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How to Make Your Content Go Viral

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In Market Like You Mean It, marketing expert Al Lautenslager explains how you can engage your customers, create brand believers and gain fans for everything you sell. In this edited excerpt, the author discusses the amazing popularity of the uncommon videos a company produced of its very common product.

What makes you share something with someone else? Usually it's something that was interesting, outrageous, hilarious, cool or unusual, or perhaps it was an idea that helped you in some way, saved you money or saved you time.

What really made you share, however, was a desire to have someone else feel like you did when you discovered whatever it was you wanted to share. Human nature causes us all to want others to feel like us. Products and services that connect with us on an emotional level are the ones that get shared the most. As Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger puts it, "It's about the connection you build with your end user psychologically, functionally, personally and emotionally."

Related: Why Your Content Isn't Going Viral (Infographic)

Any product or service can be emotional. Take, for example, one of the most ordinary products sold in the kitchenware section of every department store: the blender. One company's videos of their blender in action have become viral and so talked about that chances are good, you've most likely seen one. The marketing lesson here could just be a classic -- it's proof positive that any product can be remarkable and emotional.

Here's the story: Blendtec is a company that produces commercial blending machines for use in homes, restaurants, smoothie shops, coffee shops and more. The product became popular in a huge way just as the smoothie craze began. It was truly the sharing of videos of this product in action that rocketed the company to stardom. The "Will It Blend?" video phenomenon started when CEO Tom Dickson began testing the power and durability of the drive components in the company's home blenders. With no budget and a video camera in hand, Dickson recorded demonstrations showing the blender blending the unexpected (like an iPhone) and then put them on YouTube. The videos exploded in popularity almost overnight. Within the first five days, the videos were viewed more than six million times. To date, the blending videos have been viewed more than 100 million times.

Viewing videos is one thing, but what about people being motivated to take action as a result? Five years after the videos hit, retail sales have increased by more than 700 percent. Telling someone the blender was powerful was one thing, but seeing it blend almost anything for real was what led to the product's explosion. It truly was remarkable--the factor that gets products and services talked about most.

Here are a few more reasons people talked about the Blendtec videos:

  • There were no limits imposed. This implies a tremendous guarantee of performance, a primary characteristic of a remarkable product.
  • The story is easy to find and share. Blendtec engages with its community on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and its blog and website.
  • What's being shown is unique and outrageous. Add these components to a little humor, and people will talk.
  • The product stands up to the test. Marketing a bad product always ends up a disaster. Marketing--especially in an outrageous fashion--a remarkable product ends up a resounding success.

Social sharing can exert tremendous influence, and thanks to technology, it's more popular than ever. It's now about technical amplification connecting humans to humans.

Related: How These 10 Marketing Campaigns Became Viral Hits 

People love to pass along anything that helps others avoid pain, sleep at night or motivates them to go the extra mile. One of the immediate emotional connections that happened with the Blendtec blender demo was that the brand was humanized. Humanizing in marketing creates a connection on an emotional level. People do business with people, not icons, logos or business names. Seeing that the people behind a company are real and "just like us" gives the company the human voice and face needed to forge an emotional connection. In the Blendtec videos, the CEO engages, uses humor and is simply a real person.

Emotions should follow the marketing messaging. That means not holding back, talking about true feelings, not sugarcoating the negative, and not just showcasing the positive. The phrase "keep it real" is a good barometer of the emotional connection you're trying to strike in your own marketing messaging. The humans involved in the humanizing should not sound like marketers at all. A customer should almost be able to forget that she's being marketed to when viewing a video, ad or other content.

Related: Why TD Bank's Emotional 'Thank You' Video Is Marketing Magic

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