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Ken Block And DC Shoes Make Gymkhana A Viral Video Guarantee

Ken Block Gymkhana

Viral videos aren’t usually made, they’re chosen, but the second Gymkhana video from Ken Block and DC Shoes was born to be viral:

Since I’m guaranteeing that this one will be a hit, let’s take a look at what makes it work:

  • If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – Their original Gymkhana video, called Gymkhana Practice, was viewed more than 20 million times, including 12+ million views on Ken Block’s site, 5+ million views on YouTube, millions of views on a special Gymkhana site including downloads of the high definition version, and millions more views on copies of the video that fans uploaded into their own accounts. With success like that, why change a good thing? Thankfully, they didn’t, and instead, they took what was so amazing about the first video and just added to it, including more stunts, more speed, and more slow-motion.
  • Give Viewers OptionsToo many companies try to retain too much control over their video, and only let viewers watch it on a channel of their choosing. DC Shoes went in the exact opposite direction, and put the video in as many places as possible, starting with YouTube and expanding out from there. By giving viewers a choice, DC Shoes allowed them to find the video wherever they looked, and in all kinds of formats, including downloadable formats that could then be saved and shared with others using a laptop, iPhone or iPod. They also made it a point to release the video in HD whenever possible, giving viewers the full experience and showing off the intricate detail of the slow motion stunt shots. I’m always amazed by how many companies create a fantastic video and then cripple it by releasing a low quality version online, so it was good to see that this was not the case here. Finally, the video is embeddable and sharable so that any blog or website can grab it and feature it, allowing the view numbers to grow and the buzz to spread quickly despite the fact that DC can’t easily convert those viewers into sales. Like the low quality video issue, I’m always surprised and disappointed by companies that put their videos online, but then don’t allow them to be shared, since that’s what the web is all about, and a lack of sharing represents a huge missed opportunity for additional views and increased buzz. (I’m even more surprised by companies that go so far as to remove copies of their videos when they’re uploaded by fans into their own account, since these videos can only represent an opportunity for additional views, and are obviously created by fans of the work. Deleting these videos just limits the amount of free exposure that they will receive, and more than likely pisses off a major fan of the brand.) For DC Shoes, the extra views that these extra copies of the video generate will just make the buzz that much more intense, and the long tail sales will more than make up for the short term sacrifice in control.

Ken Block

  • Do Something Unexpected – Before the first gymkhana (pronounced jim-kah-nuh) video debuted, no one had heard of the sport, including most hard core car guys, so it caught people by surprise. (In fact, they spent a few moments in the first video introducing people to the concept so that viewers would know it wasn’t just something that the DC Shoes team had invented.) That being said, when a 500+ horsepower tuner car comes tearing onto the screen in a screech of tire smoke and then proceeds to spins around for five minutes, people are going to take notice. In the second video, unexpected comes in the form of unique stunts that were done as much for their visual appeal as they were for their danger. These stunts include a donut through a series of florescent bulbs, each one breaking in succession and sending a shower of glass shards into the air, a high speed spin though a field of water balloons, a slow motion smash against a water balloon being held by a crash test dummy made famous by a TV show that Ken Block’s cohort Rob Dyrdek stars in, a donut around a paintball firing Rob Dyrdek himself to pay tribute to the donut around a Segway that drove a lot of the buzz about the first video, and finally, a spin under a semi-truck (possibly referencing the original Fast and the Furious movie) that ends in a massive slow-motion explosion.
  • Know Your Audience – Even if the video doesn’t get viewed by millions of people, it will get viewed by every single automotive enthusiast with a computer and a friend, so DC Shoes is guaranteed to reach their target market with their message. Occasionally, this hyper-targeting results in the sacrifice of wider appeal in exchange for a greater appeal within the target market, but in this case, DC found a happy medium that will serve everyone equally. Plus, by understanding who they wanted to go after and what those viewers wanted to see, they were able to create something that was a must-watch for that target, and even better, a must-share as well. Fire? Check. Explosions? Check. Loud, brightly colored car? Check and Check. It’s all there, and it’s all got one goal in mind: Grab the attention of every car guy on the planet and hold that attention for five minutes.

Gymkhana Explosion

  • Set A Due Date – There was still plenty of buzz surrounding the first video when word of the second video started to spread, so when DC shoes announced a date and posted a teaser trailer for the second video onto their website, the frenzy just compounded upon itself. By giving (and also sticking to) a firm release date, DC made everyone a part of the debut, and didn’t just limit it to a few select blogs in an attempt to control the roll-out. This also meant that anyone who wanted to grow their whuffie by being the first to share it with their friends could do so, because everyone would see it at the same time, so chances are, if you shared it on the day that it debuted, then those that you were sending it to had either not yet seen it, or had just seen it and would be eager to watch it again.
  • Take Calculated Risks – One interesting aspect of this video is the fact that DC Shoes took a risk and lulled through the first minute of the video with product placement and blatant selling (normally a mortal sin for any video wishing to go viral). However, since viewers of the first video knew that delayed satisfaction was all but guaranteed, DC knew that anticipation would be high, and that as long as they kept the selling section to a minimum and made it fun and interesting (which they did) that they could keep the attention of their viewers for an extra minute, and sell to them at the same time. It’s a best of both worlds scenario that rarely gets pulled off effectively, but I think that DC Shoes did a great job in this video of combining both goals.

One Final Note: Another cool thing that DC Shoes did that hasn’t really been done before was experiment with holophonic sound, allowing the viewer to feel like they were a part of the action and placing them ‘inside’ one of Ken Block’s donuts. It’s basically an extension of point three above, since the ‘Donuts Audio’ video was released as a supplement to the main gymkhana video, but by toying with the audio and encouraging users to listen to it with their headphones on, DC Shoes was able to provide some extra content for the viewers that liked the main video, and wanted to dig a little deeper into the whole concept:

The Good:

  • Builds upon the success of a previous video while maintaining the proven formula.
  • Was made available in a variety of formats on a variety of channels.
  • Used a firm due date and teaser videos to build up a huge amount of buzz, and then delivered on that buzz.

The Bad:

  • Excessive product placement will turn some viewers off.

The Future:

  • Over-the-top videos almost guarantee viral video success, though companies will need to find a balance between entertaining and selling.

DC Shoes – Gymkhana Two Project

Skittles Embraces Social Media In A Big Way

Skittles

Most brands have at least dipped a toe into the waters of social media, but earlier this week, Skittles sent the online world into a tizzy by being the first brand to jump head first into the deep end. They did so by turning Skittles.com into a social media portal, and turning their brand and brand message over to the fans through the user generated content that’s been placed on various social media channels.

Skittles Pop-Up

After confirming your date of birth (which seems a little silly since you can see everything that appears behind the pop-up window before entering a date anyways, and because all of the individual channels are available freely to anyone of any age) you’re taken directly to one of the Skittles channels (Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter or Wikipedia) where you can view it in all its glory, plus an overlay to help you get from one channel to the next. As can be expected, some people used the opportunity to spam the Skittles fans with NC-17 messages and randomly tagged junk, but eventually the novelty wore off and things returned to normal. (Or normal, plus the tons of extra traffic and chatter from the increased awareness that the campaign created.)

Skittles YouTube

For a brand that had little to no online presence (admit it, you hadn’t been to Skittles.com in the last six months either) they managed to go from zero to hero in less than 24 hours. Sure, they have done some fantastic TV spots recently that garnered a few views on YouTube, and people occasionally uploaded a picture of a design they created on their counter with a bag of Skittles onto Flickr, but there was no compelling reason for anyone to visit Skittles.com. After this campaign went live however, every blog, every news channel, every pundit, and every person with an opinion about the campaign and the Skittles brand was sharing it with others, and Skittles became not only the hot topic of the entire Internet for a day, but a buzzword for the rest of the week as well.

Skittles Comment Moderation

Now obviously this isn’t a model that would work well for any brand, since no one wants to visit the Wikipedia page for Joe’s Finger Traps and Staple Removers, but it does show that with a little effort, you can take the conversations and interactions that are already happening about a brand and amplify them through the use of social media. In addition, Skittles realized that these conversations and interactions are going to happen anyways, so they could either try to ignore them, or they could embrace them and participate in them as a way to regain some control over them. (Ironically enough, they gained back that control by going through the motions of giving up that control all together.)

In addition, when you look at the Return on Investment for a campaign like this, the numbers are phenomenal. The overlay itself doesn’t cost a lot to design and implement, the buzz spreads the word automatically, and Skittles was creating and designing their own social media channels anyways, so this just gave them a chance to show off their work and share a bit of the spotlight. Plus, once everything is in place, the users are the ones making the content, so Skittles can just sit back and relax with their hand on the moderation key for the occasional fan mis-step.

(This does bring up a good point however about moderation and a brand’s willingness to let go. For Skittles, they made the choice, either intentionally or accidentally, to give users full control, and I think it was the right choice to make. If you try to control the message, anything that slips through will be blamed on the brand, but when it’s obvious that the fans have full control, the message gets attributed directly to the creator and doesn’t send shrapnel towards the brand if anything off-brand makes it through. Plus, users tend to police themselves, so the detractors eventually get bored and move on while the true fans stick around to create content and promote the brand.)

So what are the lessons to be learned from the Skittles campaign, and how can a brand begin to adapt them into their own online strategy?

  1. Stop worrying so much about controlling the message. Users are out there talking about your brand anyways, and they’re doing it in their own words and their own way and without your influence, so trying too hard to control the message is only going to upset them and discourage their contributions. Instead, embrace customers that are evangelical enough to talk about your brand with others, and encourage and motivate them to do so through rewards like the social justification of appearing on your website or the physical rewards of a contest or giveaway. If you do need to retain some control, do so by supporting the positive and ignoring the negative, because the system will naturally monitor and correct itself over time.
  2. Integrate user generated content into your website. Rather than trying to segment everything into its own little area (Videos go on YouTube, Photos go on Flickr, etc.) create a central location for customers and potential customers to see it all together. Potential customers are going to seek out the opinions of current customers anyways, since we naturally trust other people the most when making a decision, so brands might as well embrace that exchange of opinion and make it happen on their own turf. Plus, it keeps development costs down, and helps keep a site relevant and fresh.
  3. Focus as much attention on the leading social media channels as you do on you own website. Gone are the days when a user went to a company’s website to find out more information about that company. Instead, they’re looking for that company in the places that they’re already visiting, and chances are, if the company’s not there officially, they’re finding someone or something else that’s there in its place. To capitalize on this, embrace the power of social media, and put simple and cost effective work into creating a place that people want to be and that motivates them to share.

The Good:

  • Total integration of social media encourages participation and consumer interaction.
  • Novel approach increases buzz and drives huge spikes in traffic.
  • Development and upkeep costs are kept low, increasing ROI.

The Bad:

  • Users can abuse the privilege with spam and inappropriate messaging.

The Future:

  • Companies put some (or all) of their brand into the hands of their fans, and let social media shape their message in a public way.

Skittles

Never Hide Films Are Viral Successes For Ray-Ban

Never Hide Films

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.

The Good:

  • 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.

The Bad:

  • 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.

The Future:

  • 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.

Ray-Ban