The Viral Video Manifesto: Think Like a Street Performer

Viral Video Think Like a Street Performer

This blog post is part of a 4-part blog series on how to make a viral video based on the four principles outlined in the book The Viral Video Manifesto.

Unlike a movie where the audience knows beforehand that it will be a 2 hour investment full of character back stories, compelling narratives and hopefully a thrilling yet unexpected ending, a viral video must think like a street performer.

A street performer has a few seconds to capture and maintain the attention of its passers-by. When creating a viral video, forget your narrative and provide the audience with only the “money shots”. That means no logos, no product shots, and definitely no screen casts.

Deliver Only the “Money Shots”

The objective of a viral video is to induce an emotional reaction from your audience that moves them to share your content. Boring logos and screen casts will not get anyone to share the video.

But will having no product shots hurt sales or worse branding? Absolutely not.

Let’s take a look at GoDaddy’s Superbowl Ad:

With over 11 million views on YouTube, it’s a great example of a company focusing on only the “money shots”.

GoDaddy was promoting their website builder suite yet decided to spend one third of a million dollar ad on the infamous kiss. There were no screen shots of its features, no pictures of beautiful websites, and no grandparents using the tool (to highlight its ease-of-use).

As a result of the ad, GoDaddy posted its biggest sales day in history with a 45% increase in hosting sales, a 40% increase in dot-com sales, and a 35% increase in new mobile customers. The company added 10,000 customers in total.

The Experts Weigh-in

I got a chance to interview the authors Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe of EepyBird to get a more in-depth look at this principle.

Steve: Can you explain what you mean by “think like a street performer” when creating a viral video?

Stephen: What we mean is that online, just like on the street corner, you only have a matter of seconds before people either decide to stay and watch or to move on. We’ve each watched a lot of street performers, we know a lot of street performers, and we’ve done some ourselves, and one thing you learn is passers-by decide very quickly, “Is this worth my time or not?” and if not, they’re gone. Online, it’s exactly the same. That’s why our mantra is “nothing but the money shots.” If you’ve got a sword swallower, show her swallowing swords – don’t tell us her life story. We may need a very brief few seconds in the beginning in which she demonstrates that she’s using a real sword, but as soon as we understand that: get down to business.

Steve: Why is it important for marketers to avoid logos and product shots?

Stephen: Several reasons: First, logos and product shots never occur anywhere except in ads, so when they do appear, they instantly flag the video as a commercial of some kind, and that’s not what you want. Second, viral video is about showing your audience something unforgettable, and it’s a product shot or a logo is rarely going to have anything to do with whatever is that you’ve got that’s unforgettable. And that means it isn’t true, that it’s not sharing the authentic experience of someone who was actually there at the time would have experienced, it’s giving them your commercial message instead. That’s a kind of “bait and switch” that turns viewers off and makes them not want to share. Finally, a logo or a product shot isn’t a money shot, and to go viral, you need to make your video “nothing but the money shots.”

Steve: Will the light branding hurt sales?

Stephen: Well, the light branding in our Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments video boosted two liter Diet Coke sales in the United States by over five percent. Our next video for Coke, The Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments II: The Domino Effect had similarly light branding and also boosted two liter Diet Coke sales in the U.S. by over five percent. Those videos also boosted Mentos sales by fifteen percent – for three years straight. So clearly, light branding can really move product. But you also have to consider what traditional branding, with it’s heavy emphasis on logos and product shots, will do. It will all but kill your chances of going viral in the first place, so all of your effort will likely be wasted.

Want more?

Ready to discover the three other principles that will help you achieve viral video success? Click here to read more and receive a bonus 5th principle not highlighted in the book.

— Steve Young

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About Steve Young
Steve Young is the Director of Product Marketing for SmartShoot, a marketplace that connects businesses and individuals with freelance photographers and videographers from around the world.. Follow Steve on Twitter.
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