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Viral VideoIt’s not easy creating an online video that you hope will go viral. In fact, it’s quite difficult to artificially make a video become as widespread as the Star Wars kid, Susan Boyle or even the “Leave Britney Alone” kid. For businesses who think this is a great way to garner business and reach out to new and existing customers, this is often a dilemma that plagues social media consultants. Believe me when I say that when companies ask “let’s make a viral video”, then eyes start to slowly roll because it’s easier said than done. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post on what needs to be going into a video to have it be a chance to become viral. There are at least four qualities that a video must possess in order to even have a shot at getting the 1 million plus views that some great online videos have received. So what are these qualities?

  1. Make it easy to share.
  2. Make it OK to share.
  3. Controversial takes risks.
  4. Emotionally engaging.

Seems pretty simple, yes? Well there’s one wild card that you can never predict…the audience. You might think that you can get away with certain things, but the audience knows and they’ll call you out on it. In fact, no matter how hard you try and make it. But then there are some times when you just have to stare in amazement over how did something become so successful and yet how did another video not become viral?

Will food from KFC really save you from a shark?

Highly doubtful…although it could probably further motivate the shark to find more meat to eat. But what I’m referring to is a recent video posted on YouTube and reported by advertising blog AdRants. It starts out with three people on a boat in Amsterdam paddling on a river and then they encounter a shark. Their one saving grace is when one of the people on the boat takes a piece of chicken from a clearly-visible & conspicuously marked KFC bag and throws it into the water causing the shark to swim away and towards the tossed object. Now, having seen the video, I think that KFC made a bit of a mistake in trying to try and make a viral video. How’s that? It’s because while you’re watching it, you can clearly see that there’s a lengthy shot of their product/brand in the video. Moreover, the whole video looks pretty professionally done. There’s a certain type of quality one might expect had this been an amateur video and this was more along the lines of a professional grade camcorder, which isn’t something people typically carry around while on a trip.

Now on the off-chance that these tourists were actually recording using a high quality camcorder, the acting is also evident of the fact that it’s a brand’s commercial. It’s not authentic…it’s not believable. That’s the thing that will force people to not pay attention and also won’t create a viral message. One of the things that has probably been a good indicator of companies that succeed in viral marketing is when they make their product placement subtle enough that you wouldn’t notice until you found out about it after watching the video. In the KFC video, they’re just trying too hard and when people watch it, they’ll know it’s a company-sponsored video and it loses all value.

Look at that video, now stay on this video.


Okay, we all probably have seen the hilarious Old Spice television commercial that featured “the man your man could smell like”. They were pretty funny and really entertaining. In fact, the commercial has spawned an Internet meme that has captivated the Internet audience and has instantly become a viral hit. Why? Because it’s entertaining. They’re not plugging any product…at least directly. But we’ll automatically know and refer to these videos as the Old Spice videos. Starring The Most Interesting Man In The World 2.0 Isaiah Mustafa, these YouTube videos were produced by Wieden + Kennedy as a way of continuing with the commercial’s hit success. These videos soon became an instant time-drain and people soon found out that these videos were very specific in who Mustafa addressed.

So how was Wieden + Kennedy able to produce an outstanding series? Simple…they used YouTube and Twitter. Leveraging Old Spice’s Twitter account, they looked at people’s tweets to @oldspice and the most interesting ones received custom videos featuring Mustafa acting in a way like the Old Spice commercial. What’s makes it even more special is the more entertaining the response, the receiver would also retweet that message back and the virality would begin. It’s obvious now that Weiden + Kennedy had a plan for Old Spice and these YouTube videos became an instant success.

Just look at the numbers generated from this campaign, which started just on July 14, 2010 – just two days prior to this article being written:

  • Number of videos made: 180+
  • Number of video views: 5.9 million
  • Number of comments: 22,500

What’s remarkable is that people on Twitter definitely want their own custom message. And if you look at each video, they’re personally made…no automation or form speeches. They talk directly about the author’s tweet and also features Mustafa talking to the camera each and every time.

Technology and web blog The Next Web has also highlighted some additional statistics relating to the Old Spice videos:

  • Videos have been awarded placement at the top of Digg’s website – not an easy task to do
  • Videos also are featured on Reddit’s homepage
  • Trending topic on Twitter
  • At least one of the founders of Twitter tweets about the videos – instantly becomes a hit
  • A marriage proposal was carried out – AND ACCEPTED
  • Videos received additional coverage on mainstream news and other tech publications
  • The @oldspice Twitter account has multiplied its followers by 10
  • Reached out and interacted with real-life celebrities with an enormous amount of followers

To give you an idea on how this process went down, here’s a brief idea from an article on ReadWriteWeb:

Old Spice, marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa are collaborating on the project. The group seeded various social networks with an invitation to ask questions of Mustafa’s character, a dashing shirtless man with over-the-top humor and bravado. Then all the responses were tracked and users who contributed interesting questions and/or were high-profile people on social networks are being responded to directly and by name in short, funny YouTube videos. The group has made videos in response to Digg founder Kevin Rose, TV star Alyssa Milano (now big on Twitter) and many more people, famous and not.

According to the article, this campaign has become the marvel of the Internet and is adored by a lot of people out there, surprising to the production team. For over 11 hours, the Wieden + Kennedy teams were fast at work spending on average 7 minutes per video coming up with creative ways to respond to interesting tweets. The social media and technical teams were reported to have worked very closely with the creative teams and by midnight had wrapped up what became a very successful (and viral) campaign. But you might wonder how did they secure the permission from parent company Proctor & Gamble? ReadWriteWeb writes that the company was quite brave in allowing the team to write the marketing content in real-time – and without supervision…so there was some definite trust in this case.
Fastest growing online video campaigns

Some food for thought about the Old Spice commercials? It’s now one of the fastest-growing online video campaigns of all time – this according to Visible Measures and while the campaign pretty much lasted only 11 hours, thanks to the urgency to participate, it still did remarkably better than some of the more organic campaigns that have become instant hits, such as President Obama’s victory speech, Susan Boyle and former President Bush dodging a shoe attack while in Iraq.

So what makes this so viral? The conversation aspect between social networks to produce a nearly real-time thread. That and also the entertaining aspect helped fuel people’s interest and desire to get the message spread out. We all thought the Old Spice commercial was hilarious and if you look at yourself, chances are you’ve probably laughed at it too and told your friends. This seemed to be the only logical next step and Old Spice clearly capitalized on it. But did they plug their product once? No…but you knew that it was for Old Spice, if not only for the fact that you were sending messages to the brand’s Twitter account.

It’s amazing how videos can become instant successes and how leveraging a combination of online services can do to bring more awareness. Will other companies encourage their brands to follow Old Spice’s example? Only time will tell…until then, the Old Spice Man can rest easy being considered the king of online viral videos.

Photo Credit: mzacha / sxc.hu

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