Unicorns aren't real. Everyone knows that… except the people who want to believe they're real. Like most mythical creatures—such as the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot—unicorns have a pretty strong appeal to some people. So tapping into that popularity is a fine way to stage a good hoax.
Every few years or so someone claims to have spotted Bigfoot or trapped him. And it always turns out to be a hoax. Yet so many people want to believe, that they end up getting suckered every time.
Enter the Ontario Science Center, which has a new exhibit to promote called "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, & Mermaids," which I learned about from our good friend Nalts. Looking to drum up some publicity for the exhibit, the museum concocted a viral video hoax that is every bit as slick as it is fun. Here's the video they uploaded to YouTube about a week ago:
Now, if you're like me—and you believe that mythical creatures don't actually exist and never did—then you immediately cry "fake" upon seeing this clip. If you're a fan of fantasy, mythology, and conspiracy theories… maybe you pause for a second and wonder if this could finally be some measure of proof. And regardless of your reaction, you probably forward the video to a few friends, and you definitely remember it.
Creating a video that causes the viewer to wonder if what they've seen is real or fake is one of the most reliable paths to viral success. And though most everyone knew this one was a hoax from the beginning, the museum is still playing along and acting coy—they've issued warnings about what to do if you spot a unicorn in the wild—don't use sudden movements or flash photography! And they have also voiced concerns about the safety of unicorns and humans should the creatures get too close to civilization and become frightened. Hilarious.
The video is nearing 100,000 views, and for a local science center looking to create some buzz about a new exhibit… that's more than enough to certify this as a viral success.
Viral video can work for businesses both small and large. I have no doubt that the buzz related to this video will fuel interest, media attention, and ticket sales for the Ontario Science Center. They took a proven concept (videos that cause viewers to wonder, "Real or fake?”) and combined it with their own topic (unicorns)… all on a fast-food budget. Outstanding work, from concept to execution, and I hope it inspires more local businesses to do something similar.