What makes a Brand Film go Viral?

by Josh Biggs in Marketing on 1st May 2019

The holy grail of content marketing is a brand video that catches the imagination of the public and, as a result, goes viral. Everyone has seen numerous examples of such videos doing the rounds on social media, being shared by huge numbers of people all indirectly helping to promote that brand.

This content-sharing culture creates a great marketing opportunity for brands. A promotional video that gains millions of views and is shared tens of thousands of times can help establish a new brand or significantly enhance the status of an existing one. But riding this modern wave of mass content sharing by creating shareable content that also promotes your brand is not as easy as some viral videos make it look.

For every successful brand video that goes viral, there are countless others that barely register. These failed attempts at viral videos are unsympathetically referred to as ‘orphan video content’ and the internet is awash with them (although you probably haven’t noticed).

Creating a Viral Brand Film

Many successful brand videos are the result of various elements coming together in just the right way. Some of these elements are completely out of the control of the content creators and there’s certainly a bit of luck involved.

Some content simply piques the public’s interest in a way unimaginable prior to its creation, with the bizarre comedy song ‘Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen’ immediately springing to mind as a good example. Just one of that song’s YouTube uploads has over 250 million views, another is not far away from a hundred million, and that’s before counting all the other platforms it appears on as well as all the copyright-infringing uploads that also have several million views.

Also factor in all the reviews and reaction videos as well all the hundreds and maybe thousands of parodies and remixes. The incredible viral success of such a silly, silly song is an excellent lesson in understanding that there is an unknowable x-factor when it comes to viral video success.

But there are also many similar factors prevalent among successful viral videos that can be identified and recreated when making your own video content. Implementing these factors in the creation of your brand marketing video is the only realistic way you can give it the very best chance of going viral.

Below we look at some of the main themes and features commonly found in brand videos that successfully go viral.

Brand Association with Inspirational Themes

All brand related viral content will be videos that are intended to promote a wider brand awareness rather than directly promote a product or service. Focusing on brand awareness in this way opens up a much broader spectrum of themes and subject matter for your content. The golden rule here is that the less you sell, the more likely your content will be shared.

In basic terms, you are simply trying to create enjoyable, shareable content that you want associated with your brand, regardless of whether or not your actual products or services are even shown within the video. This means the video itself could have little to do with the products or services you sell, with your business only tenuously linked to the content of the video. Sportswear giants Nike and Reebok are masters of this kind of viral content.

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign starring American football player and police brutality protestor Colin Kaepernick has absolutely nothing to do with sportswear. The few Nike products that actually appear in the video take a backseat to the people wearing them and the stories being told by the images. Kaepernick himself isn’t wearing any Nike products at all.

The Nike brand isn’t hawking its wares here, just simply associating itself with the theme of chasing your dreams, as well as the stand (and sacrifice to his career) that Kaepernick took with his dignified ‘take a knee’ protest during the traditional playing of the national anthem before American football games. The controversy caused by Nike’s support of Kaepernick’s stance only served to promote their brand even more.

Reebok’s ‘25,915 Days’ video as part of their ‘Be More Human’ campaign was another high quality production that didn’t push any particular products but merely associated the brand with the theme of making the most out of every day in your life. Simple, yet virally effective thanks to its inspirational message.

Obviously, these two brands have massive followings already and millions of people even look forward to their advertising campaigns. However, the same technique can be applied by lesser known brands too.

Few people in English-speaking countries had heard of Thailand-based mobile communication provider TrueMoveH before their video about the value of giving went viral. Their advert only features the brief appearance of their logo at the very end of the three-minute short film, yet the video has been viewed over 37 million times on YouTube alone.

Similar heartstring-strumming videos have become something of a viral video sensation in recent years, but such short films designed to evoke an emotional connection are not always suitable or even possible with certain brands.

Use Humour to Go Viral

Whether or not humour suits your brand is a question that should be tackled pretty early on in your marketing strategy process, but if associating your brand with inspirational messages doesn’t fit, then perhaps a more light-hearted approach is exactly what your brand needs.

One of the best examples of using humour to promote a brand is the video campaign of Poo-Pourri, a product that masks the foul odour one might inadvertently produce after a visit to the restroom. Their genius marketing strategy was to go in the complete opposite direction and embrace the brashness. The resulting Girls Don’t Poop video is an advert unsuitable for primetime terrestrial television but also one of the funniest ever made.

Naturally, some products lend themselves to humour more than others, so it is important to know how you want your brand to be perceived. Then identify the best way of making a video that stands out and grabs people’s attention, and most importantly gives them a reason to share it with others.

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