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.