When one hears the term describing a marketing initiative as “going viral,” he or she may think of the soaring popularity of a video being shared at lighting speed across the Internet and social media platforms. To an extent, this is true, but there are more elements that can contribute to a marketing initiative “going viral.” Most marketers would be thrilled at the thought of something they created going viral, but not all videos will be viral. Aspects such as skill, anticipating how most audiences will perceive the message, introducing the campaign at the right time to the right users, and connecting with those users all play a part in the success (or failure) of a campaign and whether it can eventually be “viral.” According to Mashable, a viral video is “a video that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media, and email.” More marketers are using video as part of their campaigns because it has the potential to create a lasting impression with viewers and it is easy for them to share with others via email, Internet, social media, and mobile platforms.
The first characteristic of a viral campaign is inspire. Does the video inspire others? Does it strike a chord within the viewer to make them feel an emotional connection? Does it create a sense of personal identity between the viewer and the brand or message featured in the video? One example of the inspire characteristic is the Dove Choose Beautiful campaign, which empowers women to feel beautiful about themselves. In this video, there are two doors to enter at stations in Sao Paolo, Delhi, Shanghai, San Francisco, and London. One door shows an “Average” sign above it, while the other one shows a “Beautiful” sign above. The message that Dove demonstrates in this video is it lets those who walk up and have to choose which doorway in which to enter determine how they see themselves versus how the rest of the world sees that individual. One touching scene in the video is when a mother and daughter are choosing which doorway to enter. The daughter chooses the “Average” entrance and the mother pulls her to the other side where they both walk through the “Beautiful” entrance. This video currently has over 4.4 million views since its initial launch 4/7/2015.
Another characteristic is humor. When a company can create a video with humor, viewers are presented with a more lighthearted approach that can help them to more openly perceive the brand, and make them laugh. In the Evian Roller Blades International video, babies on roller blades are smiling, having fun, and dancing to rap music. Most viewers would laugh at this video because of the baby’s facial expressions and the fact that babies cannot really dance like this! It is funny to watch. Evian’s message is to “live young,” and they show a few subtle mentions of the product being naturally pure and mineral-based, which is beneficial for supporting a body’s youth. With nearly 80 million views, it is safe to say this campaign achieved ‘viral” status.
One characteristic that viral campaigns can possess is having a high level of fun and energy. T-Mobile launched their campaign, “Life’s for Sharing, in 2009. As part of this launch, T-Mobile created a video featuring 300 dancers whose mission was to spark a reaction with the crowd to join in and dance, then share this experience with others. The video shows a scene at UK’s Liverpool Street Station during rush hour. People were starting their day commutes when music starts playing and the dancing begins. This is an excellent example of the flash mob dance movement. It was unexpected, totally spontaneous, fun, and high energy. For onlookers to enjoy the brief time of dancing like no one is watching, it turned their day from being just another day to lifting their spirits. For T-Mobile, this video increased brand awareness and sales, and has been viewed over 39.9 million times on YouTube.
A viral video can also have a characteristic of informing users about a company’s mission or initiative, which can provoke an emotional response, resulting in a call to action. Chipotle created “The Scarecrow” video, which coincided with their app-based game. The video served a dual purpose, which was for the user to download the game, but also promoted wholesome, sustainable food. The video showed the darker side of how some large food corporations use chemicals and unnatural products in their food production. For some viewers, this video sparked an emotional response because they were shocked at the inhumane treatment of animals, or they realized what all goes into the foods they have been eating. It also sparked controversy and backlash from some of the corporations being targeted in this video. Chipotle’s video has generated over 14 million views.
Being memorable is another characteristic of a viral campaign. Some videos are able to leave a lasting impression with viewers for years to come. These types of videos can be seeing the experience through the person who is actually in it. One example is this video showing a fireman wearing the GoPro camera on his head entering a burning house. As he makes his journey through the house, he discovers an unconscious kitten. As the viewer is taken the experience, he or she feels as if they are there. The fireman is able to bring the kitten back to life. Later, the ending was sad because the kitten had endured lung damage from the fire and died. The video itself showed there is still some humanity left in the world and was very powerful. Any person who watches the video will feel a sense of emotion and it will be one not soon forgotten. For GoPro, it showed what their product can do and how it can impact lives. This video has been seen on YouTube more than 26.3 million times.
From the presented videos, one can see there is no set formula for making videos “go viral.” It is up to marketers to find the most effective way to present their campaigns to viewers. The campaign’s tone can resonate with viewers. With any video, it does not have to be a lengthy production, but it does need to be compelling enough to capture the viewer’s interest to draw them in, making them want to watch it, then share with others. People often love to share videos, which makes it a powerful medium in reaching large numbers of users.