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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

Chalk Shows Nike Understands The LeBron James Market

LeBron James Candyman

When you’re a company as big as Nike (their current market cap hovers somewhere north of $34 billion), it’s easy to fall back on brand awareness/brand management when it comes time to roll out a new commercial, and that can lead to laziness and stagnation, as you figure that as long as you’re getting the brand name out there and into the public eye, then you’re moving the brand forward.

Just Do It

However, Nike has stayed on top of their game not because they’re willing to sit back and reap the rewards of previous successes, but because they’re willing to push the limits of what’s possible with brandvertising, and prove to the world that they’re not just on the cutting edge; they’re defining it.

LeBron James Season Six

Their latest spot for the new shoes from LeBron James, called the Season Six, features LeBron and his now famous pre-game routine in which he throws a handful of talcum powder into the air. It’s an electrifying moment, and ‘Chalk’ captures the emotion and the power of that moment and turns it into a strong, beautiful, and inspirational commercial:

However, what you might have missed are a few of the finer details sprinkled throughout the commercial:

  • The background music is a song called ‘Candyman’, originally recorded in 1997 by the British indie group Cornershop. Though it’s more than 10 years old, it still feels fresh even today, and along with the fact that Nike gave the chart topping Lil’ Wayne a cameo in the commercial, shows that Nike understands the music that their target audience listens to.
  • Lil’ Wayne, who grew up on the streets, is no stranger to the ‘candy’ (cocaine) during his rise to fame, and the symbolic brushing of the chalk from his shoes (rising from the streets to stardom, which mirrors LeBron’s rise), shows that Nike understands the streets that their target audience grows up on, and the challenge to rise that they are faced with.
  • Jamie Nared, whose cameo in the commercial features her playing against a team of boys (Jamie was kicked off of her high school’s basketball team for being too good) as well as a shot of her standing alone in the girls locker room shows that Nike understands the struggle for success that their target audience must go through.
  • In addition to LeBron and Jamie, the chalk is also thrown by a barber, an amateur basketball player, a student, fans at the game and a donut maker, covering them all and symbolizing the fact that inspiration from an amazing player like LeBron can touch the lives of almost everyone, and shows that Nike understands the power of the players that they sponsor. (Nike’s contract for LeBron was $90 million over 7 years, though they made it when his skills in the NBA were still untested. However, they were willing to support him because they believed in his potential. In addition, the fact that they sponsor the best of the best shows that they understand what it takes to be the best at any sport, and that their products are what players trust to get them to that level.)
  • The chalk thrown in the donut shop (a central meeting place for the working man) and the barbershop (a central meeting place for the urban community) shows that Nike understands the communities that their target audience lives in.

Jamie Nared Chalk

The mix of music, street, struggle, inspiration and community all combine to show that Nike understands the target audience that it is advertising to better than any other shoe company, and if you’re part of that target audience, then Chalk shows that Nike understands you as well. You feel a connection to the brand, and you feel inspired to use your skills like LeBron has used his to conquer whatever obstacles stand in your way.

Crowd Chalk

The Good:

  • Strong connection to the viewer shows that Nike understands the audience.
  • Complex commercials give different levels of meaning to each viewer.
  • ‘Hidden’ metaphors increases repeat watch-ability and pass-along.
  • Longer, slow motion cuts, a lack of color, and a basic storyline slow the message down and let the viewer enjoy the ad.

The Bad:

  • Subtle messages can get lost when viewers are only looking for the punch line.
  • Cutting edge, risky advertising (cocaine references) can lead to brand backlash.

The Future:

  • Commercials tell stories through hidden metaphors and deeper meaning that draws in the viewer and demonstrates shared understanding, building brand recognition but also forming connections that increase brand loyalty.

Nike Basketball

Hat Tip: Ian Schafer

When Life Steals Your Lemons, Advertise For Lemonade

ESPN Monday Night Football Turf Ad

To get fans excited about Monday Night Football, ESPN created a fantastic series of ads that featured real NFL turf “as a reminder that pigskin can help you get through a crappy Monday”.

Almost immediately the ads started to disappear as fans decided that real NFL turf would also look great in their own apartment or sports bar.

Of the 90 bus shelter postings that were done, 72 were stolen, and every one of the 85 traditional billboard posters also disappeared.

Stolen Turf Ad

However, rather than call the ad campaign a failure, ESPN decided to turn the stolen billboards into an even larger success, and replaced each one with a paper version of the turf ad that mimicked a crime scene, and wished bad karma upon anyone that was bold enough to take the ads so that their fellow football enthusiasts could not enjoy them as well.

Notice: If you’re responsible for the theft of the poster made from real NFL turf that was once hanging here, please return it. It was designed as a reminder that pigskin can help you get through a crappy Monday – so stealing it is just really bad karma. Like next Monday, you might trip over your new turf rug and get snagged on you computer’s power cord, bringing it crashing to the floor. Which could theoretically case it to spark, instantly engulfing the aforementioned rug in hellish flames because, as it turns out, synthetic turf is really flammable. You might want to either (A) return the poster or (B) leave like $300 in the take-a-penny jar today. Bottom line, Mom probably wouldn’t be too proud.

The Good:

  • Turned a negative into a positive.
  • Reacted quickly to the situation.
  • Received tons of additional coverage by having a sense of humor.

The Bad:

  • Lost a bunch of real NFL turf.

The Future:

  • Turn any negative into a positive with quick thinking and a good sense of humor.

New York Times – Turf War Over ESPN Ads at Bus Shelters

The Wizards of Weimer – Karma Police End Turf War