Another week has flown by, and it's Friday again. Which for me means that I get to research and share some of the week's most popular viral videos with you—and, if I'm honest, that almost never feels like work. So let's take a look at what captured the attention of the masses this week and see if we can ascertain some of the reasons those videos were so successful. Let's begin:
More Mario Madness
Almost every video produced that has to do with Nintendo's classic video game character, Mario, goes viral. At least… it certainly feels that way. Why are Mario-related videos so popular? The answer is easy: nostalgia. If you're my age (or near it), you played the original Super Mario Brothers game on NES—or one of the many popular sequels. If you're slightly younger, you played Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 unit. If you're in high school or college now, you probably played the Super Mario Galaxy game (or its just released sequel) on the Wii.
You see… there's a bit of Mario nostalgia for all of us who fall in the parameters of the "video game generation.” He is an iconic character that has stood the test of time. Over and over again Nintendo has gone back to Mario as their main star, even when their current core customer base is too young to remember him. Which kind of speaks to his staying power. Like Sesame Street or even Mickey Mouse—there is an appeal and charm that supersedes generational boundaries.
This week we saw a new stop-motion video starring Mario, and I think it's best to just leave it at that and let you take a look:
How you could watch that and not be charmed is beyond me. And it's pretty impressive for what looks like a student project. The timing on the many moving parts is very solid, and it looks and feels like the actual game.
Let's not overlook one of my personal favorite qualities of viral success stories: hard work. We respect hard work, particularly when it's obvious. And if you've ever fiddled around with stop motion, you know immediately that this thing took some time. It looks like it's made using Post-It Notes, but I can't be sure. But I would guess this took all day, if not multiple days, to get it right.
Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. People love to be transported instantly back to their youth. Sometimes it's a pop culture reference that does it… or a song. But if you can find a way to relate your viral offering to the viewers' childhood, I'd say your chances of success go up dramatically. If you can squeeze in a Mario cameo… you're golden.
Star Wars Hybrid
I'd be surprised if you haven't at least heard of our second example. It's an Adidas commercial that recreates a famous scene from Star Wars, only using modern celebrities in several key roles. To say anything else would be to spoil the fun you're about to have:
Okay, let's play spot the celebrity. I know Snoop Dogg is in there. David Beckham and Daft Punk. And I recognized Jay Baruchel (who starred in She's Out Of My League a few months ago). And I knew that was one of the brothers from the band Oasis in there as well. But I didn't recognize DJ Neil Armstrong, Ciera, Ian Brown, or Franz Beckenbaur.
I think my favorite part is the sequence of events that ultimately causes Greedo to be shot.
Where to begin in breaking down the reasons this went viral:
Star Wars rules, without a doubt. You would think that sooner or later there would come an over-saturation point, where the public is just sick of Star Wars videos. But if it hasn't happened yet, it may never happen. As long a we're willing to make Star Wars content popular, we'll keep seeing more of it produced. And George Lucas is laughing all the way to the bank.
There's also a celebrity factor at work. Celebrity endorsements are nothing new in advertising. They've been around almost as long as advertising itself. And that's because they work. The public loves their celebrities, and we gravitate toward brands that use our favorite celebs as spokespeople. This particular ad has the added advantage of creating an inadvertent scavenger hunt of famous faces. It subconsciously dares the viewer to try and spot all the cameos, which ramps up the engagement the viewer has with the spot.
It's also timed fairly well to coincide with the World Cup, which currently has most of the world whipped up into a fever pitch. And, because the World Cup is a global event with a global audience… the casting of this video begins to make more sense. What feels at first like the most eclectic assortment of unrelated celebrities ever begins to look more like a fantastic job of appealing to as wide an audience as possible. The celebrities I didn't recognize might be insanely obvious to people of another culture or country.
Ultimately, Adidas hits a home run because they delicately balance star power, pop culture, and humor—something a lot of similar style ads have tried and failed (see the Macy's TV commercials with Jessica Simpson, Donald Trump, and Martha Stewart for an example of what I'm talking about).
The Elaborate Proposal
Elaborate marriage proposals are still incredibly popular. Even the women of America who would die from embarrassment if it happened to them can find some enjoyment in watching it happen to someone else. Just when we think we've seen it all in the world of proposals, someone comes along and goes just a hair further over the top. Until someone flies to the moon and proposes by stacking up moon rocks to spell "Will You Marry Me," these kinds of videos are going to be a staple.
Back when I was a teenager, it was considered pretty elaborate and impressive to get your marriage proposal up on the JumboTron at a major sporting event. Those days have long since passed. Now… something a bit more creative… a bit bigger, is needed to make a big enough splash.
How about coordinating a hundred of your friends in an intricate dance and lip-sync number in a public park with a live audience? Yeah, that'll probably do:
Now, I know there's a segment of the population that thinks this mushy stuff is crap. And you're welcome to that opinion. Not every video is intended for every audience. That being said, there is a huge audience for this sort of thing. And as long as romantic goofball boyfriends are willing to go to these kinds of extremes to impress their ladies… people will watch the videos.
You have to give this guy props for the sheer effort of coordination on this thing. How do you convince so many people to participate in something like this without compensation? How many rehearsals did they have to have to get everything right? You can tell that the live audience is appreciative of the unexpected performance—the girlfriend certainly loved it too.
I have always assumed that elaborate marriage proposals were about demonstrating the lengths one is willing to go to show their loved one how much they care. It's not about his lip-syncing or dancing ability—both of which could probably use some work. It's not about the performance. It's about the effort. It's about the hard work. It's the thought that counts.
And that's the takeaway for businesses: put some effort into your video. I'd be willing to bet that this guy didn't spend much actual money on his proposal. Rather… it was the planning… the time… the coordination of multiple moving parts… and that's what impressed his girlfriend. Take the same approach with your videos—you don't have to spend money to make a viral hit, and evident hard work almost always trumps someone who just spent a lot of money (with women and with viral audiences).
If I had more time, I would have also featured some of the following viral hits:
- This Apple video about the iPhone 4
- Or this spoof video about the iPhone 4
- Or this video of Kobe Bryant ignoring Chris Rock
- Or this elaborate lip-sync video starring hundreds of foreign college students
- Or this drunk driver doing something at a toll booth that many of us have probably thought about doing before.
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