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7 Key Findings From The Science of Sharing 2014 White Paper

We still have more than a week to wait until the World Cup kicks off, but already brands are winning big in Brazil.

Despite not a single ball being kicked in anger, Nike, Samsung and Castrol have scored some nice early wins, putting them ahead of the rest in our #Braziliant Brands Tracker.

But whether you are an official sponsor or just hoping to jump on the World Cup bandwagon, it’s not too late to join the action. There has never been a better time to join the social video revolution.

Sharing of branded online video content has grown 22% over the last 12 months, while the rate of sharing in the first three days has doubled over the last 12 months. Yet advertisers are still missing the mark when it comes to maximizing tent-pole events and amplifying TV sponsorships.

Unruly’s Science of Sharing 2014 report gives insights and tips on how to maximise your social video content online. Below are seven key findings from the report.

You can download the full report here.


1. Celebrities do not drive online ad sharing

The stars were certainly out for Super Bowl 2014, with Bob Dylan, Ellen, Stephen Colbert, The Muppets, ALF, U2, Arnie and even the cast of 90s sitcom Full House among the many celebrities used to front multi-million dollar campaigns.

However, it wasn’t famous faces which had people sharing this year, it was a cute puppy, a soldier and an ad from Coca-Cola about diversity in America which stole the show. Few viewers cited celebrities as a key driver of why they would share an ad. And this is not just restricted to the Super Bowl. Only 13% of the most shared ads of all time (top 100) feature celebrities.


2. Poorly branding your ad is like throwing away your marketing budget

This is where some Super Bowl advertisers learned an expensive lesson. Unruly found that brand recall in this year’s Super Bowl ranged from 95% to 7%, yet research has shown that there is no independent correlation between brand presence and sharing behavior. In fact, some of the most highly-shared ads of all time (e.g. Kmart’s “Ship My Pants”are heavily branded.

Chrysler created a beautiful spot, with high production values featuring the legendary Bob Dylan which evoked feelings of pride and nostalgia. However, only 7% of viewers realized the ad was for Chrysler, while 12% thought it was for the city of Detroit, and 4% thought it was for rival Ford. The danger of too lightly branding an ad is that viewers will think it came from a competitor – who did not outlay any sponsorship funds.


3. Pack an emotional punch

Whichever emotions a brand seeks to trigger, do so with intensity. Mid-intensity responses do not drive sharing or deliver earned media (go for a belly laugh vs. mere amusement). Microsoft’s “Empowering” and Budweiser’s ”Puppy Love” were the most intrinsically shareable ads in the study, which elicited a diverse mix of intense responses.


4. Get cut-through and gain memorability by using an emotional trigger other than hilarity

Humour is the most commonly deployed psychological response. However, it’s also the hardest to do well and the most culturally sensitive. Therefore brands should look to the 17 other psychological responses as a starting point for creating shareable content.

The ad with the most shares from 2014 Super Bowl (Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”), the ad with the highest share rate of the Super Bowl (Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful”) and the ad with the highest Unruly ShareRank score (Microsoft’s “Empowering”) all leaned on other emotional responses (happiness, warmth, inspiration, pride and amazement).


5. Layer on the Social Motivations

People share videos for a variety of reasons. These include showing your friends and family that you are in-the-know, championing a cause or shared passion or simply trying to start a conversation. Unruly advises advertisers to give viewers multiple reasons to share their ad. That way, if one fails to resonate with an audience, there are fall back options.

Of the ads analysed in Unruly’s study, the majority of ads elicited only one or 2 significant social motivations, which hurt sharing.


6. Timing is everything

With almost 2 million shares, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” was the runaway winner of Super Bowl 2014. However, with a few distribution tweaks, it could have been Microsoft’s “Empowering” (which finished 16th overall in Big Game sharing). When tested using theUnruly ShareRank algorithm, the ads has similar scores, elicited strong psychological responses and gave viewers strong social motivations to share online.

The difference was the launch timings. Budweiser launched its ad online the Wednesday (the optimal day to release content) before Super Bowl Sunday, and was able to achieve two viral peaks (one after launch and one on the second day after the game aired). Microsoft waited until the day itself to launch and missed the opportunity for dual peaks.


7. Watch Out for Surprise Plays IRL (In Real Life)

This year, advertisers who waited to launch their spot in the live broadcast were served a double-whammy. Who would have ever thought the Super Bowl would be such a blowout? Many viewers likely stopped paying intense attention to the TV screen as the game progressed, and the advertisers who launched content in the latter half of the broadcast likely had less viewer attention.

IRL surprises (slow news days, acts of God, live TV) make distribution more important than ever – paid distribution guarantees a large number of views to a brand’s audience on the day of launch. However you distribute, make sure to maximize the viral peak in the early days of the campaign, which will result in generating additional shares over the life of the campaign.  

Make your ad easily discoverable and ubiquitous in the environments your audience frequents online, so they can view and share it fast!