As the popularity of YouTube and other online video destinations grows, something made me think that the concept of a "viral video sensation" would dissipate. Boy, was I wrong.
If you think about it, YouTube continues to grow (both in terms of who is watching videos and how many people are uploading videos). It only reasons that the more people watching and the more people posting videos might lead to a weird moment when everything falls into the Long Tail, and it gets increasingly more complex to make a video breakthrough and achieve any semblance of a massive viral effect.
What makes a video go viral?
First off, it's important to remember that creating a viral video is not a strategy. It's an outcome of doing many things right, and then having that video really connect with an audience that cares enough to talk about it and share it. Videos that go viral tend to go to an edge. They also usually hit a very primal human emotion (humour, sadness, shock, awe, sexy, etc...). So, while we can't really explain what does go viral, it's amazingly obvious to all of us when we see a lame video that won't go viral. If we're going to get very raw here (and when do we not do that?), most brands are not willing or able to go that edge. Most brands think that it has to be borderline offensive (closer to the sex or humour on that primal human emotion side), but it doesn't... and here's the proof...
Inspired Bicycles filmed an amazing video collection of street trials riding (mountain bikes). The video was posted to YouTube on April 19th, 2009 and in under one year it has clocked over 17,000,000 videos (and growing). You can watch it here: YouTube - Inspired Bicycles - Danny MacAskill April 2009.
But wait, there's more...
In case you missed Blendtec's infamous video of Will It Blend? the iPhone edition (now sporting over 8,000,000 views), they launched their Will It Blend? the iPad edition on April 5th, 2010 and it is quickly approaching 6,000,000 views. Keep in mind that it took the iPhone version nearly three years to hit eight million views, while the iPad edition broke the five million mark only a few days after it was posted. YouTube - Will It Blend? - iPad.
You do realize we are just watching commercials here, right?
Sure, they're cool, fascinating and awesome videos, but they are still commercials. Commercials for bikes and blenders. Commercials that aren't 30-seconds in length, but anywhere between two to six minutes a pop.
Our time spent with brands is getting more intense (not less). So, while people complain about TV advertising, just watch their YouTube habits for a little bit more of the truth.
We live in the most branded generation ever.