The Webster’s dictionary definition of “viral” reads: spreading very quickly to many people, especially through the Internet. Companies are constantly posting new campaigns hoping to become the next viral sensation; however, not many achieve this level. So what makes something go viral? We have already explained how “going viral” should not be the goal of your campaign; but let’s admit, we all want to know, what’s the secret sauce?
Like any good recipe, the first step is to try a lot of flavors. So let’s look at some of the (IMHO) best viral campaigns of the last decade.
Let’s begin with one of my personal favorites: The Old Spice Man
Never before have I laughed so much at a man trying to convince me to be interested in what he is doing (or holding.) But the Old Spice Man did it and did it well. So well, that I looked forward to the next commercial release. Eventually they changed the man and the same formula over and over got a little old but the original was the bases for this lovely Sesame Street spoof. #WorthIt.
Next up: Poo-Pourri Toilet Spray
This is a product that touches on a very sensitive (dare I say, taboo?) subject, but the storyline does an amazing job of keeping things light and entertaining enough that you keep listening.
Volvo Trucks: Jean-Claude Van Damme “Epic Split”
Let me start by saying that I am not including this one simply because I was obsessed with JCVD for many years. Whether it was to ask if it was real, or fake, this video made the rounds online. From how to’s to Chuck Norris Spoofs this campaign put Volvo trucks in the mouths (and feeds) of people who would otherwise have no interest in the brand.
Dove Real Beauty Sketches
Women are often bombarded with unrealistic images of what beauty standards we are supposed to represent. Everyone knows this affects our internal dialogue and Dove decided to put these images to the test – literally. Utilizing the talents of an “FBI-trained forensic artist” they asked women to describe how themselves. While the concept sounds simple, the impact of watching how women truly see themselves on actual paper is pretty startling. The best part is that they didn’t use simple mirrors for comparison but separate sketches as described by random strangers.
Red Bull Space Jump
When Felix Baumgartner took his step to jump out of the Red Bull Stratos millions of people were watching. The live feed of the record-breaking jump was both televised and streamed online, and the following day the video was shared just as if nobody had watched. As he spirals down from a black sky speeding closer towards an open landscape for roughly 10 minutes, we cannot help but shift uncomfortably in our seats hoping that he makes it safely to the ground.
Now that we have our samples we can begin to examine the similarities between them.
One theme that was consistent across all of them is an emotion; whether the humor of a man riding a horse through many different landscapes or the awe of seeing men risk their lives between two trucks or jumping into empty space there was an emotional response caused in our collective minds. And who has not felt embarrassment from having to go #2 at a friend’s party?
This kind of emotional marketing is something we have only recently begun to understand more deeply. By evoking emotional responses from a target audience, we are seeing that they are more likely to feel connected with the products or services that are being provided. A connection makes them more likely to choose the related brand.
A connection allows for audiences to go a step further and begin to see themselves are part of the ads. Whether we are wondering if it was real or “what would my sketch look like?” the video motivated us to take a second to ponder additional paths that went beyond the content being presented. It made a connection with our subconscious mind without us even realizing it.
Because we are now part of the ad on an extended level we also begin to feel a connection with the person who first shared it with us and also with those who might enjoy it as much as us and who would want to share it themselves.
If figuring out a way to create an emotional response while also making the viewer access their sense of wonder sounds like a tall order then you are not alone. It takes many tries, and probably just as many failures, to accurately predict how your campaigns might be received. And even then, audiences have a way of surprising you where you might have expected. This is why you should have a team of experts on your side to research and evaluate the more important parts of your campaign. Having something go viral is just the cherry on top of reaching your marketing goals and having an inbound marketing marketing agency can help with the latter.