The Top Viral Video Marketing Lessons Learned From 2010

The Top Viral Video Marketing Lessons Learned From 2010

The new year is almost upon us and it seems like nearly everyone is publishing their year-end best-of lists.  It's easy to get nostalgic at times like these, and I'm certainly not immune to it.  As this week progressed, I found myself remembering and reliving some of my favorite viral videos of the year. 2010 was a spectacular year for viral video, as more people than ever uploaded, watched, and shared videos online.  While it's virtually impossible to know what innovative videos await us in 2011, we can find some clues in a trip down memory lane.  What can we learn from the year in viral video that might give us an edge in the year ahead?

Below I've compiled my personal list of the top 10 lessons we can learn from the last 12 months of online video's successes and failures.

The Local TV News is a Breeding Ground for Viral Stars

Several clips went viral this year that turned regular citizens into stars after clips of a standard evening news interview found their way onto YouTube.  They went to bed anonymous, and woke up famous.  Whether we were laughing at them or with them, enough of us laughed to send Basil Marceaux, Antoine Dodson, and the Backin' Up lady to the top of the charts.  Dodson has continued to parlay his sudden fame into further opportunities for he and his family, and even bought a house with the money his viral stardom earned him.  Marceaux did not win the governor race in Tennessee, and has returned to relative obscurity.  And I'm not sure anyone knows what happened to the Backin' Up lady, but I sure do find the Gregory Brothers' Autotune song of her to be quite catchy, even though Antoine's is the more well-known.

Relive the viral stars made famous by the evening news:

Basil Marceaux

To think that this was one of the candidates on the ballot for the governor's office of my state–Tennessee–makes me shudder.  But it also makes me smile.

Antoine Dodson

Antoine has had a great attitude about his fame and has wisely put it to work for him, which most of us wouldn't have predicted after watching this clip.

OK Go Are The Princes Of YouTube

Probably the most famous early YouTube clip to go viral is most-commonly known as "the treadmill video."  It's actually a music video by a band named OK Go, and it was just the beginning.  Since that video's explosion over four years ago, the band has done nothing except top itself with crazier and crazier music videos–each of which has gone viral.  We even interviewed Tim from the band recently (in two parts), and talked about how the band views the videos to be as much a part of their art as the music itself.

In terms of creativity, envelope pushing, and consistency… nobody in the viral world is even close to these guys.  Take a look to remind yourself, just in case you've forgotten:

This Too Shall Pass

White Knuckles

Last Leaf

Stop-Motion Animation More Popular Than Ever

Of all the various styles for a video creation to chose, stop motion is one of my personal favorites.  It demonstrates a huge amount of effort and dedication on the part of the creator.  It's painstaking work but requires no special knowledge or technical skill–which is why online filmmakers are turning to it in droves.  Here are a few of the many great stop-motion videos from this year:

At-At Day Afternoon

Patrick Boivin is one of my favorite YouTube creators, and has a wide-range of filmmaking talents.  Here he demonstrates almost as much whimsy as he does stop-motion genius, and the result is beyond charming.

Amazing fire Animation

Normal stop motion filmmaking is a tedious process of setting up a shot, taking one frame, and then moving on to set up the next shot.  Imagine how much more difficult that process is when you have the added task of lighting and blowing out a bunch of candles between every shot as well?

Big Bang Big Boom

A history of pretty much the entire world, created by a street artist, in stop-motion format… what's not to like?

Mother Nature Is One Of YouTube's Brightest New Stars

As cameras get cheaper and more powerful and more-often embedded in smart phones, which are gaining more traction… we're seeing a lot more amazing footage from people who just happen to have a camera handy while witnessing something unprecedented.  Some things you simply can't plan for or plan on.  And before the Internet came along, these kinds of amazing stories were just that… stories.  But now that everyone's got a Flip camera or a phone with video capability, these previously un-capturable moments of nature can be shared with millions.

Remember these:

Whale Crashes On Boat

This story was hard enough to believe when it was only the still images being circulated.  Once they put the video footage up it only got more mind-boggling.

Hail Storm Oklahoma City

Most of us have seen hail, but not hail this big… and certainly not hail this big sustained for this long.  Scary stuff.

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse

A late entry to the 2010 viral video library, this video racked up 2 million views in less than a day, mostly because it's simple, gorgeous, and jaw-dropping.

Drugged Up People Still Go Viral

Remember David After Dentist?  How could you forget?  Nearly everyone I know–even people who don't consider themselves big online video fans–have seen David After Dentist.  It's one of the most famous online videos ever.

You might have guessed that the famous clip would be both the beginning and the end of the viral video trend of featuring drugged-up people… but you would be wrong:

Unicorn After Wisdom Teeth

I think whatever drug they gave this poor girl is expired.

Brother and Sister Dental Odyssey

this time double your fun as brother and sister share in the drugged-up wonder.

We Like To See Unique People Being Themselves

When Mother Nature wasn't playing the role of unexpected viral star, it was the citizenry of humanity itself.  People simple being themselves went viral in huge numbers this year, whether or not they knew they were being recorded.

Maybe they were brash, or overly emotional… or maybe they just had an artistic talent that was misunderstood.  But they all went viral once their candid behavior hit the web.  Some of the year's most famous (or notorious) viral stars who got famous just being genuine and being themselves are below.

Worst Wedding DJ Ever

I have no idea what's going on here,  or who that woman is… and I don't think it's required in order to understand why this video was passed around the web.  It's crude, it's strange, and it's unexpected.

Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow

I particularly like how well the star of this video has embraced his unwanted fame–even starring in a Microsoft commercial referencing the Double Rainbow.

Pants on the ground

Despite the fact that a lot of American Idol auditions are faked–intentionally bad singing or bad songs–I'm absolutely convinced that this gentleman is 100% real.

Cute Kids Will Always Rule The Internet

If there were a ten commandments of viral video, the first one would be something along the lines of "Thou shalt watch, enjoy, and share any video starring cute children."  While I know children may not be up everyone's alley, the viral masses have spoken… time and time again.  2010 was no different, and there were far too many cute-kid video success stories for me to choose from.  But here are a few of my personal favorites:

Jessica's Daily Affirmations

While the actual video was shot years ago–the star is now a teenager–it wasn't uploaded to YouTube until 2009.  And it didn't take off with any popularity until March of 2010.  But even though it took its time in finding an audience, the clip is horribly cute, and it's clear to see why viewers loved it.

Darcy Plays With Delilah

There is not one single person I've shown this to that hasn't adored it.

Cats Are Still Insanely Popular

If there's anything more popular with viral audiences than a cute baby, it's a cute animal.  And 2010 was the year that cats took center stage over the rests of the animal kingdom.  Memes were created… laughs were had… and the all-around kookiness of cats was widely celebrated.  Some of the best cat videos of 2010 are below:

Surprised Kitty

Only the meanest grinch with the hardest heart could dislike this video of a tickled kitten throwing his arms up in surprise.

OMG Cat

It's odd, it's funny, and it's definitely something I've never seen before.

Funny Kitten Can't Jump

You'll feel sorry for him when he doesn't make the jump, but you'll also be laughing.

Brands Get Serious About Viral Quality & Innovation

For a few years there, it looked like all the major brands were going to do with online video was upload their television commercials.  It looked like that because that's all they were doing at first.  But gradually they came around and started seeing the potential and the power of viral video success, which has served as a catalyst for a creative resurgence.

Some of the most clever and popular branded viral videos of 201o are below:

Old Spice

No brand got as much press for their videos in 2010 than Old Spice.  After a series of increasingly wacky commercials, the brand and their star staged a day-long takeover of the Internet through the creation of a series of personalized video greetings.  But none of it would have been possible if it hadn't been for the great audience response to the spot that started it all.

Tipp-Ex

One of the best of the exclusive group that took the YouTube video player experience and turned it on its ear, giving viewers a chance to impact the flow and action of the video.

Toyota Swagger Wagon

A masterpiece of concept and execution.  I have seen this video a multitude of times, and it hasn't gotten any less brilliant.  Probably my favorite branded video of the year, which makes it the perfect one to end on.

Thanks for taking a look back with us at some of the better viral video stories of the year.  Hopefully we can learn from what's worked in the very recent past in order to help us predict and create the viral hits of the future.

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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 -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.facebook.com/Bloodpoet William Peck

    Jeremy, your weekly viral roundup is my favorite ReelSEO article. I wait for it anxiously every Friday.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Jeremy makes good job, writes things useful and entertaining work is very nice indeed. – blahhh, random

    • Jeremy Scott

      Thanks William. It's my favorite article to write as well. Glad to know you're enjoying it.

  • neuroticist

    too bad this never got as big as it should have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9F1fGyXDI_8&feature=player_embedded

    definitely on par with the toyota commercial.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      well 150K views isn't too shabby….

  • http://mentionthisblogpost.com Recholes

    Very nice rundown Jeremy.

  • -WB-

    Great summary.
    I don't want to spoil any magic, but the candle animation is probably not made by lighting and extinguising candles for every frame. Focus on 1 candle and you'll see there are just a few frames with fire. The animation is done by masking layers. Probably by masking a completely extinguished layer on top of the animated burning candles.

    Nevertheless: it's a great concept!

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      cool, thanks for that. I have no idea myself how these things are done :(

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