Viral Video Marketing Round Up – Lessons From This Week’s Viral Video Successes – 1/30/2010

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It’s time for another Viral Round Up.  This week we had a lot of great videos to choose from.  Let’s take a look at some of the videos that went viral in the last seven days, and try to break down what make them successful.

The Meme That Won’t Die

Hitler resurfaced again this week—rather, I should say that the now famous clip from the German film, Downfall, resurfaced again this week.  You know the clip.  It’s been re-subtitled more times than I can count.  Through the many incarnations, Hitler has ranted about the death of Michael Jackson, gotten banned from Xbox Live, and even weighed in on the Taylor Swift/Kanye West controversy.

Now, he’s learned of the iPad:

Look… we’re probably all in the same place on this one.  I want the video to go away.  You want the video to go away.  But the thing just keeps on chugging.  This latest iteration has nearly 2 million views in just three days.  Clearly there are people still enjoying this meme.  Either that or we just haven’t hit maximum reach yet on it.

But in all my frustration at the lack of creativity here (I mean, seriously… how much originality does it take to simply recycle a joke that’s been done 100 times), there is still a valuable lesson, and it’s one I learned from David Letterman:  repetition equals laughs.

I’m certainly not going to advise you to take this scene from Downfall and write your own funny subtitles as your viral strategy.  I can’t do that… it would be against my code.  But I think it’s pretty clear that this would be a valid viral strategy that has worked over and over again.

In a more general way of speaking, just because someone else did it first, doesn’t mean you can’t have success with it as well—or maybe even do it better.  After all, there’s nothing new under the sun, now, is there?

Another lesson we can learn from this example is the benefit of piggybacking on another current hot topic or event.  The launch of any new Apple product is big news, and it’s usually polarizing as well.  The creator of this video was smart to jump on that train straight away, and the topic alone probably drove this viral success more than anything else.

Mocking The News

This next example is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long while.  It’s Charlie Brooker, a British comic and journalist, and he absolutely skewers the evening news—particularly how rote and routine every single story has become.  Just watch it; I doubt you’ll be sorry.

The Matrix line makes me giggle every time.

So, even a viral novice could raise his hand and tell the class that it’s the humor that makes this video work.  But it’s not just the humor.  There are millions of funny things online you’ve never heard of.  It’s the biting edge of his humor, combined with a hook that seems more timely than ever.  We trust the news less and less these days, seeing it as something more manufactured or manipulated—or at best, colored by the journalist’s biases.  This was a skewering whose time was long overdue, and Brooker delivered it perfectly.

Being exceptionally funny is always a solid path to viral success.  But as most famous Hollywood actors will tell you, doing comedy well is also incredibly difficult.

Rickrolling The News

In another meme that won’t die, our final example of the week involves a form of Rickrolling.  Rickrolling, for those of you who don’t know—man, I cannot believe I’m about to actually define this term—is the act of sending someone a link that purports to be to something that person would find interesting, but instead sends the user to a YouTube video of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up.  Phew.  That was hard to write, if only because I’m fairly certain 99.9% of the readers of this blog will never need that definition… but you can never be too careful.

As the practice of Rickrolling has matured, it has evolved, as our third clip shows.  Here we have a religious cable news show, with an anchor reading emails from viewers.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happened, but you can watch it for yourself if you aren’t sure:

Now, let’s just go right ahead and point out that reading viewers’ emails on a live broadcast without any pre-reading or screening at all is generally a bad idea.  That can lead to no good.

That being said… I’m kind of disappointed with the prankster here.  I mean, sure… he and his frat buddies surely got a few laughs out of it.  I’m sure there are circles where he is lauded.  But isn’t half the point of a Rickroll that the pranked person knows they’ve been had.  Here, the anchor reading the email is absolutely clueless that any pranking has gone on—again, I know that these particular pranksters intended that—they set out to punk a religious old man who didn’t know better… but it’s lazy comedy.  It’s like tricking the blind guy by giving him bad directions.  It’s the Internet equivalent of asking someone if they want a Hertz Donut.

Before I end up sounding like Mr. No Fun, I will admit to having chuckled when I realized what the anchor was reading.  And maybe a newsman who blindly reads whatever random people email him sort of deserves what he gets.

Like our first example, this viral success proves that even the oldest jokes on the Internet can still go popular—can still be harnessed for their viral power.  There’s always room for a new twist on an old trend; the Internet’s a forgiving place like that.

In summary, there’s no shame in recycling another viral success concept—some of the most durable can even sustain hundreds of copycats before losing their appeal.  But it’s probably always a better strategy to be creative and insanely funny in your own right, without having to mimic something else—but that’s far easier said than done.  And never forget to stay topical.  Things change on the Internet every day, and striking with your viral effort when the topic is at its peak of popularity is guaranteed to give you a huge advantage in going viral.


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