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What digital marketers can learn from ‘Xmas Jammies’

I’ll admit it. Viral videos drive me bonkers. Usually my ire is directed at what are, from my perspective, unimaginative, banal, ‘appeal to the lowest common human denominator’ efforts that somehow manage to rack up 23 million views.

When I hear about a trending corporate or brand viral video that gets the attention of Mashable or the Today Show, my initial instinct is one of skepticism that the video is deserving of its view count. That was certainly my intent after stumbling across a video last week created by the Holderness family of Raleigh, NC, titled,  “Xmas Jammies.”

The video has over 12.5 million YouTube views and, after watching the video, the pickup is well deserved. It contains that perfect storm of attributes necessary for viral videos, including:

Timeliness – As a video ‘holiday card,’ the content of the video relevant right now, not six months from now. This matters when it comes to media pickup of the video, because there are lots of videos out there with millions of views, but not all of them are directly relevant to the current news cycle.

Fast-paced and visual – One has to wonder if the video would have garnered the same traction if the family had been singing while seated on a couch, or confined to the living room. The family took it up several notches by extending to a number of different, diverse locations.

Writing is genuine and creative – In most cases, viral videos come down to the quality of the content, and the writing here is clever, topical, unique, and, importantly, genuine to the lives of all the family members. Unique in the sense of having one family member with an Iron Man 3 role, and personal in the sense that another is willing to reference his vasectomy.

Not overtly self-promotional – Only at the end, do we learn there is a subversive motivation here, which is that the husband is joining his wife to do professional video development at the firm greenroom. While many videos attempting to go viral awkwardly inject their brand into the heart of the video, the greenroom team understands subtlety is key to viral success. In this case, the reference at the end of the video does not detract from the genuine feel of the content, and actually adds relevance to it.

The Holderness video connects to a broader challenge that marcomm firms face when trying to showcase creativity and content to existing customers and prospects. Firms seek to find the right balance of how often to reach out to these audiences with news and work examples, and determining the right vehicles for this outreach. Monthly e-newsletters, social media shares, and other methods to showcase new website projects, video production work, digital campaigns and public relations success must recognize the fact that each ‘touch’ can create noise. For that reason, agencies should look for, as the Holderness’ did, outside the box, and timely opportunities to connect.

Holiday and New Year’s video greetings/e-cards offer a strong opportunity for agencies to showcase the type of video and digital work they are capable of – in a way that does not come off as a blatant business development tactic. What is important when creating an agency holiday greeting video or e-card is to focus on intent. Is the goal to let past/existing clients know about agency services that are often overlooked or for which your agency is less known for? If so, focus on using those capabilities in the final product, whether it is infographics, gamification, mobile app development or straight video production. Perhaps you want the video to communicate something about the culture and people of the firm, and if that is the case, work in those aspects. If the goal is to get attention from prospects, think about content that will rise above the clutter and get their attention.

There are countless examples this holiday season, and one that I’m fond of is from Amp Agency, which created a rather basic tool that can ‘cheerify’ any website. This allows user personalization, while drawing attention to the fact that the firm knows website, digital and creative.

Another one making the rounds comes from Boulder, CO-based Victors & Spoils, an ad agency that developed a holiday-themed twist on the video that circulated earlier this year in which a blonde model was transformed in a time-lapse video. With this video, the ad agency demonstrated its consciousness of the deeper relevance of the initial time-lapse video as it relates to the role ad agencies play in skewing public perception of physical beauty, while at the same time demonstrating its video chops.

While it may be too late to showcase your agency’s work for the holidays this year, it is an approach that can be applied to other events throughout 2014 with similar effect, whether it is Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Mother’s Day or others. And with that, happy New Year!

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