Spreading The Virus: Marketing Lessons Learned From YouTube Virals

15th March, 2016 by

YouTube may be a great way to watch new music videos or pass an idle ten minutes at work, but it also provides some surprisingly valuable marketing lessons.

The cocktail of success underpinning famous YouTube virals and videos can be distilled by entrepreneurs and executives around the world. With viral summits now being held in the US, an entire industry has grown up around creating and exploiting viral content.

These are some of the lessons creatives and media personnel can learn from YouTube virals:

  • Humor is vital.

Think about the YouTube videos that have received the most shares on social media – a dog chasing deer, a toddler biting his brother’s finger, a cat in a shark suit riding around on an automated hoover. Despite being recorded by private citizens on the hoof (quite literally, in Fenton’s case), these videos went viral because they made audiences laugh. A marketing campaign that makes clever observations or has a witty strapline will be talked about far more than dry, factual content.

  • A good soundtrack helps.youtube-1183722_1280.png

All but two of the thirty most viewed clips on YouTube are music videos, and there can’t be a person alive who hasn’t heard PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ or Adele’s ‘Hello’ by now. A memorable score can also benefit marketing campaigns, as demonstrated by Metro Trains of Australia. To promote safety in train stations, they commissioned a ridiculously catchy song called ‘Dumb Ways to Die’. It’s safe to assume that the 100 million people who’ve seen the accompanying (and surprisingly gruesome) animated video will never stick a fork in a toaster again.

  • Keep it short.

Attention spans have been dulled by the internet’s sheer size and diversity, leading to a demand for instant gratification. With over 300 hours of YouTube material added every minute, many popular videos are short and easily digested. Brevity is also a virtue when it comes to billboard posters, radio ads and corporate slogans, since concise messages are more accessible and memorable. 

  • Sex sells.

It’s sad to say in these supposedly enlightened times, but Miley Cyrus’s encounter with a wrecking ball in 2013 demonstrates that audiences – of both genders – are magnetically attracted to bare flesh. As a more considered counterpoint to this youthful frolicking, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty video has received 180 million views for its touching and inspiring portrayal of low self esteem. Even here, though, the underlying message is about personal attractiveness.

  • Strive for originality.

Modern audiences inhabit an increasingly cynical world where originality is hard to come by. When LG covered the floor of a lift in TV screens that appeared to show the floor collapsing, the terrified reaction of passengers instantly went viral. As well as subtly demonstrating the quality of LG’s products, the video’s sheer originality ensured it spread like wildfire across social media platforms.

  • Involve the public as much as possible.

The flash mob phenomenon vanished almost as quickly as its participants, but most contributors to these slightly surreal public spectacles would have talked about it on social media platforms. This can create a groundswell of publicity far beyond the scope of paid-for campaigns, as social media can spread a message around the world in minutes. Large numbers of participants in a marketing campaign can generate boundless word-of-mouth publicity – the very essence of viral marketing, and the ideal way to promote a product or service for free.

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