When is a viral video not a viral video?

by Matt Burgess on February 3, 2010

Q: When is a viral video not a viral video?
A: When Tony Richardson says so.

Ok, that may seem a snide comment. But this post over at Mumbrella from Tony Richardson really does seem a denial in the face of reality. While you should visit the Mumbrella post to read the full argument, the executive summary is this:

Coke releases their “Happiness Machine” video, which you can watch below.

Tony Richardson calls it “possibly the lamest viral ever”, as it breaks three “cardinal” rules. In his own words, “Coke broke all three viral rules and probably more. Too much branding, shot too professionally, strange fake story with people who are obviously acting. Then they titled it ‘Happiness Machine’. Ouch.”

The problem with Tony’s stance.

The problem with Tony’s post, as well intentioned as it may be, is that – at the time of writing – Coke’s “Happiness Machine” video has been viewed over 1.3 million times. And, with an average 5 star rating from over 5000 votes, it’s fair to say that the video has been received fairly favourably. So, is it really fair to say that – just because the video breaks rules that “social media video experts” have decided should apply to viral successes – the video itself is not a viral success?

I’m going to claim that the numbers speak for themselves.

The bigger problem.

This post isn’t an attack on Tony; from what I’ve been told the man knows his stuff, and the rules he outlines really are helpful. But I think the post points towards a larger issue within the “digital marketing & social media community”. One that’s bothered me for quite some time now, and one that I’ve mentioned countless times in the past.

We are not the target audience, people.

Within the digital marketing crowd, things can get a bit insular, and we seem to forget that we are not the target audience. By our very profession, we are often not representative of the average user out there that a particular brand is talking to.

Consumers do not care about our so called “viral rules”. They only know what they like.
It’s the reason the “happiness machine” is being shared around. It’s the reason that not every brand needs to run their twitter account according to what “social media experts” may tell them. It’s the reason I cringe when I hear “digital marketing experts” spouting “transparency and engagement commandments” to any and every company, regardless of whether it applies to their vertical or not. It’s also the reason we need to forget about rules.

Don’t go with what “experts” tell you is right. Go with what works.

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