Serendipity! 5 Brands That Scored an Accidental Viral Hit

Many brands work for years without ever feeling the sweet embrace of a viral hit; however, an ever rarer beast is the unintentional brand booster—the viral video that just happens to feature you.

Impossible to plan or predict—and tricky to capitalize on—the inadvertent brand content moment is the albino unicorn of viral marketing.

Here are five of our favorite inadvertent branded content moments for you to look upon jealously, and hope that maybe someday you’ll get this lucky.

GoPro: “A Grizzly Ate My GoPro”

While filming for a BBC wildlife documentary in Alaska, cameraman Brad Josephs left his GoPro video camera on a riverbank, hoping to get some up-close-and-personal shots of a grizzly. What he didn’t plan for was one of his subjects finding his camera and using it as a bear-sized gobstopper for the better part of two minutes.

Remarkably, the camera was unharmed and Brad was able to retrieve it and upload the footage to his YouTube account, where it has racked up a cool 1.6 million views.

GoPro spotted the video and uploaded it to their own YouTube channel and featured it in their own branded video portal, where another million or so have watched the footage. Your gear surviving a crunching from one of nature’s most fearsome jawbones is not a marketing opportunity you want to pass up.

Dreamworks: “Toy Lightsaber”

Steven Spielberg’s PR department probably treated special effects compositor Daniel Hashi-Moto to a drink or two after his extracurricular work went viral at the beginning of the year. Daniel edited short clips of his son James, adding in explosions, sci-fi weaponry, lava, and even a McDonald’s rocket.

Posting under the account name “Action movie kid,” Hashi-Moto was soon tracked down by the media after a clip of his son wreaking havoc in Toys R Us with a lightsaber did the rounds on the social web.

Daniel and James’ videos have now been viewed 32 million times, scoring an unexpected boom for a company whose marketing department is accustomed to spending a heck of a lot more for that many views.

NASA: Ground Control to Commander Hadfield

Commander Chris Hadfield, who dragged space travel into the social age through his amazing tweets from the International Space Station, cemented his position as the first space traveler of the Twitter era with a viral hit to cap off his five-month stay on the ISS.

A zero-gravity cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was released on YouTube on May 12, 2013 and became an instant smash, landing air time and column inches around the world.

Unfortunately, Hadfield and his son, who put the video together back on terra firma, only secured rights to use the song for one year, so the video was removed earlier this month. In its year-long life the video was watched almost once a second, and topped 22 million views before its removal—almost four times the number of Bowie’s official video.

Although the video was put together as a side project aboard the ISS, the song proved a huge hit for brands, such as Bowie, NASA and Hadfield alike.

Home Depot: “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal”

Although it seems unlikely, Home Depot were entirely unaware of the plan (given they cordoned off an entire section of their store): This overblown wedding proposal is one of the best in an increasingly crowded genre.

The proposal owes its unlikely setting to where couple Spencer and Dustin first met—while wandering the aisles searching for homeware. Six months later, after Dustin’s resounding “Yes,” the couple said their vows on-stage at the 2014 Grammy Awards in a ceremony officiated by none other than Queen Latifah.

A proposal viewed by 12 million YouTubers is one way to start a marriage… and market a hardware superstore.

Starbucks: Viral Seduction

This is the only entry on our list to have achieved enough notoriety to invade Google’s autocomplete results: Say hello to the curious seduction technique of Brody Curtis, aka Starbucks Drake Hands Guy.

After getting the phone number of model Piper Kennedy after he served her coffee, Curtis sent the following video. Uploaded to Instagram by Kennedy’s friends, it spawned a million imitators, the hashtag #StarbucksDrakeHands, and a Man of the Year award for Curtis from

Not only a solid gold viral hit, Starbucks Drake Hands tops our list for giving an unintentional PR boost to not one, but two international brands. Well played, Mr. Curtis—now back to work on your pickup technique.

Image by Brad Josephs

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