Write about the top 25 viral videos of all time, they said.
It will be easy, they said.
Turns out, selecting the top viral videos of all time – videos that can also teach useful lessons to marketers – isn’t as easy as it sounds.
How to Define a ‘Viral’ Video?
For example, if I selected the videos with the most views of all time, then you’d see that 23 out of the top 25 videos were music videos and you’d also see “Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee” at the top of the list with 6.1 billion views. (That’s billion with a “b.”)
But, what valuable lesson can marketers learn from that? Um, advertise on music videos by Latin artists?
Next, I realized that “views” is not an accurate measure of “virality,” at least not by itself.
For example, “views” can be bought. Now, I’m not just talking about purchasing views from a third party to artificially inflate your view count. I’m also talking about using advertising to promote your video.
Hey, this second option is perfectly legit – and YouTube encourages it in order to beef up its own advertising revenue.
But, what helpful tip can marketers take away from that? Ah, only work with the 25 brands that have the biggest ad budgets?
Third, I figured out that “all time” is a problematic criteria.
In July 2006, 63 million people worldwide visited YouTube, according to the first comScore data published about the video-sharing site.
Today, nearly 2 billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month. So, any list of the top viral videos of “all time” is going to be heavily tilted in favor of videos that were uploaded more recently.
So what’s the moral of that story?
Err, history doesn’t teach us any practical lessons that we can use today?
That’s why my list below of the top 25+ viral videos of all time excludes major label music videos. It also uses “engagements” – a combination of comments, shares, and likes – as well as “views” to ensure that videos have “gone viral” the old fashioned way: They’ve earned it.
And, although the very first video, “Me at the zoo,” was uploaded to YouTube on April 23, 2005, it wasn’t made public until May 29 of that year, which is the date the video-sharing site considers its birthday.
So, I selected two of the top viral videos from each year over 13 of the past 14 years to give marketers an idea of how viral videos have evolved and the process of “going viral” has mutated over time.
Hopefully, this will provide marketers with more than 25 useful, valuable, and practical lessons that they can use this month, this week, today.
Year 1: May 29, 2005 to May 28, 2006
1. Lazy Sunday
“Lazy Sunday” was one of the first viral videos that helped to put YouTube on the map. Uploaded in December 2005, it was a bootleg copy of the Saturday Night Live skit, “The Chronicles of Narnia Rap.”
How Popular Was This Video?
David Itzkoff of The New York Times reported back then that “Lazy Sunday” racked up 1.2 million views in its first 10 days.
And LeeAnn Prescott of Hitwise reported in December 2005 that visits to YouTube had shot up 83% since the video had been uploaded – and had passed visits to Google Video. (And the rest is history.)
By the end of January 2006, Prescott reported:
“Since my post last month on YouTube and the SNL Chronicles of Narnia rap, YouTube has continued to gain market share against other video search sites, and since surpassing Google Video, it has also surpassed Yahoo! Video Search.”
Then, “Lazy Sunday” was removed from the video sharing site in February 2006. In a post on the YouTube blog, the YouTube staff explained:
“NBC recently contacted YouTube and asked us to remove Saturday Night Live’s ‘Lazy Sunday: Chronicles of Narnia’ video. We know how popular that video is but YouTube respects the right of copyright holders. You can still watch SNL’s ‘Lazy Sunday’ video for free on NBC’s website.”
Ironically, Saturday Night Live re-uploaded “Lazy Sunday” to its YouTube channel in August 2013, seven-and-a-half years after it was removed.
Why Did They Do That & What Lesson Can You Learn From This?
Copyright owners can monetize their videos on YouTube. Yes, they have to split their ad revenue with YouTube.
But, it seems reasonable to assume that someone at NBC finally figured out that SNL could make more money by letting advertisers run ads against “Lazy Sunday” on YouTube as well as on NBC’s website than they would get by continuing to hoard their video content on their own site, which gets significantly less traffic.
2. Evolution of Dance
Another video that went viral in YouTube’s first year was “Evolution of Dance.” Uploaded by Judson Laipply in April 2006, it had 305 million views and 1.5 million engagements, according to Tubular Labs data.
Unfortunately, this video is unavailable because it contains content from Warner Music Group (WMG), which has blocked it in the U.S. on copyright grounds.
Why Did They Do That & What Lesson Can You Learn From This?
Using YouTube’s Content ID system, copyright owners can choose to:
- Either monetize a video and share revenue with the uploader.
- Or block a whole video from being viewed.
WMG doesn’t seem to want to share bupkis with Laipply and the multinational entertainment and record label conglomerate also doesn’t appear to care what YouTubers think about discovering that “Evolution of Dance” has been blocked.
In other words, don’t assume that you can freely sample a song under the “fair use” principle.
And if you want to include some music or sound effects in your videos, without having to negotiate licenses with each copyright owner, then use the YouTube Audio Library to find high-quality audio tracks royalty-free.
Year 2: May 29, 2006 to May 28, 2007
3. Chocolate Rain’ Original Song by Tay Zonday
One of the top viral videos from YouTube’s second year, this video was uploaded in April 2007. It now has 122 million views and 1.4 million engagements.
The video was originally posted on 4chan.org, where Zonday’s breathe-away-from-the-mic move was mocked and tons of parody videos were made in response.
But, “Chocolate Rain” didn’t go viral until July 2007, when YouTube simultaneously featured all of the parody and response videos on its home page.
What Lessons Can We Learn From This Viral Video?
Even if you are mocked, mocked by the self-appointed trend-setters, you can still get the last laugh when you are invited on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and then go on to get “paid a hefty, hefty fee” when your video becomes part of a promotional campaign for Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper.
4. Charlie bit my finger – again!
One of the other top viral videos from YouTube’s second year, “Charlie bit my finger – again!” was uploaded in May 2007 and now has 868 million views as well as 2.3 million engagements.
Howard Davies-Carr, the father of the two boys, lives in the UK. He uploaded the video to YouTube so that it could be watched by the boys’ grandfather, who was living in the U.S.
After it inadvertently went viral, he chose to monetize the video by allowing ads to run next to it.
In 2011, it was reported that the Davies-Carr family had made over £100,000 in advertising revenue from the video. The money from the viral video was enough to enable the family to purchase a new house.
Year 3: May 29, 2007 to May 28, 2008
5. Charlie Schmidt’s Keyboard Cat! – THE ORIGINAL!
A couple of funny cat videos went viral during YouTube’s third year, giving the video-sharing site an undeserved reputation that it is still trying to overcome today.
One of these was “Charlie Schmidt’s Keyboard Cat! – THE ORIGINAL!” This video was uploaded in June 2007 and has 54.2 million views and 651,000 engagements.
OK, this video features a tabby, dressed in blue, which appears to play a tune on a keyboard. Now, viewed on its own, it makes very little sense.
But it only went viral after Brad O’Farrell, then the syndication manager of video website My Damn Channel, discovered the clip and placed it at the end of another video.
“Play him off, Keyboard Cat” became a warning that it’s time to wrap up following an awkward situation or slip-and-fall blooper.
As Time puts it:
“Keyboard Cat mashups add a touch more absurdity to already absurd situations, like a man falling off a treadmill or Miss Teen South Carolina flubbing her geography. Combine that with the Internet’s penchant for cats, and a craze is born.”
6. LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!
Other videos in different genres were also going viral during this time period. This includes “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!” by Chris Crocker, which got 50.7 million views and 657,000 engagements.
The video is now unavailable because Crocker closed his YouTube account in September 2015.
So, many people mistakenly think that the only videos that go viral are ones featuring animals, babies, and dancing. Well, this isn’t necessarily true.
Year 4: May 29, 2008 to May 28, 2009
7. David After Dentist
Now, I recognize that my next example features a cute kid, which undercuts the assertion that I’ve just made.
Nevertheless, “David After Dentist” is still worth including in my list of the top viral videos of all time.
Uploaded in January 2009, it has 138 million views and 517,000 engagements.
David DeVore Sr. took the video of his son, David Jr., in May 2008. For the next seven months, he only shared the video with family and friends.
Then, he uploaded it to YouTube to make it easier to share. David Sr. has said:
“Due to the limit YouTube has for the number of emails you can send the link to for private sharing, I chose to make it public thinking no one would think it was as funny as we did. Shows you what I know.”
The video went viral and the DeVore family was soon invited to join the YouTube Partner Program, which enabled them to monetize “David After Dentist.”
And, according to Time, “the DeVores have made nearly enough to cover David’s (eventual) college education.”
What Lessons Does This Teach Marketers?
First, slice-of-life videos can go viral. Who wouldn’t share a video that features a kid who asks, “Is this real life?”
Second, if YouTube invites you to include one of your more unforgettable videos in its Individual Video Program, just say, “Yes.”
8. Susan Boyle – Singer – Britain’s Got Talent 2009
Now, let me share a powerful example of a viral video from YouTube’s fourth year that doesn’t include funny cats, cute kids, or old dance moves: “Susan Boyle – Singer – Britain’s Got Talent 2009.”
Uploaded in April 2009, this video had 96 million views as of August 2010, when the clip was removed from the Britain’s Got Talent channel due to a copyright claim by Alain Boublil Music Ltd.
But, there are 1,360 copies still on YouTube, with a collective total of 734 million views and 2.4 million engagements.
This includes “Susan Boyle – Britains Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 – Saturday 11th April | HD High Quality,” which has 236 million views and 924,000 engagements.
What’s the Lesson You Can Learn From the Viral Videos Featuring Susan Boyle?
Dr. Karen Nelson-Field conducted some rigorous research on this topic at the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science. And she published her findings in Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing.
“When a video included a creative story of personal triumph, it was shared more than other creative devices” (including baby/young child, animal, and dancing/singing)…. She added, “Interestingly, despite being a more applicable creative device for ensuring sharing success, personal triumph is rarely displayed in viral video content. In our sample of 800 videos, it appeared in less than 3 per cent of all videos.” She concluded, “Personal triumph therefore represents the best opportunity for marketers.”
Year 5: May 29, 2009 to May 28, 2010
9. JK Wedding Entrance Dance
In YouTube’s fifth year, one of the more memorable viral videos was “JK Wedding Entrance Dance.” Uploaded in July 2009, it has 98.1 million views and 447,000 engagements.
OK, so this video features dancing. And, the next one includes a man on a horse, which is an animal.
Of course, I’m talking about “Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”
10. Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
This video was uploaded in February 2010, it has 56.2 million views and 239,000 engagements.
Now, maybe I don’t need to point out the obvious, but this viral video is an ad.
In fact, it was part of a campaign that consisted of eight YouTube videos, which tallied a total of 98.7 million views and 337,000 engagements.
And the campaign was for an everyday hygiene item, so who would have guessed that it would go viral?
But, that’s not all.
In July 2010, Noreen O’Leary and Todd Wasserman of Nitro-Net reported that monthly sales of Old Spice Body Wash had increased 107 percent after the campaign.
What Lessons Does This Teach Marketers?
This viral video features a “talking head.” That’s the derogatory term given to TV commercials that consist of a pitchman extolling the virtues of a product.
Now, many agency people argue that talking heads aren’t “creative.” But, as David Ogilvy said in his classic book, “Ogilvy on Advertising“:
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
Year 6: May 29, 2010 to May 28, 2011
11. BED INTRUDER SONG!!!
This is another viral video that doesn’t feature animals, babies, or dancing. Uploaded in July 2010 by Schmoyoho, it has 143 million views and 1.2 million engagements.
The Gregory Brothers took the quirky television interview that Antoine Dodson gave after his sister’s attempted assault and turned it into a chart-topper for Auto-Tune the News.
12. Rebecca Black – Friday
This viral video, which features singing, was originally uploaded on March 2011 to Ark Music Factory’s channel. This version got more than 166 million views before it was removed from YouTube in June 2011 due to legal disputes between ARK Music and Black.
However, the “official version” was uploaded to Rebecca’s channel in September 2011 has 131 million views and 1.8 million engagements.
It didn’t go viral in March until sites like BuzzFeed and Reddit posted it as “the worst song ever.” That’s right, Rebecca Black’s pop anthem went viral solely because people were making fun of her.
But Jeremy Scott, the founder of The Viral Orchard, thinks we all got trolled hard. In March 2011, he wrote in Tubular Insights:
“We’ve been set up and manipulated – played like a second-hand guitar. Not by Black, mind you – I remain fairly convinced that she’s just a normal 13-year-old. I think the real puppet master here is Ark Music Factory.”
“Ark Music Factory is the company that produced the video, and I think they made this whole thing happen. To be clear: I think they knew the song was bad… I think they uploaded it anyway… and I think they set about using social bookmarking and social media sites to specifically gain the video some views based on its poor quality.”
Now, he admitted at the time, “I don’t have any proof… obviously. But I do have plenty of red flags and circumstantial evidence.”
- The video was initially on Ark Music Factory’s channel, not Rebecca Black’s.
- This video was picked by the Internet as the one to mock on the same day.
- Ark’s website had banner ads to buy their artists’ songs on iTunes.
- Talent and respect are no longer required for riches or fame.
- People often game curated sites for marketing purposes.
What Lessons Can You Learn From All This?
Well, there are 3,769 videos on YouTube that are mostly parodies and remixes of Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” They have a total of 595 million views and 6.8 million engagements.
So, even if you’re somewhat skeptical of Scott’s theory, you should still carefully consider his conclusion:
“The adage that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ has never been more true than it is today. If it weren’t true, then Charlie Sheen and Rebecca Black would both be broke and without prospect. If you think marketing companies aren’t savvy enough to know that and attempt to capitalize on it – even to the point of mocking the thing they’re charged with promoting – then you’re pretty naive.”
Year 7: May 29, 2011 to May 28, 2012
13. KONY 2012
This viral video from YouTube’s seventh year was made by a little-known nonprofit. Uploaded on March 2012, it has 102 million views and 1.8 million engagements.
The incredible success of this 30-minute video demonstrates how a relatively unknown entity can still make a global impact in social media with powerful content and a savvy marketing strategy.
What Lessons Can You Learn From Its Success?
In July 2007, Mary Madden, a Senior Research Specialist for the Pew Internet & American Life Project, had said, “Young adults are the most ‘contagious carriers’ in the viral spread of online video.”
And in March 2012, a new report on the viral “KONY 2012” video by Lee Rainie, Paul Hitlin, Mark Jurkowitz, Michael Dimock, and Shawn Neidorf for the Pew Research Center found the same pattern.
According to Pew’s new report, those 18 to 29 years old were much more likely than older adults to have heard a lot about the “KONY 2012” video.
And they were also much more likely than older adults to have learned about it through social media, rather than traditional news sources.
In addition, younger adults were more than twice as likely as older adults to have watched the video itself on YouTube or Vimeo. So, this should be your target audience, too.
14. Uncle Drew | Chapter 1 | Pepsi Max
This video by Pepsi went viral in May 2012 and got 54.6 million views and 213,000 engagements.
Now, this video is 4 minutes and 59 seconds long. So, it doesn’t look like an ad, does it?
And according to the video’s description:
“Pepsi MAX went to a pick-up game in Bloomfield, NJ, pretending to shoot a documentary on a basketball player named ‘Kevin.’ When his Uncle Drew came into the game, some magical things happened.”
You can learn some useful, valuable, and practical lessons about creating a parody/comedy skit/prank that goes viral just by watching Uncle Drew.
Year 8: May 29, 2012 to May 28, 2013
15. PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V
Now, I realize that you probably think I’m excluding all music videos from this list, but if you go back and re-read what I actually said, it only “excludes major label music videos.”
Why am I quibbling over what’s excluded? Because I really, really wanted to include the next viral video in this list.
It’s “PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V.” Uploaded on July 2012, it has 3.3 billion views and 21 million engagements.
As Kevin Allocca, YouTube trends manager, said in a post on the Official YouTube Blog, “This year, Korean Pop music transcended boundaries and took the world by storm.”
And as Chris Atkinson added in a post on Tubular Insights, “This is a gigantic breakaway hit because, yes, the song is catchy, but the video has everything you want: lunacy, hot girls, and a funky dance.”
16. Dove Real Beauty Sketches | You’re more beautiful than you think (3mins)
This three-minute video by Dove went viral in April 2013 and garnered 68.5 million views along with 180,000 engagements.
As the video’s description says:
“In one of the most famous Dove films, Real Beauty Sketches explores the gap between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. Each woman is the subject of two portraits drawn by FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora: one based on her own description, and the other using a stranger’s observations. The results are surprising…”
Why Did This Video Go Viral?
Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, wrote an op-ed in Nitro-Net that said:
“These video ads don’t just generate impressions, they leave impressions. Women ages 18-34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that made an empowering ad and nearly 80 percent more likely to like, share, comment, and subscribe after watching one. We also ran ad recall studies on eight of the campaigns on the Empowering Ads Leaderboard, and all performed in the top 25 percent of their categories, with most in the top 10 percent.”
Then, she asked a question of her own:
“So if empowering ads are so effective, why are we only seeing them now? Partly because women are being called upon to advertise to women. Despite the disappointing fact that only 11 percent of creative directors are women, half of the creatives responsible for the empowering ads on our Leaderboard were women. With women expected to control two-thirds of consumer spending in the U.S. over the next decade, creative agencies would be wise to empower women not just in their video ads but in their own ranks.”
Year 9: May 29, 2013 to May 28, 2014
17. Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) [Official music video HD]
Here’s another music video that wasn’t created by a major label. Uploaded in September 2013, it has 838 million views and 7.2 million engagements.
Now, if I need to defend my inclusion of this music video, I can point to Allocca’s post on the Official YouTube Blog, which listed “What Does The Fox Say?” as the top Trending Videos for 2013 instead of one of the Top Music Videos for the year.
Why Did This Video Go Viral?
A cute kid does appear in the video at the 1:04, 2:15, and 2:24 marks, it features people dressed in animal costumes, and there’s lots of funky dancing.
OK, so maybe that’s just a strange coincidence. But, it’s the best theory that I was able to come up with.
18. FIRST KISS
One of the other viral videos from YouTube’s ninth year, “FIRST KISS” was uploaded in March 2014. It got 138 million views and 641,000 engagements.
As the video’s description says: “We asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time….”
WREN, a relatively unknown brand outside of fashion circles, took the industry by storm, and showed how a small brand with limited resources could create one of the most talked-about marketing campaigns of the year.
Just a month after its release, “First Kiss” had increased website traffic by 14,000% and sales by 13,600 percent. Not bad.
Not bad at all.
Year 10: May 29, 2014 to May 28, 2015
19. Always #LikeAGirl
One of the viral videos from YouTube’s tenth year, this video was uploaded on June 2014, it got 67 million views and 331,000 engagements.
As the video’s description says:
“Using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s self-confidence.”
The description also quotes Lauren Greenfield, the filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video. She says:
“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand.” She adds, “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering…. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl into a positive affirmation.”
20. 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman
Uploaded on October 2014 by Rob Bliss Creative, a viral video agency, the video has 48.3 million views and 175,000 engagements.
This video also generated 279 response videos, which got a total of 147.7 million views and 1.6 million engagements.
This included “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman in Hijab,” which got 17.8 million views and 209,000 engagements.
And, as we’ve all been told, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Year 11: May 29, 2015 to May 28, 2016
21. Obama out:’ President Barack Obama’s hilarious final White House correspondents’ dinner speech
And now for something completely different.
In YouTube’s 11th year, who would have guessed that one of the videos that would go viral would be then-president Obama’s hilarious final White House correspondents’ dinner speech.
What’s more, who would have guessed that it would have been uploaded by Global News in April 2015 and go on to get 28.3 million views and 283,000 engagements.
As President Obama was getting set to leave office, he took a look back at one of his most memorable moments.
He didn’t hold back in his final speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner, firing barbs at himself, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz.
Obama said, “If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubman’s.”
Hey, there are lots of lessons that marketers can learn from this guy. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign team was named #1 in the Fast Company 50. The magazine said:
“This year’s most successful startup took a skinny kid with a funny name and turned him into the most powerful new national brand in a generation.” Fast Company added, “The team has become the envy of marketers both in and out of politics for proving, among other things, just how effective digital initiatives can be.”
22. Laughing Chewbacca Mask Lady
Another video that went viral the following month has changed the viral video landscape as we know it.
Uploaded by Candace Payne to her Facebook page in May 2016, the video was initially called, “It’s the simple joys in life….” There, it got 175 million views and 6.4 million engagements.
Then, Kohl’s uploaded a version of the video to their Facebook page, entitled, “Woman happy to wear Chewbacca mask.” There, it got 34.9 million views and 1.3 million engagements.
Finally, a version was uploaded to YouTube, where it was named, “LAUGHING CHEWBACCA MASK LADY (FULL VIDEO).” There, it got 11.6 million views and 137,000 engagements.
Altogether, 613 videos of the “Chewbacca Mask Lady”, “Chewbacca Mask Woman”, or “Chewbacca Mask Mom” were uploaded to Facebook (273), YouTube (252), Instagram (66), and Twitter (22).
They got a total of 131 million views and 3.2 million engagements. But, the lion’s share of both views and engagements were on Facebook, not YouTube.
And, what lessons can marketers learn from that?
Well, shortly after Payne’s video went viral, Facebook started making moves to become “video first” in July 2016, according to USA Today.
And shortly after that, Mark Zuckerberg started talking up Facebook’s “video first” strategy in November of that year, according to USA Today?
And shortly after that, the process of going viral started mutating in unexpected directions. Coincidence? I think not.
Year 12: May 29, 2016 to May 28, 2017
Up to this point in time, YouTube content creators had relied on their imagination to create great content that might unexpectedly get an intense psychological response like happiness, exhilaration, amazement, inspiration, hilarity, warmth, and surprise that would trigger the social motivations to not only watch, but also like, comment on, and share their video.
But, from this point on, many (but not all) YouTube content creators could leverage the large base of subscribers that many (but not all) YouTube influencers had built over the years and borrow a page out of the YouTube creator playbook, which shared the know-how developed by a generation of YouTube content creators to develop content strategies that would resonate with 21st-century consumers.
And up to this point in time, YouTube content creators had relied on advertising to monetize their views and engagements – earning five figures per year at first and then six figures per year on YouTube.
But, from this point on, many (but not all) YouTube influencers started creating sponsored videos for brands, as well. The next video is a good example.
23. Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect
Uploaded to Dude Perfect’s YouTube channel in April 2017, which has 39.5 million subscribers, this sponsored video for Oreo got 197 million views and 5.4 million engagements.
24. Get clever with your clutter…and these 7 organization hacks!
Up to this point in time, viral videos had been uploaded to YouTube first and then shared to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
But, from this point on, many (but not all) videos that went viral started being uploaded to Facebook first and then shared only on Facebook.
And up to this point in time, many viral videos had featured personal triumph, a baby/young child, a parody/comedy skit/prank, dancing/singing, an animal, or some other creative device.
But, from this point on, many (but not all) videos could go viral by providing useful, valuable, and practical tips, tricks, and hacks.
For example, check out “Get clever with your clutter…and these 7 organization hacks!”
Uploaded to Blossom’s Facebook page in May 2017, which has 43.8 million subscribers, it got 442 million views and 16.2 million engagements.
Year 13: May 29, 2017 to May 28, 2018
The need to build a large base of subscribers in order to increase the odds of having your videos “go viral” has prompted some (but not many) brands to start acting as if they were media companies.
Instead of creating “hero” content once a year, they started creating “hub” content once a day.
What’s “hero” content?
It’s the kind of content that you want to push to a big, broad audience.
You know, your Super Bowl moment. A brand might have only one hero moment in a year, such as a product launch or an industry tent-pole event.
What’s “hub” content?
It’s the kind content that you develop on a regular basis to give a fresh perspective on your target’s passion points. This content was initially uploaded once a week on the same day and rapidly evolved into daily content.
25. Red Bull & NBA’s Social Media Videos
For example, check out “Door in the Sky.” Uploaded to Red Bull’s Facebook page in November 2017, which has 49 million subscribers, it got 258 million views and 5.8 million engagements.
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Red Bull uploaded 2,484 videos to its Facebook page from May 29, 2017, to May 28, 2018.
It also uploaded 1,883 videos to its Instagram account and another 581 videos to its YouTube channel during that period.
And these 5,302 videos got a combined total of more than 3.5 billion views and 158.8 million engagements over 365 days.
And 106 of these videos got more than a million views and 100,000 engagements. These are viral videos by anyone’s definition. And, on average, Red Bull is creating more than two of them a week.
Want another example?
Then, check out “@kingjames takes it and wins it with the Tissot Buzzer Beater! #ThisIsYourTime.”
Uploaded to the NBA’s Instagram account in May 2018, which has 35.2 million subscribers, this sponsored video for Tissot, which makes luxury watches for men and women, got 3.9 million views and 807,000 engagements.
But, we’re just scratching the surface.
The NBA uploaded 133 sponsored videos to Instagram from May 29, 2017 to May 28, 2018.
It also uploaded 170 sponsored videos to Facebook and 2 sponsored videos to YouTube. And these sponsored videos got 267.4 million views and 29.9 million engagements over 365 days.
And 112 of these sponsored videos got more than a million views and 100,000 engagements. So, these are also viral videos by the definition that we’ve been using.
So, on average, the NBA is creating more than two of them a week.
And if you consider that the regular season begins in late October and the playoffs end in early June, then the NBA’s sponsored videos are going viral about three to four times a week when basketball games are actually being played.
Year 14: May 29, 2018 to May 28, 2019
Now, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that YouTube completely recognizes the strategic threat that Facebook and Instagram pose to the video sharing site’s long association with viral videos.
Which is why I believe the process of “going viral” is about to mutate again – in radically different directions.
The signs that big changes are coming are hidden in plain sight.
In January 2019, Debbie Weinstein, the VP or YouTube and Global Video Solutions at Google, wrote an article in Think with Google entitled, “A new way to think about online video’s role in the purchase funnel.”
In it, she said:
“Today’s consumers are in complete control of their path to purchase and the number of touchpoints have proliferated. People move seamlessly across channels and devices — from discovery to consideration to conversion — on their own terms. But what may come as a surprise is the outsize role that online video now plays. It can help create demand and also fulfill it.”
She also cited a couple of studies to back up her point of view:
- More than 90 percent of people say they’ve discovered new brands or products on YouTube.
- Over 40 percent of global shoppers say they’ve purchased products that they’ve discovered on YouTube.
“Marketing success has always hinged on building meaningful customer connections. But the formula for achieving it — largely driven by consumer behavior — is constantly evolving.”
Then, she shared three case studies.
One then was from Adidas, which used YouTube’s video ad sequencing tool to develop a video campaign featuring a new soccer shoe across multiple ad formats to reach people at different touchpoints over time, based on their level of engagement.
Check out the six-second long unskippable bumper ad entitled, “Ocean Storm Stadium,” which was part of the campaign.
Now, this unlisted video didn’t go viral.
The sequence that included it along with two long-form videos and a product video helped deliver on Adidas’s brand and performance goals to provide a simple path for viewers who wanted to engage with them.
It saw a double-digit lift in brand awareness and ad recall, as well as a 317 percent lift in product interest.
More significantly, the average view-through rate increased 20 percent as the sequence progressed from the long-form video to the product video, confirming the value of tailoring the sequence for engagement.
But, there’s another strategic competitor to YouTube lurking in the wings that we haven’t talked about yet.
And YouTube doesn’t want you to turn to your virtual assistant and say, “Alexa, how do I get my video to go viral?” Which brings me to the second initiative that I suspect will redefine the intrinsic value of a viral video.
What is it?
Well, in early April 2019, “Rice Krispies Treats’ Success Story | YouTube Advertisers” was uploaded to the YouTube Advertisers channel.
Yep, this is the same channel where the “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats Case Study” was uploaded 10 months ago. But, this new video tells a whole new story.
The net-net: Rice Krispies Treats paired Google Assistant and YouTube creators (including Trav and Cor, which has 2.1 million subscribers, My Cupcake Addiction, which has 3.2 million subscribers, and Daily Bumps, which has 4.4 million subscribers) to build brand love – and drive consideration – during the busy holiday season.
Now, this was the first-ever voice activation for a Kellogg’s brand, and Rice Krispies Treats partnered with Google to bring families an interactive and immersive holiday experience.
The “Krispie Kitchen” on the Google Assistant took parents and kids on a fun, guided adventure with holiday characters, both new and old, to bring a magical twist to making holiday treats.
With three unique stories to choose from, families could create new memories of making their favorite holiday treats together.
If you want to check it out, just say, “Hey Google, talk to Krispie Kitchen.”
So, do you really need your videos to go viral in order in order to generate results these days?
Or, do you absolutely have to advertise on an influencer’s video to get a total of 1.7 million views and best-in-class consideration in a brand lift study?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Now, this is not the end of the viral video. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Years from now, we may all look back at this year and say that was when a handful of marketers started to say, “Screw viral videos.”
Because that’s when some (but not many) of us started to accomplish our marketing objectives and reach our business objective without them.
However, the really key period wasn’t May 29, 2018, to May 28, 2019. This was just a transition period.
The really interesting developments took place the following year.
Hey, I realize that this is just a scientific wild-ass guess (SWAG). So, let us know what you think will happen next.
Screenshots taken by author, April 2019