UPDATE: On January 12, 2010, Ray-Ban released another video in their ‘Never Hide Films’ series showing a guy getting a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses tattooed on his face. (The video, called ‘Guy Has Glasses Tattooed On His Face’, is shown below.) Once again the video was picked up by a number of very popular blogs and sites, and quickly spread throughout the internet, fueled by ‘Real vs. Fake’ discussions (it’s fake) and amassing nearly 500,000 views in just two days. By keeping their finger on the pulse of what’s cool, unique and attention grabbing, Ray-Ban has turned their video series into a viral video factory, and now has the track record to prove it.
To help promote their line of sunglasses, Ray-Ban created a series of viral videos called Never Hide Films. With 11 total videos to date, they’ve seen multi-million view successes, and four-digit failures, so it’s an interesting look at what works well as an online viral video, and what doesn’t.
Their most recent video, released just two days ago, is called “Cow Gives Birth To A Dude”, and has already been viewed more than 150,000 times:
This video is pure shock and awe, and the pull-no-punches approach works well on a site like YouTube, where viewers have seen just about everything done a thousand times over and have become numb to even relatively shocking videos, so that it takes something truly unique to grab their attention. Part of this video’s success is due to the fact that Never Hide Films has an established channel on YouTube with more than 1,400 subscribers, but it’s also due in large part to the fact that when you view the video, you’re left with a feeling of “WTF?” (as evidenced by a majority of the comments left on the video saying just that) and you know that if you send it to a friend, they will have that same feeling as well. It becomes a tool that viewers can use to surprise and shock their friends, and they pass it along with that goal in mind.
The second video, and their most popular video to date, is called “Guy Catches Glasses With Face”, and has received nearly four million views in just over a year. What made this video a success was that it used an existing YouTube meme (amazing and unbelievable actions performed over and over again with an increasing difficulty, such as long basketball shots, tossing cans into a recycling bin from a long distance, or complicated and multi-step beer pong shots) but did so in a very fluid and believable way. This was also one of their first films, so it spurred a lot of discussion about whether or not the video was real or fake, and one YouTube user even posted an elaborate, shot by shot explanation of how the video was made:
Even after it was shown to be fake however, the quality and the uniqueness of the idea ensured that people continue to watch it and share it with others.
The third video was a sequel to the “Guy Catches Glasses With Face” video, called “Bobbing For Glasses”, and it’s a great example of how you can take the success from one video and transfer it into the next. The idea is very similar to the first video, as an amazing and unbelievable action is repeated over and over again, but this time, they were able to link their face catching video to the glasses bobbing video using YouTube’s built-in video reply feature, as well as their editable description area, thus sending anyone that was interested in the face catching video over to the glasses bobbing video as well.
Lastly, their second most popular video, called “Bikini Body Builder Vs. Rubik’s Cube” was a precursor to the cow video in that it was very much designed to shock and awe, relying on pure absurdity to draw in viewers. At just over a minute long, it’s also long enough to establish itself as a strange and unusual video that’s willing to really dive into a concept, but short enough to grab someone’s attention, reward them for watching the entire thing, and then move them on to the next video in the Never Hide Films series:
This video also shows the power of frequently used YouTube keywords, such as Bikini, Body Builder and Rubik’s Cube, as each of those topics has its own community of videos within YouTube that results in a lot of search traffic and tie-ins to related videos.
Though Ray-Ban’s Never Hide Films have not always been successes, they’re willing to take a risk and put unique and interesting content out there to see what sticks, and then once they have a success on their hands, they leverage that success to make their next video successful as well, thus continuing to virally grow their community.
- Unique and interesting videos draw in a large and varied audience.
- Success from one video transfers to the next through built-in tools that YouTube provides.
- Tapping into an existing meme ensures that the videos become part of an established group of popular content.
- Shock-and-awe approach helps the videos stand out from the crowd.
- Willingness to take a risk results in some videos that aren’t successful, but larger successes when a video does resonate well within the YouTube community.
- Never Hide Films created their own Digg account to promote the films through that channel, but did not put enough time or effort into that account to make the submissions a success, resulting in a missed opportunity for additional views.
- The videos are buried inside of Ray-Bans’ Flash website rather than being featured on their own URL, eliminating any social networking or social bookmarking potential.
- Branding is too subtle and often goes unnoticed, as the videos could have featured a post-roll ad without a huge loss in authenticity once the initial ‘real or fake’ debates ended.
- Low quality videos make it difficult to see many of the effects clearly.
- Viral videos push the boundaries of decency in an effort to stand out from the crowd, resulting in a series of hits and misses that need to be optimized once the community finds a video that it likes.