March 8, 2024
Social Media Management

Brands That Went Viral on Instagram & How They Did It

Discover the secrets behind Instagram success. Explore the strategies of viral brands and learn how they captivated audiences to skyrocket their presence.

Gavin Pierce
Content Writer
A results-driven SEO Content Writer skilled at driving organic growth by crafting compelling narratives and utilising SEO strategies.
Table of contents

You’ve probably heard of the term “going viral”, and you’ve probably seen a few viral videos in your lifespan. Just in case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, going viral is when a piece of content suddenly becomes incredibly popular and is shared by hundreds of thousands across different social media platforms. 

Depending on the content and context, this could have positive or negative connotations. Brands and people go viral all the time - whether it’s on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube.In the vibrant digital marketing realm, going viral is exactly what you want. 

In an era where social media reigns supreme, Instagram quickly became a powerhouse platform for brands looking to establish their presence and gain some traction. As a smaller brand, when you go viral, you’re going from being virtually unknown to being a household name in no time. 

Going viral isn’t easy, though. Some may get lucky, but others have carefully crafted marketing campaigns and techniques. We take a look at some of the best and most intriguing brands that went viral on Instagram. 

The Best Viral Marketing Campaigns on Instagram 

Daniel Wellington

Daniel Wellington is a Swedish brand founded by Filipe Tysander. It started out as a small brand with only $20, 000, but when Filipe saw the launch of Instagram in 2010, he had perhaps the best idea of his life - to use influencer marketing and UGC before those terms were even coined. 

First things first, they reached out to influencers to offer free products in exchange for an Instagram post. They weren’t too concerned with what your niche or expertise was, as long as you had an engaged audience and plenty of followers. 

The UGC-focused campaign then began to take off. The campaign got so popular that influencers would buy watches and post them with the hashtag #DWpickoftheday - hoping to get featured on the brand’s official page. 

Daniel Wellington then identified high-quality content featuring their watches and asked permission to repurpose them for use in marketing campaigns, social media posts, and product pages. 

By aggressively focusing on UGC and influencer collaborations, Daniel Wellington found themselves all over Instagram with over 62,000 posts featuring the hashtag #DWpickoftheday. What started as a simple idea led to $228M in sales for watches in just three years - all through the power of Instagram. 

Fashion Nova

Fashion Nova is a fast fashion retail company founded in 2006. The founder and CEO, Richard Saghian, understood the need for a more established online presence, so he turned to Instagram. 

The strategy started simple - post pictures of the best-selling products on the popular social media platform. Fashion Nova was among the pioneers of Instagram and influencer marketing. Today, Fashion Nova has over 21M Instagram followers, so how did they do it? 

A few ways. Firstly, they ran several brand campaigns via social media advertising to boost awareness and increase sales. They then implemented a UGC strategy to encourage customers to share posts of purchases with the hashtags #NovaBabes or #NovaStars. Every hashtagged post got a like and a comment, and occasionally even a share, from the brand itself. 

Next, they built up customer loyalty through giveaways, interactive social media events, and constant engagement with customers. They even uploaded some behind-the-scenes footage of the creative process. This personal touch created a sense of community and belonging for clients. 

Fashion Nova also fully embraced influencer marketing as a method of advertising products and building brand recognition. The more popular they got, the easier it was to partner with bigger stars. In 2019, they even managed to partner with Hip-Hop sensation Cardi B. 

They don’t only partner with stars though. Fashion Nova has worked with multiple micro and nano influencers for promotions. They’re smart enough to capitalise on the fact that lesser-known influencers have much higher engagement rates than mega influencers, and they cost a lot less to work with. 

All in all, Instagram played a major role in the initial rise of Fashion Nova and continues to be a huge part of their marketing strategy today. 


Glossier, a skincare and beauty brand founded by Emily Weiss in 2014, started as an online-only store. Only 10 years later, Glossier is a world-renowned business worth over a billion dollars. 

How did she do it? Before Glossier was launched, Emily Weiss ran a beauty blog. She used Instagram to build her blog following, and by 2013, they were reporting around 8.5 million page views a month.  

Weiss is one of many young people who figured out how to harness the power of social media to boost brand awareness - even before Instagram had recognised itself as a marketing tool. The social media-savvy founder understood that Instagram was more than just a way to connect with friends and family, but a perfect opportunity to get your name out there. 

When Glossier launched its first four products in 2014, it had already built up a significant following and had a distinct brand identity. The “Glossier Girl” was then created through the power of social media. The brand partnered with models on Instagram and encouraged fans to post too. Quickly, user-generated content was being posted regularly. 

Glossier also designed every brick-and-mortar store to be Instagram-ready. They wanted you to take pictures and they wanted you to post about them. 

The Glossier social media page was never just about products, but about people. Authenticity and UGC played a huge role in the rise of the beauty brand, and they’re still reaping the benefits. 

Flat Tummy Co

Flat Tummy Co is a wellness and weight loss company that sells appetite-suppressing and detoxification products. The company does have its fair share of controversies, as many believe that appetite suppressors promote unrealistic beauty standards for women and that the science behind these products is at least questionable.

Despite this, the brand is a clear example of success via Instagram. Flat Tummy’s social media following plays such a huge role in its value that when the company was sold in 2015, its significant social media presence was highlighted in a press release before the mention of actual assets or sales figures. That is pretty remarkable. 

So how did Flat Tummy Co achieve Instagram success? Influencer marketing. They partnered with a host of different semi-professional Instagram models with thousands or tens of thousands of followers. The micro or nano influencers would then post pictures of them with the product to create a narrative that the product played some sort of role in the way they look. 

As fewer restrictions were around back then, many of the influencer partners failed to disclose the fact that they had been paid to post. Flat Tummy barraged Instagram with thousands of these, identifying and contacting between 150-200 new influencers per week.

When an influencer agreed to a deal, the Flat Tummy staff would brief them on how photos should look and provide them with a carefully written caption to use. The company capitalised on the Insta-aesthetic with their pink brand packaging, clear to see in aspirational posts of beautiful women with as-promised flat stomachs. 

By partnering with influencers, they’ve gained 1.5M Instagram followers and are showing no signs of slowing down despite the controversial line of products being sold. 

ALS Association (ALSA)

ALSA is a U.S.-based nonprofit organisation that funds global ALS research, provides care services and programs to people affected by ALS, and works with ALS advocates around the country. 

ALSA struck viral marketing gold with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Just writing that that brings me back to 2014, when Instagram was full of people all over the world dumping buckets of ice and water on their heads. 

ALS is a disease that degrades nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord over time, leading to loss of muscle control and, ultimately, the inability to talk, move, eat, and breathe. The Ice Bucket Challenge aimed to raise both awareness and funds for ALS research, and it did so immaculately. 

When the campaign started, it took off like a rocket. From young kids to the elderly, people were posting videos with the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge. Quite incredibly, over 17 million people uploaded videos of them participating in the challenge, and a staggering $115 million was raised in just 6 weeks! 

An independent research organisation reported that money raised from the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge allowed ALSA  to increase its annual funding for research around the world by 187%. 

The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is the perfect example of how viral marketing can be used for the good of humanity. 

The benefits of Instagram marketing 

Viral marketing can do a lot for business, but not everyone gets so lucky. To maximise your chances of campaign success via Instagram, we’ve covered a few key tips. 

Define your goals

Don’t just dive straight into posting or reaching out to influencers. First things first, what are you hoping to achieve? Understanding your objectives is pivotal to successful marketing campaigns. Whether you’re hoping to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, or boost product sales - well-defined goals shape help shape the overall strategy. 

Optimise Your Profile 

Your Instagram profile should be treated as if it’s the face of your store. Everything should be on brand with a recognisable profile picture and a concise, compelling bio, as well as a link to your website. In an age where attention spans are shorter than ever, first impressions matter. 

Create a content strategy and calendar

The quality of your content is absolutely paramount to the success of your campaign. Consider what type of content resonates with your audience and experiment with different types of content to see what works best. 

Setting up a content calendar also makes everything much easier to manage and track. You can even automate social media posts to go up at certain times of certain days - saving a significant amount of time.

Use Hashtags 

Strategically using hashtags is a powerful way to boost your reach on Instagram. Keep them relevant to your posts to make your content discoverable to people interested in similar topics. 

Creating your own hashtag to encourage UGC and community engagement is also a smart move. People love authentic content, and UGC is exactly that. 

Research the best time to post 

Do some research into when your audience is most active. Review which posts get the most traction, and try to post at similar times and on similar days. Experimenting with time and assessing the performance is the most reliable way to figure out your optimal schedule. Knowing when to post is key to maximising reach and engagement. 

Partner with influencers 

Big brands aren’t the only ones who can find success partnering with influencers. Finding and partnering with Instagram accounts that have established audiences (at least over 5K followers) is a smart way to get your name out there. Remember, most people in 2024 trust micro and nano influencers much more than they do major celebrities. 

Explore Instagram Ads

Spending money on boosting a post is a pretty reliable method of boosting your reach. Instagram offers a range of different ad formats such as video ads, photo ads, carousel ads, and Stories ads. 

Track, analyse, repeat 

As is with all marketing campaigns, tracking and analysing performances is the only way to improve and optimise your campaigns. The more data you get, the easier it is to refine and adjust your strategy for future campaigns. 

Summing up

So, to sum it all up, going viral can change the entire trajectory of your brand’s growth. The viral marketing campaigns mentioned above serve as a source of valuable insights and inspiration. 

The common denominator between all the brands mentioned is a deep understanding of the nuances of Instagram, and how to capitalise on its best features. Brands all over the world use a combination of strategic Instagram marketing, influencer partnerships, and UGC to execute successful campaigns. 

The potential for viral success on Instagram lies in the intersection of innovation, authenticity, and strategic storytelling. With enough planning and creativity, you can use Instagram to take your brand to new heights. 

At ttagz, we help brands generate authentic UGC in no time. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, don’t hesitate to book a call with one of our team members today. 

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Can any brand achieve viral success on Instagram?

Yes, brands of various sizes and industries have leveraged unique approaches to gain widespread attention on the platform.

What makes a brand go viral on Instagram?

How important is influencer collaboration in achieving viral status on Instagram?

How can brands capitalise on trending topics to go viral on Instagram?

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