Viral Mechanics: Case Study (warning profanity)

by Travis Ketchum · 0 comments

I have always been intrigued with the mechanics behind what makes certain content “go viral”. The terminology viral is often overused as a description for anything popular, but in reality the core idea of viral content is something that fulfills these descriptors:

1. Becomes popular seemingly overnight (o views to 2 million in a week)

2. Creates a culture or “meme” around the content. Covers for songs, spoofs etc

Interestingly enough I came across a piece of content that fulfills both of the above “viral” components; but I think it would be even more interesting to break down the why for this particular piece of content. WARNING: Profuse cursing

Viral Breakdown

So let’s dig into 5 main reasons this video was able to collect several million views within only 4 days (nearly 1.5 million for this exact video at the time of writing, but several duplicates are cropping up on YouTube), why people started to do covers for this video and the heck do people even care about it in general?

1. Shock value

One of the first things you will notice about this video is how “in your face” it feels. It doesn’t ease into its purpose so much as it jumps in head first, making a big splash and getting every ones attention. From the color scheme, the washed video effect to the giant red “FUCK YOU” that shows up a few seconds in; this video smacks you over the head in a way that most videos fail to capture (for better or for worse).

2. Polarization

The other thing about this video is that it will completely polarize the people who watch it. You either love this video because you think it is absolutely hilarious, or you hate it because it is.. well vulgar, demeaning and gives a “we don’t care about ANYONE” kind of attitude. There isn’t a lot of in-between, and polarization drives discussion, pageviews and awareness.

3. Taboo

We aren’t supposed to like things such as this video, and for that reason many of us do. Like it or not, there is still a lot of money in the adult entertainment industry with part of the allure for many shoppers being the very fact that they aren’t supposed to have/like/watch/participate in whatever the content etc is. Again, this type of behavior just drives more traffic and therefore more awareness.

4. Emotion

This is one of the intangibles for marketers to calculate, which basically is my way of saying I am guessing; but it is not a far stretch to think that a certain percentage of people watching and sharing this video have some kind of emotional motivation to do so because they feel an emotional connection to the story. Did the event portrayed in the story happen to you? You might be tempted to shoot it in an e-mail to your ex. What about one of your friends? You may want to share it on their Facebook wall to make them feel a little more satisfied with the less than stellar situation they just went through. Either way, there are plenty of emotionally driven reasons why someone would share this video.. it is just a lot harder to measure.

5. Scarcity

This one is interesting because the video appears to be part of a pre-launch for a very real song and album and was posted by the “artist” themselves. The lack in ability for customers to buy now does kill  the opportunity to buy the song immediately, but what if they just can’t get the song out of their head? What if YouTube might take it down do to the shock value and polarization of its audience? These things force a video to move sideways into new social graphs through duplicate content (reposting of the same video which is common on YouTube), or the fact that it forces people playing it on repeat to have YouTube open which could then expose their friends to the video version of the song which is almost always the “richest” form of online experiences.

Conclusion

Ultimately there have already been covers done for this song by various artist (some actually pretty decent replications) because those artists want to be associated with the meme and cash in on the fringe brand associations. So the question is here, how can you deliver shock, polarization, taboo, emotional and scarcity components to your next promotional push in order to hit mainstream awareness?

About Travis Ketchum
A smart ass marketer who doesn't take no for an answer and always questions the status quo. Connect with me on Google+. Convinced yet? Get more tips and great content 100% free.

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