Video campaigns are increasingly at the heart of marketing. As more and more companies wake up to the fact that online video is a medium which compels people to view and share like few others, the competition increases – and subsequently the attention of your audience is saturated quicker. Nowadays it’s not enough to have a video; it’s got to be one that stands out. But how to do this?

If you have ever co-ordinated a campaign you’ll probably be familiar with the brief “Make us go viral”, and the hair-rending reaction this instruction can provoke in a team. Going viral is an inexact art. Humour, riding on the back of existing virals and cute animals can all help you get there, but they’re just as likely to result in a video that nobody watches – and worse, one that’s a bit embarrassing. You don’t want to go viral for the reason that everyone is laughing at you and your product, not with you.

The solution, increasingly, lies in science. In a world where other marketing strategies are increasingly starting to be based on quantifiable research, why should online video be any different? And luckily neurologists are hard at work studying the impact of videos on peoples’ brains. Here are two things they’ve learned so far.

Battle Of The Sexes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably read about the recent studies detailing evidence for differences in how male and female brains are wired. This builds on conclusions that neurologists previously arrived at – that female audiences and male audiences are hardwired to respond to different types of visual stimulation.

The research suggested that women respond more positively to visually pleasant sequences, especially ones that also involve words and other verbalisations. This is especially evident in advertising. Just think of female-orientated adverts such as for shampoo (a woman washing her hair in a tropical glade), yogurt, (women giggling and gossiping over their food) or perfume (sumptuous surroundings, sometimes a narrative, and amazing outfits). There tends to be a story, even if that story is a woman winsomely hiding a chocolate bar in a box under her bed from her housemates (yes, Galaxy, I’m looking at you).

Meanwhile, men tend to be drawn to action-rich visuals. This is evident in shaving adverts and car adverts, where objects and abstract representations alike zoom around the screen and are rarely still. So it seems that marketers know this intuitively, but having it backed up with scientific fact means you can push it further, and more confidently.

If creating a marketing campaign involving video for a woman’s product, when it comes to the visual aspect you can make the decision to consciously emphasise the narrative and work on soft, flowing visuals. In the same vein, if marketing towards men you might want to speed up the pace of your video, use bolder colours and generally aim towards a sense of movement and action.

Fear Factor

While it might seem counter-intuitive to scare the pants off your audience, the brain is at its most active when it’s frightened. Why is this relevant? Neuroscientists have found that a spike in brain activity means you are more likely to remember the event that generated that fear. You probably remember watching your first horror film in your teens or childhood with surprising clarity. But how can we harness this power without turning our campaign videos into gorefests, a strategy which just might not appeal to the larger public?

One example of playing the fear game straight is the ‘Take This Lollipop’ campaign, which accessed users’ Facebook details temporarily, and made them the star of a short online horror film. Designed to raise awareness of online privacy issues, it spooked everyone and was a huge hit (with over 14,000,000 people ‘taking the lollipop’ at last glance).

If you’re not selling a scary product, you can still instil a sense of lower-level, almost subconscious fear – fear of loss, or fear of missing out. Make your audience believe that without your product they would be losing money, losing time, or falling behind their peers. This is especially useful in a B2B context, where you can subtly suggest that, without your product, people would find themselves falling behind their competitors.


These are just two neurological insights that can help us tailor our campaigns to our audiences, and as science advances neuromarketing looks set to become a key feature, not the hokum some people have dismissed it as. The more we can understand the people we’re marketing to, the better. Even if findings seem self-evident, the ability to confirm what we’ve already been intuitively doing and push it to a more subconscious level will be invaluable in creating the successful online campaigns of the future.