Viral Video Marketing Round Up – Lessons From This Week’s Viral Video Successes – 1/22/2010

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The viral landscape is a very fluid, breathing sort of thing. That’s why we publish this column on a (mostly) weekly basis… because there are always fresh examples of viral success.  Let’s take a look at what’s gone viral this week in the world of online video, and attempt to pinpoint some of the core reasons for that success.

Celebrities Are Normal

This first video is hugely viral, and involves a certain famous quarterback in the NFL singing a certain famous horrible audition song from this year’s American Idol.  If you watch TV or spend time online, you’ve heard of Larry Platt’s Idol audition song, “Pants on the Ground.”  It’s a ditty he wrote himself about embarrassing someone else.  It has a few million views (across multiple platforms) in just over a week.  Larry’s audition went viral in much the same way William Hung’s did several years ago.

Had that been the end of “Pants on the Ground,” we would have considered using him as an example for this week’s round up.  But… as I’m sure you know, that was not the end of the now-famous song.  Why?  Because apparently quarterback Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings enjoyed the original song so much that he spent a week singing it to his teammates in the locker room and at practice.

When they defeated the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, Brett decided to lead the entire team in a rousing victory celebration, “covering” Platt’s song.  Check it out now if you’ve somehow missed it:

There are no fewer than 14 different versions of this video on YouTube as of this morning, and I’m sure it’s showing up on other platforms as well—always a sign of a video poised to go viral.  At this point, it probably has more views and more buzz than the original it’s based on.

So why is this video popular?  That’s easy:  we love it when we get proof that a celebrity might be just as normal as you and I.  I mean, Brett Favre as a closet American Idol fan?  How could that turn into anything but gold?

Post-win locker room video from the NFL usually consists mostly of a coach congratulating his team… maybe sometimes they all put their hands in and yell “team” on three.

But spontaneously covering the original song of an awful American Idol contestant?  That’s unheard of.  This video is funny, gives us a glimpse of our heroes being entertained by the same things we are, and rides the wave of an already popular meme.  For all those reasons, this video simply couldn’t fail.

The Re-purposed Object

Now, technically this video was posted in mid-December, and I usually try to only include videos that have recently been posted online.  But this one’s too good to pass up.  Besides, it’s meteoric rise to viral success has transpired over the last couple weeks, as it flew a bit below the radar immediately following its launch.

The video concept is essentially this:  Use a Jeep Cherokee, and all the various sounds it can create, to compose an original techno song.

If you’re not moved by the description, you will be impressed with the video itself:

It took two weeks of rehearsals and over seven hours of filming for them to get this one take right—so the work ethic alone is worthy of praise.

It’s also a very creative concept, and one that lends itself well to viral momentum.  One of the most common types of viral video is the use of one object in a way that it was not intended to be used.  The “Christmas light Guitar Hero” video is an excellent recent example.  This is especially true when the item in question is used as a musical instrument.  It’s hard not to marvel and the originality and dedication of the people behind this video–which makes it easy to see why it went viral.  It’s another of those “What?!?!” videos.  Almost needs to be seen to be understood and believed.

The Corporate Fail

This last viral success is also a viral failure.  It’s the new music video from OK Go, the band behind the infamous treadmill video that pretty much defined “viral” for most of us.

As you might expect, when OK Go decided to create a new music video for a song off their new album, they knew they needed to up the ante and create another viral smash—anything less would be a disappointment from the godfathers of viral video.  For this video, they created an off-the-wall band performance that also involves camouflaged horn players (it’s hard to explain, but pretty entertaining).

As you might also expect, the band’s record label is run by a bunch of people who are more interested in protecting copyright than in helping drive sales of an album.  How do I know this?  They forced the band to disable embedding on the video.

Holy archaic logic, Batman!

I obviously can’t show you the video here on, but you can head over to YouTube to watch it for yourself.

The video has still gone viral, at least if you count 500,000 views as “viral,” which I do.  But I can’t help but wonder how many more views they’re leaving on the table by not allowing people to embed the thing.  And for that reason, I have to call this a failure.  It’s terribly sad to me that the label that is home to the band behind one of the biggest viral hits of all time just can’t get their brains around the concept.

So, to sum up, here are the lessons from this week’s featured viral successes:

  1. Piggybacking and referencing another current viral trend actually can lead to viral success, especially if a celebrity gets involved.
  2. Finding a new and creative way to put a gadget or item to use gives you a built-in audience of do-it-yourself fans.
  3. Disabling embedding is not a healthy viral strategy.

Until next week, best of luck with your viral promotion efforts!  Feel free to share success stories with us in the comments–we’re always looking for stories like that we can highlight.

Bonus Lesson That’s Just A Thin Excuse To Post An Awesome Video

Take a video camera to a hockey game, film something amazing, and upload it to YouTube.  Boom… instant viral success.  See for yourself:


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