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The Making of a Viral Video

Posted January 7, 2011  |  written by  |  Tips and Trends from the Experts

Soap, Diamonds, and a Horse

Since the commercial above premiered on February 8 of last year, it has notched over 27 million views on YouTube, kick-started the actor’s career, spawned a Wikipedia page, and inspired several parodies. The man’s outfit at the outset of the advertisement—a towel wrapped around his waist—was even named to Time’s list of 20 Best (Topical) Halloween Costumes last year.

Here we are, nearly a year after the ad initially aired, and I still read new insights on the campaign each week. While I have not switched over to one of Old Spice’s bath gels since the ads have aired, I have watched the ads multiple times and shared them with my friends on Facebook.

Why Did It Work?

Isaiah Mustafa - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Let’s face it. It’s a good commercial. Starring an attractive actor and full of crisp, witty writing, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” is a memorable 30 seconds. That the commercial was filmed in a single take, uses very little CGI or special effects, and involves three scene changes makes it that much more impressive in the technical sense. Curiosity has been so piqued by how the director of the commercial filmed it, he has given interviews discussing the commercial’s production. A handsome star, funny script, and technical prowess are not the only reasons why the ad has been so successful. After all, there have been thousands of good commercials.

Old Spice’s campaign worked because Old Spice worked at it. In addition to posting the ads to their YouTube channel, the company made response videos to people’s comments on the commercials on YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. This hyper-interaction directly with consumers made the company feel more accessible than it did before, thereby elevating its status in the minds of consumers from company to friend. Although the response videos were only a minute or two long, each one featured actor Isiah Mustafa and the same snappy diction from the original videos. In a sense, people were made to feel like they were a part of making the commercials. And in a way, they were.

The Power of Video

What can we take away from the success of the Old Spice campaign? For one, the campaign teaches us that advertising on television, although somewhat effective, does not foster the same sort of communal interaction that advertising on the Internet does. Secondly, a viral video can help your company gain market share while showing that your company can have be light-hearted or have fun.

Still doubting the power of a viral video? Consider this week’s latest overnight superstar, Ted Williams. A video of him panhandling on the side of the road hit YouTube Monday afternoon, and by Wednesday morning, it had already garnered 4 million views (the original video, which has been taken down by the Columbus Dispatch, netted 13 million views before it was removed). By Thursday afternoon, Ted was giving interviews on the Today Show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, fielding job offers from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kraft Foods, and has been reunited with his 92-year-old mother. Although the video had been posted on the Columbus Dispatch’s website, it wasn’t until the video was been uploaded to YouTube that it went viral.

The Bottom Line

Advertisers and marketers harp on the importance of customer engagement on Facebook and Twitter, but involvement on YouTube may do more for brand penetration than the other two. In fact, a recent case study by Sharethrough, a video marketing company, found that a person’s purchase intent, or how likely he or she is to buy a product, increased 110% after being exposed to video marketing for the product.

After all, Twitter suffers from stream static, and Facebook requires consumer approval—i.e., a person must “like” your page—before you can market to them. If you can create a good viral video, chances are good that consumers will do the majority of the marketing for you when they share it with their followers. While there is no certain recipe for a successful viral video, a recent article by Dan Greenberg (Sharethrough’s CEO) for Mashable discusses 3 Things Any Video Needs to Go Viral, which, in a nutshell, are emotional appeal, shareability, and a data-driven strategy.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and start filming! Who knows? Your company may be behind the next viral video hit. For now, however, enjoy one last parody of “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like.”

At InkHead Promotional Products, it’s Your Brand, Your Message.

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