Lesson 1 in Viral Marketing: Fake It Til You Make It.

With videos like “David After Dentist” reaching audiences upwards of 100,000,000, it’s understandable that big-name companies like Sony and the makers of Guitar Hero would want to get in on the viral video phenomenon. Manufacturing this kind of craze, however, is no easy task. These companies have to create a seemingly native piece of content that will be embraced and shared throughout the internet community, all while inconspicuously promoting their product or service. Unlike TV commercials or internet banner ads however, these companies loose their home court advantage when they venture into platforms like YouTube; and the reception is not always warm.

The following is a list of our favorite failures and successes in viral marketing…

In 2006, Sony tried to go native for the release of the PSP. Not only did they hire graffiti artists to tag urban areas with images of kids playing with the device, but they also created this gem of a video:

As you can see, the advertisement element of the video overshadows anything else that might redeem it. Sony overdid it and lost their audience. The video, as well as the graffiti, were far too conspicuous to be ‘native’ and were generally rejected by their respective platforms. They receive a failing grade of 4/10.

In 2010, Hi-Tech created this documentary-style video promoting their shoes:

Because the video has a novelty and entertainment value outside of the advertisement itself, the audience doesn’t feel cheated out of a quality view.  The video has over 12 million views. Though the company eventually admitted to making the video and even went as far as to create a “Making of…”, this didn’t seem to bother the users of YouTube as the video has over 32,000 ‘likes’! Hi-Tech gets a passing grade of 8/10.

In 2009, an Australian retail store tried their hand at viral marketing with this ‘missed connection’ video:

Though only a small portion of the video was devoted to promoting the product, viewers weren’t quite convinced. When suspicions were aroused regarding the authenticity of this poor, single girl’s plight; a response video was posted featuring the same girl chastising the YouTube community for being so cynical. This didn’t win any believers back however when it was confirmed that video, was in fact, just an ad. This ‘missed connection’ get a 6/10 for good effort.

In 2008, Guitar Hero collaborated with Droga5 on this well-orchestrated ‘fan’ video:

With almost 3 million views and over 24,000 likes, it’s clear this campaign was a viral success. By building a story around the enthusiasm of a Guitar Hero fan (something that is not only understandable, but also highly relate-able), this video managed to strike a happy balance between entertainment and advertisement. So much so that we don’t even mind it’s essentially a commercial! A 9/10 for this success!

Even the Tampa Bay Rays got in on the action last year with this short, but effective clip:

The “That did NOT just happen!” quality to this video combined with Evan Longoria’s nonchalance is what makes this video fun. The viewer is more concerned with the editing of the video than the possibility that it could be an ad. The product (The Tampa Bay Rays ball club) is front and center but it is not what the video is about. A success with 7/10 for the Rays!

Moral of the story: Viral marketing success is possible! The truth is: viewers want to see a great video! How many times have you heard the phrase: “Have you seen that YouTube video about…”? Chances are–a LOT! People love sharing content! Create a video with a relate-able story, a novel idea, or just plain shock value and YouTube users will not only enjoy your ad, but more importanly-they’ll share it.

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