Top 5 Non-Humor Forms of Entertaining Content: #5 Participation

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Are you among the many of us hesitant to go the edutainment route when publishing our social video content? Despite the research confirming that even B2B audiences are seeking edutainment over information, many are nervous that “having fun” could hurt our image or exceed our budget.  

In our countdown of the top 15 ways to make your videos go viral, we demonstrate some proven and “easy to apply” techniques to educate audiences in an entertaining way.

Follow these 3 tested techniques for applying “participation ” to your YouTube videos, and you will be well on your way towards engaging your audience. In fact, our study of the top viral YouTube videos demonstrated that the use of participation is the fifteenth most effective technique used by advertisers to boost their viral video statistics.

3 Ways to Boost Viral Video Stats with Participation

One way to distract us from our task at hand is to get us to participate in a commercial or social video. Consider content that asks us how to solve a riddle or offer an opinion. Aren’t you at least curious to know whether you have the correct answer?

Research and the videos below demonstrate that audience are often entertained by a cognitive challenge or through conclusion curiosity. Though not as powerful as humor or performance entertainment, this technique is often the preferred choice of advertisers seeking to engage their audiences under a reasonable budget.

Among the most popular types of participation that perform best on YouTube are the following:

  1. Completing the Message
  2. Resolving the Problem
  3. Following a Script
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Devices Used in Participation Entertainment

Common to each method is a way to distract us with a mental motivation to finish the exercise. If successful, we can applaud our wits and talents at mastering the task. In the process, advertisers get us to ponder over the concept or follow the steps of mastery.

In so doing, they lay the trail that pulls us through their entire message. That is why this technique scores high on engagement. But advertisers face a tough challenge in their attempts to direct our cognitive efforts on a meaningful and well understood brand message.

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Types of Participation Used in Edutainment

Completing the Message

One of the simplest ways to capture our attention is to have us “fill in the blanks” or “answer a question.” In 1984, the catch phrase “Where’s the Beef?” made actress Clara Peller an overnight sensation much like the LeBron James’ infamous “What Should I Do?” added fuel to his notoriety.  In both cases, we likely found ourselves attempting an answer of our own.

Another method invites us to recite or spell something correctly. By now, baby boomers likely know how to spell “R-O-L-A-I-D-S” or “O-S-C-A-R-M-A-Y-E-R.” The latter amassed nearly 1 million views on YouTube.

Similarly, advertisers could test your sports or mechanical acumen by having you “guess the winner” of a shoot-off. Gatorade capitalized on this technique when they featured a young vs. old Michael Jordan playing against each other.  

Resolving the Problem

A more cognitively challenging method of getting audiences to participate is to have them solve a problem. This gaming technique often involves guessing who or guessing what is hanging in suspense.

The use of this technique as a way to engage audiences dates back to the 1950s & 60s. At the time, a show called “What’s My Line” hosted a guessing game in which four panelists attempted to determine the identity or occupation of a mystery guest. The show remained the longest-running U.S. prime-time network television game-show for decades.

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1950′s and 60′s Game Show “What’s My Line” Captured Audiences with Guessing Who or What

In addition to guessing, audiences can be easily motivated to discover anomalies. Consider how often you find yourself correcting someone else’s mistakes or flaws. In the FedEx “Wrong” skit, we attempt to correct someone’s reference to “French Benefits.”

Similarly, the infamous Ally Bank’s “What Makes Peter, Peter?” has us incessantly correcting the interviewer’s misinterpretation of “I really love my bank’s ’Raise-Your-Rate’ CD” as he progresses from “You’d love a pay raise ASAP?” to “You spent eight days lost at sea?” to “You love watching your neighbors watch TV?”

A more subtle method of problem solving includes examination of irony or allegories. For example, a number of commercials feature statements that “go against the grain.” In Beck’s Ad “Different by Choice,” we cannot help but validate the actions of those daring to be different.

A similar reaction can be expected when we are presented with allegories or sarcasm that require our own interpretation. Both methods are effective in keeping our attention for as long as it takes to interpret the message.

Following a Script

A third way to attract and engage our audiences through participation is to get them to follow along some story-line.  This technique also dates back to the 1950s and 60s when popular music icon Mitch Miller engaged families on television by having them sing along with his music note bouncing balls.

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Mitch Miller’s Sing Along Stirred Audiences to Follow the Bouncing Balls

Many successful commercials deploy a similar scheme in their real time designs. Consider how UPS’s “Whiteboard” gets us to finish the drawing or how Absolut’s “Rasberri” commercial gets us to contribute to the bottle’s final design.

Whether it is through a catchy tune, a clever sketch or a final touch on a beautiful masterpiece, the goal here is to entice us to contribute something to the scripted message.

Study Background

A total of 3351 high performing videos (> 50K views) were examined in this ranking of top YouTube videos. These viral videos included re-casted television commercials that were posted on YouTube as a social media video back channel. Statistics were then recorded on the number of likes, dislikes, comments and views, where an exploratory study was subsequently published with the Academy of Marketing Science and 2013 Cross-Cultural Research Conference.

From the final list of most viewed YouTube videos, about 3% involved some type of participation. This form of viral video engagement ranked number ninth, thirteenth and fifteenth in average views, comments as % of views, and net likes as % of views, respectively.

So what do you think? Is this an effective way to go? Have you ever resorted to using participation as an entertaining content marketing theme?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

19 thoughts on “Top 5 Non-Humor Forms of Entertaining Content: #5 Participation

  1. To be honest I’m not a big fan of “Participation” as a content marketing theme, it doesn’t capture my attention like most of the others do. However, I still feel as if it can be effective to viewers because they are able to become a part of the marketing process by participation with the commercial and not just viewing it.

  2. Using advertisements that allow the viewer to participate is a good way to keep the consumers’ attention. Not only that, but sing-a-longs are so catchy that sometimes they get stuck in your head. All three forms of participation require the watcher to engage and use their brain. Humor ads are funny but require no thinking whatsoever. Challenging the mind is a plus!

  3. I think using the technique of participation is effective in engaging the audience because it makes them participate in the commercial. This technique not only engages them visually but cognitively as well. By using participation either through completing the message, resolving the problem, and/or following a script it connects the audience with the commercial by involving them with more than just watching something. For example, in the McDonalds NBA commercial, shows Lebron James and Dwight Howard remaking the Michael Jordan and Larry Bird commercial where they are completing to see who wins and therefore gets to eat the McDonald’s lunch. This automatically engages the audience because it allows them to participate by creating an opinion of who the winner is in their mind. This technique engages the audience by making them a part of the commercial and making it more memorable to them.

  4. Though I have not personally used it in marketing, in other areas, like teaching, it has worked wonders to capture and keep people’s attention and help them retain knowledge. In a similar manner, participation methodologies are very effective in advertising strategies since they engage consumers in a two-way conversation or communication. This leads to the creation of a personal association with the advertised brand.

    In my opinion though, the extent of audience participation, and thus personal brand association, depends upon the storyline and characters. The more enjoyable, unusual, and sensory the content the greater the viewer’s willingness is to engage and participate, all of which affect consumer memory recall later during brand choice purchase decision making time.

  5. Participation is a great way to engage your audience when it comes to commercials and ads. It helps consumers identify with the company especially if there is a catchy sing-a-long or fill in the blank as it allows them to be a part of the commercial as well. By making the commercial fun with a technique such as this, the consumer is more likely to stay engaged and enjoy your advertisement.

  6. I believe that using participation is an effective way of marketing, especially on social media. Commercials that use this form of marketing, grab audiences’ attention and they allow them to almost interact with what they are seeing. This is also an effective content strategy for social media. Your audience has the chance to interact with your brand by doing a certain action. For example, if you write a post asking fans/followers to fill in the blank, you are asking them to perform an action. This action will increase engagement for you brand and give fans/followers a chance to feel like you are interested in what they have to say. It is a win win situation.

  7. Participation is a great way to attract and engage an audience. Another example is this Sing Along from T Mobile:
    As a consumer, you can’t help but stop to watch the whole thing build up and then start singing the song yourself. The song will then probably be stuck in your head the rest of the day and have you thinking about T Mobile.
    Participation gets the audience excited about the product.

  8. Getting your audience involved with your marketing technique is an excellent way to get them to remember your commercial, as well as, your brand. I think the sing along is most effective of the choices, because it gets a song in the head of your audience, that may be difficult to get out. And thus, the marketers win! Entertaining content is nice, but I think participation from your target audience is more memorable.

  9. I think participation ads are a great way to go, because almost everyone watching will make an assumption or a decision and I think that will increase their chances of buying the product. Once you understand something and formulate an opinion, I really think it sticks with you more so you will be more likely to remember it later at the store or look for it online.

  10. I absolutely think that you are right and that participation is a very effective marketing tool. Participation causes the audience to interact and take part in the experience and we all know that it is the experience that consumers remember. So if the brand can help to bring about a positive experience for the consumer, then the consumer will be more likely to purchase the brand based on that experience. I have never resorted to using participation however I do love visiting websites that allow you to upload your own pictures from their establishment; I also love participating in contests, quizzes and surveys. The interactive nature of this type of marketing tool is very effective in deed.

  11. I enjoy watching commercials that involve participation. It draws me in and gets me thinking. Anything that makes my mind wonder is always a plus for me. I’m a thinker! I’m more likely to recall this brand/ product in the future because I was a part of its marketing. I do see how participation could have a down side. Some people are just plain lazy. They don’t want to spend the mind power to participate in a commercial. Some people come home from a long day at work and the last thing they want to do is try to figure out what a commercial is advertising. Some might change the channel or just tune out until the show comes back on.

  12. It’s in truth a fantastic and precious piece of information. I will be present delighted which you contributed this beneficial in rank roughly. You should continue to be us all on the ball like this. Be pleased about your revealing.

  13. yes participation is an effective way to go with social media. it makes the aidiences feel that they are consern in the progress of marketing content social media. For me i have never resorted to using participation as an entertaining marketing theme. i think the people that useed them are very please in participation of the marketion social media content.

  14. I think participation is an effective way to go. It engages the audience and makes them feel as if they have an important role in the product. This engagement can sometimes therefore strike an emotional chord with the viewer, hopefully making the advertisement successful.

  15. I feel as though the use of participation within advertisements is a very smart way to somewhat make the audience feel as though they are really in the commercial, experiencing it as it goes. These kind of commercials can be appealing to most audiences, and an effective way for a company to interact with their target markets. I loved the commercial featured above where you had to complete the phrase. The commercials are a fun an captivating!

  16. For the discussion of grabbing your audience by participation, I chose an example that puts answering the question into play. I am not a huge fan of all the Progressive commercials; however this one stands out as a good example of filling in the blanks by allowing the target to answer easy questions as they go along. It gets the point across well.

  17. Participation is a good way to get people involved in products in which they are attempting to buy. People like to have hands on experiences with their items which is why if you were wanting to sell something to someone, what better way to do it than to have them try out the product for themselves. This is probably one of the best techniques used in order to grab peoples attention.

  18. Participation commercials is a great way to grab the audience in different ways. Majority of participation commercials uses a common social references, depending on if it is a song or a phrase. One classic example would be Kit Kat commercials, in which they use different people singing their jingle. In a way, it’s like repetition. When they hear or see the song or phrase or even a person in the commercial, they refer back to that company and are more likely to buy their product.

  19. Participation may be the best way to market through commercials. This approach really engages the audience whether it be through competing, resolving, or following along. They really have to watch the whole commercial to see what the final outcome is going to be and they are involved throughout the commercial. I think this type of marketing will help the viewer remember the product better because they are actually thinking deeper when watching these videos instead of zoning out.

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