Get Ready to Ship Your Pants

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Kmart's not shipping; no wait, it is.
Kmart's not shipping; no wait, it is.

A man in a Kmart store is addressing a sales associate. “Ship my pants? Right here? Ship my pants? You're kidding.” Associate, pointing down for emphasis: “You can ship your pants, right here.”

That's the opening scene of a video spot promoting the chain's free shipping policy. It was also  number 4 on the list of Top 20 Most Shared Ads of 2013 announced today by Unruly, creators of the Viral Video Chart. No doubt, real Kmart associates will soon tire of hearing it reenacted for them on the sales floor. But some 3 million online viewers of the spot cracked up so hard the first time they saw it that they felt compelled to pass it on to their closest friends and relatives.

The top five, which also included Dove's “Real Beauty Sketches,” Geico's “Hump Day,” Evian's “Baby & Me,” and Cornetto's “Yalin,” combined for 17.5 million shares. The top 10 inspired 28 million shares, a 52% increase over last year's leaders. What was their secret?

“Intense psychological response,” says Devra Prywes, VP of marketing and insight for Unruly. “Everybody thinks you need to be funny, but that's hard. You have to be so funny that people cannot help but laugh. Viral videos make people do something they can't control.”

Unruly conducts what it calls Share Rank Analysis tests, showing videos to panels of up to 350 consumers online and asking them about the intensity of and the reasons for their responses. As a result of their ongoing research, the company last year produced a white paper called “The Science of Sharing” that identified 18 psychological responses exhibited by people that caused consumer contagion online. Among them: warmth, arousal, hilarity, shock, fear, awe, anger, and confusion.

2013's most shared video, Dove's mini-documentaries about women's underestimation of their beauty, fired several psychological triggers, Prywes says, including surprise, happiness, sadness, and knowledge. In the six-minute video, a forensic artist asks women shielded from his view to describe their faces while he sketches them. He then does the same with strangers who just spent some time with the subjects. Invariably, women's self-portrayals produce flawed depictions compared with the more realistic—and attractive—products of strangers' descriptions.

“The Dove spot demonstrated one of the great things about social video,” Prywes observes. “You're not locked into the short run times dictated by broadcast, and if you hit on a topic that resonates with consumers, they'll stay with you.”

Some other examples of emotional evocation in Unruly's Top 20:

Exhilaration: Jeff Gordon's incognito test drive of a Chevy Camaro for Pepsi Max that had an unwitting used car salesman nearly consummating the act suggested by the Kmart shipping video.

Awe: Volvo Trucks' demonstration of its programmed steering option, featuring a bold Jean Caude Van Damme doing a split standing on the side view mirrors of two slowly parting trucks moving in reverse, perfectly aligned.

Shock and awwww: A fireman, tracked by his wearable GoPro camera, finds an inert kitty in a smoke-filled home, whisks it to an EMS truck, revives it with oxygen and cuddling, and wins the hearts of cat fanciers and human beings everywhere.

Ebullience: On the part of Geico marketers and their agency, in this case. This spot with the overbearing, office-worker camel wandering the office celebrating Hump Day has peaked with new shares every Wednesday since it debuted in May. That's a first in Unruly's tracking history, Prywes says.

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