The first thing you learn when studying the techniques of storytelling is that triggering the right emotions in your audience is critical. In addition, when you study the traits that make something go viral, you also find that triggering the right emotions is the first thing that matters. So it follows that when you start planning a viral advertising campaign that uses storytelling as the base ingredient, defining the emotions of the campaign is the first thing you must do.
In a previous post, we shared how the new Superman movie was using multi-channel storytelling to get their advertising campaign to go viral. However, the fact that the Superman advertising campaign was multi-channel is only part of the story of how they got their General Zod YouTube video to go from zero to over a half million views in 2 days. The second and arguably most important technique was the use of anticipation. Anticipation is an emotion that triggers several other emotions such as pleasure, excitement or anxiety. Jonah Berger’s research shows that each of these are what’s called activating emotions, or what I call the viral emotions.
The fact that triggering the emotion of anticipation creates a ripple effect of multiple other viral emotions is powerful. I would argue that this fact alone makes anticipation the most powerful viral storytelling technique.
To capitalize on this, the new Superman movie used a multi-layered anticipation technique. The first layer was a billboard with an encrypted message on it. The only way to decrypt the message was by visiting the Deep Space Radio Wave Project microsite. This caused every Superman fanatic that drove by the billboard to anticipate the next time they could get in front of a computer to decrypt the message. Once you decrypted the message it lead you to another microsite I Will Find Him. Initially, on this site there was another encrypted message that displayed a countdown clock. This was the second layer of anticipation. Once the countdown clock expired after 24 hours, fans were finally shown the full trailer for the new Superman movie below: