Going Viral on YouTube

Internet video sensations have been quite the trend over the last decade, with all manner of strange characters and outlandish acts surfacing on YouTube and spreading throughout the world, sometimes even granting short lived fame for its stars.

Companies have been responsible for some of these viral video hits, causing massive surges in their brand equity. For example, the Old Spice Ad Campaigns. It can be very difficult and infinitely complex thing to achieve as it largely depends on people’s tastes, trends and general culture.

Leading internet consumer psychologist Dr. Brent Coker recently compiled a Branded Viral Movie Predictor (BVMP) algorithm Branded Viral Movie Predictor (BVMP) algorithm that looks at four principle elements that influence a movie’s chances of achieving viral success.


A brand image is not something that can be revolutionised in one go. It takes an expertly coordinated and integrated marketing strategy to change the way people perceive your brand.

So if there’s a great incongruency between the content of your video and the way people have thought of your brand, it will automatically create psychological tension in the viewer, often referred to as cognitive dissonance. This can be a difficult obstacle to get past because it isn’t necessarily a conscious decision.

Emotive Strength

The average person is bombarded with stimulus all day from a variety of sources, most of which never gets past our short-term memory. Catching people’s attention and breaking through into their long-term memory involves appealing to people’s emotions. The stronger the emotional appeal, the bigger the impact of the video.

People respond more to certain emotions than others:

* Fear and disgust – these are very strong emotional responses and haven’t changed much over time, so are more likely to stick with the viewer.
* Sentiment – This appeals to people’s existing memories and feelings from earlier in their life. Sentimentality can vary quite a lot between cultures and age groups however.
* Happiness and humour – Despite their immediate appeal, these are generally quite weaker and struggle to stick in the memory. They should be used in combination with the first two for best results.

Network Involvement Ratio

As the term ‘viral’ might suggest, a video is spread by people. Like word-of-mouth on a much larger and faster scale. To get people to actually pass the video on to the next set of recipients, they must find the video relevant to themselves and, to a certain extent, the people they’re passing it on to.

Always try to seed a network that is firstly, large enough to create the number of views required for it to go viral, and secondly, connected well enough on these social networks for it to spread properly.

Students and office-workers are well known for being very active participants in spreading content and large enough to make it a noticeable sensation.

Paired Meme Synergy

This element is a little less naturally intuitive to the average person than the others. It’s based on the observed combined memes in viral video content and which pairs seem to work the best together. A meme is a concept, style or behaviour mode that is spread from person to person like a packet of information, similar to a gene. A known example would be Grumpy Cat or the Kony documentary.

Several of the below memes can be used in combination, beyond just the pairs.


While the above elements have been scientifically shown to affect a video’s chances of going viral, they can’t help you achieve it alone. They need to follow classic entertainment and design principles, be backed up by an original and exciting idea that plays off of relevant cultural factors and trends. And a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.