The keys to creating a viral video
When the boss asks you how to create a viral video to boost word of mouth, you should start by saying that the chances of success are basically close to zero. The probability of success depends entirely on the type of decision-making process and internal brand culture, as well as the coherence and expression of the brand’s values via the video. When dissecting successful branded viral videos, there are some key learnings that seem to come out. I thought I would take, for example, the 2011 “Beyond the Cover” video from Dermablend (owned by L’Oreal). Created by the talented Tuxedo Agency in Montreal (listen here to the interview of Dominique Tremblay), the video has had over 21 million views to-date (with 7.6 million for the behind the scenes/making of). I’ve seen it many times and still get a kick out of it. One thing that they nailed was the title: Beyond the Cover. It’s fabulous because it sets you up from the start for some storytelling. And, there’s a clever double entendre in the word cover.
Here are the keys to success of this video:
- Novelty – Discovery (reveal) of the individual behind the tattoos, Rick Genest aka Zombie Boy. Just like the Red Bull Stratos Jump, it’s not possible to do it twice.
- Delight – There is an element of enjoyment via surprise, suspense, rhythm that keeps you glued until the end.
- Music – Don’t under-invest in music. The music, “There Is Hope” by Zoo Brazil, is hypnotic.
- Eyes – Check out the steady eye contact (you can also experience Samsung’s* Unleash your Fingers video)
- Subtle branding – Discretion can be the better part of valor. Anything more and it can come off as too commercial.
Tapping into the emotion
What makes these videos eminently shareable is that the viewer experiences an emotion such that he/she would likely want to look it again themselves… And, equally, they would be keen to share the enjoyment with their circle. In the key points I raise above, the first four about explicit inclusions into the video. The last one is more about a mistake to be avoided: overcoming the need to broadcast, typically prevalent in 1.0 management mindsets.
Content, storytelling and management mindset
When considering how to create a viral video, the real challenge is finding a content that will appeal to the audience in a legitimate way that taps into the viewer’s emotions. Many brands make the mistake of making the product the hero of the story line. The other factors that contribute to success include the distribution mechanics and the long tail (and therefore a healthy dose of patience). One key point here is to figure out how to seed the video — in influential hands, whether they are bloggers or mainstream media. The video becomes the product the brand is pushing. Is there exclusive content, behind the scenes or need to know information that can be used to create additional value to the early adopters?
Meanwhile, it seems that the best research also indicates that a healthy dose of luck is involved. If you are in brand marketing, I don’t think that the viral video is an objective in itself. The key is finding the brand’s voice and editorial line. Once that has been crystallized, the next consideration is the brand’s culture and, specifically, its management culture. To what extent is risk and failure tolerable?
So, when your boss asks you to create a viral video, be well aware of your context before taking on the challenge.
*Disclosure: I worked for Samsung last year, helping to roll out their Digital Marketing Seminar.