The top 10 viral marketing videos of 2013 have been announced, but what does it take for a campaign to go viral?
IN 2013, the stand-out winner in the race to create the most viral piece of branded content was Dove, with its three-minute Real Beauty Sketches film.
That is according to Visible Measures, a US-based company that tracks the online performance of branded videos and collects metrics on how audiences engage with them and share them with others.
By late December 2013, when Visible Measures’ analysts sat down to compile their list of the year’s top 10 viral videos, Real Beauty Sketches had scored almost 136 million views since its mid-April launch on YouTube.
The film, which shows FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora sketching portraits of women from their own descriptions, and from the descriptions of strangers, clearly struck a chord with global audiences who recognised that, when it comes to personal appearance, women are often their own worst critics.
Second place went to Turkish Airlines, with The Selfie Shootout, which depicted sports stars Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi sending each other self-portraits from a variety of exotic locations to which the airline flies. Third and fourth places, meanwhile, went to Volvo Trucks (with the Epic Split ad, featuring Jean-Claude van Damme) and Google (with its Chrome For campaign).
So what is the big secret that these brands share? What does it take for a piece of content to go viral?
The fact is that there is no easy answer to those questions, says James Whatley, social media director at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising London, part of the international advertising, marketing and public relations giant that created Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches.
“You may as well read an instruction manual on how to win the lottery,” he says. “Yes, you might pick up a few tips, but any major success will be purely accidental.”
Creating the best possible content is a good start, of course, and promoting that content should be the next step.
“Viral hits ride the zeitgeist, they capture the imagination,” says Whatley – but they also “have significant investment behind them to ensure that enough eyes turn into enough clicks and enough shares.”
In other words, Real Beauty Sketches did not succeed on emotional resonance alone. It was also backed up by a rock-solid media planning, distribution and public relations strategy. At digital agency Tribal Worldwide London, head of strategy Allan Blair is inclined to agree.
“It’s rare that content (especially branded content) gets traction without a large media spend behind it, or at least a large amount of money to kickstart initial interest,” he says.
With that in mind, smaller brands with more limited budgets should perhaps define “viral” on their own terms.
“Big budget campaigns by big brands achieve big results, certainly – but that’s not achievable for every business,” says Kate Cooper, managing director at social media agency Bloom Worldwide. No brand should be putting together online content purely with the goal of “going viral” in any case, she says. “It’s too hit and miss.”
Instead, the aim should be powerful, timely storytelling that reaches as wide an audience as possible, she says, and this can be delivered by smaller pieces of “microcontent” – such as videos, photos, polls, games and quizzes – that do not cost as much to make and can therefore be produced at greater volume.
Take, for example, Dollar Shave Club, a US-based start-up that delivers razor blades to customers on a subscription basis: it first made waves with a low-budget comedic launch video that quickly went viral on YouTube back in March 2012 and was the talk of that year’s SXSW technology conference in Austin, Texas (SXSW, or South by Southwest, is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences held in the United States).
Later that year, the fledgling company nailed down almost US$10mil (RM33mil) in venture capital funding as a result of the attention – and increased sales – its video had attracted.
For more established brands, an existing network of fans and followers on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be powerful, as can links with the blogger community. After all, it is the people already loyal to a brand that are more likely to share branded content with their own friends, followers and readers.
Microcontent typically takes three forms, says Cooper:
> Planned content around a specific event, such as Valentine’s Day or a big sporting fixture.
> Real-time content, which is more spontaneous and trend-driven developed in response to an event or issue being discussed online.
“You may only have a matter of hours to turn content around but, if you can capture the moment, you can achieve real and rapid traction,” she says.
> User-generated content: brands can often build compelling campaigns around the content produced by their customers, such as Instagram photos of a favourite outfit or recommended holiday destination.
The simple rule is this: no brand should be intimidated by the megabucks budgets and sky-high production values of big-brand viral campaigns. There is still huge value to be gained from more modest attempts to engage with online audiences, as long as they’re timely, relevant and compelling. — Guardian News & Media
Top 10 viral videos of 2013
> Dove – Real Beauty Sketches: 135,838,683 views
> Turkish Airlines – The Selfie Shootout: 133,722,104 views
> Volvo Trucks – Epic Split: Live Test 6: 102,430,941 views
> Google – Chrome For: 95,598,261 views
> Evian – Baby & Me: 75,779,488 views
> Intel/Toshiba – The Power Inside: 70,052,385 views
> 5-Hour Energy – 5-Hour Energy Helps Amazing People: 67,860,563 views
> Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail: 57,344,188
> YouTube – What Does 2013 Say?: 56,230,354
> Miami Heat – Harlem Shake Miami Heat Edition: 55,087,246. – Guardian News & Media
Source: Visible Measures (as of Dec 24, 2013).