It’s old news that online viral videos can be effective for simple branding initiatives. However, lately it seems as though many large companies are going above and beyond simply posting a video on YouTube and crossing their fingers that it spreads. These companies are utilizing social networking, partnerships with celebrities, and even 1-800 numbers to promote these videos and, in turn, the brand itself.
“As people understand the Web and how targeted and interactive can be, they realize [viral video] can be a valuable and rich experience,” says Rob Smiley, worldwide creative director of Absolut. “You can’t just announce something to people if you want them to be involved in a discussion. It’s a give and take — the dialog becomes a part of the campaign.”
The following are three examples of recent campaigns that have driven viral videos to online success:
In honor of its 100th anniversary, Converse recently launched an integrated campaign around the release of an original music track and video called “My Drive Thru.” Produced by Pharrell Williams and featuring artists N.E.R.D., Santogold and Julian Casablancas, the video incorporates another marketing trend: it doesn’t tout the Converse brand name until the very end. This gives campaigns a grassroots feeling, says Jonathan Finn, senior director of marketing communications for Converse. “By [focusing more on the music and less on the brand] we got our brand out there in a way that our consumer respected,” he says. The video garnered more than 750,000 streams on leading Web portals in the first four days after the launch and nearly 3 million to date.
Pepsi-owned Amp Energy created a viral sensation with its “Walk of No Shame” campaign earlier this year. Musical 30- and 60-second commercials ran on TV, with a nearly two-minute version running exclusively online. The video features New Yorkers stumbling home after one night stands — Amp Energy in hand — singing, “I will not be ashamed.” The product is not mentioned by name. “It’s important to have the right content throughout and to deliver it in a unique fashion,” says John Vail, director of Pepsi-Cola North America’s Interactive Marketing Group. “Especially with the Internet, the entertainment value really has to be there because consumers can click to stop the video just as quickly as they started it.” Amp also created a microsite for the campaign at www.walkofnoshame.com. The site drives users to Amp Energy’s Facebook page where they can become fans of the drink and post their own “Walk of No Shame” stories. To date the microsite has received more than 250,000 hits and the video has been viewed nearly 320,000 times on YouTube. Amp Energy currently has more than 5,000 fans on Facebook.
In February, Absolut Vodka launched its “Visionaries” campaign, featuring Kanye West. However, few consumers immediately knew Absolut was behind it. The infomercial, which originally ran on television, is shot in an seemingly low-budget style, and shows viewers how they can transform into Kanye West by dropping “Be Kanye” tablets into water and drinking it. It prompts users to call 1-877-BE-KANYE for more information. It’s only at the end of the video that West slyly says, “in an Absolut world.” The 1-800 number, when called, asks users to enter their cell phone numbers to “become part of Kanye’s entourage.” Absolut then sends a text message to the user driving them to YouTube or Absolut.com to view West’s second Absolut commercial in which nerdy club-goers rush to the bathroom to take the “Be Kanye” tablet. To date, 70,000 people have called the “Be Kanye” hotline and both commercials have reached more than 160,000 views on YouTube.