In today’s connected world where social media is king, viral campaigns are some of the most successful marketing techniques out there.

NB: This is an article from The Hotels Network, one of our Expert Partners

This type of marketing generally creates interest in a product or brand through emotionally engaging messaging or visuals that can easily be shared from person to person. There are many valuable lessons that hotels can apply in their own strategies that piggyback off of viral user-generated content.

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An example of this?

I’m sure many of you remember one of the most heated debates in recent history. And no, we’re not talking about a political race or hotly contested sports outcome. We’re talking about The Dress Dilemma. In early 2015, Caitlin McNeal – a 21-year-old singer and guitarist – posted an image of a dress that she had seen and couldn’t seem to figure out the color of. Frustrated that no one seemed to agree, McNeal posted it online and within days the post had been viewed 28 million times, and huge websites like Buzzfeed had gotten in on the action.

Just take a look below – is it white and gold, or blue and black?


Given all the buzz around this internet sensation, it’s no wonder that a number of companies with their fingers on the pulse of pop culture and social media took advantage of the traction that the debate had gained. Brands took the opportunity to market their own products in many creative and fun ways that only added to the online debate:

DressDilemma3Dunking Donuts campaign
DressDilemma4Oreo campaign

With all of the above in mind, we’ve come up with three key takeaways from viral marketing campaigns that can help increase your hotel brand’s presence and boost awareness to drive more direct conversions and grab the attention of even the most skeptical direct booker: 

1. Leverage popular user-generated content 

Now, as a hotelier you may be thinking how could this possibly help build my own hotel brand? Well, potentially a lot more than initially meets the eye. One key point we want to drive home is that these companies didn’t have to shell out thousands of dollars on creative and unique marketing campaigns. By leveraging user-generated content, which in this particular case broke the internet, these brands were able to take advantage of a unique moment in time to showcase their products in a way that was highly relevant to their key markets.

2. Seek inspiration in other industries

These campaigns go to show that you shouldn’t always be focused only within your own industry. When you take a step back and look at the larger picture of what’s popular at the moment, and more importantly why it’s popular, you will often find marketing opportunities that may have previously been missed. It’s just a matter of being creative, understanding what works for your audience, and sizing your options. 

3. Attract, engage, convert

Once you’ve done some digging and found a viral campaign that would suit the tone of your brand, the most important element of a successful online campaign is effective communication across all of your platforms with clearly defined funnels that lead back to your website. After all, the goal here is always to grow direct bookings, and with a little help from THN’s personalization tools, you’ll be able to make sure you take full advantage of your campaign by engaging and converting the most traffic possible from your viral piggyback. 

So whether you thought the dress was blue and black, or white and gold, there is no denying the power of jumping on a viral bandwagon! It’s cost effective, and here at THN we love the concept of doing more with less. Wondering what else you can do to boost your direct booking channel with a lean marketing budget? Check out our series The Hotelier Show featuring the most daring contestants in the hospitality industry as they come together to discuss, compete and play while sharing their unique pearls of wisdom with fellow hotel marketers.  

Growing your direct channel doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and with the right inspiration and an ear to the beat of what’s hot at the moment, you too can boost your hotel brand while having fun with it!

Read more articles from The Hotels Network