People don’t like blatant advertising, but they do like stories. That is why marketers need to hide their ads in creative viral marketing. If your viral marketing is creative not only will people watch your “advert” they will more than likely help you promote it by sharing the story with their friends.

Successful viral marketing tends to follow these rules.

1. They tell a story
Viral marketing relies on many popular storytelling elements to engage with consumers. These include humour, tragedy, and suspense. All viral marketing tries to use these elements to engross consumers’ curiosity.
2. They rely on human feelings
People rely on emotions, rather than information to make brand decisions. Fear, surprise, and joy can all be used creatively in viral marketing to influence a person’s decision.
3. There is no branding upfront
It may seem absurd but the best viral marketing doesn’t focus on what they are trying to promote. Due to the fact people have grown to hate blatant advertisements what with Adblock, on demand services, and DVR eliminating conventional advertisements from people’s lives. To succeed you need to creatively camouflage your product within the viral marketing. It’s there but not the focus.

Now let’s see some examples of great storytelling in viral marketing.

1. Ikea Belgium – Wireless Bungee Jumping

Views :1,347,400

The Story of This Viral Marketing

Picture of unnamed man from Ikea's viral marketing video

Who is this man?

The story of this viral marketing ad begins in the heat of the action we see Damien, the man crazy enough to try a wireless bungee jump. he is standing on the edge ready to take a leap of faith. It then cuts to a scientist and we see the first clue that this video is viral marketing and isn’t exactly on the up and up. They do not introduce you to who this man is, and what part of the experiment he is in charge of. If this was real do you think he wouldn’t want people knowing who came up with this genius idea?

picture of the magnets from the viral marketing video next to a picture of the product the viral marketing video is trying to sell

The “magnets” are just bigger versions of the product

This unnamed man shows you how this proposed wireless bungee jump would work, based on magnets and proceeds to demonstrate their experiments. We then see our second clue that this video is actually viral marketing (however you wouldn’t notice it on first viewing). The “magnets” they are using are enlarged versions of the product they are trying to sell.

The story then follows the hero, Damien (the brave/crazy man from the very beginning) and focuses on his journey. We see him talking to a loved one who is (rightly) concerned about him doing this jump, shows him traveling to the scene of the jump, and then we continue from where we left off at the beginning of the viral marketing.

He jumps, and would you believe it the wireless bungee jump worked (although it wouldn’t be on YouTube if it didn’t). Damien and the unnamed scientist celebrate, Damien phones the concerned love one to tell them the jump was a success, then he puts his phone on a device to charge it. That device is the product that they are trying to promote in this viral marketing.

The Feelings This Viral Marketing Portrays

The viral marketing uses multiple emotions such as anticipation (will the crazy idea work?), suspense (Will Damien survive?), and fear (Who is that unnamed man?) to successfully engage the consumer. They use many techniques to accomplish this. To elicit suspense from the consumer, the viral marketing mutes the audio when Damien jumps. For fear they allow you to empathise with Damien as he contacts his loved one who is worried about him, so you are invested in him and are concerned for his safety when he is about to jump. And for anticipation, they start you right in the middle of the action and cut away when he is about to jump.

The Branding Associated With This Viral Marketing

Image of two scientists from viral marketing wearing shirts with logos that are minimalist design of product the video is trying to sell

Shirt logo is minimalist design of product

The product was not mentioned until the very end, however we were given clues to the true nature of the viral marketing. The focus of the video was on “Wireless” bungee jumping however the correct term for a “bungee wire” is actually a cord. The “magnets” they were using were bigger versions of the product they are trying to sell, and the logos on the scientist’s shirts are a minimalist version of the product.

However whilst the product is hinted at a couple of times, we do not see any clues for Ikea who is the company that this product is for, the only mention of this company is at the very end of the viral marketing.

2. Hi-Tec – Liquid Mountaineering

Views: 14,781,985

The Story of This Viral Marketing

We start with the three main characters of this viral marketing, Sebastian Vanderwerf, Miguel Delfortrie, and Ulf Gartner talking about how they discovered this sport over footage of people attempting to run on water and then their (more successful) attempts.

The footage is all over the place, rapid cuts showing different parts of their journey, we see them messing around, driving random vehicles. It makes the footage look like a genuine amateur, extreme sports, road trip video with good friends travelling together and having fun. It isn’t though, it is viral marketing, and all these videos are trying to sell you something, never forget that.

The three explain how they accomplish liquid mountaineering, (it involves running at a curve and running very fast) whist they show footage of the three getting better and better at running on water.

image of water repellent shoes that Hi Tec's viral marketing is trying to promote.

Water repellent shoes the viral marketing is trying to promote.

We then move on to them explaining the equipment they use to run on water. They found some Hi-Tec branded water repellent shoes that are just perfect for the job, and what a coincidence! They are all wearing Hi-Tec branded clothing. What are the chances? They also have a jet ski that they use to help them build up speed before they run.

Image showing the characters of this viral marketing wearing Hi-Tec branded clothing.

They are all wearing Hi-Tec branded clothing. What are the chances?

They end the viral marketing saying that you need to believe that this is possible (even though this video is viral marketing and is not real).

The Feelings This Viral Marketing Portrays

Joy is the main emotion in this viral marketing, everyone is infectiously happy and optimistic about running on water and you can’t help but feel good about these three guys travelling with their friends having fun and attempting to succeed in a sport that they love.

The Branding Associated With This Viral Marketing

This viral marketing is the opposite of Ikea’s wireless bungee jumping viral marketing. The Company is plastered in this ad, mainly in the clothing that all three characters are wearing. The product is only mentioned once as an aside. They talk about how the product is good for repelling water and that’s about it.

3. TrueMoveH – Giving

Views: 19,845,617

The Story of This Viral Marketing

The viral marketing uses a mix of a hero’s narrative and the mountain story technique to tell its tale. It starts with a young boy being heckled by an old shopkeeper after the boy steals medicine from her shop. The boy tells the woman that the medicine is for his mum, the old woman doesn’t care. Another local shopkeeper comes to the aid of the young boy, pays for what he stole, calls his daughter to get some vegetable soup and gives it to him, the young boy runs off with the soup and the medicine.

30 years later we see the kind shopkeeper still working, and his daughter still helping him. A vagrant comes begging for food and the kind shopkeeper gladly gives it to him. He is then struck with some unknown ailment, he collapses and hits his head on a table.

In the hospital the kind shopkeeper’s daughter is given a bill for his care, which she cannot afford. We see her talking to a doctor and it cuts immediately to a for sale sign outside her house.

The daughter awakes at the side of her father’s bed with a new bill under her arm stating that the summary of the medical expense is now 0, with the message “all expenses paid 30 years ago with 3 packs of painkillers and a bag of veggie soup, best regards Dr. Prajak Arunthong” with flashbacks to the incident 30 years ago. It turns out the doctor that the daughter went to see was the young boy all grown up. We see footage of the doctor working tirelessly, and performing surgery on the kind shopkeeper himself.

The video ends with the message “giving is the best communication” along with pictures of the doctor helping people all around the world, and then the logo of the company

The Feelings This Viral Marketing Portrays

This is one of the most powerful pieces of viral marketing emotionally, in this video you see and feel kindness, indignation, sadness, and happiness. Kindness is definitely the main focus of the viral marketing (what with the whole concept being around giving). Indignation and sadness are also prevalent, especially in the middle act when we see a kind old man stuck down with an ailment that he does not deserve. And happiness when you find out that the actions of the kind old man 30 years ago not only helped a young boy but also saved his own life.

The Branding Associated With This Viral Marketing

The brand is mentioned only once, at the end with a logo and the tagline “giving is the best communication”. They are promoting their brand rather than a product.

4. Chipotle – The Scarecrow

Views: 15,864,740

The Story of This Viral Marketing

The first thing we see is a beautiful farm but after the camera pans out we see what it really is, an advertisement on the side of a smoke-spewing factory. A scarecrow walks into view, stares at the advertisement, and steps into the factory. He picks up his tools and walks onto a conveyer belt along with other scarecrows as a robotic crow lands on his shoulder.

The viral marketing uses a creepy rendition of “Pure Imagination” sung by Fiona Apple to create a stark contrast between this dystopian future and a true world of pure imagination.

Inside the factory we see machines processing different animals and conveyer belts moving everything about, with robotic crows watching from the rafters. The scarecrow then sees a tube extracting a horrific substance labelled as “100% Beef-ish” all leading to consumers on a conveyer belt.

The scarecrow leaves the factory as the crow on his shoulder caws loudly and shrilly at him, pecks him, and leads him to a hole in a wall that the crow wants the scarecrow to fix.

The scarecrow looks into the hole and sees robotic crows injecting strange liquid into a chicken which grows immensely. The scarecrow then boards up the hole, A piece of wood attached to a crane drops down behind the scarecrow and he sits down and is lifted up into the air.

As he is lifted into the air we get a good look at this bleak and depressing world, which is a stark contrast to the lyrics of the song “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it”

The scarecrow reaches the top of a building which has a cow mascot on top of the building that has a piece falling off, the scarecrow starts to report but looks inside the mascot to see dozens of cows trapped in machines all being forcefully milked as the lyrics continue “Anything you want to, do it, Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it”

The scene then transitions to the scarecrow on a train going home staring at an advertisement showing idyllic, green farms. But when he looks out the window he sees a dustbowl with machines scavenging food to sell.

The scarecrow returns home and goes immediately to his garden and on seeing a chilli growing, he looks back at the dirty city and the music starts to cheer up.

We see the scarecrow picking vegetables out of his garden, driving them all to the city, and happily preparing a meal using the vegetables, and setting up shop right next to the conveyer belts we saw earlier in the viral marketing.

A crow comes to see what is going on, but the scarecrow shoos it away, the camera then pans out showing people interested in the scarecrow’s stall with the slogan “cultivate a better world” above the scarecrows stall.

The Feelings This Viral Marketing Portrays

Compilation image of Logos present in the viral marketing

All three instances of the logo in the viral marketing

The world in the scarecrow’s viral marketing is a depressing one, full of corporate greed, genetic engineering, and false advertisements (the worst of all). But just like many other viral marketing there is hope at the end with the scarecrow producing his own food with many people showing interest.

The Branding Associated With This Viral Marketing

There were only three instances of the company being mentioned, the first occurs when the scarecrow grabbed the chili, it was an exact match for the logo of the company. Then when the scarecrow was making his food one of the logos on the boxes was similar to the logo of the company, and finaly at the end of the ad the company’s name showed up at the end.

5. Go Pro – Fireman Saves Kitten

Views: 31,173,679

The Story of This Viral Marketing

The first thing we notice in this viral marketing is that we are seeing everything from the perspective of the fireman, the fireman is walking into a burning building as we hear over the radio that they are looking for sergeant Johnson (who we can assume is the man we are viewing). The fireman walks into the building and the sounds outside are chaotic, loud sirens, horns, chatter over the radio, heavy breathing from the fireman.

The fireman is searching through the house as we hear over the radio someone ask if everyone is accounted for. As the fireman searches the building he stumbles across a lifeless kitten on the floor. The fireman stops in his tracks as soon as he sees the kitten.

As the fireman picks up the kitten cheerful music starts to play. The fireman taps his colleague on the shoulder and points to the kitten and leaves. Once the fireman leaves the world becomes less chaotic. The sounds are gone, the heavy breathing has stopped, and the music’s tempo picks up.

The fireman gets oxygen out from the truck, takes off his gloves and places the kitten on the floor on top of his glove. The camera position changes, we are no longer seeing the viral marketing from the view of the fireman, we are next to the kitten now. The fireman places the oxygen mask over the kitten, then we cut to a short time later showing the kitten breathing from the oxygen mask, the fireman covers the kitten with a small wet cloth and pours water over it, another fireman comes to see what is happening and kneels beside the first fireman, we cut to a little later and the kitten starts to move, the kitten shakes off the water and meows loudly, the fireman then hugs the kitten.

We then see the logo for the company and picture of the product along with the tagline “be a hero”, and we see other videos made to promote GoPro.

The Feelings This Viral Marketing Portrays

Empathy, shock, sadness, and joy are the main emotions present in this viral marketing. We are seeting the world with the fireman (especially because we are seeing the world through his eyes), the shock and sadness of seeing the lifeless body of the kitten as well as seeing the fireman freeze in place at the sight of it. The joy at seeing the kitten recpoverand the fireman hugging it.

The Branding Associated With This Viral Marketing

There are only two times where we see the branding in this viral marketing, at the beginning and at the end. Both are short animations showing both the product (the Hero 3) and the company name, as well as the tagline. That’s all we need, the focus is on the hero in the story (the fireman) and that relates back to both the product and the tagline.

All of these viral marketing adverts told a captivating story, that gave viewers something memorable, and also sparked an emotion and the need to share that emotion with others. Curiosity, humour, love and shock were all used in the viral marketing to draw viewers in, get shares and keep the attention of the viewer. The marketing message is associated with the emotions through the viral marketing making it more memorable.

Author Omar Rashid

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