It seems that a particular fast food restaurant has truly mastered the art of viral marketing. No, it's not McDonald's or KFC. In fact, if you live in America, odds are you've never heard of this place.

It's Jollibee, the Philippines' undisputed fast food king.

I learned about Jollibee years ago. See, my father is from the Philippines. When I was in my early 20s, I got the idea to visit his native country, so I could better learn his language, Tagalog, and get to know my roots. So, in 2008, I traveled to the country made up of over 7,000 islands (exactly how many depends on whether it's high tide or low tide). It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

On that trip I discovered Jollibee, in all its glory. Although I had heard lots about it, I had never seen one in person (nor its famous mascot, the smiling bee). The menu was like a snapshot of my youth, with offerings like Filipino-style spaghetti (it's a bit sweeter than what most Americans are used to) and "Halo-halo" (literally translated, "mix-mix"), a delicious dessert made up of shaved ice, evaporated milk, fruit, coconut, ice cream...and boiled sweet beans. (Don't knock it until you've tried it.)

And then, there was my absolute favorite--fried chicken. But unlike at KFC, I could actually get this chicken with rice and gravy, the way we always ate it at home.

Jollibee calls it Chickenjoy. For good reason.

Recently, Jollibee has been making news: The company has released a number of commercials that have gone viral. Their three most recent ads, which were released just over a month ago, have already amassed over 57 million views on Facebook and YouTube. But what's really amazing is that this is no quirk, as a number of Jollibee's ads have gone viral, with millions upon millions of views and many thousands of shares.

So, how do they do it?

It all comes down to Jollibee's ability to touch consumers' emotions.

Jollibee knows its target audience.

Many Filipinos are quick to acknowledge that our culture is very emotionally expressive, and that more than a few of us are diehard romantics. (It also doesn't hurt that Filipinos spend more time on social media than any other country, with the average user spending almost 4 hours on social every day.)

Knowing this, Jollibee works hard to pull its customers' heart strings.

For example, consider "Signs," the most popular of the three recently released commercials. It tells the story of a college student who looks to the universe to help her find romance, before realizing that Mr. Right happened to be there all along.

In "Status" (my personal favorite of the three videos--you can find it at the end of this post), a young woman deals with heartbreak after heartbreak. After initially feeling sorry for herself, she changes her mindset. She realizes that she should be thankful for her family, who has stuck by her side through thick and thin and helped her through the hard times.

"There are actually people who love me for who I am," she says. "No matter what."

These storylines aren't necessarily new, but they work. Together, these two ads have been viewed over 1.5 million times, with almost 500,000 shares on Facebook alone.

They invest in long form content.

Watching these ads, you'll notice they are more like short films than commercials. ("Signs" is over four minutes, with "Status" and "Homecoming," the third video, each clocking in just under four.)

By making this type of investment, Jollibee makes it possible to tell a great story.

Think about that for a moment. With more and more media being viewed online as opposed to traditional television, which ad do you think will be more effective: the 30-second one that consumers press the "skip" button just halfway through watching? Or the mini-movie that viewers are moved to share on social media?

So, if you're trying to create content that moves your audience, remember:

1. Get to know what will touch your audience's emotions.

2. Don't focus purely on selling a product. Tell us a good story instead.

Succeed at doing that, and you won't have to convince your customers to watch your ads--they'll already be looking for them.

Published on: Mar 14, 2018