Viral marketing is any marketing method that encourages sharing of the marketing message from one internet user to another. The viral (sharing) aspect has many benefits including virtually free and exponential exposure of the company and their message to a large and vast audience.

The Emotional Link

Research published on Harvard Business Review found that there is a strong link between the positive emotions that a piece of content provokes and the viral success of the content.

Based on the study’s results, it appears that the 10 emotions that resulted in the most successful viral response to the campaign were:

viral content emotion marketing

Emotional responses diagram (Harvard Business Review)

  • Amusement
  • Interest
  • Shock or surprise
  • Happiness
  • Delight
  • Pleasure
  • Affection
  • Excitement

On the contrary, the emotions that least drove viewers to share the content were:

  • Anger
  • Politeness
  • Frustration
  • Doubt
  • Embarrassment
  • Despair
  • Hurt
  • Guilt
  • Contempt
  • Shame

From this, we can draw the conclusion that positive emotions are what drive audiences to share content.

Using Emotion in Viral Marketing

Harnessing the power of emotions, particularly positive emotions, to enhance the viral potential of a marketing campaign can be done on any scale. The key is knowing what emotional message will trigger these emotions in your target audience, and effectively tying this in with the organisation’s own marketing message.

Things to consider when creating an emotion-driven campaign;

  • Are there any current issues in the media that directly impact your target audience?
  • Are there any ongoing issues that impact your target audience?
  • What are the feel good angles that can be derived from these potentially negative issues?
  • What are the links that can be made between your business and the issues?

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, 2013

A great example of emotional viral marketing practice is beauty brand Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign in 2013.

The brand weren’t pushing a particular product with this campaign; they were merely reinforcing their own stand point in the constant debate about perceived beauty.

For the campaign’s message, Dove asked a group of women to meet with a sketch artist and describe themselves to him. Strangers were then asked to describe the same women for the sketch artists to draw again. The powerful message about our own negative perceptions of our physical image came across in the comparison of the drawings, and naturally the thought-provoking campaign went viral.

The key thing to remember here is that emotion is the driving force behind the viral success of this and many other marketing campaigns. If emotion is used correctly (and not abused) to create meaningful content, then the audience will do the rest of the work for you. Emotional viral content will strengthen your brand’s reputation among your target communities and promote awareness of your brand to new and wider audiences.

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