If your boss comes to you and says, “Hey, why don’t we make a viral video?” you might want to consider running for the woods. As a brand, the chances of successfully making a video that goes viral is rather small and the odds can get much worse according to the type of boss you have, the values of your brand, the culture of your enterprise, much less the business sector you are in.
That said, branded videos can absolutely go viral. Moreover, I would have to believe that a video can go viral in absolutely every industry, even B2B. It “only” takes a blend of talent, panache and resonance. (can you tweet this thought here!).
The challenge is that there is pressure to justify the expense and effort on making the video go viral, and that is surely not a good place to be. And, unlike unbranded viral videos that can sometimes succeed because of some more extreme, raw or meaningless material, branded viral videos have certain restrictions that must, all the same, be respected. Yes, a viral video is exciting and broadly speaking desirable for the opportunity to get your name out there. But just like with drugs, videos that go viral can take on a life of their own and the company needs to be comfortable with that. As an aside, I’d add with a smirk that taking a few mind-altering adjustments (i.e. adopting the right mindset) for the boss, can help!
Why do you want to make a viral video?
The answers to this question in board rooms usually sound like:
- To get awareness
- Make us cool
- Create a buzz
- Get traffic
- Generate leads
- Promote the brand
- … increase sales
Setting the objective
To pursue the woody analogy, if your objectives resemble the list above, the chances are that you are barking up the wrong tree. The objective of a viral video should, in my opinion, be formulated around what type of effect you want to create for the viewer. The key consideration is to get into the shoes (and head) of the viewer. For example, you might want to create intrigue in the mind of the viewer. You might want to create elation. You might want to make them feel better or smarter. If you begin with this premise, the chances are that you will begin on the right footing. Nonetheless, the path to viral success is a long one. Setting a target in terms of total number of views is, of course, absolute nonsense and anyone promising such should be immediately discarded. Just like the fixation with the number of friends on Facebook, it is not about absolute number of views. Instead, in terms of tracking the video’s performance, KPI’s should include looking at the number of comments to views, likes to dislikes, social sharing, blog posts.
A possible roadmap for creating a “viral” video
- First stop: don’t expect success. Budget an amount such that if you fail, you are not condemned. Just like taking a bet, don’t put money on number 13 (in Roulette) if you aren’t prepared to lose it. The biggest risk of making a video is that nothing happens. As a result, consider upfront the ways you can repurpose the content.
- Secondly, consider carefully your objective. The constituent parts of a viral video can be as simple as finding that one right person (a tastemaker, as Kevin Allocca of Google said on TED). But, more often than not, getting a video to be shared requires a cocktail of inputs and outputs.
- Find the right talent, including the right agency, to pull the project together. With your agencies, ask to see what creative material they have actually produced (and make sure the responsible person is put on your project!).
- Put a brief together that allows for sufficient artistic license. A “fear & control” mindset won’t get you far in viral love.
- Make sure that the content is congruent with your brand’s values and your organizational culture, otherwise you can create a major disconnect with the customer base and/or employees.
- Be patient. Viral videos don’t have a schedule.
- And if it goes well, be prepared to accept parodies!
Four ingredients for making a viral video
- The content. Look to create content that a person will genuinely want to share with his/her friends. People don’t like to be sold to, but they do like to buy items that they enjoy. For example, consider content that speaks to a deeper meaning. Don’t underestimate the value of great music (one of the most frequent subjects of viral videos, in the first place).
- The context. It is not possible to predict when is the right time. So many videos become viral well after they were first posted. For the more agile, it can be interesting to leverage current events. In any event, the context of the video relative to the brand’s environment and history is important to bear in mind. The video content must be congruent with the brand context.
- Seeding Strategy. It is desirable to try to target key people with influence with personalized approaches. Similar to a PR person trying to get editorial coverage in a popular magazine, care should be taken to tailor messages to strategic people, specifically those with online influence and an ability to capture people’s attention. It is far better to spend time on targeting your PR effort, than engage in spammy broadcasting.
- Cross media. Just as a site or a blog need diffusion (self promotion) in the social media spheres, a video on a specific platform (Vimeo, YouTube…) needs to be broadcasted throughout your own network. The very existence of the video and/or exposition across different media (including at events) is pretty essential. One of the oft mistaken components is not taking into account the “so what?” I.e. When someone does view the video, what is the desired outcome and/or action?
Having viewed several hundred videos that have gone viral, I note that it is also worth trudging with branded videos that haven’t succeeded. You will be surprised to find plenty of videos that appear to be great. Videos that seem to have plenty of qualities but few views… Maybe it’s just that their time hasn’t come, or that they are being lost in the sea of video that is being uploaded every minute (presently standing at 72 hours/minute on YouTube). And then there are the videos that will never make it, because they are too dry, too corporate, too boring, too uninteresting, etc. In any event, I’d be glad to hear your views, rebuttals and/or enhancements to this post!
For further find, you might enjoy this interview I cut with Dominic Tremblay, CEO of Tuxedo Agency, responsible for the brilliant Zombie Boy video “Look Beyond the Cover,” created for Dermablend.