Is it possible to plan for and create a viral video, or does a video go viral spontaneously? Yes to both! Because the fact is, many user-generated videos are uploaded to YouTube and go viral thanks to the power of social media.
Brands should take note. They can leverage this same word-of-mouth marketing for their own video campaigns and plan for a viral event.
Sounds great, right? But, how do you do it?
HubSpot says that adding an element of humor, surprise or irony to a video greatly helps its viral potential. It also helps if your video evokes a positive emotion and shares either practical pieces of information or a good story.
To demonstrate the key elements of a viral video, here are three of the most popular video campaigns of all time.
Orabrush: Humor generates sales
Brands that use humor well are often rewarded with an increase in sales. This is because humor attracts attention, creates a positive sentiment and makes it easy to forget that we viewers are being marketed to.
However, while funny videos have great viral potential, going viral doesn’t always equate to sales.
Inc. reported on two cases illustrating the effects of funny videos put out by brands. In one instance, a startup called Orabrush created a funny promotional video about combatting bad breath. The result? There were 15 million video views and over 10,000 products sold during the first few weeks after the companpublished the video! Today, that video has attracted over 26 million views and Orabrush is a leading oral care brand.
In the second case, a company called EZ Grill quickly reached over 1 million views with its funny video in which it grilled up different brands of mobile phones. Unfortunately, the video didn’t translate into any meaningful sales.
Why did one funny video generate lots of new sales while the other video fizzled out?
The successful Orabrush video focused on the benefits of its core product in a funny way. While you’re laughing, you’re also thinking about your experience with bad breath (whether it's your own or someone else’s) and how to combat it.
The EZ Grill video failed in this respect. While the video was entertaining, it didn’t show any of the benefits of the grill itself. Rather, the focus was on which phone could withstand the heat of the grill best.
The lesson? When brainstorming for your own funny video, be sure to keep your product front and center the way Orabrush did.
Always: Evoking emotion generates ROI
Humor isn’t the only emotion that has the potential to take a video viral. The brand Always proved this with its Like a Girl video campaign.
According to Ad Age, “Like a Girl takes issue with generations of playground taunts about running, throwing or fighting "like a girl," asking, "When did doing something like a girl become an insult?’”\
Always didn’t decide on this viral video topic randomly. There is plenty of research that shows that a girl’s confidence goes into a downward spiral when she reaches puberty. According to the Institute for PR, “At this sensitive time, harmful phrases such as doing something ‘like a girl’ casts doubt on how powerful a girl can be, and can affect her for a lifetime.”
While the Always brand has long focused on confidence in one way or another, it’s never focused on empowerment. Previous ad campaigns highlighted the confidence a woman feels when she’s wearing an Always product, because of its superior performance.
With its Like a Girl campaign, the brand made a major communications shift in deciding to focus on the confidence and empowerment of the wearer instead of the product. And the brand won big because of it.
Its Like a Girl video was a smash success, achieving 76 million global views on YouTube, 4.5 billion impressions around the world and 290 million social media impressions in the United States alone. It also increased the brand's Twitter followers by 195.3 percent.
While Always hasn’t shared any sales numbers, it’s safe to say that this video generated an ROI for the company. After the initial rollout of the campaign, Always went on to purchase expensive ad space during the Super Bowl to run the video. That should tell you all you need to know about this video's ability to have produced a return.
Ken Wheaton from Ad Age said that the video was smartly targeted by focusing on young girls because “Always would like to reach young women having their first period and/or their moms -- especially since the first brand settled upon in this category tends to be the last brand settled upon. A message such as this is appealing to both mom and daughter -- and probably dad as well.
"And it’s squarely on brand. Let’s be crystal clear here. Whatever Like a Girl is, it’s a sales pitch . . . This touching, emotional, extremely viral campaign’s main reason for being is to sell more panty liners. That’s it’s job.”
The lesson? When creating your own viral video, be sure to focus on your target audience members and consider how to evoke a specific positive emotion from them.
GoPro: User-generated content takes flight
GoPro proved that the best video content isn’t always produced by a leading team of ad agency execs. The proof? The brand's video Fireman Saves Kitten.
Back in 2013, a firefighter named Cory Kalanick was wearing a GoPro on his helmet when he rescued and revived an unconscious kitten. Kalanick then uploaded the video to YouTube, where it went on to generate 1.5 million views in just a few weeks.
GoPro took notice of the viral potential for Kalanick's video and obtained the rights, Later in the year, it recut the video, added its logo and released the video on its own YouTube channel, where it achieved five million views in just one week!
Clearly, it’s impossible to plan a campaign around user-generated content as you’ll never know when an opportunity like this one will arise. However, staying aware of the many ways your products are being used, and being ready to jump on an opportunity like this is something you can do, starting today.
The lesson? Set up Google Alerts as well as social media alerts for your brand name. Also, track branded hashtags so that you know when people are posting about your company and products. Keep one eye open at all times to look for your big Firefighter Saves Kitten type of opportunity!
While it wouldn’t be wise to sit around waiting for a great piece of user-generated content to come your way, there are things you can do today to create your own video that has viral potential.
Related: How to Make Your Content Go Viral
Your goal should be to come up with a good catch, something that will make people pause, watch and feel something. They might laugh or they might be brought to tears. Either way, if your video can evoke a positive emotion that can be tied back to your brand, you’re on the right path.