Viral Videos and Marketing: Do Eyeballs Equal Revenue

Posted by Ashley McChesney

While planning for your video marketing campaign, you may have picked up on the term “viral video.” In fact, many clients have contacted Skystorm with the intention of creating a viral video, for widespread brand awareness and a staggering increase in sales. But do you know exactly what a viral video is, and how it is made?

According to Mashable, “a viral video is a video that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media, and email.” Videos of this nature are often humorous, but can also include eyewitness events, serious pieces, and even commercials. Take, for example, Kmart’s 2013 advertising campaign. Not just one, but three of Kmart’s 2013 commercials went viral, with the most popular of them (the “Ship My Pants” commercial-as seen here) gaining over 20 million views on YouTube by the close of the year. Together, the other two commercials also netted over 20 million views, bringing the company widespread recognition and, logically, an increase in revenue-right?

Not so, according to Kmart’s retail performance measures for the year. In fact, both the second and third quarters saw a 2.1% decrease in same-store sales company-wide. Similarly, Geico’s “Hump Day” advertisements haven’t made a huge impact on their ROI. According to Gary Getto, president of the Advertising Benchmark Index, “Very often you hear people say, ‘I love that ad with the camel,’ and they can’t tell you it’s Geico.” The content in both of these cases is interesting and funny, but does not do enough for brand awareness to make a lasting impression on the audience.

On the other hand, there have been great successes through viral videos. Take Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series:

This wildly successful series features Tom Dickson, the founder of the company, blending everything from iPhones and cameras to pool cues and plungers in a Blendtec blender. Since the beginning of the series, the company has seen an astonishing 600% increase in sales.

What do these case studies tell us about viral videos? In order for the production to be successful, they must reach that “sweet spot” between selling, entertaining, and promoting brand awareness. Even if your video does manage to reach those criteria, you may not see an increase in sales. Ultimately, there is no way to ensure that your video will go viral. If you produce well-made commercials with strong storylines, you will not have to rely on the fickle nature of virality.