Been involved in a viral campaign and it wasn’t your fault?

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These days, everyone’s a content marketer. Film something on Snapchat, hit upload and done – you’ve produced content with the potential of going viral. Something big brands fill meeting rooms week after week attempting to mastermind. Collaborating with other brands or spending big bucks to get that weeks hottest celeb to make a cameo, you name it and they’ll have weighed up their options… Not to mention, budgets.

But every once in a while an unsuspecting member of the public will save you the trouble by blessing your brand with a feature in what turns out to be internet gold. And as Uncle Ben once told a young Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility”. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at how Nando’s, Netflix and Vans (amongst others) have reacted when faced with such fortuitous marketing, to their brand name being unexpectedly thrust into the internet limelight.

Cheeky Nando’s – Nando’s

Who can remember a time before “Cheeky Nando’s”? It feels like this meme has been around just as long as the internet. According to knowyourmeme, the phrase was coined by “Buzy Ray” on a soundcloud in November 2011. While it simmered on Twitter for the next three years, the popular expression reached heights when Americans on Tumblr cried “WTF?”

— Nando’s (@NandosUK) May 13, 2015

This exploded across the net with tonnes of explanations of just what’s required for a “Cheeky Nando’s” to reach ultimate cheekiness.👌’ . Now maybe it’s hindsight that tells us Nando’s didn’t take the opportunity they were given to capitalise on this. At the height of the meme’s popularity in May 2015, Nando’s responded with only this tweet, and a low-key ‘manhunt’ with the offer of a free meal:

Nando’s has never shied away from a bit of ‘Twitter Bants’, so it was surprising for this to be their only real reaction to the #CheekyNandos phenomenon. Perhaps the brand reacted so cautiously due to the tongue in cheek response panning the restaurant as a haven for ‘chavs’ and ‘lads’, or since this was the first huge explosion of a brand being the centre of a meme, maybe they wanted to step back and watch it all unfold to deflect any suspicion that it was all a clever marketing ploy.

Damn Daniel – VANS

On February 16th 2016, Josh Holz posted a compilation video on Twitter of his friend Daniel Lara, maxing, relaxing, acting all cool, complimenting him with a simple “Damn Daniel”. The video captures what it means to be best friends, to harass and annoy while always being your bff’s number 1 fan. Perhaps that’s why it went viral overnight.

The boys soon became internet royalty; appearing in cameos in music videos, as guests on Ellen DeGeneres and the highest honour of internet hierarchy… receiving blue ticks on Twitter.

But if you’ve seen the video you’ll know a brand got name dropped alongside Daniel Lara.
“Back at it again with the white Vans” came at the perfect time for Vans – just a month before they launched their 50th anniversary celebrations. VF Corp (the parent company to Vans) reported increases of 20% for direct-to-consumer sales and 30% for online sales in the first quarter, as a response to the boys’ viral Tweet.

See how this played out on Google Trends:

Vans was quick to react and switched up their online marketing to capitalise on this new wave of fans. Daniel was presented with a lifetime supply of Vans while on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as a small thank you from the brand.

Netflix and Chill

The year was 2015, and teens on the internet took a seemingly innocent phrase and turned it into a euphemism that took over the world… When everyone finally caught on.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 15.41.37


First mentioned on Twitter in 2007 by @nofacenina, it wasn’t until 2014 that the phrase was openly credited as the new way of inviting your date in for a nightcap; a classic case of social media fuelled semantic change.

Popularity for the phrase peaked in 2015 when it was added to Urban Dictionary (meaning it’s internet official) and it’s fair to say an internet star was born.

At long last, @Netflix respond to the meme with a simple tweet giving the perfect nod to teen/pop culture by referencing Clueless, with yes you guessed it, a gif.

Netflix even teamed up with market research company Ipsos to highlight just how internet obsessed we millennials have become. By surveying users of the app aged 18-29, they showed what role Netflix has in modern day relationships, beyond the “chill”.

(Credit: Netflix)

They took it all in their stride and became the most loved brand in the UK.

Music and Memes

What is a viral moment without a recognisable tune behind it, an anthem that takes it to the next level?

Who remembers way back when in 2013, when Harlem Shake was the biggest thing you’d ever seen? Perhaps due to it being the first of its kind and largely unexpected, the song’s producer – Baauer, didn’t make a dime from the song.

Fast forward a few years to when the Mannequin Challenge surfaced on October 27th 2016, posted by Twitter user @pvrity___ – although without the combination of the soundtrack we’re now familiar with…

But don’t think the association of “Rae Sremmurd’s – Black Beatles” was an accident.

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With some help from Interscope and Pizzaslime, the viral moment landed the song the No.1 spot in the USA.

See our version of the craze, including some impressive acrobatics.

Migo’s “Bad and Boujee” is a song you were probably sure you’d ‘heard somewhere’ before it became a hit. Do the words Raindrop, drop top mean anything to you… No? Perhaps you found yourself humming Ghost Towns 1995 single “My Boo” April 2016 and couldn’t quite put your finger on why?

A post shared by Kevin Soze 🎙 (@11.oo7) on

Danced at by teens whenever you used the term ‘about a week ago’?


It’s no surprise marketers are prioritising going viral on their list of promises to artists when it comes to promoting a new hit. Memes accompanied by a song make them fun and relatable and most importantly – memorable.

To show the true power and longevity of certain memes, I’m just going to throw this in for good measure. Personally I can’t hear Taylor Swift’s – Trouble without this video crossing my mind and making me giggle…

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About Leah Bradburn

Leah just wishes that everyone could get along, like we used to in middle school. She wishes she could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.


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