With the weekend upon us, it’s time for a Viral Round Up again.  Some really good examples this week that we can learn from, so let’s dive in.

The Scary Movie

Joe Cummings, a New York resident who is also a professional actor, claims to have noticed food missing in his apartment several days in a row.  He was so sure it was his live-in girlfriend (who denied eating said food) that he set up a camera with night vision to catch her in the act.  Instead, he caught footage of what he calls an “uninvited guest” crawling out of a hiding place in his apartment and making herself at home while Joe slept.

Take a look:

Now, there seems to be great debate as to whether this is real or fake.  I’m not sure why.  It’s obviously not real, though Joe continues to plead the case for his video’s authenticity, even updating the YouTube description to address the critics.  But I’m not buying that it’s all legit.  When a professional actor is involved in a viral hit, it’s almost never turned out to be anything but fake.  Some are saying there’s an apartment-living-related company behind it (how does this video promote apartment living?)… others suggest it’s just this actor trying to boost his profile.

But that’s really beside the point these days, isn’t it?  I mean, he’s gotten over a million views.  Just like Microsoft with their awful “Windows 7 Party” videos—whether it was fake or real is really kind of moot once the video has gotten millions of views.  We’ve already been suckered, if we’re even being suckered.

And I’m not sure I have a ton of respect for this apparent new viral strategy I’m seeing.  It feels like the concept begins and ends with fakery.  How does a brand gain from such a thing?  It’s like the James Frey School of Viral Marketing… we pull the rug out from under you and still hope you buy our product.  It makes no sense.    I want to be a fly on the wall for that pitch meeting.

“We’re going to create a video so real-looking that everyone will think it really happened.”
“Great! Then what?”
“We’ll get millions of views for it.”
“Sweet!  Then what?”
“Well… at that point I guess we can tell everyone it was fake.”
“Awesome.  Wait—how will that help us sell products?”

If you’re going to create a staged viral video that you want people to think is real, you better darn well get creative and put the product, event, or brand you’re promoting in the actual video itself.  How about a little product placement or brand awareness?  The ability to fool someone by lying elaborately is not really that great a talent.

Staged videos are still a really great path to viral success. That’s the lesson.  If you make something that is real enough to be believed, but odd enough to be questioned… you’ll have a hit.  Just make sure you haven’t substituted viral success (views) for the real goal (sales, branding, leads, etc.).

Okay.  I’m off my soap-box.  On to the next video…

The Sports Blooper

The next viral example comes to us from the fine people at ESPN, and has come to be known as The Lineman Who Doesn’t Move.  In the video, which ESPN graciously edits to highlight the action in question, you’ll see one of the Florida State offensive lineman not move at all for an entire play.

If it doesn’t sound weird… try watching it:

Now, what would possess this guy to do this?  I’ve seen a lot of people excusing him by saying that lineman are trained to hold still like this until the proper snap count—to help avoid false start penalties.  And while I’m sure that’s true, it can’t be the reason for this display.  Why would he still hold his position even after other players go running by him?

It almost looks like he’s deaf… and possibly blind.  I’ve seen plenty of conjecture as to why he remains motionless for the whole play, but I have yet to see any official explanation.

So… why is this video a viral success?  Well, it has what I like to call the “What Was That?” factor. When you get your hands on a piece of video that makes people say “I’ve never seen anything like that,” what you actually have is gold.

And this definitely passes the never-before-seen test with flying colors.  Someday soon maybe we’ll hear this young man’s reason for his impression of a statue.  Until then, at least Florida State is getting some great free publicity out of this.  High profile sports bloopers never go out of style.

The Talented Kid (Who Is Also Adorable)

Have you heard that song by Jason Mraz, called “I’m Yours?”  I’d be surprised if you haven’t, as it broke the record for most weeks on the Billboard chart earlier this year.  Rightfully so, many people like the song a great deal.  Including this little guy:

Now, I kind of wish I didn’t have to explain why this video is successful, but even the obvious lessons are still worth reinforcing.

Obvious Lesson #1: Cute kids rule viral video.  Period.  Cute kids are viral catnip.

Obvious Lesson #2: Talented kids rule viral video.  Period.  If a kid has a talent that even few adults have, and has it at an age that seems almost too young… catnip.

Obvious Rule #3: Combine Rules 1 & 2, and you have a viral explosion.  (Throw in an animal, and it’s a supernova.)

This fellow has been online about five days, and is already nearing 2 million views.  That’s incredible.  I have no idea how a child this young can have the motor skills to play as many right chords as he does.  In fact, the small number of lyrics he gets right (or the number of times he even tries to sing words, for that matter) only serve to further highlight how great his guitar playing is.

I don’t know if you play guitar, but I play a little.  I wasn’t this good at 20, let alone age three or four.

Tying it back to the beginning, if this somehow turned out to be fake, but was created by Mraz’s record label, then that would be the perfect example of a staged viral ad actually marketing something through its deception.

Lessons For This Week

So, in summary, staged videos—when done correctly—can be extremely effective in gaining a lot of views, but aren’t really worth the effort if there’s not some effort to actually bolster a brand.  Making a bone-headed play in a nationally-televised game is a good way to become a viral superstar… and probably also face ridicule from your friends forever.  And finally, cute and talented kids get us every single time.

Until next time, good luck in your viral efforts, and I hope you find success.