All I Want for Christmas is…a Viral Video

VHS Tapes

Anyone who works in Digital Marketing probably just cringed when they read this headline. Two words that you never want to hear in a demand from your superiors or client…viral video. I’ve been asked several times in my career to produce a viral video and my response is the same – a viral video is not a type of video that you can choose to produce. Any video that you produce for a brand should have a purpose, a story and be the best possible quality (in terms of content – it doesn’t have to cost thousands in production). After that you just have to put it out in the world and hope that it captures the imagination of the viewer, if it does then it will naturally be shared, if it doesn’t then you need to learn from it and move on.

Brands like Dove and Always are often held up as a perfect example of a ‘viral’ video. Yes it’s true that their videos really tap into a common truth that makes them resonate with the audience – but that’s because they have something to say which fits with their brand values. These films definitely build brand equity in terms of the positive perception people will have, it won’t necessarily translate into increased sales or market share overnight though. It needs to be part of a wider integrated marketing strategy.

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Always Like a Girl

It’s also important to note that even Dove & Always will put a significant amount of investment behind these videos to get them started off – you have to get the video in-front of people in the first place if you want them to share it. You have to create an initial snowball and find a good steep slope covered in more snow to push it down before natural momentum will take over.

This week Robert Dyas ‘went viral’ with their latest online advert

The main reason it became a topic for discussion is that nobody could work out what it was and whether it was serious. It turns out that they were parodying a 6 year old advert from The Red House Furniture Store in the US but it seems that not many people in the UK had seen this original advert.

In this case I think the saying ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ is appropriate, as I type, the video is at 600k views in 4 days on YouTube with the next highest video on their channel having 40k views over the last 2 years. They seem to have got away with it, more people are aware of the brand now and am sure it will have had an impact on footfall. However it could have backfired on them. If you are going to do a parody video, make sure it’s of something that people will instantly recognise. And I would recommend having a clearer objective for the video – what do you want people to do or feel as a result of watching it?

Last week YouTube released the top trending videos of 2015 with #YouTubeRewind. It only shows the top 10 and clearly there is opportunity for many more videos to get a great number of views, but you can see from the list that the top videos in the UK are entertainment rather than adverts. The only ‘commercials’ in there are for Star Wars and FIFA 16, both of which are entertainment brands.

The 6 minute video that YouTube made to promote their Rewind shows just how seriously YouTube should be taken as an entertainment channel now, it’s without doubt one of the big players in televisual content.

Look at the credits of the video, YouTube content creators are stars in their own right and their skills and knowledge of the platform are definitely worth tapping into. Now that doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a place for content from brands on YouTube but the key thing to remember when you are planning or briefing this content is to start from a point of entertainment, a clear message and a reason to watch. If you crack this then you will have a far better chance of getting views. Start from the point of view of ‘what will my consumer want to watch?’ rather than ‘what do I want them to watch?’.

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