These days viral videos and viral marketing are something in which every brand is interested. Some create social media campaigns that are quite successful, and some seem to fall flat, never even taking off the ground. In the realm of visual storytelling, commercials, videos and even branding are a tremendously simple way to spread ideas, but what separates the popular from the unknown, and why? Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, refers to these principles as STEPPS and we can watch them in action with the following examples:
As a rule, people love to seem like they’re in the know, to be the one with the inside information to where everyone else wants to be. When a fun or exciting new things comes along, people are eager to be the one who shares it. Tom Dickinson, owner of Blendtec, burst onto the Internet with his series of videos using his strong and well-equipped blenders. His products bizarrely yet genuinely turn 50 marbles into dust in seconds, along with iPhones, Golf Balls and host of other extreme items. The power of visually demonstrating the power of his product made for a powerfully effective viral ad campaign.
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If you can associate real world cues, or triggers, with your brand, then people will not only be triggered to think of your ad when not watching it, but also to share your clever ad with someone else. Old Spice created a social media campaign that responded with videos to actual social media users by name, effectively turning social media itself into a trigger that kept people spreading the videos and the Old Spice brand. Were you called out?
An emotional response is one of the key elements to keeping people interested in sharing your video. We like to feel things, be it laughter or compassion. Take a look at this GoPro ad where a fireman saves a kitten. If you don’t physically stand up and cheer during this commercial, then you may not be a human being. The emotional response helped GoPro score a viral hit, simply by using their particular brand of camera to tell a touching story.
Most people will know the Apple logo on sight, but on an Apple laptop the company actually reversed the direction of the logo to make it easier for people other than the owner to see and recognize it. Previously, it would face the user before they opened the computer, so they would know which side to open. As people like to imitate what they see, Apple was able to use the simple image of their company as a way to spread their brand around to anyone sitting around their current customers.
In spite of the size of the ultimate effect it may have had, most people who were awake for 2012 remember KONY. The activists behind KONY suddenly had what seemed like the entire Internet on their side, thanks to their well produced, informative and practical video. It gave viewers a very clear call to action, a way to get involved and a way to make a difference. It presented clear goals and the path to change, and it brought out the inner activist in many a viewer, helping their cause, and brand, with massive public support.
In marketing, a story is something you provide for the consumer that hides your brand inside of it, much like a trojan horse. Look at this Egyptian ad for Panda Cheese. It has several of the important elements for a viral video using visual storytelling, but is also one of the best examples of a story. The reason being that you cannot talk about this ad with anyone without mentioning a panda. You are reinforcing the Panda Cheese brand just by talking about the ad itself, and that hidden advertising is about as effective as word of mouth can get.
Not every visually funny or heartstring-pulling idea will go viral. It’s a delicate balance between timing, context, the audience and the effectiveness of your message, but the brands that successfully utilize visual storytelling always follow the proper steps.