Top 5 Non-Humor Forms of Entertaining Content: #1 Astonishment


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Does inspiring your YouTube video communities with entertaining content make you feel uneasy? After all, what if your attempts at having fun don’t catch on? 

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

3 Ways to Boost Viral Video Stats with Astonishment

The fact that we are entertained with a “wow” factor should not be surprising. Magicians, athletes and beautiful models have always fascinated us as we ponder the limits of beauty, imagination and human potential. We delight in the spectacular as well as the painstaking skills required to dazzle us.

Among the types of astonishment that are used in high performing videos are the following:

  1. Extraordinary Beauty
  2. Masterful Craftsmanship
  3. Human Potential
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Concepts for Creating Astonishment

Extraordinary Beauty

For years, beauty has captivated audiences with breathtaking views of what we imagine as utopia. Fashion and cosmetic companies continue to astonish us with stunning looks as we marvel over the perfect eyes and body. 

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Examples of How Beauty Can Astonish Us

Similarly, painters and photographers attempt to stretch our imaginations with breathtaking views of nature, outer space and glorious light shows. At the heart of this concept is an innate desire to marvel over a perfect creation.

Masterful Craftsmanship

A similar concept works in astonishing us with a true masterpiece. Besides engaging in content that strikes our appreciation for beauty, we likely marvel over the skills and craftsmanship surrounding the perfect design, the enormity of “larger than life” creations or technology pushed to its limits.

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Just consider how people travel thousands of miles to see Mount Rushmore or the Great Wall of China. Or consider how we marvel over the potential of the human brain when witnessing the latest in space technology and medical breakthroughs.  

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Examples of How Masterful Craftsmanship Can Astonish Us

Our senses also seem to heighten at the sight of extreme precision and the painstaking process behind a perfectly timed formation. Honda, for example, scored extremely well on a commercial featuring a highly complex domino effect. Similarly, we often marvel over the skills required to produce the perfect ice sculpture, dessert presentation or architectural design.

Human Potential

Evidence from high video performance also suggests that we marvel over those who push the limits of human capacity. Some viral videos reached exceptionally high levels of views and engagement after showing records broken by the greatest of athletes.

Without question, highlight reels devote inordinate amounts of time replaying the perfect catch, the perfect shot and the perfect throw. In effect, we likely enjoy amazing ourselves with how far our bodies can take us. This fascination also accounts for such high ratings in talent shows like American Idol where we marvel over the skills of those not expected to achieve so high.

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Examples of How Visualizing Human Potential Can Astonish Us

But the same reaction can be felt from those over achieving or pushing the limits of mental capacity. A number of videos, for example, scored high when showing women conquering their multi-tasking life styles, a man runner the marathon at 101 years old or paraplegics playing basketball.

Common to all of these techniques is our innate desire to stretch our imaginations and envision the ultimate experience.

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 4% involved some type of astonishment. This form of viral video engagement ranked number twelve, one and one 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 astonishment as an entertaining content marketing theme?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

35 thoughts on “Top 5 Non-Humor Forms of Entertaining Content: #1 Astonishment

  1. Astonishment as a content marketing theme does not capture my attention so much as the others. However, there is one category of astonishment that attracts my attention and that is Human Potential. This category attracts me because most commercials that fall under this category tend to be motivation and breathtaking.

  2. This form of marketing is very effective in grabbing viewers’ attention. They are experiencing something that is experiential and breathtaking. Using a form of astonishment is a great way to leave a lasting impression on those who are viewing and could lead to curiosity and brand loyalty. A brand like Samsung that constantly reinvents itself with sleek and advanced technology, has high brand affinity and is a top contender in the smartphone, TV, and other electronics world. People look to them and rely on the brand to have the latest and greatest technology.

  3. Astonishment to me is also like inspiration, and therefore we are in awe when we witness someone accomplishing a feat once thought impossible. It allows a person to consider the notion that they too can attempt the impossible and make it possible. I think as a marketing tool, astonishment is great tool to utilize because it inspires one to do the extraordinary.

  4. I think astonishment is a great way to sell a product all of these ads make you want you to go out and buy something and become perfect. The Tiger Woods ad is a great example, it really makes me want to perfect my game!

  5. Though I’ve not personally used astonishment in marketing yet, it is definitely one of the most attractive, appealing and thus, in my opinion, most effective way to capture and keep viewer attention, especially when done right. In my opinion, astonishment themes work best when content events start out small then are made more fantastic as the story continues, until finally the advertisement culminates in a spectacular grand ending, like good music or fireworks displays. All of the videos featured in the blog dazzled the eye with superb photography and consumed the imagination, or they boggled the mind in some manner that makes viewers ask, “How did they do that”? Such intrigue engages viewers until the commercial ends.

  6. I agree with this blog, using Impressive Atlethism is a excellent way to acquire viewers attention, when showing extraordinary human skills, people are amazed and look until the end of the video. Add to this soccer, basketball, baseball celebrities and the video will be even more remembered by the viewers.

    Martin Tavernier,

  7. I got what you mean , thankyou for posting .Woh I am pleased to find this website through google. “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

  8. I think this is important and applicable to use astonish advertisement. I realized the intelligence of the bird how it used a piece of wood to pull out food inside the cage had an astonishment impression. I have never use astonishment ads before but I saw the bird reaction before. I saw the same kind of bird punched a little bag to see if there is any food inside. It checked the first one and it feel that it empty, it checks the second one, the bag was hard to move. The bird had a sense that there is something inside it. It continued to open the bag; finally there were a piece of bread inside. That was an astonishment effect to me that day.

  9. I think astonishment is an effective way to go in commercials most of the time. In my opinion, it works best with athletes, people of power, and technology. There are incredible potentials and astonishments in technology absolutely. Marketers need to be careful with incredible beauty because sometimes, girls get jealous of women that are too pretty (haha!).

  10. I think astonishment is a great technique for capturing the viewers attention. When an advertisement has that “wow” factor, it really pulls the viewer in and makes it hard for them to turn their attention away from the advertisement itself. This kind of advertisement is usually appealing to most audiences, as well. I think this is, without a doubt, an effective way to market products or services to an audience.

  11. For this discussion, I decided to use the example of this Makers Mark whiskey commercial. I think it is a great display of targeting an audience through astonishment. The ad features a photo shoot for the bottle, using its extraordinary beauty as its selling point. Lights flicker from the photo session, and they try and make the bottle have a human feel while showcasing the products stunning look.

  12. Human potential is one of the most popular ways in which business people market a product. In all major sports you see highlights of many players who not only change the game, but make history while doing it. For example, in the NBA you managed to see many hall of famers leave their legacy on the floor while also establishing legendary traits. Human potential is limitless especially on the big stage. This is why as people are potential is limitless.

  13. Linking the product with a great and astonishing moment in an ad is great to make people remember the product and associate it with grandeur. Sports brands would get a better use of this marketing technique because associating a sports brand with unlimited potential and improving endurance and performance is their best bet.

  14. The ad that I chose for this exercise actually appeals to both extraordinary beauty and masterful craftsmanship. It was the build up of the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center from 2006 to 2013. I chose this because this monument serves as a remembrance for all about the viscous attacks on 9/11/01. Which is the reason why I believe this category is so appealing for advertisers. Using pictures or monuments of beauty is an excellent way for advertisers to truly engage with their audiences. This ad along with the others on this page truly do tell a story or entice viewers to learn more.

  15. When it comes to astonishment it is a unique way to approach selling a product. Models and beautiful scenes seem to almost be in every commercial. When astonishment is used right it is usually a product that isn’t forgotten. I think it is effective because people rather watch a well-produced and quality commercial over another. If people don’t even want to watch the commercial how are you suppose to present the product? I have never really used astonishment however.

  16. Astonishment in numerous aspects of life encourages motivation. In sports for example the simple fact of the finesse and the fact that actions are done that any “regular” person could only dream of draws attention effectively. The sight of a breath taking sunset or a meteor shower draws people in. By using this as a method of marketing, it draws people in because of amazing beauty. It adds the idea that if they can do it, I can only imagine what I could do with the same product or opportunity.

  17. After watching all three videos I believe that it made a difference in the perspective I have towards the way companies market their product. In various videos, not only the one posted here, companies like to talk about other peoples story and how they achieved greatness, which I thought to be amazing. Also, showed different angles such as extraordinary beauty and masterful craftsmanship which I thought to be perfect angles to go for as well. I believe that this is an effective way to go because this is what grabs peoples attention, when there is a story behind it. There are some companies that can make it funny and that grabs the publics attention but what grabs the peoples attention more is when there is a heart to heart story about struggle or when beauty catches the eye. I posted a video about J’adore Dior perfume and from the start to the end, I could not help but think how beautiful the whole video was from start to end. These types of videos are effective and promote the product. I have never used astonishment as an entertaining content for marketing theme, but if I ever did, I would use human potential because I believe that if you make people believe that anything is possible then it is a great pitch. For example, I saw this video on paraplegics playing basketball and it was astonishing as only one member was actually a paraplegic and the others were friends who learned to play in the wheelchair. That was a perfect commercial in my opinion and although it was for beer, I understood the angle they were trying to achieve.

    1. I have to believe, Shivani, that this is one of the least appreciated areas of social video entertainment. Despite its high attention and engagement statistics, it is not used as often as it should. At the heart of astonishment is an intrinsic desire to be inspired. e.g., after watching a 101 yr old man finish a marathon, it boosted my enthusiasm on so many levels.

  18. Personally, I think that astonishment is one of the best ways to engage an audience when marketing. After reviewing different commercials with astonishment examples and exaggeration examples I see that astonishment has an honesty to it that would appeal to customers. Yes, exaggeration will bring an audience in, but I think using techniques like astonishing beauty will keep the audience interested. People see that this beauty is an honest part of advertising and I believe it will be a more successful way of marketing in the end.

  19. MKT 3050 Response

    From a personal standpoint I have never had to use any of these tactics or techniques. Not to say though that I wouldn’t use any of these methods to get attention from viewers that could ultimately drive sales of what I was advertising, I just have not up to this point. In this day in age “going viral” is a coined term, I believe that many of these aggressive commercials become famous for their use of beautiful men, women, and scenery and in this day and age these ads go viral. This includes the commercials that provide viewers with astonishing abilities, such as red bull gives you wings commercials. Not only are they aggressively structured in their overall approach but they are sometimes humorous or beautiful. I feel as though the commercials that provide soothing music and beautiful scenic views add a special touch that is calming which allows viewers to not be totally turned off and press the mute or change channel button. Those are the commercials that are most effective in my personal experience.

    1. Notice what images show up, Juliet, when you click on Google images and select “images” or leave it blank. Notice they are not all about exhilaration or adventurous endeavors. Many of the images are profound or mesmerizing in some way. I believe this adds support for your comment about gravitating toward soothing, calming, beautiful views. But it probably helps you recall the experience if the soothing context also taps into your wildest imaginations. Therein lies the power of astonishment. It taps into your emotions for engagement while leaving tones of exaggeration for you recall at a later date.

  20. I truly agree that this is a very effective way to market one’s company, product, and/or services. The world is filled with beautiful naturally occurring things and events but due to the constant “rush” that we are all in we do not always have the time or take the time to witness it. Therefore, I see these commercials as a reminder of how “astonishing” our world truly is. In addition, some of these commercials provide motivation and really resemble the saying, “the sky is the limit.” Moreover, these advertisements represent the advancements in technology that are currently being thought of. As a result, I believe that this form of advertisement is one of the most effective thus far.

    1. It’s interesting to note, Dilayda. that engagement works primarily off emotion. So astonishing us with a “wow” factor cannot only captivate us, it can further engage us. I believe this is why astonishment scores higher in engagement than most humor types of entertainment. When humor wears off over the course of a commercial, there is little to keep us involved. On the other hand, admiring someone’s gifted athleticism or the breathtaking wonders of the world can tap into some deep emotions and even soul searching (e.g., “Why cannot I be like that…What am I complaining about…It’s amazing what God blessed us with. etc.). I think the challenge to us marketers, however,is doing this affordably. Showing the extraordinary is difficult and quite expensive to shoot.

  21. I think astonishment is a great way to attract people and real them in. Commercials that include extraordinary beauty always reels me in, it actually makes me jealous sometimes. There are always commercials about vacations with beautiful scenery that i am a sucker for. It makes me research about it and want to go.

    1. Many of these commercials go viral, Loc, as community fans love to share photos of breathtaking views. Notice how many Pinterest and Instagram sites populate their feeds with pictures of nature and other astonishing scenes. Thank you for your comment.

  22. The use of astonishment will always be very effective in advertising because it has that “riveting” effect. In other words, the viewer cannot help but to stare with, astonishment at the sheer beauty of the imagery being provided. Reminds me of the saying “A thing of beauty is a sight to behold.”

    1. I found the beauty side of astonishment to affect me the most. Some of the shots taken in Red Bull commercials are really breathtaking. Add some meditative music to it, and you can really appreciate the impact of outer space and pure nature shots. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Thus far, commercials like these have been my all-time favorite. I love how the marketers are able to pull in their customers by creating a sort of fantasy through the use of astonishing human beings, geographical locations, and tasks. I think commercials that use this strategy are more likely to have their products stick in the mind of a potential customer over a comedic commercial that is used to quickly grab someone’s attention. People are intrigued by the astounding images they view and then become linked to the product. In my opinion, this is a highly effective form of marketing.

    1. You bring up a good point, Kelsey, about “linking to the product.” Gatorade, Nike and other sports related products seem to capitalize on the inspiration behind over achievement. I also believe that no other form of entertainment can match a great fire works show that showers the sky with brilliance. Thank you for your comment.

  24. I have never used any of these but I do have to agree with Maegan. These commercials reflect such beauty and effects that will leave you with a “WOW” feeling or expression. Especially the ones reflecting nature and places we probably have yet to visit. These type of commercials will catch the viewer’s attention and will encourage them to take a trip or visit these places.

  25. I have never used astonishment in my presentations, but I am a sucker for these commercials. I think they are very effective and inspiring. I think that portraying a product in this style will motivate people to buy the product because they want to have those same astonishing effects.

    1. I think you are right about the motivational impact from this form of entertainment, Maegan. I still marvel over the 101 year old man that ran a marathon. More than a comic association, this brand association draws a connection to that part of us that longs to be like the featured actor in the commercial. I am not sure I could still run at 101, but it got me thinking I could boost my workout. Thank you for sharing.

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