Marketers realize that content requires some form of entertainment to go viral. But are you reluctant to go this route for fear of losing your audience? In our countdown of the top 10 ways to make your content funny, we demonstrate several humorous techniques that help engage your audience.
In fact, if you follow these 4 tested techniques for applying “Surprise Twists” to your videos, you can be assured of boosting engagement with your content. The use of Surprise Twists comes in at number 4 on our list.
Surprise twists cause us to laugh as we witness or experience a change in course. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us through a distracting segue. Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “…Where did this come from?..”
This surprise twist can be realized in the form of visual anomalies (e.g., sudden appearances, changes or revelations) or conceptual incongruities (e.g., storyline twists or unexpected responses). In each case, we detect a mismatch with what we expect to occur next.
In general, most viral videos featuring surprise twists fall under the following four categories:
- Plot Trickery
- Conceptual Surprise
- Visual Surprise
Think of this as stopping in our tracks when a scene or statement suggests that something is off track. Research suggests that we laugh when our minds anticipate a certain outcome, only to be tricked at the end with a wrong or uneventful answer.
This concept is not new. Years ago, Wendy’s conducted a comical test taste of their hamburgers. In their famous 1989 commercial featuring a trucker (http://bit.ly/18IDRXB), the participant was asked to choose from a delicious looking hamburger A or a nasty looking hamburger B. The trucker unexpectedly picked hamburger B. This unexpected twist would be followed with comments like: “…I’m a trucker, I could be eating this baby in Shaky Town and still tasting it in Salt Lake…”
A very successful method of stealing your attention is for the producer to take you down a subliminal storyline that ends in an unexpected twist . i.e., Just when you are drifting off to a predictable plot, the story takes an interesting turn. In his suspense grabbing films, Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for plot trickery. Many of his endings were totally unsuspected.
This concept worked well for Geico where serious storylines ended in a farce. Just when we were about to hear a senate interrogation verdict, the committee chair interrupts with good news: he just saved money by switching to Geico.
This unanticipated change in events works well in stories of twisted fate as well as in fantasies where the dreamer wakes up to a lackluster reality.
Our third technique used in Surprise Twists is visual in nature. We often laugh at age transformations, bodies switching to others and overall magic. Like the conceptual forms of surprise, transformations can catch us off guard.
Snickers does this very effectively in their transforming of cranky actors (e.g., Betty White, Roseanne Barr, Aretha Franklyn, Don Rickles and Joe Pesci) into younger folks ready to return to action after eating a Snickers bar. In these cases, the transformation itself serves as an unexpected twist that suggests we have been duped.
A related concept to transformation is visual surprise. In this case, we are introduced to the sudden arrival of a new character (e.g., alien creature) or an unexpected object. Advertisers like Dodge and Volvic use these techniques in their displays of wishful thinking. Others like Nationwide shock their audiences with a surprise ugly substitute as when the fantasized Fabio turns into a wrinkled old man.
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 2% involved some type of Surprise Twist. This form of viral video engagement ranked number four, fourteen and three 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 Surprise Twist as an entertaining content marketing theme?
Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.