The Secret Formula for Online Video

There are a lot of brands out there searching for the secret to virality when it comes to online videos. They all want to find the next ad their ad could be like. Most fail miserably. Others clearly shouldn’t have tried video in the first place.

Once in a while, a brand stumbles across a concept that just clicks. Such is the case with Coca-Cola and its “Happiness Machine” video, one of last year’s most successful campaigns. In the video, unsuspecting college students are surprised by a vending machine that dispenses everything from flowers and balloon animals to pizza and a 6-foot-long sub. The video has since been viewed more than 3 million times and has spawned similar happiness-themed videos around the globe. If you haven’t seen the original “Happiness Machine”, here it is:

Even if your brand stumbles across a concept that catches on like “Happiness Machine”, how can you turn that into a repeat success? That’s the question Coca-Cola hopes to answer with the “Happiness Truck”, a new video from Definition 6, the creators of the original “Happiness Machine” video. The new campaign launched today and builds upon the original concept, this time taking to the streets of Rio de Janeiro in a converted Coca-Cola delivery truck (awesome). Watch the brand new “Happiness Truck” video here:

It’s hard not to smile while you watch the video. While the jury is still out on how the sequel will do (it is only the first day after all), the early buzz seems to suggest it will continue to deliver happiness around the Web for some time now.

The Secret Formula for Online Video

I’ve talked with dozens of creatives who have had successful online video campaigns, and I know without a doubt there is no “secret” to making online video spread. There are some consistencies from one hit to the next though – here are a few:

  • Keep it real – don’t over-script, use real people and don’t over-produce it
  • Keep it genuine – as an extension of the last point, don’t try to trick people or lie… they’ll figure it out
  • Make people laugh – few things spread as fast as humor online, especially if you can hit the bored at work crowd
  • Keep it short – size matters with online video – the shorter and too the point, the better; rule of thumb is <3 minutes
  • Make them feel good – if you make viewers smile (or cry with joy), they’ll be more likely to spread it
  • Make it original – if it’s not 100% original, execute better
  • Let it spread on its own merit – don’t try to push it too hard or pay to spread it (these videos often fail)
  • Get influencers to like it – to contradict the last point, it doesn’t hurt to send it to people with pull – if they like it and share it, it can make all the difference
  • Pick a time that is most likely to hit your audience – if you don’t know the best time, figure it out (or try 11am on a Wednesday or 3pm on a Friday)
  • Make it good – if you’re proud enough of the work to show your friends, you could have a hit on your hands.
  • Use cats – if all else fails, use cats in your video – for some reason, cats almost always go viral

What do you think? What makes a good online video? When should you use video to build buzz? When should you avoid it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclosure: I used to be the director of marketing at Definition 6 (great job). I love this campaign and would have written about it regardless.

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.


  1. These are all good ideas, thanks for sharing. I agree that keeping it short is important even for most B2B videos. Making a successful viral video is really hard and requires a lot of thinking and planning.

  2. Man, as that truck drives away all I can think of are the sea turtles that are going to be very unhappy suffocating on all those balloons. #EnvironmentalPSAsKilledMyHappinessMachine

    My big takeaway from this is the key times of day/week to bug people via email. 11/Wed, 3/pm friday forever! Or at least until people change their browsing habits.

    I often wonder of the best time of day to post things on Facebook. I tend to schedule things for early evening, because I like to think most people aren’t at work on FB.

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