Pranks, Explanations, and Artful Videography - Viral Video Round Up

Sometimes the major brands just have a good week with viral videos, and that's what's happened this week.  From all the success stories this week in video, a larger-than-normal number are from brands.  And I'm okay with that.  It's always nice to have a ton of examples of viral successes from small businesses and nobodies like you and me… but it's not like we can't still learn the same lessons by deconstructing what the big boys do.

Let's dive in:

The Hidden Camera Prank

As long as there has been video entertainment, there have been prank shows.  From Candid Camera to Tom Green to Punk'd, many folks have made quite a good living by embarrassing others for the public's enjoyment.  It's one of the staples of comedy.

And Microsoft has gotten into the act to help promote their new Microsoft Office Ultimate software.  Basically the prank is this… they put a motion-sensor in a package of Ultimate, rig it to a loud alarm, place the package in random public locations, and then film people trying to pick it up.  It's funnier than that description makes it sound:

So why did this video go viral? Let's put aside for a moment the fact that most any online video Microsoft releases will get some initial attention—yes, they have a nice head start on you and I. But there's no denying they made an entertaining video here.  Some of the reactions when people hear the alarm are absolutely hysterical—like the guy on the stairs in the beginning.  That candid-camera-style videos go viral should not be news to us.  By definition they feature things we haven't seen before—unsuspecting citizens' reactions to the prank.

But I want to talk about the concept from a branding perspective.  If you think about it… Microsoft has created a funny video that has nothing at all to do with the actual product they're trying to promote.  And yet the brand name and the product are both going to stay with most viewers.  That's not easy to do.  How many times have you remembered a funny television commercial, but when you're describing it to friends you struggle to recall what product was even being advertised?  My guess is it happens a lot.

Sometimes people in our line of work like to call that bad advertising.  If you don't remember the product, they haven't done their job.

But Microsoft is proving with this video that you don't have to actively feature a sales pitch in order to get your brand and product remembered.  There are other ways to cement that stuff in the viewer's mind than just a call to action.  Humor goes a long way.  Incorporating your product or brand into the humor in a non-sales manner can be a swift road to name recognition.

The Explanation

Google has started this fantastic new trend of putting out great videos.  I never knew they had it in them.  But starting with the Super Bowl spot, and on through the Chrome Extensions video, they've been cranking out amazing viral videos that typically do one thing extremely well:  explain a complicated solution or service in "outside the box" ways that really do help the viewer understand how things work.

Our second example today is Google's new video showing off how fast Chrome is.  And it's amazing.  They use completely intriguing and unexpected ways to prove their browser's speed, including comparing it against lightning and even a potato gun.  Hopefully that's enough to get you willing to push play:

This video works for many reasons.  It's clever… it has a sense of humor… and it shows us things we haven't ever seen before.

But I think it works because it makes excellent use of the "do-it-yourself" spirit (kind of a Mythbusters feel to this thing) and high-definition cameras.  In a way, it's like Mythbusters meets that other Discovery show Time Warp (where they show all kinds of interesting activities with high-speed camera work).  It honestly feels like we're in some mad scientist's workshop.

It shouldn't really surprise us to see Google having such a firm grasp on what makes a good viral ad.  They have—by virtue of their ownership of YouTube—seen enough to have a firm grasp on what makes a viral success tick.

Just look at what they accomplish in this video.  Their message is loud and clear:  Chrome is wicked fast.  They entertain and bring chuckles with their clever experiments.  And they also hit the "whoa, look at that" crowd with the high-speed camera work and odd comparisons.  And the real capper is the sheer amount of work it must have taken to dream up this concept in the first place and then make it happen.  Outstanding.

The Moving Tribute

Our final viral success story this week is a video I actually featured earlier in the week in my article about how online video and social media became the best news outlet during the Nashville flood.  At the time, I included the video as another way to show the devastation—speculating that its artistic value might also help it go viral and aid in spreading the message of how much need there is in that city right now.

And it appears to be well on its way to doing just that, having quickly amassed nearly 400,000 views in three days.

There's plenty of footage of flooding damage floating around YouTube.  No shortage at all.  Most of it is amateur Flip-style-camera footage… shaky and not in focus.  Some of it is news footage.  But there's precious little video of the devastation online that is professionally shot and edited like this one is.  The camera work is really quite beautiful.   It's set to a nice piece of music and doesn't bother with narration or voice-over explanation.  It allows the scenery to speak for itself.

I'm incapable of knowing how someone outside this area views this piece, because I'm tied to this city and this disaster.  But for those of us living in Middle Tennessee… the video is powerful—even emotional for some.  It is… dare I say… art.

But it's also a powerful example for video producers.  You don't always have to have a script.  You don't always have to have a narrator spelling things out for you—imagery can speak quite nicely for itself sometimes… especially with a camera like this.  Seriously, I want that camera, which the creator says is a Canon 5D Mark II—that's not even a video-first camera!

If you can capture high quality video of an event people have an emotional connection to—and you have some basic editing skills—you might just need very little else in order to go viral.

Honorable Mention

Wish I had time to talk about these as well:

  • This hilarious video from TomTom announcing their new Star Wars voices for GPS devices.  I will pretty much always be up for a video staring Darth Vader.
  • This video of an NBA mascot performing an impressive stunt before a playoff game.
  • This re-cut of Seinfeld footage into a movie trailer for a dramatic movie about George Costanza—I love these re-cut videos.

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About the Author -
Jeremy Scott is the founder of The Viral Orchard, an Internet marketing firm offering content writing and development services, viral marketing consulting, and SEO services. Jeremy writes constantly, loves online video, and enjoys helping small businesses succeed in any way he can. View All Posts By -

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