“Give Me A Viral Video” –– The Rational Road to Failure


Remember when viral videos were all the rage?

Suddenly, every client demanded her/his agency create a viral video. “Just give me one of those videos that gets fifty, sixty-million hits and becomes a worldwide sensation.”

Gotcha, coming right up! You want a microsite with that?

Unfortunately, most clients brought their rational marketing brains to the table, then dictated that their videos communicate selling points, product attributes and features– demanding the film be treated like a jumbo-sized commercial. The clients felt good because this satisfied their rational marketing brains.

The videos were produced and released. The results? Farts in the bathtub.

They didn’t go viral, they barely infected a small group of people internally, plus the friends and relatives of the marcom department.

What went wrong? Forgetting human nature. A lack of understanding that what makes anything worth sharing is its being out of the ordinary–– humans like things that are entertaining, provocative, outrageous or funny as hell. Something different, something that doesn’t satisfy the rational brain but feeds our emotional spirit and delights us.

It’s the sharing of the joy the video brought us that makes it viral.

Not marketing briefs brought to life. Not strategies and tactics. People don’t share videos with notes like, “Hey, check this out! The strategy is spot on for the marketplace and I’ll bet it gets written up in ‘The Harvard Business Review’ as a great case study.”

Not understanding human nature and our insatiable need to be surprised has doomed many a viral video. Along with many marketing campaigns.