Why do videos go viral?

Viral campaign. Two words that can send shivers down the spines of advertising creatives and marketing managers alike. But equally, attempting to make content that will “go viral” is also one of biggest creative opportunities in modern advertising. So what’s the magic formula?

First – be realistic. If you’re selling toilet cleaner, you’ll be hard pressed to give Psy’s Gangnam Style a run for its money. However there’s no reason why you couldn’t be the next Dollar Shave Club. It’s important to note, though, that Dollar Shave Club was bolstered through paid media.

So, without further ado, here are nine reasons content goes viral:

1. It’s extremely funny

As the song goes – Make ‘Em Laugh. When it comes to virality, a two-minute knee slapper can be just the ticket. However the operative word is extremely. If you make something akin to Christmas cracker joke, expect it to end up in the trash just as quickly.

How animals eat their food (81 millions views and counting)

2. It’s jaw-droppingly incredible

If your brand can cause jaws to drop you’re probably on to a winner. And don’t be limited by your product’s limitations – often it’s people that do incredible things, brands just tag along for the ride.

Susan Boyle Audition (131 million views and counting)

3. It’s deeply emotional

Content that touches us emotionally, whether that be negatively or positively, has a built-in share factor. It is in our nature to make connections with people by sharing experiences.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches (55 million views and counting)

4. It agrees with your worldview

Everyone has an opinion these days, so when something comes along that backs up our view of the world, there’s a pretty good chance we are going to share it with as many like-minded individuals as possible.

Kony 2012 (98 million views)

5. It makes you wonder

When we stumble across something that makes us ponder the big questions in life, we often want to share this with other too – if for no other reason that they can ponder the big questions with us.

I forgot my phone

6. It’s too hot for TV

Let’s face it; sex sells. And life would be boring without a little spice, which is exactly why risqué content will always be shared. The trick is setting the dial at the right level. You want to be spicy enough that people will want to view your content, but not so much that they won’t share it.

Skittles “Newlyweds” (14 million+ view)

7. It’s extremely cute

As the old saying goes, “never work with animals or children.” These days you should probably tack onto the end  “unless of course you want something to go viral.” Because whether it’s a cat playing with a cardboard box, or a baby laughing, people love cute.

Volkswagen’s The Force (58 million views)

8. It’s extremely dramatic

People do love a good bit of drama. And we’re not talking soap operas here. People like theatrics. Giving your brand a bit of drama may just be enough reason for people to share it with their friends.

Push the red button (46 million views)

9. It’s embarrassing.

Just like a proverbial train-wreck, sometimes something that is hard to watch is the one thing we can’t help but want to. Content that plays to this desire can often push your brand viral.

Miss Teen USA 2007

At the end of the day, even the very best content might fail to launch. There isn’t any magic formula. However what is clear is that content that goes viral is almost always an extreme example of something: extremely funny, extremely emotional, extremely cute, and so on. You can’t create something middle of the road and expect extreme results.

Good luck!