Viral Video Marketing: How to Do It (With Examples)

Three years into the pandemic, “viral” may not be as appealing a word as it once was. But it’s still a quality you want to be applied to your video marketing strategy. There’s nothing quite as satisfying to a marketer as when their work starts being shared, just because it’s fun to watch. So let’s take a deeper dive into the world of viral advertising videos with some pointers to help your work achieve the desired aim of virality!

What is Viral Video Marketing?

Viral video marketing is marketing that spreads — virus-like, that is — in ways that are exponential and perhaps unpredictable. One user sends a video, probably via social media, to a couple of others, who like it, forward it, share it, and so on — until the ultimate number of viewers who’ve seen it is enormous. 

It’s a buzzy way of getting the word out about your project. Viral marketing is organic, as circles of friends keep getting the word out about your cool content. 

Advantages of Viral Video Ads

Viral Ads Are Stealthy

When someone forwards you a fun social media video or you see something pop up on your feed with a lot of likes, you may not have your guard up. It doesn’t feel like you’re getting beaten over the head by an advertiser. Rather, the suggestion you watch comes from someone you like, whose taste you trust. Or you can simply see it’s garnering an overwhelming amount of popularity online, and you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to be entertained.

Viral Ads Promote Creativity

Viral video ads tend to have some funny hook that gets people interested (more on this later). So for you as a marketer, that can force you to think more deeply about the message you’re trying to convey, or how to make your product appealing as quickly as possible. Many brands’ Twitter accounts are increasingly funny, brash, and snarky to get attention quickly. That can help you focus on your message.

Viral Ads Increase Your Reach, Quickly

Perhaps the biggest advantage of viral video marketing is how exponentially it can grow your reach. You can certainly expand the goodwill consumers feel toward your product — perhaps rebranding your product as cool or hip, if it’s not seen that way. But with a greater reach, at least some of those impressions will convert to sales, as well — particularly if your viral campaign includes a gamified component.

Disadvantages of Viral Video Ads

Viral Ads’ Popularity Is Unpredictable

Viral ads rely on popularity and spontaneous sharing. But there’s no guarantee that lightning will strike for you. Your potential audience may feel more like sharing cat videos, or a celebrity may do something stupid, which then dominates the conversation while your ad sits on the sidelines. Virality can also depend on other factors out of your control, like the timeliness of your video production and your ad coinciding with something in the news cycle that makes it pop.

Viral Ads Can Backfire

All those qualities mentioned above — like originality, snarkiness, and humor — can backfire if they’re not a hundred percent on target. A Tweet attacking a competitor can go well, as when Burger King posted a picture of a strangely aging McDonald’s burger. But it could also miss the mark if it feels tone deaf, if the attack feels meanspirited, or if it feels like you’re punching down. And of course, ads can go viral for the wrong reasons. No one wants their ad to be forwarded because it’s embarrassing. 

Viral Ads May Not Be Effective

There could be a gap between you forwarding an ad you find amusing, versus actually intending to buy the product (or urge others to). Entertainment value may not correlate with a need you have to fulfill. Additionally, it can be hard to measure the brass tacks results of a viral ad campaign when it comes to sales (let alone repeat customers and lasting consumer relationships).

Although the extreme popularity of anything can be hard to completely account for, there are still some ways you as a marketer can try and nudge your content toward virality.

5 Viral Video Examples (And How They Did It)

1. Poo-Pourri, “Girls Don’t Poop”

This funny, disarming ad from Poo-Pourri (40 million views and counting!) finds humor in the all-too-common human need to, well, not stink up the toilet at parties, at the office, and everywhere else. It uses a female narrator whose exaggerated diction and politeness (in contrast to the blunt and scatological copy) make the obvious point that, well, women are not exempt from needing to deal with bathroom smells. 

It helps that the product has an excellent rating on Amazon, which the spot points out. So this viral video ad succeeds thanks to a mix of humor, the pain point the product addresses, and the data it uses to back it all up.

Related: Social Media Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

2. Canadian Tire, “Wheels”

The “most viral ad of 2017” is a moving spot about kids who learn to bring a wheelchair-bound kid into their game — by playing on office chairs. It’s an empathetic, kind spot, that uses solid storytelling and narrative techniques like human need and disappointment, confrontation, and mystery. The casting of relatable kids and the minimal use of dialogue give it a universal, almost silent-film quality. Its charm and sweet message of inclusion have made viewers want to share it — it’s got views in the hundreds of millions.

3. Wix, “Restaurant”

Sometimes, though not always, it can help to have movie stars performing incredible feats of action as in a Hollywood movie. This one has Gal Gadot and Jason Statham destroying a restaurant, which ends in the owner opening up a food truck (with the help of Wix). Even if you don’t have this kind of a budget at your disposal, making a mini-movie is a great way to achieve virality — and the punchline involving the product is funny, rather than feeling beside the point.

Related: 10 Video Marketing Benefits for Growing Your Business

4. Old Spice, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

This viral ad for Old Spice, hardly the world’s trendiest brand, makes a pitch to a different audience than we might consider: women rather than men. In doing so, it shakes up the product’s image and makes it feel relevant to a younger audience, who were sufficiently entertained to help Old Spice regain some of the market shares it was losing to specifically youth-oriented brands like Axe.

5. Dos Equis, “The Most Interesting Man in the World”

This series of ads (one of which you can watch above) is funny — with audiences listening intently for every next line — but it does something better. It builds a mythology, creating interest for the next installment to drop. It also provokes an audience to wonder how they might be more interesting, and live more deeply. Dos Equis did a great job of continuing to explore this character, featuring him at different ages.

What Makes a Viral Video Successful?

Viral videos simply have to stand out to break through the noise. They can do this by:

  • Being funny
  • Being moving
  • Having high production values like mini-movies
  • Appealing to surprising audiences
  • Building a mythology that viewers then associate with your brand.

Like all entertainment that connects with an audience, they manage to connect to emotion. Some of the video ad examples listed above have high budgets, but that’s not necessary to create appeal. 

How Do You Promote a Viral Video?

While it’s all about the content, you still need to strategize about how to promote your video to give your video its best shot at going viral.

Social Media Promotion

Facebook and YouTube were once the default platforms, but TikTok and Twitter can be helpful here, too. Of course, you want organic responses, but it doesn’t hurt to launch a paid or sponsored campaign, first. (Some of the examples above started as ads during the Big Game, which is a pretty big launch.)

Influencer Marketing

Consumers trust influencers who can create an air of authority. User-Generated Content (UGC) or UGC-style content could certainly go viral; you can also consider engaging influencers to share your content with their large numbers of followers.

Connected TV Ads

Connected TV (CTV) refers to content streamed over the internet. As the majority of Americans now consume their TV and movies this way, it makes sense to reach them where their engagement is (and then hope they share).

Viral Video Campaign Tips

Go For Quality Over Quantity

Logically, high-quality, short videos are more likely to be consumed and shared when viewers are looking for a brief, refreshing break in their day.

Know What Compels People to Share

Emotion matters. When you’re designing your campaign, just keep checking in with yourself to see: what is this making you feel? Would you forward it to friends or family?

Put Brand Building First, Promotion Second

The strength of viral marketing videos is the feeling of connection they promote to your brand and its overall vibe. It’s less about making the hard sell about a particular product.

Producing Viral Video Content at Scale

Producing viral video content is an art. It’s best when you approach this potentially hugely beneficial medium to work with experts who want the greatest reach for your brand. Some of the video marketing ideas above are admittedly expensive. But even if you have a limited budget, with the right approach and a sense of possibility, you can still make a big impact.

If you’re looking for guidance, reach out to QuickFrame today. 

You’ll find they can make a viral video campaign efficiently, brilliantly — and affordably.

Viral Marketing Videos: Final Thoughts

Marketing videos are integral to your business’s marketing strategy — but it’s even better when they take off on their own and not only meet but exceed any goals you have for your business’s reach. Let QuickFrame help you craft ads that have the potential to go viral, and connect with consumers on a grand scale.

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