Welcome back to our weekly Viral Video Round Up series, where I pick some of my favorite viral videos from the past week or so and attempt to figure out what it is that made them so popular.  The hope is that we can, as video creators and marketers, gain a better understanding of the video landscape to help inform our future efforts to go viral.  Too many good videos this week to spend any more time on an intro… let’s dig in:

The Ultimate Jam

In our first example, we open with rock legend Lenny Kravitz moseying down the street on foot in New Orleans.  As he explains, he was enjoying a drink on a terrace when he heard something familiar… one of his own songs being performed.  And it piqued his curiosity enough to go check things out.

What he found was a choir of high school kids, backed by a live band, performing Kravitz’ own hit “Fly Away.”  And Lenny enjoys the performance great deal–you can almost see the joy on his face.  He stands in front of them, swaying and clapping, and then eventually jumps on the drums to jam with the band.  As a musician, and someone who grew up when Kravitz was a huge star, the video is quite a lot of fun for me.  Take a look:

I can’t help but wonder how many of these high school kids even recognize Kravitz at first—though it’s obvious by the end that word has gotten around that they are jamming with the guy who recorded the song they’re singing.  What a treat this must have been for them—particularly that guitar player, who should get some kind of studio deal off this video alone.

The reason this video went viral is pretty obvious—it’s a huge star enjoying the talents of some amateurs who are performing his music… and joining in with them.  How many times have you ever seen anything like this?  Probably zero.  I’ve certainly never heard of a famous musician happening by a street performance of his or her own song and stopping for a listen.  It boggles the mind that this could even happen—which has led a few to suggest that this was staged, though nothing about it feels staged to me.

Videos with famous people always stand a better chance of going viral.  But there’s more than that at work here.  It’s the act of that famous person being so cool… clapping along and encouraging these kids, jamming with them, applauding them… that’s what really sets this video apart.  It is, quite simply, something none of us have ever heard of or seen before.  And that’s why it went viral.  Probably scored Kravitz a few million cool points in the eyes of the viewers too, as well it should have.

Animation Perfection

You may remember Patrick Boivin from his viral smash hit Iron Baby, which was featured in this column several weeks ago.  He’s back this week with another piece of animation, entitled At-At Day Afternoon.  And I think it’s the perfect storm of viral ingredients.  It touches on dogs, star wars, and stop-motion animation—three of the top ten viral ingredients of all time.

Essentially, the role of the dog in this video is “played” by a stop-motion-animated At-At from Star Wars.  And the results are surprisingly cute:

I really don’t know how you take a plastic toy and animate it so that it actually begins to look and feel like a real dog.  But Patrick Boivin knows, because he accomplished just that feat.  By the time the video is over, I actually believe this thing is a real pet, and that’s huge.  That’s a sign of talent.

As with Iron Baby, this video went viral mostly because its creator is just insanely good at what he does.  But there are several viral ingredients at work here that helped get At-At-Day Afternoon its initial viewers.

First, it’s Star Wars related.  Now… that can be a plus or a minus in this day and age, as the Internet is overrun with Star Wars related material.  But when it’s done right—like the Darth Vader TomTom ad or the Galactic Empire State Of Mind parody of Jay-Z—it’s a virtual lock to go viral.  Star Wars has a hold on our culture like no other piece of entertainment ever has.  Tapping into that with a viral offering can be a fantastic way to get some initial interest.

Second, it’s pet-related.  I mean, this “dog” is cute, for crying out loud!  People love pets, and along with that anything related to pets.

Third, it’s expertly crafted.  I hope it goes without saying that this video would have died out of the gate if I had been the animator… because I kind of suck at animation.  There’s no shame at all in hiring a professional to help improve and enhance your prospective viral video—in fact, the day is fast approaching where you’ll probably have to hire professional help to get your video noticed.

Finally, it’s charming… it’s got humor—Jabba The Hut at the end?  Come on… that’s hilarious.

The Acquisition Rap

Woot.com has been serving up daily online purchase deals (along with a dose of humor and sarcasm) for some time now, developing a strong and loyal following of bargain hunters.  The service is so popular that Amazon just bought them.

So when your online shopping website is purchased by the biggest fish in the online shopping pond, you do what anyone would do… you create a video of a rapping stuffed monkey to help announce it to the world:

Man, everything about this is excellent.  If you know anything at all about the corporate culture at Woot, you know that this video fits in perfectly with the way they do things.  In fact, their “culture of fun” (I just coined that) is surely the reason Amazon was even interested, as too few companies know how to use fun as a sales tool.

And that’s also the lesson here for all of us:  don’t get so creative with your viral video offering that it causes you to lose your corporate culture.  Your personality, as an individual or a business, is why people enjoy working with you.  Tap into that established persona when crafting your video piece, don’t stray from it.  If a rapping monkey would be out of place in the day to day activity of your website, then it’s probably not the best choice for your viral video.  But for Woot… it was the only choice.

Stick with what you know… stick with who you are… because it can be a tremendous asset in your pursuit of viral glory.

Honorable Mention

If I had more time, I would also have featured: