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How to make a viral video for your brand

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A viral video is CV gold dust for a brand marketer, especially if it was intentional. There are many theories behind how to make a viral video and going viral is the buzzword of the decade in the wonderful world of video production. Many of the most notable viral videos appear to be a fluke, especially music videos such as Gangnam Style (2012, 3.4bn views), children’s dance songs about Baby Sharks (2017, 60m views) and pets called Fenton (2011, 21m views) causing chaos. 


What is a viral video?


The views of viral videos are often in the millions and sometimes billions. So, is it just the number of views that make a video a viral video? The term does not exist in the dictionary yet, so in the meantime we’ll concur with this definition from Techopedia 


“viral video is any clip of animation or film that is spread rapidly through online sharing” 


Note how a viral video must be spread rapidly through online sharing. This online sharing can be via social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, reposting to blogs or online news articles, being sent in emails and so on. Some may even be shared by social media influencers or celebrities, who act as a catalyst for the video’s reach thanks to their huge social media followings. For example, in the initial weeks after Psy’s Gangnam Style hit the Billboard charts in the US the video was shared via a barrage of well followed celebrity tweets all pushing huge volumes of traffic to YouTube which certainly helped it go viral around the world, and some say this was pre-planned by music industry bosses.


The viral video secret formula


Let’s put the headline making music videos, children’s dance songs and funny animals aside. Instead, we will focus on viral brand videos which are often a result of carefully crafted visual storytelling and campaign planning. A key question for brands today is: Is there really a secret formula behind creating a viral video?


If there is then all brands would be making successful ones and topping the video charts at Youtube and interrupting our Breakfast News, right? Maybe. The reason we are perched on the fence a little here is because creating viral video content is only part of the ‘secret formula’, the other parts, come from strategic planning and effective seeding of the video.


The best viral videos 


Before we explain how to make a viral video let’s entertain ourselves and watch a few of the best viral brand videos from recent years. Hopefully we’ll pick up a few tips too!


Just like every other piece of advertising, viral videos are attention seekers and will go to great creative lengths to get it. To grab attention in today’s noisy media environment a video needs to evoke emotion and make the viewer feel something so huge that you want to show it to your friends and discuss it with strangers on the bus. The best viral videos make us laugh, shock us, are tearjerkers and even make us hungry! 


Dollar Shave Club – Our Blades Are F******g Great



For their first brand video Dollar Shave Club got the balance between being educational and funny spot on! Every second of content in this viral video has been created with their target customer in mind, they poke fun at their overpriced competitors and explain bluntly why it’s time for men to try this new razor club. After watching the video users click through to a dedicated welcome page on their brand website and sign up to the club. A great benchmark for a new e-commerce brand who wants to make a viral video to launch their brand. 


Tasty – Sliders Four Ways



If you’ve never had your mouth water whilst watching a Tasty recipe video are you even alive! Tasty are a huge social media publisher, their Facebook page currently has 97million likes and they have over 15m channel subscribers on YouTube. Their viral recipe videos can exceed a million views in a couple of days on Facebook as Tasty fans relentlessly like, comment, tag and share. Brands, such as Magnum, regularly create viral brand recipes videos with Tasty and bring their products to life in snack-sized videos you want to try!


Each tasty recipe video is created specifically for sharing on social media, they are simple to follow with subtitled instructions, but most of all the recipes are shot to look very, very tasty. Tasty are part of the Buzzfeed publisher family and both offer a great place to seed a brand video to millions of users as part of a marketing plan to make a video go viral. We’ll share more that later…


Iceland – Say Hello to Rang-tan



Iceland’s shocking Christmas TV Ad exposed the devastating damage caused by palm oil farming and announced Iceland’s decision to go palm oil free. First, it shocked us with its dramatic contact and then we were shocked again as it was banned for inaccurate claims. It got everybody in the UK talking! From our TV news channels, daily newspapers and across the Internet, this ad was a hot topic for many of us in November 2018. Many critics suggested Iceland knew it would get banned and that it was a clever PR tactic, regardless we agree it was very clever and a viral brand video success.


Greggs – Vegan Sausage Roll Launch



In the UK, Greggs are often in our social media newsfeeds making us laugh with their sharp wit and shocking us with their controversial campaigns. In 2017, they even made our main news headlines for replacing the baby Jesus in the nativity scene with their top selling sausage roll. Greggs are certainly brave! On 2nd January 2019, during the month of Veganuary they released a video to the world on Twitter introducing their vegan sausage roll. The YouTube video ad parodied that of an iPhone advert and hundreds of journalists arrived to their desks that Monday to a Greggs vegan sausage role in a mock iPhone box. 


This campaign was all about the conversation. It got everybody talking and sharing their opinions on social media, especially Twitter. Greggs, with the help of key journalists started the conversation with a bang and the video went viral. A catalyst for the conversation spreading was when Piers Morgan tweeted “Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns.” and true to form and much to the nations amusement Greggs tweeted a pot-stirring reply. On Twitter this viral video received over 5 million views, receiving 100,000’s of likes. The campaign was a huge success and the nation rushed to taste the vegan sausage roll, causing many stores to sell out leading to even more social media conversations. This viral video evoked all kinds of emotions such as laughter, shock, and even anger – but most importantly it was entertaining.


How to Make a Video Go Viral


As we eluded to a video doesn’t just go viral on its own, it’s all part of a master marketing plan. Here are the key steps to help you create a viral video for your brand:

Define a clear brief - We believe that any campaign or project can only be as good as it’s brief. To define a clear brief start with the objectives and reasons why you want to make a viral video. Describe your target customer(s), what you want them to feel when they watch your video, what you want them to do next etc. Perhaps you want to raise awareness of your new brand or even better drive visits to your website so you can encourage subscribers or even sales. Decide your CTA (call to action) early so everything you create and plan encompasses this purpose.


Don’t forget to consider a budget, assign a portion to video production and a piece to marketing. Finally, research and appoint a video production company and media planning agency that can exceed your brief.


Create an emotive viral video - This is the fun bit! To be honest, at Fresh Cut, nothing lights our creative minds up more than a brief to create a viral brand video as we know it’s time to bring our A game and think outside the box. Choose a creative full-service video production agency who will skillfully bring your brief to life and deliver everything from concept to scripts, actors to location, and animation to post production. Most of all your video will look slick, evoke emotion and get viewers sharing!


Media planning is everything - Many viral brand videos start on TV because this is traditionally the medium with the biggest audience reach, even if your brand has the budget for some TV advertising you will still need to seed and promote your video online to help it spread.


Invest in an online media plan - In addition to sharing a video to existing fans and customers via social media, email etc a brand should also invest in a targeted online media plan to get its video in front of the target customers it was made to engage. A media plan may promote your video on key publishers such as buzzfeed and partner with relevant social media influencers. Appoint a media planning consultant or agency to help you seed your video and involve them from the brief stage. 


No brand can launch a video to a few hundred or few thousand subscribers on a YouTube channel and expect it to go viral. The pace and speed just isn’t there no matter how emotion evoking your video content. In those initial days you need tens of thousand of eyes on your video, plus fingers clicking on share or tagging their mates because “they have to watch this!”


Measure and maximise success - Go back to your objectives and monitor the performance of your video daily. Your media planner will actively optimise and move budget into the channels and partners that are seeing the most traction to ensure momentum is maximized. 


Viral video success - From the viewer’s perspective the above is irrelevant, we just want to be thoroughly entertained and watch our favourite videos over-and-over again. On the flip side, planning is everything to brands and on a par with creating shareworthy video content. There is a certain enigma surrounding viral videos and there is definitely no one size fits all approach. In the game of creating viral videos only the boldest brands will win, to grab attention you have to deliver emotion and then put it right in front of the eyes of your customers en masse, only then can you expect your brand video to viral!


Let’s make a viral video


Are you ready to invest in a viral video for your brand? Fresh Cut are a leading video production company helping brands tell their stories on TV and online since 2006. With studios in Leeds, Manchester and London we are proud to work with brands and budgets of all sizes. Take a look inside our fantastic portfolio of creative video content and get in touch with our talented team to discuss your next video project.