Sometimes it is hard to keep a good video marketing myth down - especially around Halloween, which is when many big brands still ask online video marketers to gather and plan their budgets for the following year. It’s like the Zombie Apocalypse....you thought that these mindless memes were dead and buried, but, no, they keep rising from the grave.
Devra Prywes, the VP of Marketing and Insight at Unruly, Marshall Sponder, the CEO of WebMetricsGuru, and I are working together to create a short course on Viral Video for the Rutgers Business School Executive Education program. We’ve kicked around lots of ideas, but have agreed that we need to start by busting half-a-dozen viral video myths that simply refuse to die. So, here are six viral video myths that we’d like to blow away – once and for all:
#1 Myth: Animals, Babies or Dancing Make Videos Go Viral
Like all myths, there appears to be some truth underlying this assumption. Hey Greg, “evian baby&me” features dancing babies and didn’t it go viral?
Fact: However, Dr. Karen Nelson-Field analyzed more than two years of research, five different data sets, around 1,000 videos, and nine individual studies for her book, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, and found dancing and animals do not appear to work any better than other creative devices at gaining higher rates of sharing. Babies do outperform most other creative devices, but only when the video evokes intense emotions. Of all possible creative devices, videos that display personal triumph appear most likely to deliver sharing success. But sadly, content creators rarely use personal triumph as a creative device. The exception that proves this rule is “P&G Thank You, Mom | Pick Them Back Up | Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”
#2 Myth: Brand Presence Should Be Kept To a Minimum
Maybe this was true back eight years ago when “Where the Hell is Matt? 2006” only briefly let viewers know it was sponsored by Stride gum. But that was before YouTube announced TrueView Video Ads in December 2010, which gave viewers choice and control over which advertiser’s message they wanted to see and charged advertisers only when a viewer had chosen to watch their ad, not when an impression was served.
Fact: Since then, we’ve learned that as long as the content is strong, viewers appreciate brand transparency. “Jeff Gordon: Test Drive | Pepsi Max | Prank” is a great example. We see Pepsi Max product placement within the first 10 seconds and Pepsi Max acknowledged as the originator of the stunt 46 seconds in to the 3 ½ minute+ video.
DC shoes’ legendary Gymkhana ads open with their logo and continue on to frequently promote the brand.
#3 Myth: Videos Need to be Hilarious to be Shared
That’s something that “Doritos® - Goat 4 Sale -- Crash the Super Bowl 2013 Winner” appears to believe.
Fact: According to last year’s Science of Sharing report from Unruly, if you want your video ads to go viral you need to stop trying to be funny. Why? Humor is very subjective and brands need to be extremely funny to impress consumers worn down by a glut of ads which try to be funny (and usually are not). The two ads from Super Bowl 2013 that attracted the most shares on Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere evoked a different set of emotional triggers from the rest. One was “2013 Budweiser Super Bowl Ad — The Clydesdales: ‘Brotherhood.’”
And the second was “Official Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial ‘Farmer.’”
#4 Myth: Celebrity Endorsements Increase Sharing Potential
Need an example? Check out “OFFICIAL Chrysler and Bob Dylan Super Bowl Commercial 2014 - America's Import.”
Fact: According to this year’s Science of Sharing report from Unruly, celebrities are a waste of money and won’t make your videos go viral. Very few viewers cite celebrities as a key driver of why they would share an ad. This explains why none of the top 3 ads from Super Bowl 2014 featured celebrities, including “Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial – ‘Puppy Love.’”
And this is not just restricted to the Big Game. Only 13 percent of the top 100 most shared ads of all time in Unruly’s Viral Video Chart feature stars.
#5 Myth: Videos Need to be Short to be Viewed and Shared
How short? Well, about as short as “Why are we all doing YouTube Preroll wrong?”
Fact: Longer content gives you the time to tell a story and connect with viewers. These longer ads provide a greater opportunity for the content (and the product) to share features and information, like “GoPro HERO3: Almost as Epic as the HERO3+,” which is 5:07 long.
Orr make an emotional connection with the viewer, like ”Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” which is 3:00 long.
If you make the viewer feel something with intensity and giving them reasons to want to share the content, then longer content will succeed.
#6 Myth: Only “Big” Brands Can Make a Splash
How big? Well, I can’t think of a better example than Red Bull’s “Felix Baumgartner's supersonic freefall from 128k' - Mission Highlights.”
Fact: Many “small” brands are creating content that compels consumers to share. Social Video is the great equalizer. For example, Dollarshaveclub.com was unknown before launching its now famous video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.”
Febelfin, a little known Belgian trade association, created “Amazing mind reader reveals his "gift’” – a superb ad that focuses on the dangers of exposing too much personal information online.
So, as a public service, we’re sharing these mythbusters three to four months before you’ll ever be able to take the short course on Viral Video that we’re working on. Hey, it’s October. And the Fortune 500 company you work for or one of your biggest clients will ask you to get together at a remote off-site location and plan the marketing budget for next year. You know what’s going to happen next. You’ve seen this movie before. Yep, it’s another zombie apocalypse, when half a dozen viral video myths that refuse to die with rise from the grave. You’ve been warned. So, don’t forget to share this column with your colleagues ahead of time.