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The campaigns, press releases, crises and random moments that propelled brands into stardom.

101 Times Brands Went Viral in 2018

We asked Iris, our AI-analyst, to find the 101 times brands went viral in 2018.

15 Minute Read

Demo the technology used in this report
The campaigns, press releases, crises and random moments that propelled brands into stardom. 101 Times Brands Went Viral in 2018

Here at Brandwatch, we spend a lot of time watching brands. But we’ve always wondered, ‘which brand is the biggest?’. 

It’s not an easy thing to answer. The volume of data we’d need to analyze is just too large.

However, earlier this year we launched Iris™. Iris is an AI-analyst that can examine billions of conversations online and help us understand them.

We told Iris to look at over one billion posts published about brands in 2018 and Iris came back with the 101 largest brand events of the year, sorted by volume of conversation.

Here are the results.

“What’s most interesting about this Iris-powered report on brand virality is how utterly random, and seemingly unplanned, most of the chatter is.

This underscores why “trying to go viral” is so difficult, and illustrates why it’s important to build a reliable word of mouth strategy that creates conversations on purpose, instead of on accident.”

Jay Baer – Keynote Speaker, Author and Founder of Convince and Convert


IKEA IKEA's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, died at 91

Date: 28 January | Type: Press | Conversations: 20,800

Most news broadcasts celebrated the entrepreneur, others saw a funnier side to the story.


Virgin Actress Michaela Coel describes a racist passenger on her Virgin Atlantic flight.

Date: 15 May | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 20,900

(Since the time of writing, the Tweet has been deleted.)


Foot Locker Foot Locker ask for RTs

Date: 26 April | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 24,400

This retailer spent $182 million on advertising last year. And this was their most mentioned campaign.


Tesco Tesco remove best before dates to reduce food waste

Date: 22 May | Type: Press | Conversations: 27,375

Removing best before dates proved popular as no other UK supermarket generated more visibility than this story.


Heineken Heineken commercial called racist

Date: 28 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 30,825

Most of Twitter agreed the ad was racist, but others doubted if that was the intent.


Barclays Conor McGregor fights at the Barclays Center

Date: 5 April | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 33,350

Only one other bank appeared on this list, showing that sponsoring large arenas really does help with brand visibility.


Papa John’s Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigns over racial slur

Date: 19 July | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 34,250

The second crisis on the list features Schnatter resigning from the pizza chain he founded in 1984 after using the N-word during a conference call.


Disney Freaky Friday announcement

Date: 17 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 34,475

Disney announced they were remaking Freaky Friday, a film where a mother and daughter swap bodies and fans went wild.


Mercedes Benz Racist advert produced for mother’s day

Date: 13 May | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 35,075

Mercedes-Benz SA apologized for offending customers with a mother’s day advert featuring only a white mother.


Audi Audi boss arrested over emissions test scandal

Date: 18 June | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 43,200

Audi’s most viral moment of the year came after its chief executive was arrested.


Intel Intel set a world record for most drones in the air at 2018 Winter Olympics

Date: 10 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 44,275


Walmart Customer posts sarcastic tweet about the size of a rug

Date: 8 October | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 45,300

Seems like $11 gets just 11 inches of rug these days.


American Express Ariana Grande announces session with American Express

Date: 8 August | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 45,675

This impressive use of influencer marketing is AMEX’s most viral moment of 2018.


Mastercard Mastercard create new patent to allow Bitcoin transactions on credit cards

Date: 18 July | Type: Press | Conversations: 45,975

Mastercard’s goal to become the first payment card to allow Bitcoin propelled them into virality.


Corona Keanu Reeves drinks a Corona

Date: 5 March | Type: Random | Conversations: 48,000

Sometimes brands go viral for no real reason, here’s an example.


Sony Sony’s E3 conference

Date: 12 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 48,850

E3, the world’s largest gaming conference, always generates high levels of visibility for brands. This year, Sony stole the show, generating almost 50k conversations, mainly for this trailer.


Premier Inn Premier Inn refuse homeless customers

Date: 5 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 52,350

Sometimes social media is used for good. This is one of those times. After Premier Inn refused to let 19 homeless people stay, tens of thousands of tweeters decided to boycott the firm.


Virgin Virgin Media remove access to UKTV then quickly revokes the decision

Date: 22 July | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 52,525

The power of social truly puts power in consumers hands. Virgin Media removed access to UKTV, thousands complained online and in less than 24 hours the channels were back.


Macy's Announcing 5,000 job cuts

Date: 4 January | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 57,525

After shutting seven stores and laying off 5,000 employees, many took to social to argue that Trump’s tax breaks had failed.


State Farm Pulls ads from Samantha Bee’s show

Date: 1 June | Type: Press | Conversations: 66,675

State Farm pulled ads from TBS’s ‘Full Frontal’ show after host Samantha Bee made offensive remarks about Ivanka Trump


Budweiser World Cup #ManOfTheMatch South Korea vs. Germany

Date: 27 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 72,450

Budweiser’s decision to sponsor man of the match awards at this summer’s World Cup proved to be one of the most lucrative sponsorship slots at the event. The brewer generated 900,000 conversations over the course of the competition, this being the most mentioned moment.


Lego Incredible Lego design built into a wall

Date: 30 May | Type: Random | Conversations: 74,400

Daniel Holland’s incredible design was viewed 4.8 million times on Twitter.


BMW Concept car goes viral online

Date: 29 May | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 79,400

Only one other automotive campaign generated more visibility than this stunt from BMW.


Budweiser Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad

Date: 5 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 80,875

The second most viral Super Bowl ad of the year was talked about for all the wrong reasons. The ad, which highlighted how Budweiser donated ~$100,000 worth of water, generated controversy after viewers noted that the ad itself cost $5 million.

“Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon said, ‘your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ The problem – or opportunity – today is that brands are able to hear what you’re saying whether they’re in the room or not because of social media.

This list of the 101 Times Brands Went Viral in 2018 really proves the need for brands to pay attention to customer sentiment. A viral post on social media can be worth millions in ad spend, or negate millions in ad spend, so companies need to be super vigilant on what they’re saying and what’s being said. ” 

Eric Tung, Director at Go To Marketers 


Guinness St Patrick’s Day

Date: 17 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 85,125

Many brands have attempted to associate themselves with cultural events but none have been as successful as Guinness. The company generated 85,125 conversations on the day, more than every other beer firm combined.


GAP GAP commercial goes viral

Date: 25 January | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 85,150

GAP generated thousands of positive mentions online following this ad.


Barclays GOT7 perform at the Barclays Center

Date: 13 July | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 88,750

In what will be the first of many appearances for K-pop in this list, the popular Korean band GOT7 generated a huge volume of conversation for Barclays following their performance at the Barclays Center.


MetLife Cut ties with the NRA

Date: 24 February | Type: Press | Conversations: 89,800

MetLife’s decision to cut ties with the NRA generated vast levels of visibility for the brand, most of which was positive.


Coca-Cola Coke life hacks go viral

Date: 15 February | Type: Random | Conversations: 104,825

In 2018, Coca-Cola spent an estimated 4 billion on advertising. That’s thousands of ads, hundreds of sponsorships, dozens of agencies working round the clock for the firm. Yet, the second largest moment for the brand came after 13 million watched 9 amazing Coca-Cola lifehacks.


Red Bull Red Bull Rampage

Date: 6 April | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 105,400

Red Bull’s association with high-octane sports has a history of generating them immense visibility. Felix Baumgartner’s world record free-fall in 2012 epitomizes this. In 2018, it was this clip from their Rampage event.


T-Mobile + Sprint T-Mobile & Sprint merge

Date: 29 April | Type: Press | Conversations: 108,400

In April, T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to Twitter to officially announce the merger, generating over 100,000 conversations online.


Bank of America Stopped lending to firms who build firearms

Date: 11 April | Type: Press | Conversations: 113,775

The bank’s decision to stop lending money to gun manufacturers that make military-inspired firearms for civilian use generated huge volumes of discussion online.


Ryanair Racist passenger on Ryanair flight

Date: 22 October | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 114,825

Unfortunately, there’s more than one instance of racism on a flight in this year’s list. The low-cost airline, Ryanair was heavily criticized for not removing the passenger.


IKEA Zlatan challenges David Beckham to a bet

Date: 6 July | Type: Random | Conversations: 115,926

IKEA was fortunately mentioned by the Swedish megastar footballer, generating 115,000 conversations.


Microsoft Microsoft buy GitHub

Date: 4 June | Type: Press | Conversations: 123,250

The $7.5 billion acquisition was the most talked about Microsoft event of the year.


Gatorade Tweet goes viral

Date: 10 July | Type: Random | Conversations: 123,275

Here’s another example of a brand going viral for no real reason.


Burger King Burger King tweets “brring brring” to Budweiser

Date: 28 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 129,200

So far we’ve seen million dollar ad campaigns, videos highlighting societal issues, billion-dollar acquisitions, this great work was rightly ranked amongst the best campaigns of the year. This moment shouldn’t be ranked this highly, but it is.


Fox Save Lucifer campaign

Date: 12 May | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 130,425

Fans weren’t happy when Fox made the decision to cancel the show Lucifer. 130k people went online to direct their anger towards Fox and encourage other studios to take the show on. Incredibly, their efforts paid off. Just a month after the show was cut Netflix agreed to create a fourth season.


Louis Vuitton Louis Vuitton hire the first black artistic director

Date: 26 March | Type: Press | Conversations: 135,525

Virgil Abloh became Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few black designers at the top of a global fashion brand.


Tesla Tesla autopilot crashes into parked police car

Date: 30 May | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 137,075

The first of four viral moments for Tesla came after one of its cars hit a police car while using autopilot.


Visa Visa network goes down

Date: 1 June | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 139,375

Turns out if people can’t buy things with their bank cards, people get pretty annoyed. Funny that.


IKEA England fans storm IKEA following World Cup win

Date: 7 July | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 140,300


Tesla Elon Musk told to step down as chairman

Date: 30 September | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 140,500

After attempting to take Tesla private, Elon was told to step down as chairman.


T-Mobile T-Mobile Super Bowl Ad

Date: 5 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 143,325

One of the few politically-inspired ads during the Super Bowl actually generated the highest volume of conversations.


Lego Lego build a full-sized, drivable Bugatti

Date: 30 August | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 146,300

Lego’s campaigns are notoriously viral, yet this surpassed its high standards. With almost 150k conversations online and over 10 million video views on Facebook and YouTube, it’s the firm’s biggest campaign of the year.


Adidas Adidas team up with GOT7

Date: 13 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 163,525

Realizing the popularity of K-pop, Adidas paid GOT7 to become Adidas influencers, release a range of clothes and even perform a music video in an Adidas tracksuit. Like with all thing K-pop, the event was instantly propelled into virality.


Adidas Louis Tomlinson tweets about buying Prince Louis an Adidas tracksuit

Date: 27 April | Type: Random | Conversations: 164,050

Us marketers are a hardworking bunch, we slave away for hours working on fluently written content to engage the masses. We dust off the thesaurus, take inspiration from Proust, and craft language that entices the everyday consumer. And then Louis Tomlinson randomly tweets about you generating more engagement than anything else you’ve worked on.


Tesla Elon Musk wants to take Tesla private

Date: 7 August | Type: Press | Conversations: 164,750

King of virality, Elon Musk, publicly discussed taking Tesla private. The misguided tweet eventually cost him $20 million in fines but also created a heap of publicity.


Facebook Facebook hire UK’s former deputy PM Nick Clegg

Date: 19 October | Type: Press | Conversations: 169,450

In a pretty novel move, Facebook turned to politics to hire its head of global affairs and communications team. Sir Clegg’s previous job was as deputy Prime Minister.


Wendy's Wendy’s release a mixtape

Date: 23 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 189,825

Wendy’s not a particularly special company. Its menu is similar to other chains and its service isn’t remarkable. Yet the firm has managed to create probably the world’s most successful social strategy. Everything @Wendys tweets turn to engagement gold, generating the same level of visibility as some firm’s annual ad campaign in less than 240 characters.


Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Hilfiger creates clothing range for those with disabilities

Date: 5 April | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 189,825

These chic designs, originally published on Instagram, generated huge engagement on Twitter.


Samsung Samsung + Fortnite

Date: 9 August | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 199,000

The most popular game of 2018, Fornite, unsurprisingly generated bucket-loads of conversations with its campaigns. The announcement that Samsung would be the first provider to offer access to the Fornite Android app created almost 200k conversations.


American Airlines + United Airlines + Frontier Won't separate migrant children from parents

Date: 20 June | Type: Press | Conversations: 201,825

In one of the most successful press campaigns of the year, three airlines grouped together and said they wouldn’t fly migrant kids separated from their parents at the border. The project went against the “family separation process” implemented by the US government.


Wendy's Roasting McDonald’s on Twitter

Date: 23 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 203,975

Oh, look who it is. The world’s favorite social media manager is back again, this time roasting McDonald’s. Wendy’s don’t freeze their hamburgers. Most firms would stick this on a billboard, or write it on their menu. Wendy’s aren’t most brands. They criticize their competitors, publicly on social, using memes.


Burger King Burger King explain net neutrality with the Whopper

Date: 24 Jan | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 206,075

Many brands steer clear of controversial topics. Even fewer try to educate people on them. Yet, Burger King took the issue of Net Neutrality head-on by creating an entertaining educational video on the topic. The video generated 1.5 million views on Twitter, 4.6 million on YouTube and 15 million on Facebook.


Samsung Launching Galaxy S9

Date: XX25 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 215,325

The first major tech launch of the list sees Samsung launching its new Galaxy S9. The smartly run campaign generated over 200k conversations for the tech company.


NHS Trump attacks the NHS and Britain responds

Date: 5 February | Type: Press | Conversations: 226,500

President Donald Trump claimed the British health care system wasn’t working. Safe to say Brits weren’t happy with his comments.


Tide Tide pod challenge goes viral

Date: 14 January | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 228,225

2018 started off on a bad foot as thousands of adolescent teens decided to encourage friends to eat Tide Pods. Shockingly this awful idea actually caught on with several hundred cases reported. After the meme grew out of control Tide got New England Patriot’s Rob Gronkowski to create a video explaining why people shouldn’t eat Tide Pods. In all, the event was talked about over 220k times.


Nike Nike LDNR campaign

Date: 9 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 235,025

In what’s surely one of the coolest ads of the year, Nike convinced a host of British sporting stars to explain why it’s great to be a Londoner. The ad won a host of awards at Cannes and probably would be placed higher on this list if it wasn’t for the British focus.


KFC KFC takes swipe at McDonald’s with Trump based joke

Date: 3 January | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 252,000

Why do people love brand banter so much?


McDonald's Friends stick a picture of themselves in McDonald’s

Date: 3 September | Type: Random | Conversations: 254,050

This is easily the feel-good moment of the year. Two friends decided that their local McDonald’s would be much better if it contained a candid picture of themselves. It proves that nothing can stand in the way of what your heart truly desires.


Wendy's Roasting IHOP

Date: 11 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 265,025

IHOP decided to sell burgers, and Wendy’s responded in typical Wendy’s fashion.


NASA Super blue blood moon

Date: 31 Januray | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 269,150

In January of this year, part of the world was treated to a rare view. The Earth and sun lined up perfectly, blocking the Sun’s light, casting a reddish hue onto the moon. NASA, who live-streamed the event, explained it as all of the sunrises and sunsets across the world, reflected onto the moon. Pretty cool.


Apple Slows down iPhones

Date: 30 January | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 278,275

Some customers may feel like they’ve known this all along, but Apple revealed in late 2017 that it slowed down iPhones without users’ consent. To quell the complaints from long-time customers Apple offered cheap battery replacements for all customers. The conversation continued into the new year.


Uber Self driving car kills a pedestrian

Date: 19 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 286,700

In March 2018 an experimental Uber vehicle, operating in autonomous mode, struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona—the first fatal accident of its kind.


Nike Nike release Nigeria’s World Cup kit

Date: 1 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 294,575

The amount of times brands go viral by accident is surprisingly high. This list is littered with examples of random moments that have created unbelievable levels of visibility for the brand. For Nike, this happened the day after releasing pictures of Nigeria’s World Cup kit. Considering Nike also released snaps of far more popular teams like England, France, and Brazil, it’s fairly incredible that this topped them all.


Facebook Mark Zuckerberg appears in front of congress

Date: 10 April | Type: Press | Conversations: 309,950

The Facebook CEO was quizzed over how they may or may not have misused data.


Levi's Levi’s announced partnership with K-pop star KAI

Date: 8 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 316,575

If brands want to go viral, the quickest and easiest way to do so is by using a K-pop star. Levi’s did so with KAI and generated over 300k conversations for their brand.


TMZ Kanye West calls slavery a choice

Date: 1 May | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 324,750


Uber Uber applies to patent tech that spots drunk passengers.

Date: 14 June | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 392,475

Nothing is sacred in this fast-paced world, and brands are a click of a journalist’s finger away from a crisis. Uber found this out the hard way when a patent for AI that could detect drunk passengers was picked up by journalists, quickly going viral.


KFC KFC ran out of chicken

Date: 21 February | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 398,925

Imagine an exercise where you and your colleagues brainstorm the worst possible brand crisis. Think Amazon running out of stock, Samsung running out of phones, KFC running out of chicken. Well, you don’t have to imagine the last one anymore.


MTV MTV Video Music Awards

Date: 21 August | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 401,575

Yes, the MTV Video Music Awards still exists, and yes people still seem to love it. Over 400k people discussed this year’s awards, with most conversations centered around Cardi B.


AT&T AT&T pay Michael Cohen $200k

Date: 9 May | Type: Press | Conversations: 429,350

This story had thousands of people talking. Many thought the firm was simply getting consultancy on its acquisition of Time Warner, others assumed they were attempting to bribe Trump, while some linked it to Net Neutrality. All combined, it created one of the most talked about events of the year.


McDonald's McDonald’s flip its logo to celebrate International Women’s Day

Date: 8 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 444,050

Most brands feel a need to associate themselves with annual events. However, very few generate genuine visibility unless they get it wrong. This is what happened in McDonald’s case. Many criticized the fast food firm for a lazy attempt to link themselves with the day.


United Airlines Dog found dead in overhead locker

Date: 14 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 451,025

The most viral moment for an airline this year happened in unfortunate circumstances. United Airlines accepted “full responsibility” for a dog’s in-flight death after a flight attendant put the pet in the overhead locker.


Gucci Harry Styles Gucci ad

Date: 18 September | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 475,200

Just when you thought the world had moved away from One Direction, look who pops up again. This time it’s Harry Styles’s collaboration with Gucci. Almost half a million Directioners chatted about the pics online.


Walmart Raises minimum age to buy guns to 21

Date: 1 March | Type: Press | Conversations: 502,825

The largest retailer in the US raised the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21 after the massacre at a Florida high school. The event happened to be the most talked about Walmart moment of the year, garnering them thousands of positive mentions from gun law critics.


Apple Apple’s WWDC conference

Date: 5 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 508,500

Unsurprisingly, the world’s first trillion dollar company does make an appearance on our list. This came during its June WWDC conference where it announced iOS 12, macOS Mojave and group FaceTime.


Google Google employees walk out, protesting against the firm's culture

Date: 1 November | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 526,750

After the New York Times published an article about Google’s history of harassment, discrimination and support for abusers, thousands of Googlers protested.


Pepsi Halftime show at the Super Bowl

Date: 5 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 555,675

Pepsi will be relieved to see that their $33 million spend at the 2018 Super Bowl didn’t go to waste. The soft drinks producer received 500k conversations following the event, some good, some bad.


Louis Vuitton Louis Vuitton fashion show

Date: 29 May | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 566,650

You may be thinking ‘how did a fashion show create more chatter than the Super Bowl?’ Well, first of all fashion shows are world-renowned and extremely popular. And secondly, K-pop was part of it so obviously it’s more popular the pretty much anything else on the planet.


Unicef BTS army raise money for Unicef

Date: 5 May | Type: Press | Conversations: 576,775

BTS (yep, they’re another K-pop band) actually have a fan base so large that they literally refer to themselves as an army. But, this army isn’t used for brutal destruction toward one nation’s gain. Instead, they tried to raise money for Unicef (pretty cool). In fact, they’ve raised over $1 million with their latest campaign.


Walmart Announces pay rises before cutting jobs unexpectedly

Date: 11 January | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 579,826

The award for the worst executed spin of the year has to go to Walmart. The largest U.S. private employer with more than 1 million workers, said it plans to raise minimum wages from $9 to $11 an hour and hand out employee bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000, only to later announce it was closing 63 stores.


Greenpeace Interaction with David Harbour

Date: 22 January | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 580,150

Another feel-good story came early on in the year. Stranger Things star David Harbour encouraged his fans to give him 200k retweets, so he could join Greenpeace’s expedition. His tweet smashed the target, drawing 376k RTs and he joined the expedition a few months later. The random Twitter joke created incredible awareness for Greenpeace and the issues animals in Antarctica face due to global warming.


Tesla + SpaceX SpaceX take a Tesla Roadster into space

Date: 7 February | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 602,775

2018 saw ad campaigns taken to new heights, literally. Elon Musk’s two enterprises, SpaceX and Tesla, worked together to send the first Tesla to space. The stunt drew millions of viewers, thousands of news articles and over a quarter of a million conversations.


Nintendo Announcing Smash Bros for Nintendo Switch

Date: 9 March | Type: Press | Conversations: 621,025

Gamers are a talkative bunch online. But, Nintendo gamers talk more than the rest. And of all the things those gamers talk about, the most popular topic is Super Smash Bros. When Nintendo announced that Smash Bros would be available for Nintendo Switch, 600k gamers started chatting publically about it online.


BBC BBC presents the Royal Wedding

Date: 14 March | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 715,325

Harry and Meghan’s wedding generated a huge amount of coverage from across the globe. The BBC, being the main broadcaster of the wedding, generated huge amounts of visibility. Over 700k people mentioned the broadcaster during the event.


Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Date: 17 March | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 779,650

The data scandal was a major political event in early 2018 when it was revealed Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes.


Walmart Boy yodels in Walmart

Date: 2 April | Type: Random | Conversations: 871,800

11-year old Mason Ramsey loves a yodel. According to his parents, he’d yodel all around the house and even out and about. One afternoon in Illinois while he’s out shopping with his parents in Walmart, he gets the urge to yodel along to Hank William’s “Lovesick Blues”. Fast forward two months, Mason’s been on the Ellen show, his video has been remixed (and viewed 51 million times), he has signed a record deal and released his first song, all before his 12th birthday.


BBC BTS go on the Graham Norton show

Date: 12 October | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 874,675

Mason’s yodeling is one of the most talked about musical events of the year, but it’s still not K-pop. The largest K-pop band, BTS went on the Graham Norton show in October, generating almost a million conversations for the broadcaster.

“It’s impossible to predict when news will go viral, but hopefully brands can learn from Brandwatch’s epic AI-infused report as to the elements of what might make their campaign a social media sensation. Negative news travels far, but so does good news, such as influencer tie-ups with popular celebrities such as LeBron James, Ariana Grande, and BTS.

Instead of trying to be too creative, brands might want to think about aligning themselves in the marketplace with those that their audience trust. That’s why I continue to be bullish about influencer marketing in 2019 and beyond.”

Neal Schaffer – Author, Educator and Keynote Speaker


Google Google can now make phone calls for you

Date: 8 May | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 887,075

Back in May, Google unveiled artificial intelligence software that books appointments over the phone on behalf of users by conducting voice-based conversations on their behalf. The event drew the attention of millions, with 880,000 talking about it online.


IHOP Changes name to IHOB

Date: 12 June | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 948,750

IHOP’s name change campaign should be recognized as one of the greatest brand awareness campaigns of all time. The firm was introducing something pretty simple (a range of burgers), yet the virality they generated was greater than any other fast food joint. They generated more conversation McDonald’s, Burger King and even kings of social media Wendy’s with a simple trick that captured the world’s attention.

Oh, and don’t forget the campaign quadrupled its sales. Major kudos IHOP.


Coca-Cola Coca-Cola pick BTS as its Fifa World Cup spokesmen

Date: 30 April | Type: Press | Conversations: 1,005,475

The folks at Coca-Cola are a clever bunch. They really understand what it takes to go viral. They know how large events draw in attention, and they know which influencers open them up to more markets. So, last summer, they used the largest event sporting event of the year to announce their partnership with (you guessed it) K-pop legends, BTS. The announcement generated over 1 million conversations.


Gucci K-pop sends fashion show viral

Date: 31 May | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 1,279,825

If you learn just one thing from this report, I hope it’s to never underestimate the power of K-pop again. These guys are huge. Kai, a member of K-pop group Exo, appeared at a Gucci fashion show. As you can expect, it went viral.


H&M H&M stores in South Africa ransacked over racist hoodie

Date: 9 January | Type: Crisis | Conversations: 1,376,500

The largest brand crisis of the year (according to volumes of conversation) was H&M and a hoodie it produced in January. The hoodie pictured a young black child wearing a sweatshirt with the words ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ printed on it. It outraged thousands of customers. Over 1.3 million complained about it online, eBay banned the hoodie and several H&M shops across South Africa were ransacked.

“Little posts with huge and sudden reach. Small moments captured then critiqued by thousands. It’s all here on display. Brands holding on to what they can control and holding their breath when things explode.

There is a lot to learn from the winners on this list, but maybe the more important lesson is to have a crisis plan in place.”

Andy Crestodina – Co-Founder / Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media


Apple Apple announce the iPhone XS

Date: 12 September | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 1,475,600

Apple isn’t the world’s first trillion dollar company for no reason. The team there are experts at creating unprecedented interest in their product. Some claim it’s down to its luxury products, others say it’s due to its compelling keynotes. Whatever it is, it works. Almost 1.5 million talked about their flagship event this year, making it the biggest product launch of the year.


Sotheby’s Banksy shreds £1m painting

Date: 8 October | Type: Random | Conversations: 1,578,325

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge – Picasso”.

That’s what Banksy said after shredding one of his best-known works. The piece, which sold for £1.042m, generated huge volumes of conversation online. Banky’s own Instagram account generated 1.1m likes and the video has been viewed over 100 million times online. Some wonder whether Sotheby’s were in on the act. If they were, it has to go down as one of the best-planned campaigns of all-time.


Unicef BTS present at UN General Assembly

Date: 24 September | Type: Press | Conversations: 2,629,575

K-pop’s most viral branded moment of 2018 comes in at second place. The band BTS teamed up with Unicef over the summer and generated over 2.6 million conversations for the charity after they presented at the UN General Assembly.


Nike Kaepernick ‘Believe in Something’ advert

Date: 4 September | Type: Campaign | Conversations: 8,249,450

By far and away the most talked about campaign of 2018 was Nike’s Kaepernick advert. The ad generated 8.2 million conversations online. Not all of the conversation was positive, with thousands of abuse directed at the brand for supporting the athlete.

In 2016, the football star refused to stand for the US national anthem in protest at police brutality and racism. The US president called players who “disrespect” the US flag “sons of bitches” and called for them to be sacked. Several thousands of people shared Trump’s sentiment, burning and destroying Nike goods in protest of the ad. But, the largest campaign of the year ultimately proved fruitful for Nike with sales growing by 31%.

Expert Conclusions

“A good proportion of the brand virality events were caused by colossal screw-ups.

If all publicity is good publicity, this is surely the shortest way to brand awareness.

If not… ouch.” +++ “There seems to be a new opportunity for brands to be brave. To stand up for their convictions even though it will alienate a big chunk of potential customers. Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad, Bank of America stopping lending to gun manufacturers, and MetLife cutting ties with the NRA are just three examples.”

Doug Kessler – Creative Director & Co-founder at Velocity

“In sales and marketing today, we need access to data and fast. Gone are the days where we can use guesswork; we are just too human to sift through the quantities of data.

Brandwatch Iris allows you to access and analyze big chunks of data faster, allowing you to draw more accurate conclusions”

Tim Hughes – CEO & Co-Founder of Digital Leadership Associates 

“The first takeaway I had from reviewing the results was that any notion that good, old-fashioned public relations are dead or dying just flew right out the window! How many of these are PR crises your brand would need a seasoned PR pro to handle? How many are also PR outreach to get creative concepts in front of influencers or media so they do get coverage?

While certainly creative community management and content like Wendy’s and creative campaigns like IHOP rank well, PR is alive and well in marketing today.”

Jason FallsDigital Lead at Team Cornett and Influencer for IBM Watson

“With the birth of Iris, the question will no longer be ‘did it go viral’, but, ‘how viral did it go.’ This is the kind of innovation that literally rewrites everything we know about mining the internet for important insights”

Dennis Wakabayashi – V.P. Digital and Commerce Integration at The Integer Group



In this report, we analyzed the 101 biggest brand events of the year using the world’s leading social listening platform, Brandwatch Analytics. Specifically, we used Iris, our AI-analyst, to look through one billion conversations about brands and determine the 101 biggest events of the year. Iris only looked at conversations where brand names were mentioned. In order to achieve this Iris analyzed a 10% sample of conversation from across the web. In total, Iris collected and analyzed conversations from 95 million sites.

Brandwatch Analysis

Gender, Interests & Profession: Gender, Interests, & Profession are evaluated learning user account or profile information as well as machine-learning techniques.

Rules & Categories: Brandwatch’s rules, which rely on Boolean logic, allow users to separate specific conversations into specific categories. Rules can be understood as “queries within queries.”

Emoji Detection: Brandwatch can pick up usage of emoji published by any operating system.

Sampling: A statistically accurate 10% sample was used to collect the data. This sample was extrapolated by 10x in the report to give an accurate estimate of what the full coverage would be.

Brand selection

The report analyzed 500 brands in total. The 500 brands were selected through two processes. First, we examined revenue and output lists, industry literature, and social data to compile a list, then we cross-referenced with well-known brand ranks like the Fortune 500, the Interbrand Best Global Brands, and the Social Outlook Report.


Iris is a smarter and faster way to discover insights from Brandwatch. It automatically analyzes peaks in your dataset and explains what caused conversation to grow. Here’s how Iris works:

1. Detection Iris starts by analyzing your data for significant peaks. It does this by calculating the daily median and then checks if any peaks are significantly higher than that median.

2. Analysis After detecting the peaks, Iris automatically searches for drivers causing the peak. Iris looks for:

  • Tweets with a significant volume of retweets
  • Facebook threads with a high volume of comments
  • Hashtags used significantly more than usual
  • Link shared significantly more than usual in tweets
  • Videos mentioned significantly more than usual
  • News articles mentioned significantly more than usual

Once Iris detects a high volume tweet, thread, hashtag etc., it will instantly compare the peak to 20 days of historical data. This comparison allows Iris to determine if the mention is significant.

For example, if a news article receives 200 shares during the peak, but an average of only 5 shares historically, Iris will recognize it as significant.

3. Display After calculating the most significant drivers, Iris will present them in the sidebar of your chart.

Peaks are labeled A, B, C and so on, based on their significance. The peak labeled ‘A’ will be the peak with the largest deviation from the daily median. The sidebar will contain up to six different drivers.

Falcon.io is now part of Brandwatch.
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Brandwatch acquired Paladin in March 2022. It's now called Influence, which is part of Brandwatch's Social Media Management solution.Want to access your Paladin account?Use the login menu at the top right corner.