Sound in Viral Videos: How It Significantly Impacts 69% of Consumers

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Content marketing continues to grow in popularity among digital strategists, and that means rising above the noise is becoming even more difficult. In order to stand out, you’ve got to be different, and video has proven it can uniquely deliver highly memorable and emotional content to a target audience. A big reason for its success? The power of sound.

BuzzStream and Fractl conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers to better understand the emotional impact of sound and how it relates to content marketing. Survey respondents were asked to play five viral videos from the last couple of years and then pick which emotions were activated when the video was played. Each group was presented with a different viewing format. The first group had to watch the videos with sound, but without captions; the second group had to watch the videos without sound, but with captions; and the third group was only able to listen to the video’s sound and was not allowed to watch the video. Robert Plutchik’s comprehensive Wheel of Emotions was used to categorize emotions.


The impact of sound on content marketing

Sound is a strong trigger for emotion. It can have a significant impact on the listener, inspiring either positive or negative emotions, and has the power to completely change the sentiment of your content. In fact, 69 percent of respondents in the sound and no video group believed that sound had a significant impact on their emotional response. The goal of your content should be to leverage positive emotions to grab a person’s interest. Without the right sound, your content could be devoid of an emotional trigger, which impacts overall emotional responses.

Knowing that sound enables interspersed emotional triggers, marketers can leave their audience feeling a range of strong and weak emotions in a variety of ways. Applying sound to content can induce the type and level of emotion you want your audience to feel at certain points.

The emotions of sound

These eight emotions were the most prevalent in all five of the viral videos watched by our survey takers: interest, curiosity, uncertainty, admiration, acceptance, cheerfulness, amazement, and astonishment. Generally, these are positive, strong emotions that drive people to care about and share the content.


The only negative emotion we saw commonly evoked was revulsion, which fits into the disgust segment of Plutchik’s wheel. This emotion was strongly evoked when the audience was not able to view the video accompanying the sound in all five viral videos. However, when given the context of video, our survey takers did not feel negative emotions as strongly as they did the positive ones. In fact, in place of revulsion, they felt delight and serenity.
To better compare the emotions of sound in all five viral videos, we converted the results of our survey into heat maps (click on the titles below to view the corresponding video):

The Epic Split feat. Van Damme (Volvo Trucks)
image11 image06 image00
Sound, No Video Sound, No Captions Captions, No Sound
Monty The Penguin (John Lewis)
image15 image05 image01
 Sound, No Video  Sound, No Captions  Captions, No Sound
   Most Shocking Second a Day Video (Save The Children)
 image04  image10  image08
 Sound, No Video  Sound, No Captions  Captions, No Sound
   1 is 2 Many PSA (The White House)
image09 image14 image12
Sound, No Video Sound, No Captions Captions, No Sound
First Moon Party (HelloFlo)
image16 image13 image03
Sound, No Video Sound, No Captions Captions, No Sound

Sound is at the heart of every great video, and it’s a great way to trigger an emotional response—which is essential if you want your content to go viral. As a marketer, a well-executed video produces everything you want from your content—it entertains, it informs, and it inspires your audience to take action. Realizing the role sound plays in its success and tailoring it to perfectly complement your content will help elevate your next video.

Andrea Lehr

Andrea Lehr

Andrea Lehr is a promotions supervisor at Fractl, a creative digital agency specializing in high-quality content creation and placement. She works alongside a team of creative strategists to produce innovative and unique, data-driven campaigns about industry trends. Her work has been featured on HubSpot, Entrepreneur, Relevance, Convince & Convert, and The Next Web. When she’s not in the office, there’s a good chance you’ll find her running or challenging friends to a game of Apples to Apples.
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