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What Makes Viral

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In my last few blogs I spoke about a couple of very successful viral videos, but that led me to wonder what was their secret for success. A recent Forbes article believes the answer may in new research conducted by Thales S. Teixeira, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. Teixeira posits that because we now have all the information for new products available to us online, consumers no longer want a lot of information in ads. To improve the chance of creating viral videos companies must prioritize entertainment over facts and figures. The goal is not only to get people to watch the video but to want to seek out the videos and share them. Advertisers who get consumers to disseminate videos which cause them to go viral is one of several  cost-saving techniques Teixeira terms as “lean advertising”.

However, creating viral videos takes more than just entertaining consumers. According to Teixeira, going viral takes 4 steps. The steps are attracting viewers’ attention, retaining that attention, getting viewers to share the ad with others, and persuading viewers. His research data showed that the most affective way to get consumers attention was the element of surprise and the best way to retain it was evoking continuous moments of joy so the ads that captured the most attention were those that surprised the viewer and then went on to make them smile. And while emotion was the best way to get attention for the ad, egocentricity (the desire to derive personal gain from sharing)  drove  consumers to share the video. In other words advertisers should create videos that make the product and the consumer look good. Teixeira refers to the relationship of mutual benefit as “advertising symbiosis.

When it comes to persuasion in successful viral videos most companies face the challenge of entertaining without losing a connection with the brand. Teixeira’s research shows  “brand pulsing”, a technique that shows the brand repeatedly but not too intrusively throughout the video, solves the problem. The company Blendtec that I discussed in a previous blog Viral Blending Video is an exception because the product is a blender and in these viral videos they blend things in the actual product. One of the most important aspects of this article is the importance of emotion conveyed in the the quote below.

“When entertainment creates an emotional connection, it leaves a lasting effect on our minds,” Teixeira says. “Psychologists have shown that emotions are memory markers, and if you feel very strongly about something during the day, your brain will more likely retain the information related to that emotion longer.”

So marketers should remember if they create a strong enough emotion, the video and the brand may remain in the minds of the consumer.




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