If we had a
nickel Bitcoin for every time a client said to us, “Make us a video that goes viral,” we’d be sipping pina coladas on our own private island with a genetically-engineered dinosaur petting zoo. Kinda like Jurassic Park, but with all the dinosaurs really small (imagine T-rex’s the size of chickens). Good, clean, God-defying fun.
The reality is, viral videos are not the result of some secret tried & true recipe. There is no sure-fire way of manufacturing a viral video, although people certainly spend a lot of time, money and energy trying – and claiming – to do exactly that. Of course, we’re not talking about true, organic viral videos like “Chewbacca Mom.” Yes, she made nearly $500,000 (as of 2016) by complete and total accident (unless you believe in conspiracies, in which case it was all some clever ploy to sell Halloween masks).
And while there is a business model designed to monetize these lightning-in-a-bottle flukes, what we’re really talking about is branded content exclusively created for e-commerce (such as the legendary Dollar Shave Club and Squatty Potty videos). Yes, these videos are incredibly successful, strategically produced, fiercely marketed, and supported by paid PR – but even then it can still be a crapshoot. After all, no one can predict what will strike virality, and all the SEO skills in the world can’t change that.
The fact is, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute, which accounts for roughly 5 billion videos watched per day by approximately 30 million visitors. That is a constant, deafening avalanche of content. How does a brand emerge from this infinite digital downpour? How does any video “go viral?” And what the hell does “viral” even mean any more?
By our standards, we tell our clients that a viral video:
• Stops people in their tracks within the first 5 seconds
• Is shareable (something you would want to tag a friend in or hit SHARE)
• Generates a large amount of viewership in relation to the vertical the material is engineered for
• Inspires conversation and/or controversy
While we at Giant Propeller don’t shy away from controversial content, controversy can be incredibly stimulating for any brand, but only if it’s delivered with authenticity and purpose beyond just generating revenue. The risk of coming across as tone-deaf jerks is high if you’re kicking the digital hornet’s nest for the wrong reasons (read our blog on the Kendall Jenner-Pepsi debacle of ‘17 for one facepalming example).
Certainly, in our increasingly-PC culture there will always be someone somewhere that objects to your message, but so what? To be honest, we wouldn’t even know “Yak Ales” existed if it weren’t for their recent controversy concerning redheads (it’s kinda funny, right?).
Ultimately, regardless of how audacious and/or awesome your video content may be, there are many moving parts at play here: social network trends, celebrity influencers, and paid campaigns that dominate the algorithms which determine if your video catches fire or gets lost in the digital graveyard. At the end of the day: be bold, be weird, be literally anything but boring. Boring is the only true sin when it comes to marketing. And never be afraid to take risks or make waves – you owe it to your brand and your audience.
Sure, with some clever strategy (aka, allowing us to craft the digital campaign of your wildest dreams) and a lot of luck, you might find yourself inducted into the Internet All Stars Viral Hall of Fame, but… real success doesn’t happen overnight. The mark of a truly winning brand is one that is consistently sparking conversations, making conversions and sales over time, and outlasts their competitors because of their quality, not their fleeting popularity.
After all, no one wants to be a one-hit-wonder. Avoiding this requires constant innovation across all platforms by producing the kind of content that is simply undeniable, but the only way any brand will achieve this is by taking exciting creative chances – every chance they get.
Thankfully, “exciting creative chances” just happens to be our business model.
PS: Also, “viral” just sounds gross. Can we finally admit that?