Every week I try to find one or two viral marketing videos that stand out with their excellence in creation and execution, so we can learn for ourselves by analyzing what works for other brands. This week, the brand in question is actually a church–Second Baptist Church in Houston, TX, to be exact. Their flash-mob dance at the downtown Discovery Green succeeds on multiple levels.
Historically, churches and religious organizations struggle a bit more than traditional businesses when it comes to marketing. Whether it's lack of funds, or a more difficult message they have to market, churches seem to lag behind the rest of the world in adopting the latest trends. I say this mostly from personal experience working with churches, where I saw it take much longer for them to get on board concepts that you and I take for granted (like having a website, or using email marketing).
So it's impressive to see a church that seems to "get" this whole viral video thing. It might be the first church-driven flash mob I've ever seen, to be honest. If you haven't seen it, take a look:
This video is, according to the description, an homage to a similar faith-based dance video from Budapest in 2010. Whether or not the message is up your alley, there's no denying this campaign is a huge success. Let's count the ways…
Second Baptist Church in Houston is gigantic—it's the largest baptist church in the entire U.S. Their membership roster has over 53,000 names on it, and weekly services average around 22,000. That's a small city. So, you can see where they managed to find the 2,000 volunteers to perform the dance.
But every church has one mission: reach more people with their message. And this video has been viewed over 511,000 times as of this writing. The city of Houston has about 6 million residents, so the view count represents 10% of that total population. Of course, the viewers for the video aren't all from Houston, but I guarantee a great number of them were.
In terms of view count and free publicity for the church, the video is a total win.
In the current American culture, it can be tricky for a faith-based organization to avoid being controversial. The main goal of most Christian denominations is to spread "the good news" to others, but in the era of Westboro Baptist Church and Koran-burning pastors… a large portion of the public is tired of being preached at. The "good news" churches want to share isn't always seen as "good news" by the audience anymore.
So it's impressive to see that Second Baptist decided to find a way to express their faith and their joy that is as inoffensive as possible. There's no preaching… no Bible verses… no lectures. Just some fun dancing in the park as a form of celebration. Of course, that hasn't stopped the YouTube comments from quickly turning into a debate about God's existence (which happens with most religiously-themed videos).
Every participant–and there were over 2,000 of them–left a pair of shoes behind as a donation to local missions like Star Of Hope. So it's an inoffensive flash mob, featuring joyful dancers in the park, which also produced a donation of 2,000 pairs of shoes for those in need. Man… even if you're anti-religion, it's hard to find a problem with that.
The video is ultimately a winner because it appeals to multiple audiences. For viewers who are already religious, the clip serves as an uplifting reminder of their beliefs–and that others around the world share those beliefs. For the non-religious, it's a fairly entertaining large-scale flash mob dance that resulted in a sizable donation to charity.
For other churches around the country, this clip serves as proof that religious institutions can use video for marketing and outreach, and that they can find viral success.