the brand must also understand the authenticity of your brand and connect emotionally in order for the viral campaign to be successful. Understand what your brand stands for and ensure every message aligns with your core values and actions (Hodge, 2018).

So before creating a viral campaign, write out the goals of the campaign, create action-oriented approaches to accomplish those goals, and make sure every marketing message aligns with your mission statement.


Dave, N. (2018, March 9). Top 3 Viral Marketing Campaigns to Take Inspiration From. Retrieved from,shares%20and%20remarkable%20brand%20awareness

Hodge, A. (2018, September 10). Brand Authenticity: 5 Examples of Companies Making a Profit While Being Authentic. Retrieved from

Mahoney, L. M., & Tang, T. (2016). Active Within Structures. In Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Sherer, E. (2015, April 6). Cyberactivism, Its Past and Its Future | Elizabeth Sherer. Retrieved from

WHO. (n.d.). Social Mobilization. Retrieved from,sustainable%20individual%20and%20community%20involvement

Published by Courtney Pierce

I'm Courtney Pierce. A mom, wife, teacher and grad student! I teach high school business and marketing and am the DECA advisor. I am also almost done with my Masters in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University.

One thought on “The Impact of Viral Campaigns

  1. Great analysis on facebook memes and social media campaigns! When I first read the case study of the breast cancer campaign I also thought of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and how that campaign also promoted mobilization. While the breast cancer meme’s help to get people looking into breast cancer and talking about it, it simply stopped there. They were also hoping that people would care to find out what the vague statements were about, otherwise it would have gone unnoticed. I liked your action-oriented approaches that you note! Unfortunately, just talking about a cause isn’t enough. If more companies and charity’s utilized the different methods you noted they could definitely help in actually making a difference. One of the other things that might have hurt the campaign was sexualizing breast cancer. One survivor voiced her opinion stating that “these campaigns imply that this potentially fatal disease is actually about a woman losing her sexuality” (Krawczyk, 2015). Had they taken a different approach, similar to ALS as you discussed, more people might have participated and donated or volunteered if they didn’t feel offended by the message.

    You made some really great points and suggestions for how these social media campaigns can be improved and mobilized to really make a difference!

    Krawczyk, K. (2015). Breast cancer awareness campaigns objectify disease. The Daily Orange. Retrieved from


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