Five mistakes businesses make with attempting ‘viral’ videos

Written by Marcus Seeger

Everyone in the video industry dreams of producing just one viral video! You know, the one that gets millions of views around the world complete with an avalanche of shares and comments. The most successful video in the history of the internet is PSY, Gangnam Style with, at the time of writing, over 2.3 billion views and over 9 million likes on YouTube alone. Just imagine! The most popular non-music video is a home movie, “Charley bit my finger – again”, with just over 800 million views on YouTube. There are definitely opportunities from a local perspective with the most viewed Aussie video being Get Up Australia’s “It’s time – Marriage Equality” with over 15 million views.

Whilst a viral video can be seen as the ultimate success story, many videos with comparably miniscule views can be far more successful from a business profits perspective. Nonetheless, the attraction of a viral video is tempting. As a consequence, branded content is becoming more common and often with big budgets. For example: Volvo Trucks Epic Split with Van Damn, Chipotel’s Scarecrow or the 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial "Puppy Love".

There are five common misconceptions around what is required to make a viral video.

The number one mistake is to attempt making a forgetting to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Over complicating the video with too many messages is a sure sign that you will miss the target. There just needs to be one clear precise message and one only.

A second misconception is that you need a big brand to be able to create a viral video. Whilst this helps it is not a requirement, A classic example of this is the Dollar Shave Club. With the incredible success of their tongue in cheek, down to earth video, now with over 2 million YouTube views, Dollar Shave Club catapulted into the market place.

Mistake number three is that viral videos need to have babies and dancing to be successful. Whilst it is true that some videos, such as Evian Roller Baby with over 80 million YouTube views, have been very successful with this formula, it’s not one you can count on.

The fourth mistake is to be unoriginal. Many brands have tried to copy the Old Spice success formula but all have failed. Your idea really does need to be new, even if it is a parody. Not only that but also many great ideas fall over during execution. Viral videos are notoriously difficult to combine original ideas with exception execution. You need that something special that makes your video not only memorable but also remarkable.

The fifth mistake is patronising your audience and failing to make an authentic connection. As David Ogilvy said, “A consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence, and don’t shock her”. Just be real in your message and look for that thread that will connect you with your audience and make it as strong as possible.

Creating a viral video is like trying to catch lightening in a bottle. Many businesses are seeing value beyond the willo-the-wisp viral video and are focusing instead on creating content that their audience finds immense value. Instead of going broad they are targeting their market niche. In terms of ROI, success doesn’t need to be based on how many views. Other metrics to consider are phone calls, clicks, opt ins, sign ups, tickets sold, items purchased, number of shares, like, comments, subscribes etc.

Viral videos; many have tried and failed. The Holy Grail is as allusive as it is attractive. Just remember you need to get the ball rolling in the first place with smart promotions. You will need a massive amount of influence, strong relationships with joint venture partners who can help you in your quest as well as top class switched on social media marketers. Once the ball is rolling it is largely out of your hands and you are at the whim of the internet.

US franchise burger restaurant, Carls Jnr, recently created a viral video with their 2015 Super Bowl Commercial, “All Natural – Too Hot For TV”. With over 10 million views in the first month on YouTube alone, this 52-second video is a perfect example of a franchise that has successfully taken video to the next level.

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Please, don’t let me stop you going for it, just keep in mind the top 5 mistakes and maybe, just maybe, you might just end up with a video with multi-million views that could change the course of the history of your business for ever.


Step One: Strategy

Strategy is the number one reason why a video is either successful or it is not. By focusing on strategy you have a far greater chance of producing a video that achieves the desired outcome.

Step Two: Production

This is where the concept that has been developed at the strategy level actually turns into a real live video. You can use pointers from the strategy sessions to guide your production values.

Step Three: Distribution

Distribution simply is the strategy that ensures the right people watch your video and at the right time. The effectiveness of your distribution largely determines your return on investment.

Marcus Seeger is the #1 Amazon best selling author of “Video Marketing for Profit; 14 Proven Strategies for Accelerated Business Growth”. Marcus is managing director of video marketing and production agency, Video Experts. Information about Marcus's book and video marketing podcast can be found at The book is available online and in all good book stores. For free video marketing training that will help you grow your business to the next level, visit