How to Go Viral: The Power of Emotional Contagion

Ever wondered what makes a video go viral?  

In an age when far too many folks are spending their time at work watching cat videos on YouTube, the research is giving us some insights into what we suspected all along: emotions trump everything.  Positive or negative, doesn’t matter. The emotional nature of the content spreads virally, infecting viewers with “emotional contagion.”
Of course there are cultural issues as well. Here’s an example of an ad that went viral in India:

There are several societal norms challenged in the video. The ad celebrates the second marriage of a woman and includes her daughter. And secondly, the woman is dark-skinned. In a society obsessed with fair complexion, the ad breaks an unwritten rule of Indian advertising. The emotional impact of the ad made it a viral hit, with politicians, citizens, and film stars talking it up on their social media accounts.

Arun Iyer, the creative director, says: “This is the thinking that most progressive people have. They may not be going through the same thing in their life, but the ad makes a bold, progressive, statement and people like to be associated with brands that make such statements.”

The company behind the ad is Tanishq, the largest retail jewelry brand (part of the forward-thinking TATA Group) in India with over 156 stores in 86 cities.

In the US, and specifically in Texas, we have slightly different reasons for emotional contagion: toilet humor.