Viral Video Marketing 101

What do you have to do to create a viral commercial campaign? What are the rules? With so many video creators hoping for some fame (or infamy), it’s nearly a mystery why some videos spread like a pandemic plague while others are inoculated failures. We say nearly, because the insight for rising above the masses is easy enough to be grasped. For this, we’ll need Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

Because of Lee’s outrageously righteous kung fu, everybody wanted to be like him – with the majority failing miserably. The ones who didn’t exactly “fail” became known as a Bruce Lee wannabes, then faded to obscurity. Jackie Chan, however, made a name for himself despite being a kung fu artist like Lee. This is because everything Chan did was the opposite of Lee. Lee hit high, Chan hit low. Lee is serious. Chan is always joking. Lee has this aura of invincibility, only getting hurt by opponents of the highest calibre. Chan, on the other hand, usually gets hurt hilariously no matter who he fights. Because he was a breath of fresh air, people loved Jackie Chan as somebody distinct from Bruce Lee.

Now, let’s take a look at three firms who’ve made incredibly sick examples of viral videos: Old Spice, BlendTec Blenders, and Dollar Shave. With millions of views each, these have set the measuring stick of success in video advertising.

What separates them from the others? In a word, they became Jackie Chan to every wannabe’s Bruce Lee.

Dollar Shave, for instance, is a great example. With Gillette leading the way, every other razor seriously placed their product on a pedestal, boasting of having the best shaving tech money can buy. Not Dollar Shave. Because it chose a niche that’s as far away from Gillette as possible, it was able to choose a not-so-serious approach to advertising its wares, namely to make fun of everyone, most especially themselves! The result? YouTube views –and sales – in millions.


Another way to stand out is to be just plain weird. Like Old Spice in its TV commercials. With their funny, off-kilter scripts, strange, shifting sets, and an uber-masculine yet refined-to-the-point-of-effeminacy persona portrayed by Isaiah Mustafa, these ads became huge hits on both the boob tube and on YouTube.


Last but not the least, being downright outrageous gets a lot of attention. Much like Jackie Chan and his death-defying, stunts, BlendTec promoted its blenders by feeding it all sorts of objects – not just the edible stuff. The marketers didn’t care what the object was. In fact, the harder or more expensive it was, the better. They milled roasted chickens, Barbie dolls, crowbars, and even smartphones – just to make a simple point: Nothing can withstand BlendTec Blenders. This outrageous claim, proven to be incredibly true via an even more outrageous way, made BlendTec’s YouTube campaign one of the most viewed vids as well as a recipient of a ton of awards.

With the phrase “think outside the box” thrown around too much to the point of meaninglessness, it takes true insight to rise above the mess and make an impact in this media-swamped environment we live in. This is ultimately a good thing, for if everybody rises up, it’ll be like no one rose above at all. It’s the difficulty that makes viral strategies worth it in the end.