Viral Videos – Hit or Miss?

Filed as Multimedia on March 23, 2013 8:34 am

by dave

Viral videos are pretty hit or miss, and not many brands can match the virality of independent series like Awkward Black Girl. Still, the brands who try can end up winning big: Old Spice and Progressive are just two brands who’ve used humor, silliness and social media to achieve virtually instant name recognition. Videos that are useful or entertaining are the most shared, but there’s no real formula to making a viral video. That doesn’t mean, however, that brands won’t try–and some of them succeed.

For the first few seconds of Till Dance Do We Part it’s not hard to think this is a real show. It’s flashy and gaudy and just weird enough to be plausible: big audience, technically skilled dancers, and a judge who looks like a cross between Liberace, David Alan Grier and Prince. So, when the camera cuts to a female dancer smacking sidelong into a washing machine, the viewer’s surprised. We’ve just been tricked into watching a nearly pitch-perfect pastiche of reality show–and when the punch line comes, the viewer feels a little cheated. That’s what makes it compelling: for a split second, the viewer is left squinting at their laptop screen, not in on the joke.

But that doesn’t last long, and the punch line becomes genuinely funny. It shouldn’t be, because laughing at people who hurt themselves isn’t nice; but the slapstick element is a reminder of just how absurd the reality television industry has become. With the appearance of appliances comes the relief that a dance competition this crazy isn’t actually real. It’s what makes this video both entertaining and shareable. This month-old Sears commercial is proof that virality sometimes doesn’t happen. But Sears’ brand is recognizable enough that it doesn’t need an instantly measurable ROI, and this commercial will eventually become a gamble that pays off.

Unlike Sears, Samsung gets it. From their ad mocking Apple fans waiting for the latest iPhone release, to LeBron James hanging out with his Galaxy Note II, and even a five-minute introduction to the Note 10.1, these ads get shared and people talk about them. They all pitch products in a positive light. Sometimes they might make fun of those left out but they show how the technology is used properly, not how it gets misused and people have to deal with pain and suffering.

Google gets it, too. From their search app stories to a day with Google Glasses, you again see how technology can be used to make your life easier. These get shared and talked about. There are enough videos of people falling down and embarrassing themselves around. Sure, some may get shared extensively, like a woman walking into a mall fountain while texting, but nobody knew who she was until she sued. People talk about brands when their ads are done right.

Even blender maker Blendtec gets it with their Will It Blend? series on YouTube. They’ll throw anything into a blender to show how powerful their blenders are. Sure, it is funny to see an iPhone turned into dust, but the video truly gets the message across about the Blendtec blender. And people keep coming back looking to see what next they’ll blend.

The Super Bowl is no longer about just football. It hasn’t been for some time. At $3.8 million for a 30 second spot, it isn’t cheap. Nowadays, most ads are even made available before the game. Companies want their ads to be shared, not just seen during the game. And shared for the right reason. Kia didn’t get it this past Super Bowl with their two ads on the bottom of the barrel (Space Babies and Hot Bots). Budweiser (Brotherhood) and a few others did get it right. And, by the way, Budweiser ended up naming the foal Hope. Treat your topic right, and you’re more apt to end up on top of the viral game.

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