Before launching your viral marketing campaign and hoping for the best, take a look at these seven successful viral marketing campaigns first.  These viral marketing campaigns had several good things going for them; and a few things that could have been done better.

1. Cyanide and Happiness

This black-humour cartoon has been splashed around the internet in many different forms. Whether you think the cartoon is funny or not, the fact is these simple stick character creators are on top of their game in viral marketing. Originally starting out as a five artist team of friends, these guys have expanded their implementation of their cartoon so that people can copy it in emails (email marketing), created applications for users to have it on their blog or phone that will automatically be updated on a daily basis, as well as applications for Facebook. They have even created flash animation of their cartoons for all video websites like YouTube.

Armed with a simple stick cartoon, they have made it accessible for all modes of viral marketing, making it easy for user to implement and ‘spread the word’ about them. They now offer t-shirts and books of their creation.

Learn their lesson: If you are going to try viral marketing make sure users can share it. Often the only way is for users to send the link, but there should be options for users to Tweet about it, like it on Facebook or email to friends.

2. Local Band Goes Viral with some Wooden Pegs and a Potato

This viral marketing strategy came from Quirk’s emarketing textbook on online marketing. Quirk is an online marketing company that, a few years ago, compiled a text-book on all online marketing strategies from social media to online reputation .

The first edition of the emarketing textbook included a case-study of a local South African band, Plush, and their viral campaign. It was a simple, original idea on a low-budget campaign. The story goes that a band was playing at a local club and needed to spread the word about it. All they had was a marketing budget of R400. The idea was to use a mix of social media and reality branding. The R400 paid for a bunch of wooden pegs, some potatoes and ink used for stamps. With a bit crafting they created a potato stamp and stamped all the wooden pegs with the band’s name. They then went to clubs that played similar music and pinched the pegs on people’s bags, pants, tops and any piece of personal items they could. After two weeks they started a Facebook page called “Have you been pegged?

Before long people who had been pegged at clubs went online to check what it was all about and found out about the band and when they were going to perform. They encouraged people to take pictures of themselves and their pegs and upload them on Facebook, along with pegging other people.

Learn their Lesson: Sometimes a viral campaign doesn’t always have to have online elements. By doing something offline and implementing it correctly online, a campaign can go beyond the targeted success.

3. Sneezing Panda

While visiting the Wolong Panda Breeding Centre, a wildlife filming company happen to catch one of the panda’s letting a go a whopping sneeze. Seeing an online campaign opportunity, the video was made viral on YouTube and a website was created as the base, with an online shop. Before long thousands were watching the video, and since all profit made from the website went into looking after the little sneezing guy, users bought t-shirts, cups and novelty items. The film company also received a lot of exposure from it.

Learn their Lesson: Not all viral campaigns need to be planned. Often you might have the viral item first and need to create the rest of the strategy around it.

4. Famous Objects

This is one of the latest viral campaigns to hit the web. It is a simple game where by a user must guess a name of the movie by looking at the object. The game works on a hang-man principle, where you have five chances of guessing a letter. With simple sharing methods on the website, users were able to spread it on Twitter and Facebook. The only question here is what was this campaign for? Examining the home page leads you to a site about a company that does web and design work. Although this is a highly successful campaign from a traffic perspective, it lacks creating awareness about the company and doesn’t do much to help generate sales.

Learn their Lesson: If you are going to do a viral campaign, make sure people know your business is behind it.

5. Competitions

Competitions are always a good way to go. Recently, one was held on the Bomb Surf – a blog for surfers. The competition was a trip around the world for a year to surf and write about it – pretty much every surfers dream. The best part about this viral campaign was that the contestants had to spread it themselves. Each contestant had to make a video and upload it on YouTube about why they should be the winner and then write content about it. They also had to create their own blog and write about the competition. After all of that, they also had to get people to vote for them. For weeks, contestants twittered and put it up as their Facebook status to try and promote themselves. Of course, by promoting themselves they promoted the website.

Learn their Lesson: On the flip side of the above example, there are loads of competitions that don’t work. Think about what people will want before you offer it. If you are selling false teeth for the aged, then perhaps tickets to a weekend rock party isn’t your best prize.

6. Die Antwoord

It wasn’t that long ago that nobody knew who Die Antwoord was. Then, with a few You-Tube videos and an original song mocking a South African society and it went global. Overnight, they were known by almost every young person in South Africa and, oddly enough, Asia. They are now doing tours both nationally and internationally.

Learn their Lesson: The YouTube video that started it was supposed to look home-made, but looking at the details it is easy to see that a lot of thought and production went into it. Just because viral marketing, or any online marketing is essentially more cost-effective than other marketing strategies, doesn’t mean that spending a little doesn’t pay off.

7. Blair Witch Project

Who can forget this ‘home-made’ movie? The reason why it was so successful was the months of viral marketing prior to the launch. A website was created that outlined the story about students being lost. ‘Police photos’ and records were uploaded and soon everyone was on the site. Then, the announcement that a movie was going to be released of footage found at the scene. Of course the whole thing was a hoax, but months of tension and suspense, geared up viewers to watch the movie.

Learn their Lesson: The launch of a product or service is a great opportunity to create hype beforehand. By drawing your users in, you can make them anticipate a product long before it is even created. Mystery is a great tool.