Why Videos Go Viral


Everyone loves a good viral video, whether it be funny, heartwarming or tear-jerking. In fact, we love viral content so much that it has even replaced the closing segment of the evening news usually dedicated ‘the newest cute animal born at the zoo’. Viral video can really cut through the noise of the internet. That’s why leading brands are ensuring viral video becomes a vital part of thier strategy. Brands like Under Armour are all over the power of influencers and viral content, sponsoring serial viral video YouTubers ‘Dude Perfect‘.  Viral Video’s ability to grab attention is unparalleled and spreads faster than the chickenpox is what makes viral videos pure, absurdity, cute animal and water bottle flipping, filled gold!

But what makes a video go viral? There’s more to the the magic formula of cute cats or laughing babies!

Today you will learn: 

  • 3 reasons why a video goes viral
  • What compels us to share viral videos
  • How marketers can capitalise on viral videos

Viral videos are almost always born out of the deep abyss of the weird and wonderful world of video, YouTube. That’s why there’s no one better to explain why videos go viral than YouTube’s Head of Trends and Culture, Kevin Allocca. In fact, Allocca is so well-informed on this subject that he delivered a TED Talk to a group on the topic of virality and its influence on pop culture Allocca quotes;

“I think YouTube is increasingly understood to be the place where pop culture is kind of happening now. The line between mainstream pop culture and web culture is starting to get blurred in many ways,” says Allocca.

In his talk he highlighted three things that he said make a YouTube video go viral: tastemakers, unexpectedness, and participation.


A tastemaker is a person that has influence over popular trends and movements. A tastemaker doesn’t have to have celebrity status or a large following, they just need some influence over a group of people. In saying that, however, our biggest tastemakers are usually celebrities. Take for example Kim Kardashian who is famous for ‘breaking the internet’. When it comes to viral videos tastemakers are the ones that turn 1 view into 10 million. This is done through reposts and shares that have the kaleidoscope effect in exposing more and more people to the viral content. Check out this video of soccer-star David Beckham pulling off a pretty mindblowing trick. This video seem’s pretty organic, however just look a little deeper to see which brand is behind this video.

Now rewind the video. This time focus on the can of drink in his hand and remember David Beckman is a celebrity influencer for Pepsi.  This is the perfect example of how a viral video can be used for subliminal advertising. Pepsi didn’t need to pay Youtube anything to gain exposure and that’s the magic of virality! Of course, this trick would be amazing performed by random person, but David Beckham’s celebrity status is what has taken it to the next level.


There are tonnes of videos on the web of people doing amazing things. Have you seen the hot crazy matrix video? It’s got over 15 million views on the original video, been shared by the likes of Banksy and now has it’s accidental and unexpected creator is talking about movie deals and t-shirt lines. So what sets a viral video apart from your everyday ‘OMG’ video is an element of unexpectedness or surprise? When you think of an advertisement for bottled water, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Waterfalls? Rainforests? Beautiful model’s sipping away? Roller skating babies? …Wait what?!


Back in 2009 Evian left us in stitches with their TV ad that likened the feeling of drinking bottled water to the youthful energy of babies on roller skates. The ad was the opposite of what you’d expect and that’s exactly why it gained so much traction. The ad now has over 85 million views on YouTube and continues to be a central theme of Evian’s advertising campaigns. Unexpected can happen in many ways, like Dana from the crazy hot matrix to roller scating babies, what can you do to shock or surprise viewers into needing to share your video?


Perhaps the most successful viral videos are those that encourage others to get involved. Some great examples of participation videos include the Harlem Shake, flipping a water bottle to land it the right way up and one of the most successful social media campaigns ever, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is the perfect example of just how a simple idea that can use the perfect trio of tastemakers, unexpectedness and of course, participation, to create a viral phenomenon. Not only did we get to see hilarious videos of friends, celebrities and strangers pouring water and ice over their heads, the trend raised over $115 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, as well as some much needed awareness and support for the disease. Most people didn’t even know what ALS was! Participation is what will make or break a viral video. If you can’t get others to like, share, or in the case of the above, recreate, the video, then it will quickly disappear into the deep abyss of YouTube.



Why Do We Feel Compelled To Share?

To really understand viral videos we need to look at more than what makes the video great. We need to understand why people are compelled to share them. The following pie chart details some of the reasons people decide to share these videos with their friends, family and the world of social media.


 Virality in Marketing

Viral videos are good for more than just a laugh or a feel good cry. Businesses want a slice of the pie and are developing clever ways to take adverting of viral videos. Take for example this video of a Range Rover that has been vandalised seemingly by a pissed off ex-girlfriend.


Surprise!! It’s fake. It was designed as publicity stunt to promote the new model Revere Range Rover Vogue. This video and the ones above are great examples of how organisations have used the magic formula of viral videos to their advantage. The great thing about this is you don’t need a huge marketing budget like Pepsi and you definitely don’t need to vandalise a luxury car to capitalise on viral video. In fact, you don’t really need much of a budget at all!

Combine Allocca’s 3 elements, what would compel your target audience to share your video and a unique idea, and you’ve got yourself a great video. Now all you need to do is sit back and watch the views roll in!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top