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Viral video

What makes a viral video so viral? Coke seems to know

Everybody’s trying to do it, but oops, Coca-Cola just did it again – made a contagious feel-good ad that went viral that is:

And as with Britney Spears’s smash hit “Oops…” there was nothing too accidental about its success. The world’s biggest soft drink may have few proven health benefits, but it has certainly shown marketing students how to make a brand synonymous with sharing, caring and having a wholesome good time. In other words, they clearly have the recipe for viral success down to pat.

The secret to their success becomes a little more transparent when you hear the thoughts behind one of their previous viral sensations:

Before building this “Happiness Machine” some of the main players at the red-and-white soda’s headquarters seriously put their heads together. According to Coke’s senior global brand manager A.J. Brustein and Paul McClay, director of strategy and media at Definition 6, the beverage maker’s marketing agency, they came to the conclusion that content is key – and making people happy.

They analysed viral videos and concluded that four elements were vital for viral success. If you look at the so-called “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” (around 85 million views on YouTube) Brustein and McClay say, you realise that viral videos should be:

  • Unexpected – you don’t expect the wedding party to comes dancing down the aisles.
  • Relatable – everybody has attended a wedding.
  • Emotional – you need to stir up some emotions, and in this case the viewer is happy with and for everybody lucky enough to attend this joyful celebration.
  • Must-see – people put their reputations on the line and risk ridicule when they share something online. So, your video needs to be something that people are excited to show their friends first. People are going to share things that make them look better.

(For more on Brustein and McClay’s thoughts, see Russel Working’s blog.)

But there is another reason for Coke’s viral success. In a recent blog Taylor Casti speculates why Jimmy Fallon and not Jimmy Kimmel is the king of the viral video. She comes to the conclusion that whereas Fallon makes you laugh with him while his gleefully making a fool of himself, Kimmel is actually playing you for a fool: “No one is saying Jimmy Kimmel can’t have a bit of fun. Pranks are his thing, and we get that. But if Jimmy Fallon is the life of the late-night TV party who’s not afraid to let his freak flag fly, Kimmel is the frenemy who keeps telling us that there’s a spot on our shirt and calling us stupid when we look.”

The bottom line is that academic studies have proven positivity shares very well online. And Coca-Cola is the unofficial soft-drink king of positivity.

Put it this way, one cute kitten does not a viral video make, but who wouldn’t want to see and share a fireman saving one:

For more insights into why positivity shares so well online (and more viral videos), see Natalie Kitroeff’s interesting article for the New York Times.

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