Viral videos are a fantastic tool to promote products and services, except it’s difficult to predict which ones will truly go viral and which ones will only enjoy a short-lived period of fame and then die in the clutter of the Internet.
Furthermore, with various platforms and software tools available for free or a modest monthly subscription, everyone with a bit of experience in video-production can post a video. This makes the competition even more fierce, especially when you know ‘masterpieces’ like Charlie bit my finger managed to gather over 15 million views.
The Main Elements of a Viral Video
So, what elements make a video go viral and is it really worth it to invest time and money in such a marketing technique?
Strong Emotional Response
As it turns out, people react to videos (and memes) that create a strong emotional response (love, hate, disgust, etc.). So, a video like ‘Charlie bit my finger’ left viewers in awe of the two cute babies, which is why a homemade video broke the Internet. Not to mention, it’s exceptionally funny and can make you laugh regardless of how bad your day’s been. It’s just like cat videos and memes – everyone loves babies and cats!
But a similar effect was obtained by a professional video created for a marketing campaign: the Purple mattress video. The idea of Goldilocks telling the story of looking for the perfect mattress with a modern flair is hilarious and informative, which is part of why the video gathered over 166 million views in just two short years. Of course, the company also pushed the video paying for various ads, but overall, this is a great example of a commercial video that went viral.
Now, other videos have gone viral because viewers were absolutely disgusted by it (I won’t link to the one I have in mind, but I’m sure you’ve already thought of a few contenders) or they were just simply annoyed. While this is not a great way to promote something, it still has a chance of going viral.
The Power of the Message
When you create a video that promotes a product or service, and you want it to go viral, you should craft a message that’s powerful for your target audience.
A fantastic example of such video is Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches. The messages it transmits are about natural beauty and self worth; it’s about the way women perceive themselves versus how they’re seen by others. The video touches on deep, humane emotions and creates a positive message, which is why it gathered over 68 million YouTube views in 3 years.
If we look at the Purple video, it’s also sending a strong message, just in a different vein. It shows the perfect sleep product does exist and it’s not out of anyone’s reach. It’s just a well-designed product that does what it promises (see the ratings here if you’re not convinced). Purple bet on simplicity and a fun presentation, and they won the bet!
Easy to Replicate
An idea goes viral when it’s easy to replicate and apply in real life. Here are some internet phenomena that shook the world to its core:
- Harlem Shake – While short-lived the Harlem Shake phenomenon created over 40,000 videos in just the first 11 days after it became wildly popular and it lingers in the mind even after a few years.
- Gangnam Style – The video released by PSY took the world by surprise because the dance was entertaining and extremely easy to replicate.
- #DancePonyDance – Cats and dogs may be cute, but Budweiser’s SuperBowl ad featured a dancing pony and it went crazy viral! The ad touches viewers right in the heart, creating feelings of joy and warmth, which is why it gathered over 13 million views on YouTube and inspired a new hashtag.
The secret to viral videos is a formula based on emotions, simplicity, natural communication, and humor. If you manage to gather all these in an ad, you may be the next thing to break the Internet. Just keep in mind that fame online can be short-lived.