This weekly Viral Video Round Up series is intended to accomplish a few different tasks:  point out viral successes, reverse engineer them to ascertain what elements helped push them over the top, and have a little fun.  I feel very confident that this week’s edition achieves all three goals.  Because most of you come for the videos, as opposed to this intro paragraph, let’s get on with the show:

More Star Wars Hilarity

In early May, TomTom—the GPS provider—announced they would begin offering various Star Wars character voices as options on their GPS devices.  Imagine getting your directions from Luke or Obi Wan, or your other favorite characters?  The first one released was Darth Vader, and we discussed the commercial for it in this column.  It was, to put it simply, hilarious.

Well, they’ve gone and topped themselves with the ad for the second Star Wars voice made available:  Yoda.  Good grief this video is funny.  They have fun with Yoda’s inverted way of speaking, as well as his Force-related powers.  “You’re going to kill people if you give directions like that!”  Check it out:

I think one of the reasons these videos are so funny is that they have the official blessing of Lucasfilm.  Most Star Wars spoofs and parodies do not have that level of permission and cooperation.  Here we obviously have the real voice actors recreating the characters—which instantly lends credibility to things.

On top of that, they have a giant Christmas bonus due to their creative team at the end of the year, because those folks have earned it.  The scripting, performances, and editing of these videos is top-notch.

And it doesn’t hurt the video’s chances of going viral to have a fairly cutting-edge product to offer.  GPS devices are everywhere.  And while owning one may no longer be unique, owning one with Darth Vader or Yoda barking out directions is definitely unique.  I’m honestly surprised we’re not seeing a race toward more of these offerings in that industry.  The Godfather.  Woody and Buzz.  The Simpsons (Homer is already available for TomTom users).  The Matrix.  Shrek.  The list of beloved film voices goes on and on.  I would think you could make a mint selling these things.

The problem, of course, is rights.  Securing the rights—not to mention getting the real voice actors involved—is certainly more difficult than a simple phone call.  But I’m surprised Disney isn’t licensing out its entire catalog—how much more would Sally and Jimmy enjoy the long car trip if Dori or Robin Williams’ Genie were spitting out regular instructions and comments?

But I digress.  This video succeeds not just because of Star Wars.  I can’t tell you how many ways a commercial like this could have gone off the tracks.  But TomTom has a great product with these novelty voices, and they combined it with the cultural phenomenon of Star Wars—all wrapped up nicely by a stellar execution from the creative team.  Any one of those things misses the mark, and this video is a disappointment.  Thankfully, it came together beautifully.  I’ll watch any of these ads TomTom wishes to make, and they’ll probably all be funnier than your average YouTube clip.

Stop Motion Meets Street Art

Holy cow this video is amazing.  Street artist BLU has created a sort of history of everything entirely with street art and stop motion animation.  It covers the Big Bang, evolution, wars, and much more.  And I know how often I talk about the “obvious hard work” that can be seen in some viral efforts… and how that effect can be a tremendous boost to your viral chances… but this one takes the cake.  I’m not sure I’ve seen another viral video that felt like it had been as big an undertaking for its creator as this one does.

In less than six days online, it’s already at 600,000 views.  It’s ten minutes long, but it’s oh-so worth it:

According to the artist’s website, this project took months.  And I can believe it.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if you have said it took years.  Stop-motion is a tedious process for even the most basic of videos.  For something this complex and long, the effort alone would be award-worthy even if the finished product was awful.  Thankfully, this finished product is amazing.  This is easily the most passed-around video in my circle this week.

Beyond the effort… there is real artistic beauty here.  Real craftsmanship, ingenuity, and whimsy.  The hard work is the foundation… the backbone… but these other successful elements are what put this thing over the top for viral success.

I hadn’t ever heard of Blu before this video, but he’s got 10 pieces like this on his Vimeo account—they’re all worth checking out if you enjoyed this one.

The Smart Marketing Department

It’s not uncommon these days for big brands to have dedicated employees following what people say about the brand online in places like Facebook and Twitter.   Comcast quite famously has the “@comcastcares” Twitter handle, which monitors complaining Tweets and then contacts the authors directly to try and resolve things.  It’s a strategy that’s gaining more and more momentum.

Nabisco decided to take the same approach… on steroids.

Poor unsuspecting Tabatha sent out a Tweet about how disappointed she was to have run out of Wheat Thins.  “Mi life is officially over!” she said.

And Wheat Thins—who are clearly monitoring what people say about them online—took notice.  But instead of just responding personally… or sending a coupon and a nice note… they went a step further.  Actually, they went a few hundred steps further.  Take a look:

That is a lot of Wheat Thins.  More than Tabatha can eat by herself, I would imagine.  Maybe she can share some with the gawking neighbors.

This is pretty fantastic marketing, which likely cost Wheat Thins very little money.  Take a pallet of our product to the girl who is already a huge fan of it… film the whole thing… put it online… and watch it take off from there.  I’ve seen this video mentioned on Yahoo and several other high-profile websites.  Tons of publicity and exposure—of the positive variety—from a simple “gift” of some free product.

Once a few more brands do this, the trend will die down… it won’t be cool or unique anymore.  But until then… how much mileage do you think Wheat Thins is getting out of this?  How many consumers have Tweeted about Wheat Thins after seeing this, secretly hoping for their own free gift?  Or some other brand?  Makes me want to Tweet about how I just ran out of 42-inch HD Televisions from Westinghouse, because maybe then they’ll show up at my house with a pallet of those bad boys.

This is similar to a video I covered before, when Hyundai bought a brand new car for some poor sap whose original vehicle was seen being destroyed in a video that went viral.  In both cases, the brands have lightning-fast reaction speed to what’s being said about them online.  Both brands are being proactive—something too few of us are doing.

So… what’s being said about your brand?  How can you join that conversation (or take it over completely)?  How can you take this model and apply it to your business?  Surely you have one customer or fan that adores your product or service.  Maybe it’s time you found a unique and memorable way to reward their loyalty.  And if you do… make sure and film it.  It could, at the very least, get you some exposure in your local market.  At best… heck, you may end up in this column!

Honorable Mention

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