Viral Video Marketing Round Up – Lessons From This Week’s Viral Successes – 11/20/2009

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It’s time for another Viral Round Up—our weekly look at the latest viral success stories as we attempt to reverse engineer them to see what made them work.

Since I missed last week’s Round Up, we’ll actually look at more videos than normal this week.  Call it my tangible apology, like the flowers I sometimes buy my wife.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

1. The Bird

Tennessee Titans owner, Bud Adams—who is 86 years old—was captured on film by a fan in the stands after the Titans beat the Bills in Nashville last Sunday.  Don’t ask me why this fan decided to turn around and film the team’s owner, but he did.  And boy, did he ever get lucky.

The footage shows Adams, excited by his teams victory over a long-time franchise rival, does a little bit of a happy jig, complete with multiple double-barreled middle finger salutes.  Yes… he flips off the opposing team… gleefully.  Check it out:

Less than 24 hours later he was already issuing a public apology, which did not stop the league from fining him a quarter of a million dollars.  Yikes.  That has to be the most expensive instance of bird-flippage in history.

Now… we probably don’t need to dive in too deep to examine why this video got so popular so fast (500,000 views and counting).  People love videos of prominent individuals behaving badly.  And considering how difficult it is to predict when and where such an event might take place, such videos are rare.

I happen to live in Nashville, and heard a radio interview with the fellow who took the footage.  He says he had no good reason for filming.  He just turned around and saw the owner, and instinctively whipped out his iPhone and filmed him.  That the owner ended up doing the one-finger-salute dance was pure coincidence.

Also take notice of the advertisement on the video—for—the guy who filmed the video just happens to run a web business helping people use their iPhones better, and he wisely incorporated some of the newer YouTube options to help promote his business with this happy accident.  Smart.

I wouldn’t recommend intentionally flipping people off for your company’s videos… but if you can somehow catch a celebrity doing it… that’s gold.

2. The Children’s Sports Accident

Last Round Up, we looked at the now-infamous women’s soccer brutality video, showcasing the ugly side of sports.  Another popular type of viral video is the “sports accident” video.  Typically these involve football players running the ball into the wrong end-zone or tackling their own teammates.  Nearly everyone who loves sports loves seeing sports bloopers.

Today I wanted to show you a slight wrinkle in the standard “sports accident” video… where the participants are so young as to simply not know any better.

Check out Youth Soccer Goalie Scores On Her Own Team:

See… in addition to a funny sports blooper, the age of the participants brings an element of the “cute factor” to this video—not unlike the toddler who threw her dad’s caught foul ball right back over the railing a few months ago.

If you’re able to watch that video and not smile, then I’m not sure you’re human.

Can we repeat this?  Possibly.  I have to believe this sort of thing goes on all the time across America.  It’s just not always filmed.  But I’m not sure how a 4-year-old scoring on the wrong soccer goal can help your business.

But at the same time… there’s a lesson here—that’s why we do these round ups, afterall—and that lesson is this:  even accidents can have an upside.  Don’t be afraid to let yourself be embarrassed if there is a greater benefit from the exposure that embarrassment can bring.  Think about movies where they run outtakes during the credits. Do those ever make you lose respect for the actors?  No.  They actually make the actors seem more human… more like us… which creates an attachment that is quite unique.

Don’t be afraid to put your embarrassments to work for you.

3. The Dunk

Over the weekend the Miami Heat played the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Heat guard Dwayne Wade had a dunk that sports fans are calling one of the best ever.  Take a look:

Even Lebron James, who plays for the other team, said it was probably a top-10 dunk of all time.  I have personally been sent this video in email no fewer than 15 times since Sunday, and I’d be willing to bet you have too.

Along with bloopers and violence and misbehaving… you have athletes just being great at what they do.  And excellence in sports performance will probably always be one of the most popular categories of viral video.

On a related note:  another version of the same video, which you can see here, also serves as a fantastic example of YouTube advertising on crack.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

4. The Dog

Nearly everyone I know has now seen the video of the dog greeting his soldier-owner upon returning from deployment overseas.  It’s heartwarming, to say the least.  If you have somehow avoided it, see it now:

{Video removed]

Now, I’m not sure what’s going on with the original video, because it’s been removed for copyright claim… which doesn’t make much sense.  The one I embedded above is a re-post.  The original video has been viewed well more than the 100,000 times showing on the counter.

Anyway, you might suspect that my “takeaway” from this viral success is to put dogs in your videos.  And that would be a good idea, because people do love dogs.  But what I was actually going to point to as a great lesson is this:  dig through your archives.

You see, this video was actually filmed years ago, I believe in 2005.

Heartwarming is heartwarming, regardless of when it was filmed.  And even archival footage can go viral.  Maybe—just maybe—while you’re brainstorming video ideas and storyboarding concepts, there is an old video you’ve forgotten about, just sitting there waiting to be shared with the world.

5. The “Spontaneous” Dance

Every so often, I like to include an example of viral failure, just so we can learn from the mistakes of others.

Apparently Microsoft decided to create a video of some employees at the new Microsoft store breaking out into a “spontaneous” dance that is anything but spontaneous.  If you haven’t seen it, you can now:

Wow.  Pretty spontaneous, eh?

I get that Microsoft wanted to show their store and staff as friendly and hip and fun.  And there’s certainly no harm in that whatsoever.

But this doesn’t even feel hip and fun, and the video fails on a few different levels.

For starters, Microsoft apparently thinks that they can bond with today’s tech-savvy crowd by having employees do a synchronized rehash of a dance that was popular 20 years ago… the Electric Slide.  What’s next, Microsoft?  The Macarena?

But even that would still be okay if it remotely felt spontaneous.  Instead, it feels as staged as a high school play.  While a few customers join in the dance, most have bewildered looks on their faces.  They seem to be wondering why they can’t just buy a computer without being subjected to a musical number.  (Oh, and exactly how many employees does Microsoft need in order to staff that place, 100?)

Finally, it feels a bit low-rent.  No offense, but synchronized dancing and clapping is something you expect to see at a cheap steakhouse when it’s someone’s birthday, not a supposedly upscale technology store.

Microsoft has taken tons of heat for this video in the blogosphere, and rightfully so.  But was that their plan all along?  I mean, we’re not that far removed from the whole “host your own windows 7 party” video fiasco—and many at the time suggested that video was intentionally cheesy and awful.

Could it be that they’ve done it again?  The video currently has nearly 500,000 views, which is definitely a success.  And if those views were driven by bloggers who were making fun of the video, does Microsoft really care?  Could it be that their goal was simply to get more buzz out there about the Microsoft stores?

It’s an increasingly strange world, this realm of online marketing.  Even videos that are universally considered fake as well as awful can go viral.  Go figure.

That’s all the time we have for today.  Believe it or not, I had other videos I wanted to touch on as well, but we’ll have to leave that for another day.  Some of you have jobs to get back to.

In summary:

Remember, don’t be afraid to recycle old footage you have stored away—if the world hasn’t seen it, it’s still new to them.  Also, you will never go wrong capturing excellence or failure in sports and uploading that to YouTube.  Lastly, you never know when great footage will appear; one minute you’re filming an empty luxury box, and the next moment the team’s owner is being obscene—you can’t go viral with the things you don’t film.

We’ll see you here again for our next Viral Video Round Up.


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