MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: There are so many ways for businesses to get their messages out to potential customers. Sometimes, the message is shaped by the medium itself. For instance, “viral videos.” Brian Cooley is an executive editor for CNET.com. I asked him to give us a little example:
BRIAN COOLEY: Well, Mark, a viral video by definition is one that users pick up on and start telling each other about. In short order, huge numbers of people are therefore sharing it or sending people to go see it. That’s the viral part. It spreads like a virus, hence the name. The videos themselves could be anything. It could be amateurly produced content about a company or its business. Or it could be the company’s own intentionally produced content that really got people’s attention.
THOMAS: This sounds like one of those instances in which slick messages aren’t going to translate as effectively into this type of video. Is that right?
COOLEY: Exactly. This is not . . . You’re not going to see people get excited and virally talk about something that they’ve seen as part of a commercial block on television. That’s not interesting. That’s just the same thing we’ve all grown up with forever. Often, it’s something that’s quirky, that is unique.
Here’s an example of one that didn’t work as intended but worked really well. General Motors allowed people to go to a special website and, using some video clips and some music that was on the site, you could build your own spot for one of their SUVs. And they thought folks were going to make these praise spots, how great the vehicle is. You could take some footage and music and put your own titles across it in text and all this. Well, instead, a bunch of environmentalists got on there and slammed the vehicle, and made a whole bunch of really clever, funny, well-produced spots using GM’s own resources that made this thing look like it was the end of the Earth, and really savaged it for how it contributes to global warming.
Now, that virally spread because it was a corporately sponsored message that went left. And it wasn’t what people expected. And yet, people took delight in the fact that it was either, A) Funny; or B) got a message across. One thing going on right now that is really popular are videos of people putting Mentos into Diet Coke. There’s one team out there, in particular a couple of guys who run a website who’ve been doing all kinds of videos, showing this explosive thing that happens — it’s almost like putting . . . if you’ve ever put baking soda into vinegar, a thing we used to do as kids — and it just completely froths over. The Mentos and Diet Coke so the same thing. And people are putting small holes in the Coke bottle so it sprays out in interesting arcs all over the place. And it’s quite the toy. And the videos they’ve done of this are truly hilarious. And they’re doing a really good job of shooting them and kind of directing them and all this. It’s like watching the waterworks in front of the Belagio in Las Vegas the way they’ve got it down. So, here’s an idea of two corporate products — Mentos and Diet Coke — that are being used in a different way. And one of those companies reportedly likes the exposure — Mentos; One of them seems very cool to it — Diet Coke. So, different corporate senses of humor will respond to a viral action on their behalf differently.
THOMAS: Brian Cooley is an executive editor for CNET.com.
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