A Chinese laundry detergent ad went viral last week, attracting a lot of criticism for its disgracefully racist storyline. Named by many “the most racist commercial of 2016”, it features a Chinese woman doing her washing. She is soon approached by a black man, with paint spread over his face and T-shirt.
He seems to be making some advances, but she responds by shoving him into the washing machine. He emerges after a few moments as a very clean, light-skinned Chinese man. She appears delighted, and the commercial ends with the payoff Change starts with Qiaobi.
On April 21st 2016 Samsung won the Tribeca Film Festival branded content award with an amazing 5-minute short, beating out other excellent brand productions.
The story is about a young man suffering from achromatopsia, a rare condition that makes people totally color blind. But Neil Harbisson did not surrender to it: he just convinced doctors to implant an antenna in the back of his head allowing him to hear colors.
The recipe of viral is a bit of a mystery. Why is some branded content able to ignite viral wildfires? And why do many other attempts at going viral fail miserably? According to some authors, these questions have no answer. Viral in unpredictable, and it occurs accidentally. Which means that a brand cannot build content aimed at going viral in any reasonable way.
However, my study on Viral Stories produced results that are not consistent with this view. In fact, the qualitative analysis of about 40 brand videos which had a formidable viral dynamic leads to a strong hypothesis: behind any viral success there’s a good story. How good? Well, it has to include several of the 38 principles listed in the book’s last chapter as favouring a viral outcome. In other words, the secret of triggering a viral wave lies in the form and structure of a story – which implies that viral and storytelling are strictly connected.