Creating the (good kind of) viral video in a pandemic

When we predicted that this year Tik Tok was going to be even more of a viral hit, we didn’t quite pick it would be driven by an actual virus crisis.

With so many people across the world stuck at home with time to film themselves walking around with cakes for shoes, DIY videos have been as hilarious as they have been prolific. But how has branded video content changed in a post-corona world?

With our new world changing rapidly, brands have had to pivot fast – a video that worked a few weeks ago (like this KFC finger lick) can quickly become dated or tone deaf. Some have created new strategies on the fly – like Amazon’s attempt to thank their ‘hero’ frontline workers – but have landed badly with their record on worker’s rights.

Some have ripped up the playbook, like Uber asking customers not to use them but generating trust and the feel good factor. And others have found – like with hilarious homemade videos – necessity breeds creativity, and have landed on some viral (the good kind) hits.

Here are some of the best, and the new video trends emerging:

User Generated Collaborative Content (the extra C in UGC)

In addition to wearing elasticised pants, one of our favourite iso-pastimes is going down a rabbit hole of virtual choir videos on YouTube. From Bowie to The Beatles, watching hundreds of faces sing in perfect harmony from their homes is exactly what the world needs right now. ABC Australia nailed this format inviting celebrities and ordinary Australians to sing ‘We are Australian’ – and with a little post-prod, the result is spine-tingling. Playgrounds 2020, the festival for the creative industries, blew us away with this deconstructed animation video thinking outside the box (literally).

While these are all recorded at home with simple devices, the best ones have clearly been directed and instructed on ideal lighting, sound and set up. At GoodChat, we’re producing some of this style of video, from a virtual conference to coordinating a group message from refugees for a grant application. We’ve pulled together training kits and instruction manuals to make sure that while they all feel individual, the overall look is consistent and high quality.

Newsjacking and Public Service Announcements

Almost all businesses and organisations have had to quickly create new messages in these times, with PSAs on how to navigate a new normal (especially government services like health and education). But they don’t have to be dry to be informative.

We love the playful way Vic Health used comedian Becky Lucas to create a video using fruit as party personalities to highlight the importance of eating healthily. And we had lots of fun working with NSW Health using a combination of animation and user videos to highlight creative ideas (and fails!) for keeping kids healthy and active indoors.


Others have decided to ride the moment and capture the zeitgeist of our shared experiences. The stay at home message is coming at us from all angles, and New Zealand Police have nailed it again, cheekily highlighting the things that can go wrong in Zoom meetings (we’ve all been there!) – from partners and babies, sound issues and random potato filters – they show that official announcements can be both imaginative and effective. In a completely different tone – but equally on-brand and well executed – is this I stay home message from Ikea – reframing our indoor spaces as places to feel wrapt rather than trapped.

We’re currently working on some PSAs of our own for clients – from comedians at home switching to renewable energy, to more serious explainers to secure urgent supplies and resources for remote Aboriginal communities. With coronavirus still dominating headlines and showing no signs of abating anytime soon, it makes sense to ride this moment where you can.

The Art of the Pivot

Most of the videos we had in motion and mid-production when the global pandemic hit had to pivot in some way. Either they were complete overhauls – suddenly we couldn’t shoot, or it was a topic that no longer made sense (like travel). Or it was a more subtle shift – it felt a bit off to be creating a campaign victory celebration video when the news was dominated by doom and death.

Even important topics of global significance like climate change felt like they needed to reference the pandemic in some way to be relevant. But how to anchor an issue in the now, without creating content that could quickly feel dated when everything is changing so fast?

Restrictions around shoots have meant we are creating a lot more animation, motion graphics and post-production of existing footage. For most of our scripts and explainers, we’ve reframed the opening hook or final message to reference how the key message (be it jobs, or a safe and clean world) is now more important than ever. We’ve re-assessed imagery used (no crowds or finger licking!) but also made sure the content passes the ‘evergreen’ test, so our clients can re-purpose and re-use their investment in video, now and in the future.

How have communications changed in your organisation? How could you take advantage of the current climate to create some really engaging content?

We know video is one of the most effective ways to cut through and get message out there. If you’re interested, let’s chat.

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