Content Gone Viral: Why Storytelling Is The Best Strategy For Your Business

12-Jun-2019 11:42 AM Content Marketing estimates that over 4 million blog posts are published every day in 2019 and over 500 million tweets are sent every day. Out of this gargantuan information pie, what is your brand’s share?

To create top quality content, whether in the form of blog posts, video ads or email campaigns consistently is huge labor by itself. And not all quality content gets the share count it deserves. All the hours you spent researching your topic and crafting a compelling article that solves a consumer pain point will be counterproductive if your content does not have the legs to run the information marathon.

Brands have devised innovative ways to ensure their content travels farther before its inevitable death. Zany marketers sometimes resort to stoking controversies or latching on to another trending topic to gain mileage. But controversies eventually die down and trending topics are just that. The one thing people remember and recall often is a good story.

Mastering the art of storytelling to drive brand engagement will guarantee your brand the consumer’s mindshare which in turn will increase your pocket share as well.

Trend your way into the consumer’s mind

Piggy-backing on trending topics to create viral content may have a short lifespan. But if your story is worth sharing, it has the power to spread like wildfire. There are some downsides to this though. Firstly, everyone is doing it, so there is no guarantee that you’ll get noticed. Once a trend gets spotted in the wild, marketers jump to take advantage of it.

Secondly, once the trend has moved on, what next? You can’t milk it forever.

But if you have the budget and the resources, then this is not such a bad idea. Amul, the Indian dairy giant, has been using this strategy for decades now.

On the occasion of former US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in 2015, Amul ran the below print advertisement.

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The Amul girl is iconic in India. The pun game is also top notch. The tagline, “Buddy Buddy Baatein” is no doubt cheeky, yet endearing. 

When India successfully launched the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Amul was not far behind on the cheeky humor.

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Encourage people to share their stories

A woman, who is totally not an actor, looks worriedly into the camera. On the one day she gets to relax in her house, her in-laws decide to pop in for an impromptu visit. She is worried as she suddenly remembers the dismal state her bathroom is in. Something she didn’t care about until this moment. But her worries are soon washed away because a has-been actor once invaded her house with a toilet product, a microphone and a camera crew. And now she will mix equal parts of this product with some photoshop to clean her bathroom with one swish.

Ignoring the obvious lack of creativity here, you cannot deny the element of relatability in this advertisement. Relatability is perhaps the strongest driver to get a consumer to go out of their way to buy a product. Content too will strike the strongest chord when it is relatable.

What better way to generate relatable content than to ask the consumers themselves to share their experiences with your product? This way, you can take the user-generated content and use it to attract more people to your brand.

We’re getting somewhere now.

Nestle understood this when they added nostalgia to the mix and launched their Me & Meri Maggi campaign in 2011.

Users were encouraged to share a memorable experience in their lives when a bowl of Maggi was their companion. The campaign received entries from people with stories like:


Official numbers are hard to come by, but it’s safe to say that the campaign went viral with submissions coming in from every corner of India.

Evoke strong emotions

The World Wildlife Fund ran the #LastSelfie campaign on Snapchat in an attempt to raise awareness about endangered species among millennials. One of the snaps featured an endangered gorilla with the caption, “better take a screenshot, this could be my #lastselfie.”

Another featured a baby orangutan with the caption, “in 6 seconds I’ll be gone forever. But you can help save my kind. #LastSelfie.” The ‘6 seconds’ is in reference to the Snapchat feature where images fade away after a time limit.

The story was a powerful one. It was shared wildly on Snapchat and even jumped social streams as people began sharing this creative campaign on other platforms.

Newspapers picked it up and global focus was once again successfully shifted towards the protection of endangered species.

If you can position your brand or product in a way that will elicit such strong emotional reactions, then virality is a given.

Sharing is caring

Orchestrating a viral event is really hard. Sometimes, campaigns go viral without making use of any clear-cut strategy. Not everyone is so lucky.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge checked all the boxes for a viral campaign. The rules were simple: participants can either dump a bucket of ice water over their heads and donate $10 to The ALS Association or skip the water and donate $100. They have 24 hours to complete the challenge and, if they choose the ice bucket, they have to upload a video as proof. Participants then tag additional people to take the challenge. It relied on nominating another person to take up the challenge or make a donation in lieu of pouring ice cold water over themselves.

Criticisms about water wastage and people’s vanities aside, the campaign raised $115 million for the cause. This was one campaign that was designed to go viral from the get-go. First, they worded it as a challenge thereby priming people to engage with the content. Second, they encourage participants to challenge friends, family, and celebrities to take up the challenge. This was a condition laid out in the original challenge itself. Third, all of this happened in the public eye on social media. For a while, after the challenge broke out, there was no escaping the numerous posts on all social media sites. Television news shows also picked up on the trend early and helped in making the campaign go viral.

Most importantly, the campaign had a moving story to tell. The story of the everyday reality that people suffering from ALS face. Google trends peaked for terms related to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease as people took to the internet to educate themselves. This is what every ad or content should hope to achieve. Motivate consumers to take the initiative to learn more about the brand or the product.

Brand storytelling value has been proven time and again as an enduring tool for marketing. So why not design your next viral campaign with a fascinating story at its crux?