True or False – Fact or Fiction – The Viral Marketing Mechanism

Many brand marketers would love to create a viral video or viral marketing program, right?  There is potentially an easy recipe if you analyze some of the past successes. But, beware, it might cost you!

The viral marketing controversy

There is rarely a better way to boost internet traffic than to spark controversy.  Unfortunately, controversy is – by definition – a double-edged sword.  In the realm of viral marketing for a respectable brand, there is a less dangerous way of creating controversy by proposing something so unbelievable you can’t decide whether it’s magic or black magic, true or false, aka fact or fiction.  What you want to create is a tension whereby, when viewing the video, you half want to believe that it can’t be true and half can’t figure out how it can be a fake.  Below are a couple of examples — Pepsi and Gillette (P&G) — that have had reasonable success.  What do you see in common with these two videos?

David Beckham – the Pepsi Beach Ball Trick

Becks has gathered a total of over 2.1 million views so far (since April 2011) after having gathered some 1.3 million in the first week of posting. You have to have love the background laughter.  For the record, Beckham is sipping a Diet Pepsi. And, for both these examples, the total number of views is an aggregate of the multiple postings of the same video.

Roger Federer – the Gillette Cut-throat Moment

Feds’ video has racked up well over 10 million views in two years (first posted in October 2010).

Viral marketing technique?

So, are they special FX or true? Not knowing whether the teams who created the videos are at all related, I found the similarities between these two videos rather striking.  What did you find?

Here is what I observed:

  • Both videos appear to be filmed in what looks like one take
  • Both are done “while on a shoot” and appear to have been done rather casually
  • Both videos feature good looking men at the top of their game (which features a ball)
  • Both videos are over one minute long, and under two minutes
  • The footage is “rough” — with ambiant sound effects in particular
  • Equipment is decidedly unremarkable: Beckham shoots in his barefeet while Federer serves in a suit.
  • The reaction by those on hand validates the spectacle
  • Branding is not conspicuous (although that Coke

Several other videos have been made with similarly remarkable tricks by world famous stars (e.g. Ronaldinho, Wayne Rooney, etc.).  I think a part of the talent is also about finding a trick that is just about believable.  Something that needs to be given particular attention — in an effort to upgrade believability — is the way the star handles the supposed accomplishment…

Another phenomenon that is interesting is the way and speed with which the virality spreads.  For example, Federer’s video had 2 million views in the first week so it is living on well… I noticed that the Beckham video has been circulating again recently on Facebook.  There is definitely a long tail to these types of videos and you never know who might keep the fire burning (i.e. this new blog post!).

A final footnote for the taking:

The Beckham video was actually first posted by GlamsBeckham, but the one that has had the most hits was posted second (the one above).  To attempt to mask or not the author?

If you have any other thoughts or examples, please don’t hesitate to drop them in!