Want a viral video? “A truth well told” could help you

The wish of many marketers for a "viral video" was the subject of a recent cartoon by The Marketoonist, Tom Fishburne. He has some great suggestions about how you might be able to win in what I call the "viral video lottery" (only 1 in 300 YouTube videos get more than 1 million views according to some estimates).

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1. The obsession with viral videos

Tom tells how at a recent talk to agency folk he asked who had been asked to create a “viral video” and that everyone raised their hand. As he rightly says, "virality is frequently treated like a 'feature' rather than an 'outcome', as if you can simply tick it as one of many options in a campaign like a media type or channel." Unfortunately, it is not as easy as adding some secret sauce that will make your video the 1 in 300 that goes viral.

2. Entertainment is key … 

To have any chance of going viral your video needs to be highly entertaining. As I posted on here, there are different ways to do this. The big three are humour, sex and spectacle. However, the risk here is a video that makes you laugh, cry or go "wow" but has bugger all to do with your brand: what I call "sponsored entertainment".

3. … but so is a product story 

The trick is to "find something about your brand that is actually worth sharing", as Tom says. He also rightly says that this can't be a long "laundry list of benefits and features"; you need to focus. He quotes as an example Blendtec's series of videos (260 million views) that I posted on here. The brand series of over-the-top "torture tests" dramatise the blender's performance, where "the founder blends  ridiculous things (each generation of iPhone, glow sticks, Justin Bieber CDs, Extra Value Meals, etc.)". Importantly, each video focuses on the blender's remarkable blending strength, such as the one below (or here) on the iPhone 6 Plus.

4. Fresh consistency 

Tom points out that Blendtec is not just a "a one-hit wonder" in terms of viral videos, something not many brands can say: "They’ve put out new videos regularly for the last 8 years with over 830K subscribers". This is a great example of fresh consistency, with the same basic narrative, character and set-up, and the freshness coming from the next crazy thing they try to blend.

In conclusion, to have a hope of creating a video that goes viral, you could follow the saying of ad agency McCann Erickson: "The truth well told". Find something remarkable about your product and then dramatise it in a highly entertaining way.

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