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How To Succeed In Social Media – The Science Behind Viral Marketing

the science behind viral marketing

Just a few days ago, the last episodes of my favorite television show have started airing. You have probably seen Mad Men, if not because you actually like it, then only to see what the hype was all about. The show follows the life of Don Draper, an ad man from 60’s (and later 70’s) New York.

During the show he has come up with some of the most iconic ads to date, alongside his associate Peggy. Those two always get that perfect idea that will have the desired effect on the consumers. If you watch the show, you already know that.

learn what do modern Mad Men do to be successful

However, I am not so sure that Don Draper would be as big of an advertising icon if he somehow started out today.

The advertisement world has changed vastly since the 1960’s. It is a lot bigger. It is incredibly fiercer.

It is definitely not just about the perfect idea. There is a lot more science to it. There has been a shift in age groups that products are being targeted to, as well as an increase in marketing and advertising budgets.

But most importantly, the birth of Internet and social networks has changed the game completely.

“The Cannes Festival of TV ads”, the Super Bowl, now held every first Sunday in February, is the most watched TV broadcast in the United States and the day itself is considered an unofficial American holiday.

Alongside the familial overeating, the half-time performances of the biggest pop-stars of today, with the likes of Madonna, Katy Perry and Beyoncé, and the sports itself, Super Bowl Commercials have become an institution of its sorts.

Super Bowl became the unofficial American holiday

The Super Bowl Ads And The Science Behind Their Success

Super Bowl would be absolutely unimaginable without the commercials.

The price speaks for itself. In last 10 years, the Super Bowl has earned more than $2 billion dollars in advertising sales.

A single minute of air time in the commercial slot is worth a whopping $9 million as of this year.

That is only for the air time. Some of the advertisers spend up to tens of millions of dollars just for the making of their TV spots. You would think they would give their best that the video they release is really good.

The advertisers try, but not all of their attempts are equally successful.

That is why the team behind Unruly Labs has dived into the matter and analysed what made Super Bowl commercials great. They broke advertising down to simple science, not just lucky guesses.

Those of you who pay attention can later apply the knowledge elsewhere, not just Super Bowl ads.

Social video is the fastest growing advertising channel

Replicating The Success On Social Media

One of the most important aspects of any campaign nowadays is something that 60’s Donald Draper never had to think about.

Social networks and social sharing are what matters now. [Tweet “Social video is the fastest growing advertising channel”] And if you do not have a strong online presence, you do not exist in the advertising world.

So, making a TV commercial is one thing, but making it popular on the web is taking the advertising game to a whole different level.

A commercial’s impact is not only seen as the number of people who have passively seen it on TV, but also as the number of people who have shared the commercial voluntarily and the people who chose to view it online.

Sharing the commercials has become a way to use the new generations help

It is proven that the people who have actually chosen to watch the ad instead of just seeing it on TV react more effectively to it.

They are more prone to buying the product that is being marketed and they will talk about the commercial (and the product at the same time) more than passive TV viewers.

Even more:

Also, they are more likely to search for the product online, go to the company’s web-page and even enjoy the commercial itself.

This is based on a more interactive approach to advertising, in which the consumers actually have stronger emotions towards a well-advertised product or company.

There has been proof that video enjoyment is the key to larger sales profits. [Tweet “People who have enjoyed the video purchased with +97% more products than those who did not.”]

And that is what ROI is all about after all. A more effective return per investment.

When making a commercial, be aware of what you target group is and what they are most likely to enjoy. Having a hit online video amongst the wrong target group will not help that much.

advertising ROI is dependent on the sharing

According to this team, they can concoct a recipe for a successful commercial by using the data gained from the study.

What is more important:

You can now predict how the ad will do on the Internet.

[Tweet “Videos that produce strong positive emotions are 3 times more likely to be shared on social media “]

The Virality Factors

Maybe the best know recipe is including hilarity and the element of surprise in the commercial. However, that combination can easily go the wrong way with the audience. People are mostly jaded to weaker attempts and audiences only react strongly to exceptionally funny (hilarious) videos.

Sometimes it might be best to go the opposite way and stand out in the crowd. That is exactly what the Unruly suggest. Refocus on something that the public will find fresh.

Going with a different emotional trigger is definite must-do when making a ground-breaking commercial that you want to be shared with everyone. The most successful ads in terms of social sharing are those ads which produced the desired emotional effect of warmth, pride, happiness and awe.

These ads also need to embody key social elements like attention grabbing, shared emotional response and zeitgeist, which brings us to the other must-do.

you need to grab their attention

Give your audience an incentive to share your video free of will. This should be based on the preferably strong and emotional reaction the video brings out from people and the multiple reasons they would want to share the same experience with others.

[Tweet “Great commercials are just that, half-a-minute emotional roller-coasters and sensory experiences.”]

Other points that need to be made are paying attention to things like storyline or music background, which enrich the watching experience.

Would you like your ad to be Extremely Sociable or an Unruly Viral Video Chart Topper

When taking all these factors into consideration, commercial videos can be placed into 4 categories. The following are:

  • Unruly Viral Video Chart Topper – videos that are going to trend on multiple platforms, due to both their ability to elicit emotional response and their social shareability.
  • Extremely Sociable – videos that are shared based on a strong social motivation, but lacking a strong emotional connotation.
  • Made for TV – videos which are not designed for social sharing or lacking any sharing appeal.
  • Emotional Wringer – videos that move you emotionally, but leave with absolutely no desire to share them.

You want your commercial to be either Extremely Sociable or an Unruly Viral Video Chart Topper.

Launch new video on Wednesday

After making a carefully thought-through video campaign, you need to think about placement. It is not only where (The Super Bowl for example), but more importantly when to start dispersing.

With viral peak lasting 3 short days, and data showing the highest sharing numbers happen Wednesday through Friday, with Wednesday holding the first spot, it is advised to launch your content on those days.

I don’t really think Don Draper needed to know all this, but you do so now you have at least an idea about what you need to do to create a truly viral piece of content.


Marketer and social media expert. I started out doing regular website SEO back in 2005 when things were a lot easier. Adapted to the changes and tried everything myself in order to see what really works and what doesn't. Even if I see all the gurus advocating for a way or other of doing things I always want to see the results with my own eyes so I do my own testing. Be sure that if you're reading my articles what I talk about in them really works. Fell in love with Social media a few years back when I started looking for alternate ways of driving traffic to my sites. The interaction and meeting new and interesting people all while actually working is a great way of doing things.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Sherman Smith

    Hey Johnny,

    I’m one of the few guys that don’t watch football, but I love the commercials. And the fact that I can find them on youtube is even better. And when you can do both it adds to it’s reason to go viral.

    I do agree that how a commercial goes viral falls under one of the 4 categories that you mentioned here. There’s really nothing more you can add to this. I wonder how those from back in the 60’s, 70’s, and also even the 80’s would think of advertising now.

    Thanks for sharing Johnny! Have a great week!

    1. Johnny

      I love commercials as well, especially well though ones, though many don’t fall into that category 🙂

  2. Sunday

    Hi Johnny,
    A well thought out insights on viral marketing. I couldn’t agree more with the science behind it as shared in this post!

    Making a success of any commercial advert with the help of social media is possible if emotional triggers are properly presented to solve the problems of the audience.

    Time factor and the right content should never be ignored if viral marketing is to gain ground!

    1. Johnny

      Thank you Sunday, glad when my article is appreciated 🙂

  3. Lawrence Berry

    These are some great tips to help your content go viral. You are absolutely correct that the advertising world have changed, especially with all the social media and internet marketing. Video is a great way to get your content to go viral. Video can be more entertaining and easier to follow than reading, and people like easy. Having a video that projects strong positive emotions is a great way to connect with people. I will have to keep this in mind. Great post!

    1. Johnny

      Yes, Lawrence, video is indeed on of the best ways to get your content get viral as everybody loves videos, for some businesses it might be harder and not easily doable but it should be tried nonetheless.

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