Go Viral, the Neuro Way


Much of the content on the web is created by users (“user generated content,” or “UGC”), but only a small amount of that is actually interesting enough to generate substantial interest or “go viral.” A new study by OTOInsights, a division of One to One Interactive, looks at user-created videos and flash animation from a neuromarketing standpoint. Specifically, the researchers used biometric measures to gauge the emotional engagement of viewers and then compared their data to actual ratings of the content as shown in the above chart. They came up with several major findings:

1. Traditional evaluation methods are insufficient for explaining and interpreting emotional response to digital media.

2. Setting expectations prior to content viewership encourages positive ratings and engagement.

3. Viewers encourage and respond positively to emotional content.

4. Empathy and appeal are key strategies for promoting positive emotional response and engagement.

[From Design Lessons from User Generated Content: An Analysis of User Generated Internet Video and Flash Animations]

Based on these findings, the report suggests the following steps to better optimize content:

1. Measure for emotion and engagement during the media’s development to help predict viewer response on release.

2. Carefully craft metadata to promote the media while also setting accurate expectations of its content and style.

3. Provide emotionally rich content but ensure emotionally satisfying conclusions are possible.

4. Empathize with viewer’s personal histories or appeal to the interests and culture of their microcommunity to promote positive response and engagement.

Some of these may seem fairly obvious, but it’s good to see OTOI publishing their findings and methodology for all to see. Check the full report for more detail.


This post was written by:

— who has written 986 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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7 responses to "Go Viral, the Neuro Way" — Your Turn


Maria Reyes-McDavis 1. December 2009 at 9:28 am

Great information and clearly an indication that human relations and behaviors should be considered at all stages of marketing. It does seem self evident, after all you are marketing to human beings, but too often this is overlooked and to the peril of marketer’s success.


Susan Weinschenk 1. December 2009 at 10:03 pm

Always important to talk to the emotional brain!

(P.S. Love the new theme for the blog.)


Olivia Mitchell 2. December 2009 at 2:36 am

Hi Roger

What strikes me most about these conclusions is the obtuseness of the language eg:

“Setting expectations prior to content viewership encourages positive ratings and engagement.”

Does that mean “Telling people what to expect before they watch a video makes it more likely they’ll enjoy it”?



Scott Sorheim 2. December 2009 at 12:04 pm

@Olivia, funny stuff! I was thinking the same thing.

Doesn’t seem likely that the report itself contains much “emotionally rich content”.

Based on what you do, I bet you could help them successfully present this information, too!


Olivia Mitchell 2. December 2009 at 2:31 pm

@Scott, thanks, exactly what I was thinking!


Thiago 16. April 2013 at 10:04 pm

The link for the study is broken.


Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
17. April 2013 at 8:25 am

Thanks, Thiago. I tracked down a new link. Looks like the company is now One To One Global.



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