In this digital age where videos and ideas go viral daily (if not hourly), it seems like capturing lightning in a bottle to create one of those things. A completely random occurrence. However, it is not. There is a science behind why things go viral or become popular.


People share videos and ideas that they believe will shine a positive light on themselves. That is the reason people will discuss a cool new movie that they saw on opening night over sharing a very sad or embarrassing story.

Telling people that you’ve seen the new superhero movie or ate at the new trendy restaurant makes you look like an insider. A VIP. A more interesting person. So having content that gives people this feeling of social currency and makes them want to share the experience results in more word of mouth, more shared links and views.


By definition, something that is remarkable is “worthy of attention; striking,” so by seeing something you deem remarkable, your natural inclination will be to give it your attention. This is a tactic used over and over again in infomercials, whether it is showing a vacuum cleaner with the strength to pick up a bowling ball, or a cleaning solution that can clean red wine out of the carpet. You see this remarkable feat and before you know it you are online searching for this product or dialing the 1-800 number to purchase.


Triggers are a powerful source of influence in the subconscious mind. For example, any time you hear the word “peanut butter” you naturally think of jelly, which could cause you to think about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then maybe some childhood memories. This set of thoughts all triggered by a simple word. The more triggers associated with your product or idea, the more your product will be at the top of the mind and tip of the tongue.

Another example, Oreos have comfortably positioned themselves next to milk, and even dubbed themselves “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.” It is now to the point that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. The same can be said about Coca-Cola’s use of polar bears during their Christmas time commercials. They’ve taken a holiday and have positioned their product to be associated with it.


Perhaps the number one reason things go viral or become popular is simply practicality. This practical news/info/product is anything that you can actually use, and that will improve upon something in your daily life. Someone shares with you a news article that you can apply or a LifeHacker video that addresses a problem that you have; these have a greater value because you’re putting them to use and are most likely to share the experience with someone else.

While there are a lot more factors that go into a product, video or idea going viral, these are four key components. Being able to recognize these contributing factors and positively utilize them could do wonders for your brand or product.

It can be said that this new age viral marketing has taken the randomness out of an idea or product becoming popular and “going viral.” It is possible for individuals as well as companies to create content that is infectious just by applying some ancient marketing techniques and bringing them into the 21st century. Using the internet and social media as your platform to reach customers, as well as utilizing the importance of word of mouth, you can spread your ideas globally without having to leave your home or office. It is truly a gilded age of marketing in which we live. Take advantage!