"This is just a great video." Whenever anyone sees those six words in an email, text message or social media post they take notice. The fact that such emphatic validation of the video is stamped-not by the brand behind the video, but by a friend, follower or other trusted information source-creates immediate interest. A video that has the power to generate both curiosity and a need to share it is directly correlated to its potential to go viral.

The determination of what will make a video go viral is not controlled by the company that creates it, but by the audience that controls how quickly and widespread it is shared. The common mistake that too many brands make is attempting to create a viral video in a vacuum without understanding what will resonate with their audience and drive them to share it. However, with any creative corporate video, there are certain constants in the production and distribution that can facilitate-or even accelerate-the process of virality.   

By examining two corporate videos from the financial services industry with very different objectives and view counts, we can see how each accomplished a completely different objective in terms of establishing brand identity, but also had very different paths of virality.

The first is from Vanguard. They've taken a unique spin on investing by creating a 30-second commercial that pays homage to horror movies. What makes the video great is that it doesn't get into the specifics of their expertise or investment strategy. Instead, Vanguard produced a creative communications vehicle to build off of what they do as a company, while also tapping into the collective skittishness of the retail investor.

LINK: http://youtu.be/gEIqvSLBLvs

The video isn't their entire brand identity, but complements other components of their communications strategy to reach a broader audience. More than 72,000 people have watched the video, demonstrating its reach beyond the niche audiences of advisors and investors. Interestingly, other videos on Vanguard's YouTube channel that do get into the specifics of their investment strategy or have more of an educational slant have received significantly fewer views.

The second video is from Deloitte. It's by no means a bad video-quite the contrary, in fact. It's beautifully produced. However, at three minutes long and with no clear message, there's nothing for the audience to latch onto. The title of "Bringing Our Brand to Life" is a bit of a misnomer, because it doesn't really communicate what they do or why a company should do business with them.

LINK: http://youtu.be/lCytkifKx8U

With fewer than 1,000 views, it's clear that if the goal of the video was to become viral, it missed the mark. But if the objective was to create a compelling video for Deloitte's Web site or for use as an internal marketing tool, then it fit perfectly into that role.

Companies shouldn't set out to create a viral video from the outset, but determine what the story they want to tell is and how to tell it in a way that sparks a need in the target audience to watch and share the video. Where Vanguard wins the virality factor between these two videos is using humor and subtlety to deliver a message in a way that was clear, concise and to the point. Each of these videos likely were well watched within the circle of their primary audience, but clearly the Vanguard video succeeded in the way it spread and was shared beyond that circle to reach a secondary audience.