- Viral Videos
Harness the Momentum of Viral Videos for Your Brand
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, the video campaign that inspired 2.4 million people to post and share videos of themselves getting doused with ice water? In 2014 and 2015, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $200 million for ALS research and awareness — demonstrating the power and potential of viral video.
Viral video is one aspect of a larger viral marketing trend that extends across multiple media, including print, outdoor advertising, TV, and product labels and packaging. “Viral marketing is a strategy that encourages people to share a product message across their networks, primarily on social media, creating an organic buzz,” explains crowdspring.com. “It’s about sparking conversations and leveraging audience interactions to promote a product or service, making the message resonate so much that people can’t help but share it.”
Viral video marketing has emerged as an effective strategy for intriguing, engaging, and capturing viewers. Viral videos spread rapidly and organically across the internet, driven by viewers who like and share videos and often create additional content such as commentary, responses, demonstrations, or reenactments. It’s hard to envision another way to build that level of engagement and reach.
As brands look for ways to leverage viral video, let’s take a look at the medium’s benefits and pitfalls; ways to use viral video to promote your brand; and case studies that demonstrate how some brands have used viral video to generate buzz.
Benefits of Viral Video
Viral video marketing can reach and engage your audience like nothing else. A boost in sales is obviously the end goal, but here are a few benefits that help get your brand there:
Increased brand exposure and recognition
A viral video can reach millions of people quickly, “creating a ripple effect of organic publicity that can significantly boost brand recognition and sales,” explains a recent LinkedIn article. This exposure can help a smaller or newer brand establish its presence in the market.
Encourages customer engagement
Viral content can foster “a powerful emotional connection with viewers, leading to increased engagement and interest in a brand’s products or services.” Viewers may contribute their own content, like and share your content, and become new customers for your products and services.
Viral campaigns draw substantial attention and start conversations without draining your budget, maximizing your return on investment. One example: Dollar Shave Club’s offbeat video captured viewers’ attention with its quirky humor, creating major buzz without the expense of traditional advertising (like TV). Producing great video takes a lot of effort, creativity, time, and expertise, but the rewards can be tremendous.
It increases website traffic.
Viral video can increase website traffic two ways: (1) by driving viewers to your brand’s website, increasing engagement and conversions; and (2) boosting your site’s SEO rankings via backlinks and mentions. This improves your online visibility and position in search engine results, helping your audience find you faster.
Builds trust and credibility
If your video generates positive buzz, “it earns consumer trust and enhances brand credibility through widespread approval,” says Crowd Spring. This enhanced trust can convert to customer loyalty, increase user interaction with your activations and pop-ups, and even build community among like-minded consumers whose values align with your brand’s.
Pitfalls of Viral Video
Promoting your brand via viral video isn’t a slam dunk, and content that’s received poorly can be off-putting to consumers. Here are some reasons to approach viral video carefully, and with the guidance of seasoned marketing pros:
It’s not predictable
“You can put in all the work and whip up a killer campaign, but there’s no guarantee it’ll catch fire,” cautions Crowd Spring. This is true of all marketing, of course, but it’s especially relevant to brands looking to stand out in a very crowded video marketplace.
It can backfire
“A misstep can have people talking, but not in a good way,” says crowdspring.com. “An online ad might spark controversy and get folks heated on X (Twitter). That’s a lot of damage control to do.” One way to avoid this pitfall: run your video through a focus group or a sampling of your best customers before releasing it into the wild.
It takes on a life of its own
There are two risks here: brand dilution and audience misalignment. “When your content spreads like wildfire, you lose a bit of control. Your message might get twisted, and your brand might lose its essence,” crowdspring warns. And sometimes, your message fails to align with the people you’re trying to reach. Even a video with millions of shares is a dud if it fails to reach its intended audience.
Even a widely shared video can be just a flash in the pan, generating massive buzz one week and fading completely from the public’s consciousness the next. Chasing that impact with the next video is tough. “Once you go viral, people expect more hits,” says crowdspring. “Keeping that momentum can be a tough act to follow.” One solution: Work with an agency experienced in generating and maintaining virality to promote your video in ways that keep it in the public consciousness.
Creating and Keeping Viral Momentum
Give your video content the best shot at going viral by following these best practices:
Know your audience
Beyond merely identifying your target audience, you need to understand them. “It’s about creating content that echoes their values, aspirations, and emotions,” crowdspring explains. If you’re planning to use a viral video as a springboard for a pop-up shop or brand activation, consider your audience and what your most loyal customers like about your brand. That might become the inspiration for a product demonstration or giveaway, for example.
Be creative and on-brand
“An out-of-the-box, original idea is the backbone of a viral campaign,” says crowdspring. “It should leave an imprint and be the conversation starter.” To succeed virally, a video must first entertain viewers enough to merit liking, sharing, and commenting. Videos that go viral are rarely typical ads, either in format or in content. Work with creative professionals to translate your message into a creative and compelling video and experiential marketing event. If you’ve got a viral video to bounce off of, look for ways to repeat aspects of it at the event.
Connect with viewers
Build a compelling story that resonates emotionally with your audience. Use elements of humor or surprise to capture their attention. Be true to your brand’s values and honest about your brand’s story. This will help you connect with your target audience and ensure that the video resonates with the right consumers.
Talk to your customers, whether at a pop-up or activation or via survey, to find out what they want and expect from your brand.
Take advantage of social media
Viral videos are shared most widely on social media, but using social media to promote your video is about much more than linking it to your Instagram page. “Work with influencers or use paid social media advertising to help get your video in front of a larger audience,” the LinkedIn article advises. Optimize your video for distribution by adding social sharing buttons, hashtags, and clear calls to action. Ask viewers to like and share your video, and respond to their comments and questions.
When you share on social media, you’re starting a conversation. Create and maintain momentum by letting viewers know you’re still engaged in that conversation. Look for ways to continue the conversation at a live event, and make sure to promote that event via social media, linking it back to the video that inspired it.
Monitor your video’s performance
The data and feedback you collect from your viral video content can provide useful insights into trends and customers’ preferences — but you’ll need to dig deeper than views and likes. “When content goes viral, it means you’ve tapped into something,” according to a Forbes article. “Ask yourself what that something is so you can learn from the experience and increase your chances of striking that chord, or a slightly different one, again.”
The following questions should help you determine why a video went viral and how to repeat that success:
- What topic did you focus on?
- Were specific SEO keywords used?
- Are they long-tail (longer and specific to your brand) or short-tail (shorter and thus less-specific to your brand) keywords?
- Is the copy short and sweet, or lengthy?
- Is the tone humorous or educational?
- What sets this specific piece of content apart from others?
Case Studies: Three Viral Success Stories
Stanley’s Insulated Tumbler
The video: In fall 2023, a woman posted a video on TikTok showing her burnt-out shell of a car. In the cup holder sat a slightly scorched Stanley insulated cup — with ice still inside, unmelted. Stanley seized the viral opportunity, posting a stitch — a video within the video — of the company’s global president offering to replace not only the cup but also the woman’s car.
The result: The customer’s original video got over 28 million views; Stanley’s response performed admirably, with around 5 million views, a massive boost in the company’s TikTok popularity.
The takeaway: A company with a similar product success story could build a pop-up shop or activation around themes of durability and resilience.
The video: Looking to appeal to the women who buy grooming products for their households, in 2010 Old Spice launched a series of funny, off-kilter ads featuring “The Old Spice Man,” a near-mythical figure who performs a variety of activities while performing what amount to magic tricks. The message: he’s the man your man could smell like.
The result: The charming, clever video went viral quickly, scoring over 50 million views, increasing the brand’s sales by over 100%, and winning numerous awards. In the years that followed, Old Spice made more videos featuring the same character.
The takeaway: Identify and address your actual buyer, rather than the end user. Use humor and creativity to help the ad stand out without losing sight of the product’s presence or imagery.
The North Face
The video: In late 2023, a disgruntled North Face customer uploaded to TikTok a video of herself hiking in New Zealand and complaining that her allegedly waterproof North Face rain jacket was in fact not waterproof. “I’m soaking wet,” she says before demanding not a refund but a replacement with a raincoat that’s actually waterproof. The North Face made a response video in which an employee grabs a red jacket from one of the brand’s stores and flies via helicopter to the complaining customer’s location to deliver it.
The result: The original video scored over 11 million views and the response over 4 million. A followup video by the customer rang up nearly 86,000 likes and numerous positive comments about the brand from other customers pleased with the company’s desire to “make it right.”
The takeaway: Product demonstrations at pop-ups and activations can be used to show the reliability of your brand’s products; responding to customers’ social media posts and videos, even if they’re negative, demonstrates care and a desire to connect with customers while also providing entertainment and possibly blunting a hit to the brand’s image.
Promobile Marketing is a dynamic experiential marketing agency based in New York City. For over a decade, Promobile Marketing has collaborated with a range of brands—from budding startups to major CPG brands—on immersive marketing campaigns. Get in touch to discuss your next project.