Video sharing is going through the roof, driven by faster internet connectivity, more powerful devices and a surfeit of user-generated video.

This is a trend that has solidified into a core part of our daily internet routines, and is one that will not reverse. Huge growth is anticipated, and as ever brands wants to be where the attention is. 

Branded video in all of its forms is on the rise. In the past year we have seen some great work by the likes of Tipp-Ex, Old Spice and M&S, among others. On top of that there is a swathe of brands that have embraced crowdsourcing, allowing fans to submit their own video productions.

But video comes in many shapes and sizes, as far as the actual content is concerned. So what makes for a great video? And why do people share videos?

It’s a topic I have been discussing in some depth with Unruly Media co-founder Sarah Wood, who has kindly shared an internal checklist - called the ‘video optimiser’ - that is used for benchmarking, in order to figure out whether a video is likely to be a hit or a flop. 

Wood explains: “We often get asked by clients to evaluate ideas, rough cuts and alternative versions of branded videos before they unleash them on the social web. The video optimiser is a heuristic tool, designed to help clients and video producers identify and hone the triggers that are most likely to lead people to share their particular piece of branded content.”

Creating a hit video is as tricky as writing a hit song, but there are definitely some known triggers that – like hooks in songs – can be used to drive sharing and deeper forms engagement. 

“Production efforts and post-production edits should be focused on the strengths of the video and on making the most of the triggers that are likely to drive social spread,” says Wood. “We work with clients to decide the triggers that are right for their brand, based on brand values, campaign objectives & target audience. Once the key and complementary triggers have been selected, we advise them then turn the dial to 10 in order to maximise the chances of social spread.” 

The 12 video triggers

So then, what are these triggers, and how do they differ from one another? To be clear, a trigger is some aspect of the video that is likely to lead to sharing activity on social platforms (and beyond). Below I have listed the 12 triggers, as identified by Unruly Media on the 'video optimiser' checklist. Each trigger is filed under ‘mind’, ‘body’ or ‘soul’, and is accompanied by a classic example that took the web by storm. Enjoy.



Humour is notoriously subjective: will your audience be tickled by a witty quip or a banana slip? Parody or farce? Either way, a top-notch 'pay-off' is a must-have.

Example: Toyota - “Swagger Wagon”


This one's a slippery pole, ranging from booty-shaking through to celebrity upskirts and full blown sex tapes. Approach with caution: this is hot stuff. Misjudge your target audience and you'll get your fingers burnt.

Example: Agent Provocateur - “Kylie”


As a species we find disturbing content strangely compelling. There’s a certain thrill in being 'frightened' by the unexpected and the ghastly. Hence the popularity of car-crash TV and hard-hitting road safety ads.

Example: Carlsberg - “Carlsberg and Mentos”



Has to be seen to be believed. Brilliantly done stop-motion sequences, people performing on the edge of what’s humanly possible, creative teams pushing the boundaries of human & technological achievement.

Example: Gillette - “Federer Trick Shot”


Love it or hate it? Some videos divide opinion and split the online community into opposing and vociferous factions. Not for the faint of heart. You’ll need to be prepared to stand your ground.

Example: Bud – “9/11”


This is brain-food for aficionados. Could be the unboxing of a limited edition game for Xbox fans, a Jen Aniston meta-viral for meme fiends, or Sue Sylvester voguing for Glee fans. 

Example: Blendtec’s Will it Blend? – “iPad”


Will open your mind and rock your head. Unveilings, Sneak peeks, breaking news. Eye-opening facts, trends or technology. Useful as well as entertaining. Guaranteed to make your synapses tingle or your money back.

Example: TFL – “Awareness Test”


Confounded, surprised? Bewildered? Random clips often involve a verbal, visual, or conceptual non-sequitur that is as funny as it is bewildering. Why is that gorilla playing the drums? I Like Turtles? You bet we do!

Example: Cadbury’s - “Gorilla”


Does this video ride the crest of a current meme or develop a current news story? Does it capture the public mood or celebrate a public holiday? Timing is everything. Yesterday is nothing.

Example: Volkswagen – “The Force”



Sneezing pandas, laughing babies, fainting kitties, these are the videos that melt our hearts. 

Example: Evian - “Roller Babies”

UPLIFTING … YAY! I love this!

Want to escape the tedium of everyday life? Bring a smile to the faces of fed-up friends? For a shot of Feel Good factor 40, look no further. Flash mobs, group dances, good causes tend to coalesce around this trigger.

Example: Alphabet Photography - “Hallelujah Chorus”

MOVING… WOW. Made me cry.

These videos are intense, with the power to evoke strong emotions: hope, pride, faith, nostalgia, love, anticipation. The best ones give us goose bumps, uplift our souls, and renew our faith in humanity.

Example: Pantene – “Extraordinary”

My thanks to Sarah for sharing the video optimiser checklist. 

Chris Lake

Published 4 August, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (7)

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Alexander Lund

Alexander Lund, Digital Marketing Manager at Beiersdorf

Great tips. Every marketer's dream for their videos to go viral. So many times these go viral without the intention though. It can be pure luck sometimes.

about 7 years ago



These are awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! It's hard to predict what will be a hit and what will be a miss, but even spontaneity has best practice tips.

about 7 years ago

David Guest

David Guest, Managing Director at Workshop Media Ltd

Interesting article but doesn't really cover the other side of video sharing which is informative 'value' driven content.

Although these examples are excellent for B2C, the use of video for B2B is a much smaller but ultimately more targeted awareness.

When you look at the statistics of 'viral' video about 1/500 reaches 500,000 views and a great many of those views are paid for with promotions/ adverts.

about 7 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

I agree with David. I work at a B2B company and sometimes we talk about making a "sexy" hit like these videos but I am very cautious about it and prefer to stay with value driven content. It's not just about how many people see it but what impression they get about your brand. The value approach teaches people that you have something worthwhile.

Take the Alphabet Photography video. I have seen that video a few times on Facebook and this is the first time I've heard about Alphabet Photography - the video has nothing to do with their value besides a loose connection between Christmas and they have a unique gift.

By the way would be interested to know how the Pantene ad worked for them, did it improve their brand perception, did they sell more shampoo? It feels very emotionally manipulative to me, I was expecting it to be a charity add for deaf people!

Would love to see more articles on B2B videos. The recent one on animation was good. Animation is working for us.

about 7 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

BTW "Blend it" and "Awareness Test" were the ones that had the best brand impact for me. They actually make a point that is relevant to their products/service value.

about 7 years ago


Stuart Maister

Have to agree with the last two comments. Research by Forbes/Google at the end of last year showed that more than half of senior executives at large companies shared videos with colleagues at least once a week.

These are time-poor non-frivolous people who will be doing this because there is information or insight in the video which is useful to their colleague.

Therefore in any serious professional environment, including but not exclusively B2B, the point of video is to provide useful content in an engaging, easy to consume and time-effective manner.

However, how cute are those babies!

about 7 years ago



I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

almost 7 years ago

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