Branding Through Virality

Often times the most effective advertisements are those that strike deep into the viewers emotional core.  It’s a difficult thing to accomplish, especially when limited by the constraints of television spots or simply to a page in a magazine.  But the internet has broken down those barriers and it has given birth to the art of branded viral videos.

In this generation, the best ads are the ones that go viral.  They’re also usually the ones that were banned from television.  Take Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream ad for instance.  This ad wasn’t banned from television, but it was banned from airing during the Super Bowl for sponsoring reasons, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi”.

Halfway through the commercial, Johansson, straw in mouth, says, “if only I could make this message go viral,” after which she sheds her bathrobe to reveal a sexy black dress.  Some would say in order to have something go viral, you can’t say the word viral.  But when you include an actress often mentioned in the sexiest woman alive conversation, it changes the game a bit.  The ad has close to 14 million views on Youtube.

If any major company or brand hasn’t caught on to this trend, they are surely falling behind.  Dove has made several videos as part of their real beauty campaign that have tapped into emotion and have been seen by more than 62 million viewers.  Through their real beauty campaign they have solidified their brand as something more than soap.  Dove encourages people to be comfortable in their own skin, and embrace their real beauty.  Kmart had a video go viral because it’s simply hilarious, so funny it may make you “ship your pants”.


Chipotle has even entered the world of viral video advertising.  In a clever, pixar-like short film called “The Scarecrow”, Chipotle artistically communicates the values they uphold through the eyes of a conflicted factory worker who wants to make a difference.  The short includes a sorrowful rendition of “Pure Imagination” casting shadows on the poor practices exercised in today’s fast-food world.  The end of the short film mirrors Chipotle’s stand for “food with integrity” when the factory worker quits his job and opens up a food stand outside of the factory.

Apple went straight for the heart this past Christmas with the release of their “Misunderstood” video.  The ad focuses on a teenage kid whose attention is focused on his iPhone rather than enjoying Christmas festivities with his family.  At the end he plays a video for his family that he had been capturing the entire time.  It’s endearing to the point where it nearly brings tears to the eyes at the end.  The ad makes Apple seem like more than a tech company, and that is what viral branding is all about.

Viral branding enables a company to establish an emotional connection with consumers.  It provides them with enjoyment, laughter, sadness and an intimate relationship with the brand.  Viral videos are both “compelling and shareable” and although they may not cause a massive surge in revenue, “visual storytelling can help [an] organization stay relevant in ways that cannot be measured”.

-FS