What makes a campaign go around and around and around?

This advert made its way to my Twitter feed, last week.

3M Guerrilla Marketing


The kiddo asked me, expectantly: Is it good marketing, mummy?


It is, yes. It is great, actually, I said.


First, because it clearly depicts the product’s benefit. And, fortunately for the brand, no one actually managed to break the unbreakable glass (unlike the unbreakable phone fiasco)


Second, and most importantly, because this campaign is not new. It took place in 2005, and it was very popular then. Then, it was doing the rounds, again, in 2014. And, apparently, it is doing the rounds, again, now. This is one campaign that people, clearly, like to share!


So, what makes a campaign more likely to be shared?


There is a growing body of good research looking at this phenomenon. This paper* might be a good place to start, if you are interested. The research has identified two key types of factors that play a key role in shareability:

  • The content itself (i.e., video, photo, infographic, article…)
  • The reaction created by that content



A campaign is likely to be shared when it uses content that is:

  • Useful
  • Interesting
  • Surprising


viral content
Image source



Research differs regarding whether campaigns that generate a positive emotion are more or less shareable than those that generate a negative emotion. However, what is increasingly clear is that:

  • a campaign that generates strong emotions is more likely to be shared than a bland one;
  • a campaign that generates active emotions is more likely to be shared than a campaign that generates passive ones. So, on the positive range of emotions, a campaign that generates awe is more likely to be shared than one that generates contentment; while on the negative side, a campaign that generates anger is more likely to be shared than one that generates sadness.
  • a campaign that is emotionally complex, taking the audience through a number of different emotions (maybe, even, mixing positive and negative ones), is more likely to be shared than campaigns that activate only one type of emotion. This seems to be particularly the case for a female audience.


One of my favourite examples of this last point is P&G ‘Thank you, Mom’ campaign:


Which campaigns made you reach for the “share button”?

* Reference: Berger, J. & Milkman, K. L. (2012) What Makes Online Content Viral?. Journal of Marketing Research. 49(2), 192-205. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.10.0353

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