What makes content go viral? Lessons from the most viral ads of 2016

doritos-superbowl-commercial-2016-socialIf there was a magic formula that any brand could use to make their ad go viral, you can be sure they’d pay a pretty penny for it. But unfortunately, no supernatural forces are at work when a video, image, blog post or other content gains the attention of billions across the internet. It’s a special blend of engagement, emotion, share-ability and other factors – including luck – that contribute when online material reaches people of all walks of life. A few companies mastered the art with the best viral ads of 2016. Take heed and learn a few lessons from some proven winners.

Doritos Ultrasound: Humor

A man that brings a bag of Doritos into the hospital room as a doctor is performing an ultrasound on his pregnant partner. She rolls her eyes at the idea of having a snack during the procedure, but they all notice an interesting development from the tiny fetus on the screen. It seems to be attracted to the Doritos, moving about until the little one decides that the time to enter into the world is NOW.

Obviously, the approach is intended to get a laugh out of the audience because of the ridiculousness of the situation. But the ad demonstrates a key factor among content that tends to go viral: Anything that leaves readers with a grin on their face – or evokes another emotion – is more likely to get shared, liked, retweeted, and other forms of engagement.

S7 Airlines Featuring OK Go: Visual Appeal

Anyone familiar with OK Go has probably seen their video for “Here It Goes Again,” featuring the four band members’ synchronized, perfectly choreographed performance on exercise treadmills. S7 Airlines saw a perfect opportunity for an ad borrowing from this approach, which again got the guys from OK Go on the move – this time in a zero-gravity airplane where they accomplished another flawless performance set to their tune “Upside Down & Inside Out.” No special production techniques were used in creating the film; it was simply the band members moving their bodies and different objects about in the cabin, without the benefits of gravity.

S7 Airlines’ strategy worked in getting the ad to go viral, mainly because of the visual appeal. The effect engages the viewer, proving another factor in viral ads: Including a video on a web page increases conversions by up to 80 percent. Coincidentally, 80 percent of viewers remember videos they’ve seen in the last 30 days, so recall is a side benefit of the visual appeal they offer.

It’s not easy pinpointing the exact recipe to make content go viral, but you can be sure luck plays a nominal role. These viral ads are proof that captivating storytelling and amazing imagery are major factors, and we can all use a few lessons to brush up our skills. What did you like best about some of these examples? Are there other viral ads that got your attention? We welcome you to provide some insight and share your thoughts.

We Love Live®. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com

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