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Understanding The Psychology Behind Video’s Effectiveness

Marama Carmichael

Viral videos have become an everyday sensation. It’s nearly impossible to go through your day without seeing a new adorable cat video on Facebook, or encountering the latest, hilarious commercial sent straight to your inbox by a friend.

These videos have been seen millions of times, and if you bring them up in casual conversation, you have a better than even chance that whoever you’re talking to will have seen them also. The same holds true for Audio and Images too (I’m a Laurel not a Yanny by the way and to be honest I probably spent too long trying to hear Yanny)

The real question, the one asked by content creators and businesses everywhere, is just how does a video become so effective that it goes viral? For that you need to understand the science and psychology behind video’s effectiveness.

How Does Video Work on The Viewer’s Mind?

The success of a video is determined by the same factors that have always driven the spread of information. Which is a fancy way of saying that the message in a video, and the information it provides the viewer, is a big part of what will get it shared and spread by record numbers of people.

People share videos for the same reason they talk about anything else; because it fulfills a need.

Being in the know / Connection / Education

People want to be seen as intelligent, in the know, and they want to be the first ones to bring something new and interesting to a conversation.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say someone makes a video showing how a brand new product can make anything waterproof, including T-shirts, smartphones, and even your shoes. This video hits a lot of important notes; it’s interesting (in an infomercial kind of way), it has content that looks amazing (since mustard, mayonnaise, and other condiments sliding right off of a T-shirt looks a lot like stage magic not something that happens in your day-to-day life), it makes the sharer look smart (hey guys, I found some science for you, come check it out!), and if no one else has heard about it, then the sharer seems to be in the know about cool, new stuff.

Emotions / Causes

Videos that have a strong emotional element will also get a response, which is why the soundtrack for the RSPCA commercials is so effective when it’s paired with sad-looking puppies who need homes and help from viewers like you. It’s also why so many people will open up their wallets and give to a cause, if that cause is presented with a video that engages them, and makes a strong case for why they need to care.

People who strongly believe in a cause, or in an idea, will also be inclined to share videos that reinforce their ideas, which is the sort of behaviour that will spread those ideas to others.

Conflict / Debate

Videos that spark debate often go viral – whether that is a good healthy debate or descends into crazy hate and internet trolling is .. well debatable, but people like to discuss their differences and convince others they are right.

Humour / Entertainment

People like comedy, they like to be entertained and distracted from their day. Especially on social media. The most viral videos combine humour and entertainment with one of the other emotional triggers and really take off.

Viral Video examples

Here’s five examples of viral video content which we feel hits all the right buttons.

  1. New Zealand Police Recruitment VideoThis video uses humour effectively and features 70 staff members from a range of ethnic backgrounds. It is gender neutral while respecting different cultures and lifestyles. It was designed to boost law enforcement numbers in New Zealand and has been viewed more than 1.7million times.
  2. . Haynes Baked Beans Astronaut Ad – YouTubeCinesite, a visual effects company put out this mock commercial for Haynes Baked Beans. There is no such company but, it should be a commercial, because it has everything you need to make a cool video including a killer monster, great special effects, and a very funny ending.
  3. Western Sydney UniversityThis well produced video for Western Sydney University uses great music and strong visuals to tell a powerful story. The video has had over 3 million online views and was also used in successful TV Campaign.
  4. Solar Freakin’ RoadwaysAs of today this video has had 22 413 617 views. It was new and interesting, funny, controversial and spoke to a cause.
  5. Yanny/ Laurel 26.5 Million views of this original video and countless debate posts and videos, discussing the science of how people can hear both.
    Here is how I finally heard Yanny

The more a video speaks to someone, the more likely that person is to watch it, bookmark it, and share it with all of their friends across their various social media accounts. As such, the goal is to create universally interesting content that will strike a chord with the average viewer in a unique, visual way.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Otherwise every company on the market would be doing it with every video they produce. That’s why if someone really wants to create a video that will hit all the high notes, get noticed, and go viral it’s important to research your target audience, understand what has made similar content work, and look at what you want to make the viewer think and feel.

If you would like more information about viral videos and how to make your video content work on the audience viewing it, simply contact us today!