Oh Internet, you never cease to amaze me. Just when I feel like we get each other, you come out with something so inherently ridiculous, I can only shake my head, smile and say, "you do you, Internet; you do you." The latest craze in a long line of plankings, lip dubs, Call Me Maybes, horse heads, and Gangnam Styles (if you want more of these, check out our posts on ROFLcon) is The Harlem Shake. The TLDR overview of this new trend goes like this: Normal situation turns into a weird rave-y dance party with this song playing in the background. But I'm not here to talk about "what" it is. I'd rather discuss "why" it is. Why is some video that started in a dorm room inspiring everyone from frat bros to marketing agencies (see below) to go nuts for, quite literally, 15 seconds of Internet fame? The question may be as simple as "there was a huge blizzard in the Northeast this weekend and a ton of people were bored." However, my guess is that it has something to do with this statement: Never underestimate the human need to be a part of the cultural Zeitgeist. Seriously, we even did one. In our study, "The Psychology of Social" (click here to download), we express that social media placates certain inherent human needs to fit in and have a role within the larger group. In 10,000 BC, each member of a group of prehistoric humans had a role - be it hunter, gatherer, or mammoth stylist (those were things, right?). While human roles and needs have changed slightly over the past few thousand years, the group mentality remains. We are, and always have been, a species built on sharing, connection-development, and esteem building. While we no longer have the need for mammoth stylists (I swear those existed), with our Internet/information-driven society, being the one in your group of friends to find these things, create them, or share them allows you to fulfill your role in the larger group. So, why did THIS catch on? It probably has something to do with the group that the creators of the original video has around them. Things spread more easily when the content gets into the hands of influencers. Mix that with the fact that that there is almost no barrier to participate (a camera phone, a song download, a laptop, some friends) add a little absurdity and a lot of fun, and you've got yourself a engagement-driving concoction of excellence.
Earlier this summer, my esteemed colleague Matt Rainone shared his thoughts on ways that content can go viral online. The content he specifically referred to was related to memes ' organic user-generated content that happens to catch on and gets rapidly spread across users online. On the other end of the viral video spectrum is manufactured content, created by brands with the specific goal of 'going viral'?. One such example of this is something that we all grew up with ' the music video. As the music industry has been turned on its head over the past decade and a half, the music video has become even more of a critical element to an artist's promotional repertoire. While music videos have moved largely from TV rotation to online, the dynamic for how we watch music videos has changed as well. We no longer have to endure brutal cable countdown shows (remember TRL? guuhh) for the hottest videos; instead, we can watch virtually anything on-demand. Therefore, the need to create unique, buzz-worthy music videos is as important as ever. Many brands today share a similar goal with their own unique content (and often, what sounds appealing to a brand manager does not nearly sound as appealing to a consumer). What can we learn from music videos that will allow marketers to create better content? Now of course Lady Gaga is going to get a ton of traffic for any video that she releases, regardless of what the actual video contains. I'm fully expecting the next video to be her dressed as an overgrown baby, covered in cows' blood and dancing in a midnight graveyard surrounded by eunuchs. Seriously, I swear some of her videos are filmed inside my night terrors. But other videos have been hugely successful that haven't been driven by that same caliber of star power. Here are three examples of great videos that have become big hits on the tubes: 1.) Cee-Lo ' F*** You Oh! Profanity! Is it the catchy retro hook? The easy-to-follow typography? The use of the f-bomb? Probably all three. This video is a great mix of an amazingly simple but effective creative direction paired with an incredibly catchy song and a chorus that is decidedly radio unfriendly. The video was posted August 19th and within one week had nearly 3 million views. Key Takeaway: Simpler can be better. Shock-content does have talk value. 2.) Bed Intruder Song ' Antione Dodson and The Gregory Brothers Clearly, sexual assault is a not a laughing matter and luckily nobody was hurt during this incident. When Antoine Dodson was interviewed by WAFF in Huntsville, AL after an assault on his sister, he was naturally upset and provided a very animated response to the reporter. That first video, in and of itself, was hugely popular and made its way around the Internet. But when Autotune the News got a hold of it, they turned it into Internet gold. The result has been a single that is currently ranked #44 on iTunes. Mr. Dodson has also enjoyed microcelebrity status and is currently selling merchandise and fundraising to move his family to a better neighborhood. Preferably one where kids, wives and husbands don't need to be hidden. Some may recognize that the Bed Intruder video was similar to DJ Steve Porter's Press Hop videos (Press Hop 1, Press Hop 2 that took classic moments from sports press conferences, chopped and remixed them together in a similar fashion. Key Takeaway: Quality ingredients make a quality product. Both instances of remixes reused content that was already very popular with audiences (copyright infringements notwithstanding). 3.) OK Go ' This Too Shall Pass This may have taken the better part of a long afternoon to build'?¦ The thought of building a four-minute-long Rube Goldberg is enough to give me a slight migraine (luckily we have an in-house production team!). Now imagine filming it in a single take. Sheesh. Obviously, the appeal here is the astonishment of the scope of planning and execution that is involved. I'm willing to bet that 16,261,591 viewers probably agree. This isn't OK Go's first trip to the rodeo either, you may remember they had another killer video with Here It Goes Again, another great single-take video from 2006 which has net over 52.3 million views. Key Takeaway: Creating compelling content is not an easy task. Sometimes it's the most difficult road (both in time and cost) that will yield the best results.
Matt's recent blog post 'I Have a Meme'? made me do some thinking. How really DO things become viral and how the heck can our clients get in on the secret? So with Matt's four steps in mind, I started looking back at some of my favorite viral videos, and asking around for new ones that I hadn't been infected with yet to do some more research. Some of my favorites are straight accidentals caught on a video camera from the 80's, and others are genius branded entertainment ' and I know what you're thinking; 'BRANDED entertainment'? that becomes viral? Yes! It's possible! Here are a few favorites: Liquid Mountaineering (I'm thinking 2012 Olympic games) Signs (Hopeless romantic?) The Happiness Machine (I want one next to my desk) Accidental or pre-meditated, what is it about the best viral videos that makes you want to watch it over and over again and show your friends how cool you are for finding it? Often, brands need to have a bit more strategy to ensure success. Here are some pointers for brands on getting infected First of all, you can't MAKE anything go viral. I repeat, you cannot. As much as you want to conjure it up in your head, and dream about it at night ' you can't force your video to be the next 'Evolution of Dance'?. But, you can help it get there. It's not about being the most offensive, the loudest, or the most absurd ' it's simply about being noticeable, memorable, and actionable. Great ideas and great virals offer an invite to consumers to connect with them, relate to them, solve their problems, or let them express themselves. Therefore, you need to understand and recognize the audience that will best adopt your viral. One strategy is to seed the viral only to a small community to begin with. Let a certain community adopt the idea and run with it on their own. Don't try to cover all of the cyber world with your viral, video or otherwise, or else it doesn't become special and isn't 'rare enough'? to share and spread as viruses do. Figure out from the target audience what they want: What do they value? What's unique to them? What would stop them from what they're doing at that moment? Would they share things with friends? Would they be cooler for doing so? If you seed correctly, to a smaller, more defined group, then those members will take hold of the rest in spreading the word. Once the initial community starts to share, let it run its course - much like our dear friend the flu. Don't try to mess it up with, or overload it with, brand identification (or medication). Wait until the buzz has grown to tag your brand's mark on top of the original viral's identity, without being too commercial. And in doing so ' reach out to the community that got the party started and congratulate them for sharing. Figure out how they shared and amplify the effect. The sole goal of any virus is to reproduce. But it's not just about how many views you get - it's about how strong the virus actually is: How many times it got embedded. How many times it was commented on, remixed, or mentioned. Look at how it got to be where it's at and what people are saying about it. And don't worry about the negative feedback ' every viral comes with a headache or sore throat, but that can be overcome with a little TLC and popsicles.