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Spend five minutes on social media and it becomes readily apparent that people love to tug at each other’s heartstrings. From videos of goats making human sounds to soldiers seeing their babies for the first time, we all love a heartwarming or simply hilarious story.
Marketing professionals are well aware of the power of viral videos and use the same techniques to sell their brand. The best video ad campaigns tell a warm story that appeals to our emotions. And when they have a neat twist or surprise ending, so much the better.
Here are five examples of marketing videos that went viral thanks to their humor, heartwarming story or surprise ending — or a combination of any or all of the above:
American Greetings: World’s Toughest Job
This marketing video was disguised as an ad for a job that, on the surface, no one in their right mind would want. It describes long, thankless hours beholden to the whims and needs of the applicant’s “associate,” all for no pay. It’s easy to dismiss such a job — until the big reveal.
Views:* 20.6 million
Why it went viral: Moms! Who wouldn’t get misty-eyed when reminded of the sacrifices their mothers made and the unconditional love they gave while doing the most difficult job of all, namely raising their children?
What marketers can learn from this video: Some things are just universally loved: babies, kittens and puppies, heroes, grandparents. When you tell a story around something that makes viewers reminisce about what makes them happy, you’ve got yourself a winning marketing video.
Chipotle: The Scarecrow
One pillar of Chipotle’s advertising strategy is to let diners know the food used in its restaurants is responsibly farmed and raised. The Scarecrow video is a much softer approach than showing live animals in unpleasant conditions, but it still drives Chipotle’s message home through clever animation.
The main character mimics how most people would undoubtedly feel walking through meat packing plants and poultry farms without making viewers lose their appetite altogether. That would be a bit counter-productive.
Views: 12.7 million
Why it went viral: The video deftly encompasses the wide range of conversations people across social media channels have — and sometimes argue about — concerning fast food. Chipotle carefully conveys the message that whether you’re concerned about animal cruelty, vegetarianism, GMOs, health issues, or local farming, eating at its restaurants can help everyone “cultivate a better world.” That’s something everyone can agree on.
What marketers can learn from this video: People want to find common ground without giving up their point of view. Videos that embrace several angles of the same conversation give viewers a way to talk to each other without giving up ground of their own.
LG: End of the World Job Interview
LG decided to play a bit of a prank on some job-seekers to promote its new line of HD TVs. Few things are more fraught with tension than a job interview, so when things go south for these job applicants, we can’t help but feel the stress ourselves.
Views: 16.6 million
Why it went viral: This clever video is so shareable because it opens the door for great conversation among friends. It’s perfect for asking others how they would have responded and prompts people to share their “worst interview ever” stories.
What marketers can learn from this video: People are natural storytellers. They love to share their experiences and speculate about what they would do in similar situations. Give viewers a starting point and let them play out their responses in their heads or with each other.
Dollar Shave Club: Our Blades are F***ing Great
You just can’t look away from this video. At the point where Mike’s affable charm becomes almost too much to take, he drops a prop or fumbles packing tape. Right when you start to tune out what makes DSC’s blades so good, he throws in a laugh-out-loud comment about grandpa’s shaving habits. By the time the video ends, you can’t imagine not watching it a second time and then immediately signing up for monthly razor service.
Views: 14.7 million
Why it went viral: DSC’s video straddles the line between being too over the top and the feeling that you know someone just like Mike. It succinctly tells you everything you need to know about both the product and the service in a minute and a half, while making you watch for the next goofy thing that you just know is about to happen.
What marketers can learn from this video: Not all videos have to be serious tear-jerkers or jaw-dropping stunts to go viral. When the script is right, sometimes a single-shot walkthrough, errors and all, is all you need.
Dove: Real Beauty Sketches
Dove asked several women to describe themselves to a forensic artist as he sketched their faces without seeing them. He then sketched them again based only on descriptions provided by others in the group. It was inevitable that the two representations wouldn’t match exactly but the curve ball was just how altered women’s perceptions are about their own faces.
Views: 63.2 million
Why it went viral: Women are notoriously hard on themselves when it comes to their looks. This compelling ad went viral when women shared it among themselves as a reminder that we are often our own worst critics.
What marketers can learn from this video: While sometimes videos depicting cute, touching, or funny things may tug at our heartstrings, it’s often the things that hit closest to home that we want to share the most. Some of the most shareable videos are the ones that say the things we can’t.
* Video viewing metrics as of June 5, 2014.