The Secret to Creating Viral Videos

The Secret to Creating Viral Videos

More than ten years ago, a young man with an unusual affinity for obscure Romanian music created what can arguably be referred to as the original viral video. The variety of facial expressions and the enthusiasm of his ingenuitive and somewhat alarming dance movements caught the attention of a world that had not yet been inundated with lip-syncing videos, autotuned remixes of news stories, or screaming goats.

Gary Broslow, at age 19, in the comfort of his own bedroom with nothing more than a webcam, a headset, and a few minutes of gleeful splicing, successfully accomplished what hundreds of marketers and video producers across the globe would give their right arm to achieve: a viral video viewed and shared millions of times.

So, how did he do it? How do the hundreds of others do it? What is it that gyrating Korean pop stars, cringe-worthy lip sync videos, flash mobs, the Invisible Children, Budweiser puppies, and Charlie (of Charlie Bit My Finger) all have in common?

You could spend hours upon hours eating ice cream, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and watching hundreds of YouTube clips in an effort to learn the secret recipe to the viral video. But, since that’s exactly what we did, we’ll just save you the time and trouble and tell you ourselves.

The Secret to Creating Viral Videos: An Emotional Hook

All viral videos have a common theme woven throughout every single video.

All of them elicit a strong emotional reaction. It can be fear, horror, joy, adoration, awe, dread, or head-shaking-slap-your-knee hilarity, but it needs to be a strong emotional engagement for your viewer.

Father Daughter Frozen Duet

Combine a little girl, a dad, and a hugely popular song from an animated children’s movie, and you have a recipe for the classic ‘awww’ viral video. This video captures viewers instantly and draws them into the unforgettable emotions of being a kid completely immersed in the passionate song you love best.

Susan Boyle’s Debut

Within the space of one note, you, like so many others, experienced the agony of humiliation giving way to the fierce joy of a triumphant underdog that has erupted in a blaze of glory. Moments after being publicly made fun of, Susan Boyle brought judges, audiences, and video viewers to tears with her unexpectedly beautiful voice and inspiring message.

Not all viral videos are pure entertainment (or news). Some have been created by brands to sell their products or services. And you can do it too!

AT&T – Close to Home Video

While watching this video, you probably felt unease, discomfort, dread, and then, finally, horror. It made sense to you. You thought guiltily of how many times you’ve checked your own phone while driving. Maybe you thought about your children in the backseat or remembered a loved one who died in a car accident. You had an emotional response to the message you just received.

Chipotle’s ‘Cultivate a Better World’ Video 

In what can only be described as one of the most brilliant brand videos to date, Chipotle takes on current cultural issues with nothing more than an animated scarecrow and a haunting melody. Proving that animated characters can elicit just as much emotion from viewers, this 3 minute video takes people from despair and sadness to hope and inspiration and leaves them hanging with the question, “Do I cultivate a better world?”.

The Dollar Shave Club

Admit it. You laughed out loud.

This guy perfectly captures your attention with his unblinking stare into the camera while making ridiculous (yet totally true) comments that resonate with a felt need for more than 50% of this nation’s populace. This video exemplifies the power of using the unexpected to create an unforgettable message. This video also launched their company from penniless start-up to a value of 615 million.

The Emotional Hook

For a brand to create a viral video, you must create an emotional hook for your audience. Only then can it be shared as entertaining or newsworthy by your viewers. And science proves it.

Science? Yes! When you watch videos that have gone viral, chances are high that you received a healthy dose of dopamine. Watching the video, you felt a strong emotion (which kept you watching), whether it be from humor, information, awe, or even a thrill of horror. When those videos delivered on that expectation for you, you brain actually released a chemical called dopamine to reward you and give you the feeling of satisfaction or closure of that expectation.

Think back to all the viral videos that you’ve just watched. Did they deliver on your expectation? Was there a feeling of satisfaction or closure after they ended? Was there a visceral, emotional response to the video?

That is exactly what you need to take into your creative brainstorming sessions when creating new ideas for marketing video content. Because the reality is while some viral videos are the result of amateurs with a webcam, a significant percentage of them are also achieved through the efforts and creativity of corporate marketing teams like your own.

So, what are some corporate video production tools that can be used to increase emotional engagement?

Storytelling that delivers Humor, Shock, Inspiration, or Amazement:

Everyone loves a compelling story. Especially if they get a payoff fast. The American Association of Advertising Agencies published a study that showed ads that told a story were far more effective than ads that appealed to rational reasoning. Humans are naturally hardwired to relate to stories, and therefore, by telling a story in your commercial video production, you’re chances of emotionally engaging your consumers is significantly increased.

Shooting Techniques and Technologies:

The commercial video produced by AT&T is an excellent example of how specific shooting techniques, such as slow-motion can heighten emotional engagement. By winding down the crash to agonizing slowness, then slowly rewinding it, they forced their audience to dwell on the pain and horror of a car crash. By rewinding the shot and returning the vehicles to their complete state, they expertly conveyed an emotion felt by all who are involved in or witness a serious accident — “I wish I could go back and stop it”.

Stunts and Choreography:

Old Spice and Red Bull are great examples of brands using visual stunts to choreograph a commercial video that keeps your attention and your interest start to finish. By using visual effects to augment what is otherwise one long film shoot, these commercial video marketers create a perfectly balanced video that uses movement as well as an awesome storyline to sell audiences.

As marketers, there are a whole lot of ways to get the emotional hook into your viewers. Let’s bring your creative team to a whole new level and create a viral video together.

To get you started, our Seattle video production team created a guide on how to begin planning out your corporate video production.