Valuable Virality: How Marketers Can Create Social Video Hits Which Drive ROI

Heavily branding your online video ad has no any effect on its shareability. It’s a fact we talk about a lot at Unruly when speaking about some of the many myths around video virality.

We first spoke about it back in 2011, when Dr Karen Nelson-Field and her team at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, based in Australia, carried out on some research on the ads topping the Unruly Viral Video Chart. There is also a chapter on it in her brilliant 2013 book, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, which basically suggests that using poorly branded advertising is tantamount to throwing away your marketing budget

Yet for a lot of marketers the message is still not getting through. Afraid that by making the brand or product a prominent part of the ad it will somehow reduce the number of shares it attracts. These ‘soft sell’ ads may tell a story or make people laugh, but they won’t necessarily help your bottom line.

The other option (in the marketers’ mind at least) is to create a ‘hard sell’ ad, putting their brand at the heart of your video. Sure, it may not trouble the share button too much, but it will drive ROI. Well, for anyone who actually saw it at least.

Unsurprisingly, keen to have a viral video sensation on their CVs, a lot of CMOs opt for the soft option. In fact, according to new research from Ezgi Akpinar and Jonah Berger – despite branding having no effect on sharing – only 35% make the brand a strong part of the storyline, while social video ads contain a third of the branding of TV ads.

However, as Akpinar and Berger are keen to stress, you can have your marketing cake and eat it. There’s no need to hide your brand away like a clutch of unflattering holiday photos.

You can create an ad that will not only be shared but also drive purchase intent and brand recall. You can create, as Akpinar and Berger call it, Valuable Virality’.

But this doesn’t mean slapping a packaging shot or an oversized logo at the end of an ad. It’s about making your brand integral to the plot.

Easier said than done, of course, but you only need to look at the upper echelons of the Unruly Viral Video Chart for inspiration.

Arguably, one of the most successful online video campaigns of all time, Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series, has delivered not only more than 300 million views on YouTube alone, but a 700% increase in retail sales.

GoPro and Coca-Cola are also brands that consistently deliver social video hit after social video hit, despite putting their brand names and products at the centre of their advertising.

To find out more, download our two-pager on Ezgi and Jonah’s research here.