5 Greatest Viral Emails Of All Time

We had a lot of positive reaction to our recent post looking at whether emails still go viral.

In it, Tink suggested that email should be seen as one of the most important tactics for viral marketing.

To help prove the point, I’ve pulled out some of the best examples of email kick-starting epidemic reach (either intentionally or unintentionally).

We canvassed the dotdigital marketing consultants and pulled together five of the most popular viral emails we’ve seen:

1. City boy rules

What: when a group of ex-public schoolboys were planning a trip to the Dubai 7s rugby tournament, their email list of ‘rules’ leaked and became an internet sensation.

The rules included “cheating is allowed” and “chants proclaiming how rich we are”. Classy.

Why it went viral: this email reinforced the public schoolboy stereotype. They’d say it allowed normal people to pick fun at those wealthier than them. But it was also the shocking arrogance in the email that encouraged it to be passed around…”The rumours are true! Imagine living life like that!”

2. Where’s my ham sandwich?

What: When an Australian secretary sent an all company email about a missing ham sandwich, the email exchange got heated and, inevitably, found it’s way outside the company firewall.

Why it went viral: This email was so ridiculous and over the top that it becomes immediately hilarious and makes it easy to share, because by sharing, you’re doing the recipient a favour. Content marketers, sound familiar?

3. The mother-in-law showdown

What: When a London PA was sent an email from her soon-to-be mother-in-law castigating her manners, a quick forward to a couple of friends got out of control and viral mayhem ensued. The email was pretty brutal: “It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.”

Why it went viral: Again, as with the rugby example, this email brought to life a stereotype that many of us *ahem* will have experienced, in a very colourful way.

4. The ‘hot’ ex-girlfriend

What: Back to ‘city boys’ and, when asking for permission to go out with his friend’s ex-girlfriend, an unlucky lad copied in the poor girl by accident. Let’s just say the email conversation wasn’t entirely flattering and it was soon being passed around like a hot potato.

Why it went viral: Outrage, surprise and…errr, empathy are probably all emotions that caused recipients to read the email and share with friends.

5. The Virgin complaint: “Look at it Richard. Just look at it”

What: When a London advertising exec returned from a less than satisfactory trip on a Virgin Atlantic flight, he put fingers to keyboard and wrote a scathing email to Virgin boss Richard Branson. The email went viral and the lucky chap received a personal call from the business supremo himself. A happy ending for the story’s hero and some nice PR for Virgin too.

Why it went viral: The email is brilliantly put together and the combination of ‘we’ve all been there’ and with the hilarious execution means this was a message just too brilliant not to forward on. In fact, it was Virgin’s excellent response which helped it go even further.

What can we learn?

So what do all of these emails have in common? Well, most of these emails bring everyday experiences and issues that we have all encountered to life in a very colorful way. By taking these situations to ridiculous levels or by adding in a healthy dollop of humour, the messages all make it irresistible to share the disbelief or hilarity with others.

Many of these will have been shared on social networks too, but there is something so effortless about simply forwarding an email that we can certainly conclude that the use of email was crucial to their viral success. So next time you’re planning a ‘viral’ campaign. Don’t neglect this tried-and-tested method – with an integrated campaign designed for both channels, you can get the power of email and social media to really maximise your reach more than ever before.

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