Many marketers can’t wait to create a viral video for their brand. These videos, the ambitious marketer thinks, will boost brand perception with every view and share they garner. But according to research by Ezgi Akpinar and Jonah Berger, this thought is too simplistic. Akpinar, presenting at the 2016 Winter Marketing Educator’s Conference, reports that the videos that return the best ROI have a hybrid of emotional content and brand integration, creating what Berger calls “valuable virality.”
Many viral videos are heavily emotional, like the wildly popular “Roller Babies” video created by Evian bottled water in 2009. “Roller Babies” has more than 81 million views on YouTube, and counting, and has been called the “most successful viral ad campaign of all time” by Business Insider. But the video had no discernable positive impact on sales—in fact, the brand lost market share and sales dropped 25% percent in the year the video premiered.
If sentimental videos with millions of views don’t boost sales, what does? After all, consumers are still distrustful and bored of blatant advertising. The solution, Berger and Akpinar say, is to create a hybrid emotional and branded video—what they call “emotional integral ads.” Blender brand Blendtec’s “Will it Blend” video series is a great example, Akpinar says: it’s fun and shareable while being well branded and informative.
“There is a tradeoff between getting shares and making the brand integral,” Akpinar says. “Both emotional appeals and informative appeals have upsides and downsides. Emotional appeals are shared more and informative ads boost brand evaluations and purchase intentions. Emotional integral ads generate valuable virality, meaning they’re shared and they boost brand evaluation and recall.”