What’s the Key to Viral Marketing? ‘Emotional’ Content

If you want your campaigns to go viral, leave the numbers to the number-crunchers. Focus on heightening your audience’s emotions and you’ll meet whatever goal you set.

There’s a lot of science behind content marketing, from analytics to testing and optimizing. However, that’s not why content goes viral – it goes viral because of the emotions a certain photo, video, or article generates.

There’s so much content on the Web these days that no one can see it all, let alone remember it. The content that elicits an emotional response is what resonates longest and is most often shared. In fact, researchers have seen more social shares of content that generates anticipation, surprise or admiration. So, elicit these emotions, and improve your content marketing strategy, create content that hits on these hot emotional triggers.


The Nurture Effect

When adults do things or go through bad situations, we react with the right amount of amusement or concern. When kids are involved, reactions are always heightened. Even non-parents are tickled when kids do cute things, or horrified when they’re put in danger. That makes kids the perfect element to raise the emotional state of content.

For instance, 12 Keys used kids to great effect with a series of  anti-drugs for youth print ads showing babies and toddlers in typical drinking situations. It was jarring enough to see such young children chugging beers and sipping cocktails. When coupled with statistics about the health risks kids face when their parents drink, they became a stark warning against alcohol abuse for drinkers and nondrinkers alike.


Photo: 12 Keys; Source: http://bit.ly/1fRUXfg
Photo: 12 Keys; Source: http://bit.ly/1fRUXfg


Change the World Content

It’s also common to want to make the world a better place, but we tend to get distracted by our everyday lives. Sometimes, however, you come across an image or story that’s so powerful it makes you want to drop what you’re doing and help. These moments are more likely to turn a marketing pitch into a viral campaign.

The ASPCA does this by showing both the heartbreak and the triumph of abused and neglected animals. Their ads, full of the sad faces of dogs and cats, drove viewers to tears and donations totaling $30 million. They also made consumers more likely to share happy stories of adoptions, rescues and criminal investigations, and those stories generated even more funds.

Photo: ASPCA.org advertisement
Photo: ASPCA.org advertisement


A Desire to Belong

Social marketing is all about creating and nurturing a community, online and offline. So, it’s no wonder why some of the most effective viral campaigns created a community by touching on something people were feeling, consciously or otherwise, and then developing content that motivated them to share with others going through the same thing.

For example, Dove brought women together in its Real Beauty campaign. From photos featuring real-sized women in their underwear to a startling video showing how beauty can be “created,” the skin-care company developed a wide range of content designed to combat the epidemic of poor body image among girls and women. The end result was 163 million shares worldwide.



“What the…?” Content

Some campaigns go viral because they play on the element of surprise. Some surprises are so huge that they render us speechless. The surprises make sense when you look at them in hindsight, but in that first moment all you can say is, “What the…?” and then pass them on.

Two great examples of this came out in 2013. The first was a promo video for the remake of the horror movie “Carrie,” in which typically unflappable New Yorkers are freaked out by a woman telekinetically throwing a man in the air. The second is a Volvo spot called ‘The Epic Split’ featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a perfect split between two trucks with Volvo engines. Both videos went viral just by showing people something they didn’t think was possible.

If you want your campaigns to go viral, leave the numbers to the number-crunchers. Focus on heightening your audience’s emotions and you’ll meet whatever goal you set.


Savannah Flynn is a public relations specialist for WebpageFX, a full-service Internet marketing, web design and web development agency offering integrated web solutions for medium to large sized businesses across the globe. She has a passion for online marketing and PR.


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article