5 steps to a branded video that doesn’t feel like an ad

It’s brainstorming time: you’re gathered with your marketing team in a small room, an empty whiteboard leering menacingly at you. The mission: create a YouTube ad for your brand. And then someone asks the inevitable question: “How do we make this go viral?”

Stop right there. The question you should be asking instead: “How can we create a video that viewers will choose to watch?”

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when your brand is creating an ad for YouTube. (We define “ad” here as a video designed to be distributed through TrueView or a promotional video living on your brand channel.)

1. Keep your target demo top of mind

If you’re marketing diapers, why try to create a video that’ll appear to everyone, including 13- to 17-year-old-males? If you’re running an effectively targeted campaign through TrueView, these viewers (when logged in) won’t see your ad at all. And we can promise you male teens won’t be actively searching for your diapers video or your diapers channel page either.

2. Aim to elicit emotion or reaction

Think of a YouTube video you’ve enjoyed recently. Most likely it made you laugh, made you cry, or was just plain awesome. (Shout out to Action Movie Kid, a relatively new face on the platform, and to Kid President, a seasoned veteran, for making videos that consistently fall in the third category.)

3. Don’t force branding down viewers’ throats

A video that’s trying not to be ad but still has blatant branding can leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths. As counterintuitive as it may seem, focus first on the quality of your video and second on your branding. If your video packs an emotional punch, include branding right at the end—just as viewers are contemplating what they saw—rather than insert overt branding repeatedly throughout the video.

4. Think shareable

What motivates someone to share a video, whether or Facebook, Twitter, or reddit? Above all, it has to be short enough to be shared. Many viewers consume such videos at work, and no one wants to risk getting caught or fired by the boss—no matter how great that 17-minute-long interview supposedly is.

5. Ban “viral” from your vocabulary

Viral is a win—there’s no arguing with that. It gets your brand word-of-mouth traffic and increased awareness and impressions. But you can’t force viral, and you should aim not for high visibility on a single video but for sustainability. Rather than shoot one video and pin all your brand’s hopes and dreams on it, ensure you can maintain a consistent release schedule, high production quality, and a targeted promotional strategy.

In short: think shareable, think sustainable, think targeted—and above all, think of your favorite videos on YouTube, and try to create a video that’s worthy of placement on someone else’s favorites list.