Get Lucky With Video: 5 Traits Viral Branded Videos Have In Common

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If there’s one question every person in the video marketing realm loathes, it’s “how do I make my video go viral?”  As members of the human race, we naturally want to keep people hopeful but the sad truth is, there’s no secret formula to making a viral branded video and with 72 million hours of videos uploaded every minute on Youtube alone, you’re more likely to win the lottery. When clients tell us they have a burning desire to create viral video, we suggest setting more obtainable goals like a specific percentage increase in leads or less abandoned shopping carts. Besides, viral video rarely leads to an influx in sales, which is what most businesses are really aiming for. You’re probably better off chasing rainbows in hopes of uncovering a Leprechaun’s precious pot of gold. Though, a stout at your local bar is much easier to procure and, dare I say, magically delicious.  Yes, I recommend placing your money on the stout.

If I still haven’t convinced you, let me just say, I admire your persistence and genuinely hope you find your pot of video gold. Which is why I’ve compared Adweek’s top 10 viewed Youtube videos of 2014 to determine what they have in common to give you a starting point in your quest.


Traditionally, shorter videos have a better performance rate online, though studies have shown that viewers are willing to watch longer videos on mobile devices. Of the top videos we looked at, most are 90 seconds or less. The exceptions include Always’ empowering “Like A Girl” piece (it was shortened to 60 seconds for the 2015 super bowl) and three timely ads revolving around sporting events. P&G’s “Pick Them Back Up” was released during the 2014 Winter Olympics and two Nike World Cup spots –short films that continuously introduce new recognizable faces to hold the viewer’s attention. Nike, Always, and P&G were able to break the viral video mold with lengthy spots but it’s a large risk and shorter videos still perform better overall. So, while mobile users are willing to watch longer videos than desktop users, if its virality you want, we recommend you keep it short.

Entertainment value

From Always’ documentary-style “Like A Girl” spot, to Budweiser’s emotional piece about drunk driving, and even the 20th Century Fox promotional prank “Devil Baby Attack”, top viral videos all start with a unique idea or a captivating story. This is where every one of my readers ecstatically thinks, “I have a great idea! My video will go viral!” I’m sorry to be Debbie Downer but that probably won’t be the case unless accompanied by a host of other factors (including luck).

Production quality

With the exception of the two live pranks that captured human reactions with hidden cameras and a third animated spot, the top videos had exceptional production value. From the lighting and sound to the structure, tone, and pacing of the videos, production value contributed to eliciting the intended emotional response. Marketers hope to influence audiences with video and these videos have been optimized at every level of production to effectively do so.

Famous talent

Chances of going viral seem to dramatically increase with every inclusion of a famous face. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Heineken’s “The Payphone with Fred Armisen.” From a production standpoint, there is nothing extraordinary about this spot but it has received nearly 14 million views to date. Even more impressive is the nearly 107 million views Nike has achieved with 2014’s top branded video, “Winner Stays” which featured the world’s top professional soccer players. Sadly, most small to mid-sized marketing departments don’t have Nike-sized budgets to throw at a star-studded video. Don’t be discouraged, a great idea doesn’t need to be accompanied by a famous face to be well received by its intended audience, it just needs to be well executed.


One additional thing to keep in mind about these videos is the respective brands had huge online networks to begin with. Engaging your current fanbase is the best way to reach influencers and may just be your best tool in achieving rapid exponential sharing.

Now, because I know you are dying to see the number one branded video of 2014, here’s Nike’s “Winner Stays” featuring the world’s best soccer…*cough* I mean, football players.

Video Insights

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