12 best (and worst) viral brand videos

What makes something get shared or go viral? This seems to be the Holy Grail of brand bliss. Everyone wants their day in the Internet sun. Recently at a Content Marketing Conference at which I did a keynote presentation, another presenter talked about taking her non-profit’s blog from a ghost town to shared by thousands. One of her nuggets of wisdom? Make people laugh, cry or fume.

Here are 12 great examples of brand videos that went viral – and a few are big misses in my opinion. See if you can determine each one’s “secret sauce” and why you think it got shared. How can you apply some of that magic to your own content marketing efforts?

Dollar Shave Club, Our Blades are F**ing Great by Paulilu Productions
10+ million views

Combine a funny, charismatic and good-looking founder like Mike Dubin (he wrote the script) with snappy jokes and quirky scenes, and you get viral video gold. This video makes you laugh out loud while still doing its job of explaining what the heck Dollar Shave Club does for its members. There is no mistaking the brand voice and vibe this company is going after. They make this the cool tribe of which you want to be part. One of my all-time fave brand videos.

Dove, Real Beauty Sketches  by Ogilvy Mather   
54+ million views

Dove uses a forensic artist to compare people’s perceptions of themselves with how others perceive them. Powerful, moving and hopeful. You may choke back a sob. The music and lighting really adds to this piece.

Kmart, Ship My Pants by Draftfcb
17+ million views

You may have seen this ad on TV. Customers use lewd wordplay to talk up Kmart’s free shipping service. It’s clever, fun and a little shocking. Wonder how many outtakes they had on this one that they couldn’t use.

Audi, The Challenge by Paulilu   
5+ million views

Actors Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek (new and old Spocks) square off in a race to the golf club in competing luxury performance cars. While from a true effective marketing perspective, the video is not quite clear on the benefits that make the Audi S7 superior to the Mercedes (except the clear point on trunk space), the video positions Audi as the new kid, replacing the old guard.

Red Bull, Red Bull Stratos by In-house
Almost 3 million views

World record free fall sponsored by Red Bull. Exciting, tension-filled and it captures our imaginations about what is possible. Choice of music is perfect.

Pepsi, Test Drive by TBWA\Chiat\Day
36+ million views

Racer Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman out for a high-speed test drive. This one is a miss in my view, as it’s clearly staged and the man is clearly an actor. Not sure what the main message or takeaway on this should be, but wanted to include it to show you that sometimes shock value is just pure fluff.

Metro Trains, Dumb Ways to Die byMcCann Melbourne
46 million views +

A song listing stupid ways to die, promoting safety around trains. I love this one. It’s clever, quirky, quiet and effective. The use of animation is perfect (I love crazy little monster characters like these so I’m a little biased). And they clearly get their point across with humor rather than by preaching.

H&M, David Beckham Bodywear by Marc Atlan Design
Almost 10 million views

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie directs a short featuring David Beckham running around in his underwear. I’ll let you decide if you think this is an effective video or not. It’s definitely on brand for H&M, though.

Old Spice, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like by Wieden + Kennedy
45+ million views

An idealized man using Old Spice convince the “ladies” to get your man to smell like him, featuring absurd and well-choreographed situations. This entire campaign did wonders for turning around the idea we all had of Old Spice being associated with our dads back in the 70’s.  It’s funny, crazy, well-paced and worth sharing.

Microsoft, Child of the 90s by In-house
33+ million views

“You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer.” Nostalgia targeted toward people who grew up in the 90s. Not sure about the point, except that they are trying to equate those warm nostalgic feelings of youth (within a targeted demographic) with the IE browser. Not sure this one works, as this seems like tugging at emotion for emotion’s sake, not because it advances the brand message.

Expedia, Find Your Understanding by 180 Los Angeles   
2.5+ million views

An elderly father narrates his experience accepting his lesbian daughter’s marriage. Part of Expedia’s “Find Yours” campaign. It’s incredibly moving and may bring you to tears – but as seen in the Comments, it also produced some rage, too, which led to more controversy, views and sharing.

TNT, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square by Duval Guillaume Modem
45+ million views

A dramatic scene is staged in a public square after unsuspecting people press a red button. Classic staged event technique and it’s pretty clever in touting TNT’s expertise in drama. Not sure what the people who were there, however, made of all of this!

Which one is your favorite? Did I miss a juicy one that you adore? Please share in the Comments!


What is your customer script?

Oh, wait, you didn’t know they needed one?

If brand is all about reputation, than nothing beats it when that reputation spreads organically through word of mouth. You can’t be all places at once, so it pays to turn your customers into your own private evangelist army.

Many power brands revel in the fact that customers love them so much, those fans will generate content on their own accord – without pay – that promotes the company. Virgin America enjoys You Tube videos created by their happy passengers. Local businesses love seeing hundreds of stellar Yelp reviews from fans.

But you also want those messages highlighting the things you want your brand to represent. Meaning, you have to find some way to give your customers a script – or the main talking points – so that the message they are spreading is aligned with the one you want out in the world.  Do you want people to talk about your low prices or your artisan craftsmanship? Do you want the first thing they talk about to be your generous return policy or your quirky and fun email newsletter and brand voice?

What do you want to be known for? What is most important? One way to ensure customers know the script is to ensure that YOU do. I work with clients to build messaging platforms. Messaging platforms are internal tools designed to keep all your marketing on script for the three main messages you want to communicate about your brand. It then digs into each benefit and provides proof points that can be cited to explain why you can make that benefit claim.

Think about a conversation between a customer and a friend. What do you want them to say about you? What do you want the headline to be? Craft your messaging platform to ensure three clear benefits are conveyed in everything that you do, such as your website, your marketing, your ads. This way, you are arming your customers with the right script to share with others.

In order to control the external message as much as you can, you need to clarify the message internally first. Don’t just hope your customers will say the right things. Craft your messaging platform based on your brand and your authentic strengths and then bang the drum around those three main messages over and over again. Pretty soon, your customers will learn the script, too.

What is your customer script? What are the three main benefits you provide or things you want people talking about? Please share in the Comments!

Reboot and Reframe: Branding lesson for life #3: COUNT ON YOUR TRIBE

Just like a personal reputation, a brand relies on how its perceived by others in order to determine success or failure. That loyalty will boost a brand exponentially, increase word of mouth and save the company’s butt in times of crisis. When you build up enough strong brand equity with your loyal fan base, they are more willing to forgive when you make mistakes. Look how Jet Blue recovered when they had some massive delay issues due to winter storms a few years ago: they had built up so much goodwill that their “brand bank account” could take the hit.

If you are consistent and authentic with your brand, you can rely on others to evangelize for you and stand by you when the chips are down.

As an entrepreneur, you also need to rely on others to build a strong business. I don’t care if you are a solopreneur: you can’t do it alone. You need legal advice, marketing expertise, accounting skills. It doesn’t make sense to try to master it all when you cannot. We all have skills gaps and it’s the smart entrepreneur who knows when to seek out the right help to go further than he/she could alone.

In this lesson, I talk about how my “tribe” was an essential part of my recovery from a freak brain aneurysm. Even an independent gal like me had to learn to ask for help, accept support and rely on others if I was ever going to get back on my feet again. It’s true in business – and it’s true in life: no one is an island.

Watch the juicy video for Lesson #3 here.

Where do you seek outside expertise and objectivity in your business? Can you let go enough to really allow it to take off?

BACKSTORY TO THE SEVEN LESSONS: What do recovering from a  brain aneurysm and branding have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. Recently, I got the wonderful opportunity to share my dramatic story at a Women Business Owners luncheon and I promised I’d post the lessons here for everyone. This is a seven-post series.

Lesson #1: Focus (and backstory to the series)

Lesson #2: Be Authentic

Now that’s what I mean by delight!

I had the best car rental experience of my life last week. And that is a bold statement from someone who worked as a management consultant and in affiliate sales during her career and used to travel up the yin-yang.

I rented through Alamo at the Philadelphia Airport because they were the most cost-effective option on Expedia.  What I got was an amazingly friendly, professional and warm experience that far exceeded my expectations. I had doors held open for me at every turn. Everyone I passed greeted me with a smile and a “How are you today?” I’ll admit to being a little creeped out by this at first, as my expectations of a car rental brand are so low that they all look and sound the same. And this is coming from someone who is a Hertz Gold Club member.

Once inside, the gentleman who held the door open for me also ran around the desk to check me in. He bantered with his fellow staffmates as they ran around to get me the GPS I’d requested and then he showed me step-by-step how to set it up. I could tell everyone there genuinely enjoyed their work and each other – and it made me feel like I was in good hands.

Once outside, my car was blocked in by a rental bus. Immediately , two other staff members saw my dilemma and cleared a path for me without me even asking. It was like as soon as my problem materialized, there they were, solving it proactively.

That’s what I’m talking about, people. Delight. Happy, empowered employees who have a clear service mission leads to a happy brand experience for customers, which leads to me talking about this company on social media. Maybe they are helped along by my previous lackluster experiences or the low service bar in the industry -  who knows? Who cares? Bottom line is that I’m still talking about them. See how it works? Easy peasy.