The Week’s Best Viral Videos & Marketing Lessons – 11/04/10

The Week’s Best Viral Videos & Marketing Lessons – 11/04/10

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There have been many great viral videos this week, and it was hard to even begin choosing favorites.  But after much deliberation, I’ve managed to muddle through and pick the best viral videos of the week.  In addition to sharing them with you, I’ll also take some time with each to point out what factors helped it go viral.  If we can spot the trends and the common ingredients in viral successes, we can begin fine-tuning and honing our own filmmaking and marketing skills to help propel us to viral greatness as well.

Let’s begin:

Mad Men Theme Song On Bass

There are a few truths we’ve already uncovered over the last year of writing this column.  First, covering an existing famous song is a fantastic way for unknown musicians to get noticed.  For instance, Greyson Chance did it with a Lady Gaga song and now he’s got a record deal (and just released his first single).  It’s usually best to make your cover of the famous song stand out by being a little different–Chance’s cover of Gaga was on Piano.

The second truth we’ve learned so far is that making a reference to a current event or hot topic will almost always help you gain initial viewers.  This is why we saw a rash of popular videos related to the iPad around the time of its release–videos with iPads being destroyed, videos of dogs playing with iPads, etc.

So our first example of the day comes along and is gaining some steam because it’s actually following both of the above stated “viral truths.”  It’s a cover of the Mad Men theme song done entirely on bass–upright bass, people, not electric bass.  Here it is:

Mad Men is one of the most buzzed-about and popular television shows in existence right now, and has been sweeping the Emmy’s for the last three years in award victories.  It’s as hot as any TV show can be–except possibly Glee.  So making a video like this is smart because you have a better chance of even getting people’s attention by referencing one of their favorite shows.

And then to recreate the song so closely–so exactly–but with only one instrument is just… impressive beyond words.  Try this… take an upright bass, and play me the theme song from House… go.  Yeah, it’s kind of not easy.  The artist taps the bass strings or the instrument body to mimic the drum beats, and just overall does a fantastic job–even throwing in some visual humor for people who pay attention.  And the finish, where it fades to a spoof of the famous black-and white Mad Men logo–this time with a bass included–it’s just perfect.  Really, really well done.

You don’t have to have a huge budget or even any fame at all.  As long as you have talent and a creative idea, you can find viral success.  And if there’s any flexibility in your planned video, consider working in a reference to a pop-culture phenomenon to help lure in the initial seed viewers.  If the rest of your video has some creativity, personality, and talent displayed… you’re well on your way to the kind of success we’re all seeking.

Tossing A Cat

So you might think that a video involving the repeated tossing of a cat would be going viral for the wrong reasons, like everyone’s so mad at the cat-tosser they’re calling for his head.  That’s what happened with the gal in Europe who ended up on YouTube  tossing puppies in a river.  But thankfully, this video is a fun and happy one, not one displaying cruelty–though I should point out that there are, indeed, a few in the vocal minority insisting that the human in our next video is mistreating the cat.  I don’t agree at all, and it seems pretty obvious that the cat is loving the heck out of being tossed.

Without further ado… here’s a cat that loves to fly:

Now that you’ve seen it, can you really tell me with a straight face that this cat is being mistreated?  I didn’t think so.

Now onto what made this video go viral:  it’s offering something pretty much none of us have ever seen before.  I have never even seen someone toss a cat into a pile of bedding before, let alone a cat that enjoyed it and repeatedly asked for more.  Strange, strange cat.

As Nalts points out in his new book, you have to surprise the audience… give them something that they’re not expecting and that they haven’t seen before.  Catching the viewer off guard is the key to eliciting that coveted post-view action:  the share.

We also can’t forget to mention that people love animals, and videos starring cute or unique pets hit a sweet spot for many in the online video audience, giving those creators a leg up on the competition.  If you have a cute pet, or if you can film something people have never seen before… you’re sitting on a viral gold mine.  If you’re fortunate enough to capture both of those things in one video… even better.

There’s An App For That

Sesame Street is killing it with viral videos lately.  First they captured all kinds of free publicity with the Katy Perry controversy (she was dressed a little too suggestively in this clip for some viewers’ tastes).  Then, Grover came along and parodied the Old Spice Man. Genuis.  And Ryan Reynolds stopped by recently for a spoof of the A-Team theme song.

And now there’s a new clip poking some fun at Apple’s “there’s an app for that” catchphrase.  Check it out:

Fun, funny, cute, and topical.  Even taking viral video out of the equation, it sure is awesome to see Sesame Street embracing technology and the latest gadget trends… growing up and evolving right alongside the kids that make up their audience.

Of course, I want to point out how helpful it can be in getting viewers to share your video if you include some references to pop-culture.  And the phrase “there’s an app for that” (and touch-screen smartphones too, for that matter) are definitely a major part of today’s entertainment and advertising scene–they’re everywhere.

Some might suggest that Sesame Street has an added advantage in going viral because they’re already an established brand.  And while that’s true to an extent, think about this:  their target audience (typically toddlers) isn’t exactly known for their heavy involvement on YouTube and Facebook.  It’s older people driving this viral success–teenagers and adults–and they do it because Sesame Street is so good at entertaining all ages.

It’s incredibly hard to entertain kids and adults equally with the same piece of content, yet people like Sesame Street or Pixar continue to prove they’ve found the secret formula. As long as they keep putting out sketches that are topical, timely, and fun, then toddlers will still enjoy it on TV and everyone from children to adults will help those clips spread virally.

Honorable Mention

If I had more time, I would also have talked about my other favorite videos of the week, such as:


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