Learnings From This Week’s Viral Video Success Stories – 10/14/2009

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I’m a bit of a viral video nerd.  I like following the trends, seeing what videos are exploding versus those that are not, and then the real fun:  trying to figure out what makes one work where another fails.  It’s a very inexact science.

This week I want to look at three viral video stories—case studies, if you will.

1. The Fun Theory

The first is the musical staircase video from Volkswagen.  VW’s ad, called “The Fun Theory” was created by the DDB Stockholm ad agency.  There will be several spots in the series, each focusing on “hidden camera” style clips that show how people can be motivated to change behavior when there’s a chance for fun to be had.

The Piano Staircase is the first in the series, where musical notes and asks, “Can we get more people to choose the stairs by making it fun to do?”  You then see workers outfitting a public staircase so that it resembles a piano keyboard—complete with actual notes playing when you step on the “keys.”

The bigger push, behind just having fun, is responsible living.  VW wants you to be healthy, and keep the planet healthy.  So if they can get you to take the stairs instead of riding an escalator, you’ll be having fun while also being more active.  They claim over 60% more people chose the piano stairs than had chosen the regular stairs the day before.  Pretty powerful data, actually.

The second spot features a trash can with fun sound effects, which results in more people finding and throwing away trash where it belongs, thus decreasing litter.  And VW hopes to harness this campaign to push their eco-friendly vehicles, which they hope you’ll find both fun to drive and better for the environment.

It’s brilliant, if you ask me.  So many demographics will find something to like about this video.  Those in the online marketing space, like us and most of our readers, will enjoy the simplistic beauty of a perfectly crafted viral campaign.  The public will enjoy the Candid Camera feel of the masses reacting with quizzical looks.

I’d call it a home run, and this is only the beginning.  A week after debuting, the YouTube video already has well over 2 Million views. Good work, VW (and DDB Stockholm).

Watch this one for yourself:

2. The Greater Good

The second video spotlight also has a “greater good” kind of push behind it.  Kraft Foods is trying to get plenty of exposure on their their latest video, which highlights a recent volunteerism drive.

Posted only two days ago (October 12th), the video so far only has about 8,000 views.  But to push that number higher, Kraft is enticing viewers and downloaders with a promise:  for every view/download of the video they will donate five meals worth of money to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, up to 100,000 meals.

It’s hard to find fault with this viral strategy.  They want views—as we all do—because that translates to branding and awareness, which translate to sales.  But they seem to be a pretty giving-minded company.  Since the video itself is about charitable acts, it’s a perfect marketing strategy to solicit views in exchange for even more corporate kindness.  Watch a 4-minute video and a bunch of less fortunate souls get to eat.

Of course, they’ll cap out on meals after 20,000 views, but something tells me they’ll get more than that.  Even if they only get 20,000 views, they’ve reaped far bigger benefits than that in terms of the good they’re doing for others as well as all the press this thing is generating.  Good lesson there:  views aren’t the only measure of viral success.

3. The Viral Resurgence

Our last spotlighted viral video is an old friend we’ve written about before, the JK Wedding Dance, which is enjoying a bit of a revival thanks to a certain television ratings juggernaut known as The Office.  On last week’s season premier of The Office, fan-favorites Jim and Pam got married, and the show decided to spoof the JK Wedding Dance video to hilarious results.

If you’re a fan of the office and somehow haven’t seen it, you’re going to love it.  If you haven’t seen the office, you’ll probably still get some good laughs from the cast’s hijinks.

This article details how the original JK Wedding Dance video has surged in views since The Office premier—from 100,000 to over 400,000 a day.

So what do we call it when a television show spoofs a viral video and the original video then gets even more popular… life imitating art imitating life?

Three fine examples of viral videos—each getting their views through a unique method.  The fact that two are “charitable” in the marketing efforts is no coincidence.  It’s a trend I’m seeing more and more, as people tap into the public’s strong appetite for entertainment that also helps a cause.

Maybe we’ll have to make this kind of column a regular thing.  I’m doing the “research” for it anyway, and spotlighting viral successes and failures is only going to make us all better at promoting our own videos.


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