Trending on YouTube is becoming something of a goal for brands and individuals alike. The celebrity craving in the modern era is beaten only by corporate ad teams striving to prove their worth and have a little fun alongside it.

This week saw the latest of these with Three Mobile releasing their TV campaign of a dancing Shetland Pony coupled with Fleetwood Mac’s song Everywhere. The promoted tweet hashtag #DancePonyDance trended on Twitter and the video
trended on YouTube almost immediately and thousands flocked to the ‘make your own’ micro-site and shared their own versions of the dancing pony. People certainly know about the campaign – although how many actually know the precise brand it is related to will be much in debate. Maybe it was an oversight or perhaps a double bluff but the lyrics of the well known song used in the ad include#; “Can you hear me calling out your name?” not exactly a great message for a mobile service. The lyrics also go on to repeat the catchy line “I wanna be with you everywhere”. A strange choice for mobile operator Three, when their nearest rivals recently re-branded to Everything Everywhere. So perhaps brand awareness / brand association isn’t as important as many of us think. Virality is the key and from there, you get more hits, more backlinks, better SEO and hopefully better paying traffic too.

So making a viral video is the thing to do, but how do you do it and what works? Here’s 6 styles of viral videos that seem to get results.

1. Celebrity

If your budget can stretch to it, just like in a glossy print ad, having a known-name – preferably with their own big social media following – either presenting or just appearing as a cameo in your video is a sure fire win to see it become highly shareable. At the turn of the year David & Victoria Beckham – no strangers to being the celebrities in a viral video themselves – saw their 10-year-old son Romeo enter the viral charts as the star of this ad for Burberry.

2. Gadgets and technology

We all remember the Honday car advert “The Cog” from TV with the chain reaction of the car parts. Well the longer online version of that machinery domino effect still racks up regular new hits in YouTube too. Maybe it is just a male thing, or perhaps the geeks who drive the internet forward, but engineering, gadgets and demonstration of technology are regular winners in the viral video world. Frequently shared with simple one sentence comments such as “Amazing”, “OMG” and “Love this”, bits of metal turning and whirring is a proven crowd-pleaser, like this Oreo separator machine video.

3. Surprise

Not necessarily for the viewer but for the people in the video. Using real people as the stars, T-mobile have pretty much owned the flash-mob video in recent years – train stations, airport arrivals lounges etc. The art of using actors and a scripted scene but in a public place where the surprise on those not in on the concept is a sure-fire way to engage with your audience and grab those watching it. Coca-Cola did a similar candid-camera style viral with this Happiness Machine.

4. Cute and heart-warming

Dogs, cats and now tiny horses appear to be able to do no wrong. While the old adage in entertainment is never to work with children or animals, you only have to flick through viral video charts, YouTube listings or even watch TV to see that the reverse is true in the advertising world. Bottled water manufacturers Evian gave us dancing babies a couple of years ago and cute kids, or tots being mischevious are a regular engagement tool both online and in the traditional media. The Three Mobile #danceponydance video campaign is not the first and surely won’t be last of cute animals and CGI technology being blended to push a brand.

5. The story

This approach is nothing new to advertising. The OXO family and the Nescafe Gold Blend ads on TV, outlived some real soap operas. Heineken’s “The Candidate” is already well past 2.4 million views in just under two weeks and while it has relevance to the brand’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League, it’s appeal is more comedy and the story of living your dreams than the sale of beer. It has no doubt had a big impact on brand awareness and association of this brand with one of football’s biggest competitions too, so as a return on investment it has probably more than done its job.

6. Piggy-backing a trend / Meme

The concept of the Meme also is not new. The idea that a behavior or style can spread from person to person within a culture was previously used mainly as a reference to religion, then came the viral internet. Now internet memes are cultural phenomena that spread beyond even the online world. The YouTube sensation to re-create Harlem Shake has done more for Trap Music than any TV appearance ever could, sparking over 100,000 imitations, totalling a billion views – all inside a single month. New York DJ Baauer’s song Harlem Shake has reached audiences he could never have expected. Memes take virality a step further, than just liking or sharing, they need actual creation of an imitating product (such as a video, picture, song, etc). While a few touched on Psy’s Gangnam Style, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe and Gotye’s Somebody I Used to Know last year, in 2013 Harlem Shake has gripped a wider cross-section of people and begun impacting on the corporate world too. The ability to copy the concept quickly and simply has helped, with Manchester City FC even launching their own version.

Have you tried to create a viral video? How do you create a viral success? Let us know.

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