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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

Philips, Charmin And Duracell Are Creating A Clean And Green New Year’s Eve

Times Square New Years Eve

Large public events are always a great time to show off your product and get your brand name into the public eye, and Philips Lighting, Duracell and Charmin are using the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop to their advantage by sponsoring various parts of the festivities.

New Years Eve Ball

Philips Lighting

First, Philips Lighting helped to revamp the Ball for 2009, doubling the size of previous Balls and creating a new Ball that weighs in at 11,875 pounds. The 12-foot geodesic sphere is covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights. The end result is a Ball that is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns that will definitely be tough to miss.

In addition, the Philips technology that’s powering the Ball is greener than ever before. According to Philips, even though the Ball contains more than three times the number of LEDs used in last year’s Ball, the solid state lighting technology that’s being used to light this year’s Ball results in an astounding increase in impact and color capabilities, while being 10-20% more energy efficient than last year’s already energy-efficient Ball. In fact, Philips claims that despite being a central focus of the entire Times Square New Year’s Eve party, the Ball consumes about the same amount of energy per hour as it would take to operate two traditional home ovens.

New Year's Eve 2009 Sign


Second, once the Ball finishes its drop, Duracell’s battery technology will kick in to power the 2009 sign that will signify the arrival of the New Year. Just powering the sign with batteries doesn’t send much of a message though, so Duracell is bringing the power to the people in 2009 by lighting the sign with energy generated through human pedal power.

Duracell Snowmobikes

Inside of what they call the Power Lodge, Duracell has set up a fleet of ‘snowmobikes’ that visitors can pedal to capture and store energy using rotary technology, and each snowmobike feeds into giant Duracell batteries that then ‘store’ the energy needed to light the sign.

“We estimate our goal is to get 230 hours of people doing the cycle over the course of December and then we will have enough charge in the batteries for at least 10 to 15 minutes during the live telecast.” said Kurt Iverson, spokesman for Duracell.

When all was said and done, it took 137,228 people to generate enough pedal power to light up the 608 halogen bulbs that make up the sign, as it will require 7.25 kilowatt-hours of electricity after the famous ball drop. (For comparison, in 2006, the average residence in the United States consumed 920 kilowatt-hours per month.)

Gisele Bundchen

As with any good publicity stunt, Duracell also brought in a number of celebrities to pedal some power into the campaign, including supermodel Gisele Bundchen, entertainment legend Liza Minnelli, news anchor Katie Couric, musicians Nick Lachey, Leona Lewis, Brandy, Sean Paul, Lady GaGa, Ne-Yo and Natasha Bedingfield, actors Peter Facinelli and Michael Urie, the cast of the New Electric Company, and “Project Runway” winner Christian Siriano.

In addition to powering the sign, Duracell is also helping tourists and revelers to ‘recharge’ with the Duracell Recharge Rest Stop, a part of the Power Lodge that allows anyone to plug-in and charge their personal entertainment and digital devices – including digital cameras, cell phones, BlackBerrys, iPods, MP3 players and gaming devices – at Duracell Power Stations.

“Times Square visitors are learning that Duracell is here to serve their personal power needs to keep their devices juiced up — even when a power outlet is nowhere to be found,” said Craig Bida, Duracell brand manager. “People depend on their mobile devices today like never before, and Duracell is making it easier to keep things powered up anytime and anywhere.”

Charmin Restrooms


Lastly, Charmin will be the toilet paper of choice at the third annual Charmin Restrooms in Times Square. The Restrooms, which sit directly below the Duracell Power Lodge, give tourists and New Yorkers alike a bit of ‘relief’ with the ultimate bathroom experience, and sit right on Times Square as a special holiday gift from Charmin.

Not one to pass up a good celebrity publicity stunt either, Charmin brought in Joey Fatone as the ‘King of the Throne’, and he christened the ‘Luxurious Loos’ with a ceremonial ‘First Flush’.

Charmin Restrooms Detail

Together, Philips Lighting, Duracell and Charmin are creating a clean and green New Year’s celebration for 2009 that has earned them plenty of publicity, and a well-deserved ‘Thank You’ from the city of New York.

The Good:

  • Sponsoring a huge event results in tons of press coverage.
  • Consumers get a chance to experience your product first hand.
  • Symbolic products highlight the features and benefits of your main product line.
  • Green technology taps into a current trend and consumer concern.
  • Sponsored products are seen by millions through television coverage of the event.

The Bad:

  • High cost of sponsorship brings the return on investment down.

The Future:

  • Sponsoring pieces and parts of a large event keeps sponsorship costs down while still allowing consumers to see and interact with your products on a large scale.

Philips Lighting – New Year’s Eve Ball

Duracell – Power Lodge

Charmin – Restrooms