Help Your Marketing Videos Go Viral

Posted by Paladin on December 06, 2017

Video is a major part of marketing that creates a powerful personal connection between you and your target market. This has been true since the advent of television, and it still remains so today. However, the number of videos has exploded along with the number of platforms and distribution channels. Only a select few will “go viral.” Not every video created will go viral because doing so takes a great deal of luck. However, if your video manages to strike a chord with your target market, you have a better chance of having a viral video. Here we will talk about some strategic measures you can take to position your videos to go viral.

A Short History and a Standing Challenge

On July 1, 1941 the first TV advertisement hit the airwaves.

Much has changed with the medium of the moving picture as it relates to marketing. Black and white gave way to color. Cathode ray tubes gave way to plasma, LCD and OLED (now in 3D). Antennae gave way to cable and satellite connections. Three channels multiplied exponentially into the hundreds from which we choose today. These innovations mean that the pool of potential customers has been divided and subdivided into more and more specialized niches based upon ever more individualized demands. Video advertisements face stiffer competition for eyeballs belonging to customers with ever shortening attention spans and less discretionary time (time is one truly limited resource). Marketers must cut through this competing content and ambient noise in order to catch and hold on to its customers’ attention. A viral video not only beats the competition, but it drowns out the noise, too.

Strike the Chord

What is it that you have to offer? Are you educating your market about your business or service? Are you educating about something a bit more specific in order to make an impression about current events or social change that we see currently happening? It has to be something important and one your market can relate to so that they will want to share it with others on various social media platforms. It does not mean that you have to be controversial or “edgy.” Trying too hard is definitely a thing and should be avoided. Just make an honest and candid connection with your audience!

Most companies, strictly speaking, sell a product or service. These respective wares are often easily duplicated. How certain companies strike that desired chord is by marketing more than the mere product or service. They market an experience or even a lifestyle. It is the marketer’s job to inextricably link this desired experience or lifestyle to the product or service their company sells. The ur-example is Coke. What do they sell? Sugar water. Pretty basic stuff. But what do they sell? Refreshment; the perfect beverage compliment to your favorite foods; holiday cheer; they’ve even tried world peace!

Even without the history, name recognition or coffers of Coca-Cola, you can still learn the lesson of striking the chord with customers from such an iconic brand at its best.

Stay in Budget

Many strategists believe that video ads have to be expensive in order to be a success. This isn’t always the case! The general rule of thumb is to work within the budget you have. Let your budgetary restrictions be sources of innovation and inspiration rather than hindrances to your vision. Plenty of low budget ads have had amazing success going viral. One famous example was the music video for the group Ok Go’s song “Here It Goes Again.” During this visually infectious compliment to their equally catchy song, they impressively “danced” on treadmills.

What really matters is that you are sharing information that feels like it should be shared. It may be funny, unique, heartwarming, or it reveals something that feels secretive, forbidden or exclusive.

Include These 3 Elements

There really is no magic formula for a video to go viral, but marketing ads that have gone viral share similar elements.

  • A problem
  • An exaggeration of the problem
  • The solution you have to offer

When marketing ads use this model, they often become replicable and “remixable.” One of the highest compliments any video can receive is when they can be replicated, remixed and even made fun of. Parodies of your video can actually lead people to your video and make it more popular.

Consider Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” spot from 1984.


Wendy’s larger competitors (who shall remained unnamed to protect the guilty) offer customers sub-par burgers with more bread than beef.

Exaggeration of the Problem:

In the commercial, a puny patty is dwarfed by a giant, fluffy bun, eliciting the repeated, exclamatory interrogative of an old lady.

The Solution:

Go to Wendy’s for the robust, juicy, beefy burgers you crave.

“Where’s the Beef?” went viral before going viral was a thing. The simple question has made it’s way into our cultural zeitgeist particularly in politics as a let’s-get-down-to-brass-tax, catch-all phrase which questions “the substance of an event, idea or product.”

Keep It Short

People watch short videos as opposed to long ones. Many videos that go viral are only 20 seconds to a minute long. Some strategists use 15 seconds as their magic number. To paraphrase and update Andy Warhol’s potentially apocryphal though no less prescient quote, in the current marketing climate, everyone gets 15 seconds to achieve fame. If you feel the need to go longer, create a series so that people will want to come back and watch the next one. Be sure that your company logo, website and contact information is visible on the video and in the description. This will make it easy to find you. Some platforms host business viral video contests to help push your numbers up, but if you choose to go this route, it’s recommended to up the budget. This way you can ensure a highly professional video. Low budget ads have not traditionally won these sorts of contests.

Show It Off Before You Unveil It

Choose some trusted folks in your target market to watch the video and give you honest feedback about the video. What did they like, and what didn’t they like? Is there anything that would make them want to share it? Listening to your audience is important and can help you fine-tune those videos so that it will appeal to more people than just your test group. Don’t gut the creatively and originality for the sake of focus groups, but take their opinion into account before deciding to take the ad live.

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Posted in: Communications, General, Marketing, Video

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