Viral Tips for Marketers – Tip #1: Think Sideshow, Not Story

One of the biggest mistakes that skilled, well-intentioned marketers make when creating viral videos is to employ the traditional storytelling methods of television and film.  But the Internet isn’t about story, it’s about sideshow.

Viral video is the 21st century sideshow.

Think about it. The most popular videos on YouTube range from the bizarre to the beautiful, and are gritty, weird, wonderful, bold, daring and often unabashedly strange. Whether highly crafted, or spontaneously captured, viral videos give their audience something to gawk at and that same audience will click away the second you lose their interest or waste their time.

Although there are some notable narrative viral videos (they usually involve celebrities), storytelling is a generally a hindrance rather than a help. It wastes valuable time, and distances the viewer from the immediacy and the emotion, making them a whole lot less likely to share your video.

So when creating your content, give us your unforgettable hook and then deliver on it right away. Forget about story. Focus on sideshow.

TNT: A Dramatic Surprise and a Letdown

TNT Benelux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg) hit it big with A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square (43 million views), which was a featured case study in The Viral Video Manifesto  and our pick for the best branded viral video of 2012. Now, TNT Benelux is back with A Dramatic Surprise on an Ice-Cold Day, and unfortunately, it misses the mark in … Read More

Golden Eagle Snatches Kid – Playing a Dangerous Game Exceptionally Well

Buzzfeed just posted a great article about the video Golden Eagle Snatches Kid (42 million views). Here’s our take on how this video got away with breaking the first rule of viral video: Be True.

Golden Eagle Snatches Kid is an unusual viral video because it’s fake. As we say in The Viral Video Manifesto, “Being true is a key … Read More

The Harlem Shake: The Phenomenon and What Brands are Doing with It

What is different won’t necessarily catch on, but what will catch on is necessarily different.  And this is different.

The latest example of viral video as the 21st century sideshow is the Harlem Shake.  This meme has gone wild these last couple of weeks.  It began with a bizarre video from Dizasta Music (11 million views) but a second video … Read More

Google Guest Speakers: Stephen & Fritz on Authors@Google

Last month, it was a real treat to speak at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, CA about “The Viral Video Manifesto”.  We talked about why the old tools and techniques of film & TV don’t work online and why a fresh new perspective is needed when creating videos designed to go viral.  We also outlined our 4 Rules for creating … Read More