Not so long ago, scientists dismissed viral videos as function of randomness. But in the last few years, evidence has been mounting to suggest that successful viral videos do have some common factors and dependencies. It’s still not possible to create viral videos using those factors but in theory it can be said that we know enough now to produce communication in such a way that its probability of going viral would be very high.

Let’s try to understand why the video Gangnam Style by PSY went viral. I am sure you have already watched it; it has over 700 million views. Chart Image courtsey: Business Insider

Firstly, it had both the elements of communication, curiosity and motive to share.  There are 2 categories of emotions that stimulate our attention and hence creating curiosity that is sharable. The first is pleasure, which would be in the form of humor, affection for something cute, amazement and intense want. The second is shock, in the form of anticipation, intense surprise, embarrassment, or violation of cultural norms.

For a video to go viral, it needs to balance both these categories of emotion. The Gangnam Style video uses incidents of humorous behavior between short scenes of emotional discomfort that surprises and perhaps even delights us. The music replicates the effect completely. The speed and intensity of the music have been altered to create a sense of tension interspacing it with pleasure. PSY’s unique dance moves have captured everybody’s attention. Again, I believe because they convey a unique mix of emotions.

Apart from emotions there are other factors believed in making a viral video; choosing the right seeding agent, the medium, the snowball effect time, basically we have been studying viral videos for a while now and the results of our study will be out soon. We will try to cover the other aspects by using other viral video examples like the TNTs “Push for Drama” and the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertisement.

Whether by accident or not, Gangnam Style has used very strong techniques of viral marketing.


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