By Helen Lawson, senior PR account manager, Pauley Creative
Viral videos can be great fun, great for branding and great for reach without necessarily having access to spectacular budgets.
The brilliant thing about these videos is that they have the magical ability to take you out of your ‘construction’ pigeonhole. The techniques and tactics which make a great viral will transcend your industry labels and appeal directly to basal human instincts… curiosity, sympathy, humour, sociability.
Reviewing some of the greatest viral videos from the past few years, it’s clear to see trends in some of the more successful tactics employed by the creative agencies.
Here are our top ten tips for making a successful viral video.
1) Play the numbers game
Simply put, the more videos you produce, the greater your chances that one of them will go viral. Trial and error will definitely be employed when you first venture into the world of video, and you may find that creating lots of videos pays off by giving you first hand experience in what your audience likes to watch. Create a YouTube channel and add content regularly - like home builders Taylor Wimpey did here:
2) Get funny
Laughter is infectious… everybody likes a giggle and I’d bet that your first reaction when you’ve watched or seen something funny is to share it with your friends and work colleagues. This is the ‘sharing’ wave you’ll be trying to catch with your video. This cute but rather funny ‘sneezing baby Panda’ video clip was recently at the top of the YouTube most watched list:
3) Showcase techniques such as stop motion, time lapse, action figures, even Lego building skills
People love visually compelling content and one way to create it is to experiment with filmmaking techniques to try and show people something they haven't seen before, particularly if you’re showcasing product that isn’t visually stimulating on its own. Videos that are unexpected get people excited and foster a "saw it first" mentality. Take a look at Nokia’s "Gulp" video for some inspiration, or these Lego building skills on this Eddie Izzard clip:
4) Add value
Use your video to educate your audience – teach them something they didn’t know beforehand and if it’s interesting enough, they’ll want to share it. This popular time lapse video of the Ark Hotel construction project doesn’t just look impressive, it is punctuated with interesting facts throughout:
5) Hijack an existing fan base
Geeks make an easy target! Car geeks, movie geeks, sport geeks, pet geeks… tying up the theme of your video with an already existing fan base will add an extra string to your popularity bow. You might choose to integrate catch phrases, images or associations that will capture your audience’s attention. This completely pointless, yet massively successful viral video incorporates two fan bases – followers of the Indiana Jones franchise and Lego geeks, just take a look at the geeky comments still being posted on the video nearly four years after the video was added. Take a look:
6) Promote engagement
Why not incorporate an interactive element into your video, or some sort of level of engagement to allow your audience to directly interact with your brand or product? Here’s a nice example from Tippex. Funny, and interactive!
7) Employ shock tactics
Not ‘shock horror’, but rather trying to ‘wow’ your audience somehow. Creating a video that challenges your audience and makes them question what they already know will prompt the start of a discussion within the industry. For example, Relativity Media did this to great success with the Times Square billboard hack viral it created to promote the release of the Limitless movie last year. Here is video one (there is also a follow up which links the momentum of the viral to the movie on YouTube):
8) Embrace the unexpected
The appearance of your product or brand in a video that’s already gaining momentum online can be shocking. Depending on the tone of the mention, challenge yourself to embrace it and capitalise on the popularity of the video. Perhaps create a second, follow-up video with a humorous angle, or just be certain to capture passing traffic through SEO, PPC and online banner adverts.
This classic ‘Cat vs Printer’ was a sensation back in 2010 but remains massively popular. If we had been working with Lexmark, we would definitely have embraced this as an opportunity and created a follow up campaign for this:
9) Push the boundaries of what's comfortable or expected from your brand
This is today’s ‘please think outside the box’ call to action! If you've got a brand that people associate with one audience or attitude, doing something very unexpected will draw attention in itself. For example, when Woolite hired rock musician and horror movie director Rob Zombie to direct an advert for them in 2011, the chatter around the strangeness of that choice made it massively popular:
10) Combine all these techniques
What you might consider to be a ‘dull’ or ‘uninteresting’ brand or product, can be given new life with by applying a few of these viral video techniques. For example a recent video that was created by the Duck Tape brand pushed the boundaries of what was comfortable for their brand, hijacked an enormous, incorporated humour, a massive geeky fan base, and an interesting visual technique (stop motion). Watch this:
Have you spotted any great viral videos recently, or considered creating your own viral video? What risks did you take and what challenges did you overcome? We're looking forward to hearing about your experiences!
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