Every Friday I like to use this column to share some of the best recent viral video hits. With each example, we take a shot at breaking it down to try and figure out what made it so popular. While viral success is an enigma—and probably always will be, to an extent—there are clear patterns at work, and building blocks that almost all viral hits have in common. By identifying and then making use of these building blocks, we give our own videos a better shot at finding an audience.
Let's get to this week's success stories:
The Fine Brothers are making quite a name for themselves by merely spoiling things for others. After they made a big splash last year with their "100 Movie Spoilers in 5 Minutes," they've gone on to spoil Nintendo games, reality TV shows, regular TV shows, more movies… and they've released a ton of other video content in between the spoiler vids. And now they're spoiling books.
I suppose I should warn you that this video might spoil the ending for some books you haven't yet read. With that caveat, check out 50 Book Spoilers in 4 Minutes:
The Fine brothers succeed not because they make videos spoiling books and movies… but because they write their spoilers in ways that are cute, funny, and witty. There's a unique charm in their back-and-forth, and their delivery of the scripted lines.
What's my point? My point is that their personality sells the idea… not the idea itself. You could ask a hundred YouTube filmmakers to make a video spoiling movies, and each one would have a slightly different approach. Some might use animation or CGI, some might set it to music or make a rap song out of it. The Fine Brothers write quick see-sawing dialogue punctuated with humorous observations. Often times it's not the concept for the video that drives its success, but rather the execution of it—and not only that… but the infusion of the creator's personality into the finished product.
If you're bland and boring and totally uninteresting… then you should hire some actors and keep yourself behind the scenes. But if you've got some inherent charm or humor about you, then just be yourself… don't forget to let the real personality shine through your videos.
Every now and then a video comes along that doesn't appear to have any agenda whatsoever. There's no branding… no political or moral message. Just a quick, fun little cartoon that makes you smile. The video "Parallel Parking" is exactly like that. It's from Yum Yum London—an illustration, design, and animation studio in the UK.
The poor guy in the video works awfully hard at getting his car out, and the end result is… unexpected. Just watch:
I love this kind of humor… the non sequitur kind of gag that is impossible to see coming because it's coming out of left field. Here we have a guy that patiently—painstakingly, even—inches his car out of the parking spot using a fifteen point turn, only to have it all be for nothing.
This video succeeded because it is funny… because it's off-the-wall with its surprise ending… but mostly because the animation work is top-notch. I highly recommend watching it again, this time with an eye for the supreme attention to detail. Notice the sign near the side of the road that appears to warn drivers of falling hams. Notice the fuzz effect on the action taking place behind the glass store window. Or the sleeping cat on the awning. No detail was spared in the making of this silly video, and that goes a long way toward earning the audience's praise.
The Impassioned Speech
Two samples of an impassioned speech going viral this week, and they couldn't be more different. First, we have a baby—a very young toddler—sitting at the dining room table and just… going off. Sadly, it's in baby talk, though it's clear she has some very specific things she's trying to declare. Fortunately for us, the creator of this video has filled in subtitles that are not remotely accurate but are 100% hilarious. Check it out:
Cute babies are one of those viral building blocks I was talking about earlier. And when you combine cute babies with other building blocks like animals or humor… you're on your way to a solid viral foundation.
Another impassioned speech that went viral this week was given by a Republican candidate for the Stark County Treasurer's seat. Stark County where? I have no idea.
This poor guy falls somewhere between "too nervous" and "trying to be enthusiastic and energetic," but the end result is more like a locker room pep talk from a high school football coach than a political stump speech. Watch for yourself:
This video is gaining views because of a little thing I like to call "awkward humor”—that kind of comedy where the audience is caught somewhere between wanting to laugh and feeling embarrassed for the characters. The Office on NBC aims for and achieves a high level of awkward humor on a weekly basis. And I'm guessing most viewers of this clip are torn between wanting to laugh at how over the top this candidate's speech is and wanting to crawl under their desk and hide from the awkward public moment.
With more time and space, I would also have enjoyed discussing:
- This amazing Lego-based stop-motion animation
- This parody of Disney's BLAM!, which is funny but also makes fun of the movie Up, which I love, so I have mixed reactions.
- This clip of a tiny monkey riding a baby pig. I can't believe I just typed that sentence.
- This shocking clip of a Las Vegas lion turning on his trainer.
- This heart-tugging video a cancer-survivor made for his wife's birthday. Break out the Kleenex.
- This first-of-many videos having fun with the new Google Instant Search product.