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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

LEGO Uses Augmented Reality To Make Models Come To Life

Lego Digital Box

LEGO is testing out a new idea called the Digital Box that could forever change the way we think of product packaging.

The Digital Box is the work of Metaio, the same company that created the Virtual Mini, and it uses the same augmented reality technology to create a virtual model of the LEGO toy from inside the box that sits on top of the box when held in front of a special interactive kiosk. While this might seem like a neat trick for in-store consumers, just imagine what it could do for online shopping.

As you can see in the picture, the Digital Box is just a monitor that’s connected to a computer that’s using a Logitech webcam to capture video. Each box contains a tracking mark, and that tracking mark tells the computer exactly where to place the LEGO model in the video, but it doesn’t need to be limited to just the LEGO box, as that tracking mark could just as easily be printed out from home and viewed through your own webcam.

Now, when shopping on Amazon or any other online e-tailer, instead of just viewing a picture of the completed LEGO model on your computer, you could actually hold a virtual representation of the finished model in your hands and twist and turn it to easily examine it from all angles. Taking the concept a step further, and sticking with LEGO as an example, you can even imagine a scenario where you could watch the entire model assemble itself on the screen before your very own eyes, giving you an idea of how difficult the model will be to assemble, and how everything fits together.

What’s interesting is that this imaginary scenario is quickly becoming a reality, as LEGO will be testing the Digital Box at a few of their European stores initially, but could roll it out to each one of their stores in the next year or two if the initial test is successful. From there, it’s not hard to imagine them integrating the technology into their website so that anyone browsing through the various LEGO models could get a very detailed look at each and every one before deciding which to buy.

The Good:

  • Augmented reality brings a boxed product to life and lets kids see what they’re really buying.
  • Low technological requirements make this campaign accessible to almost anyone.
  • Has the potential to easily expand online and drastically alter the way we shop for products through our computer.

The Bad:

  • Not yet an intuitive process, so many consumers will miss the campaign entirely.

The Future:

  • Augmented reality changes the way we shop for products online and brings many different static products to life.

Heinz Experiments With Talk To The Plants

Heinz Talk To The Plant

We’ve all heard that plants grow better when they have human interaction, but Heinz wants to put that theory to the test with the Talk to the Plant experiment. In addition, they want to prove their slogan that “no one grows ketchup like Heinz”.

Talk To The Plant Experiment

The central focus of the campaign is a webcam rig that features live views of two different tomato plants. One plant is growing by itself, and one is growing next to a speaker that’s connected to a voice synthesis device, which is in turn controlled by anyone participating in the experiment via the website. To take part, users simply type their message into the prompt and select a voice, and their message will be put in line, and then read out loud through the speaker. A microphone in front of the speaker also transmits the message online so that anyone watching can hear the message live as its being played, and to further prove that the video is live, they’ve even put a little clock in the background so that you can verify that it’s ticking away in real time.

Heinz How To

What’s great about this campaign is that it personifies the plants, and makes people really think about what goes into something as simple as their ketchup. In addition, the interactivity is a fantastic way to ensure repeat visits, because once you commit to coaxing the plant, you’re more likely to check back in and see how it’s doing, and perhaps even offer up more words of encouragement. Having a live counter of the number of love messages sent also helps, because it provides social justification for participating, as well as a little bit of digital peer pressure.

The Behind the Scenes blog is also a nice touch, and should have been promoted even more considering the amount of work they put into it. One of the most interesting features is a word cloud that shows a visual representation of which words are the most commonly used:

Heinz Word Cloud

They also used the blog to celebrate achievements and milestones, such as the 10,000th message broadcast: “everybody if you can, do the bartman, shake your body, if you can turn it out man”. In addition, the blog serves as a documented history of the campaign, including periodic measurements and details on the necessary rebuilding of the camera rig.

What’s unfortunate is that they didn’t create more video assets. Though they created a trio of videos and published them onto their own YouTube account, one video is dominated by a pre-roll ad, one is very short, and the other just isn’t that interesting:

What they should have done is created a few time lapse videos of the plants growing, gathered together some of the funnier messages, or even just done a full video walk-through of the camera setup and the experiment process. Since it’s a very visual campaign, any additional information would go a long way towards drawing new viewers in.

It’s great to see companies embrace new technologies like live video feeds in their ad campaigns, and create things that don’t need a lot of dollars to deliver a lot of value, but it’s unfortunate to see a campaign with so much potential held back by such trivial details. However, with more than 18,500 messages left for the plant already, the campaign was far from a failure, and hopefully we’ll see them revisit the idea again with a little more support now that they’ve seen the number of viewers that a campaign like this can bring in.

The Good:

  • Highly interactive campaign encourages participation.
  • Live webcam footage enables viewers to track the campaign at any point during the day that fits in their schedule.
  • Behind the Scenes blog is filled with interesting tidbits of information, and serves as a permanent record of the ‘scientific’ experiment.

The Bad:

  • Voice systhesis doesn’t have the same effect as enabling users to submit their words of encouragement through recorded audio messages.
  • Flash website without specific social bookmarking and social networking buttons makes this a difficult campaign to share with others.
  • YouTube is a missed opportunity for additional publicity and buzz.

The Future:

  • New technologies give an inside look into some of the behind the scenes elements of an often hidden company, and users participate to make a campaign a success.

Heinz – Talk to the Plant