11 Marketing Lessons from the Top YouTube Viral Videos of 2012

YouTube LogoOne of the features of 2012 was the continued growth of video marketing. Smart phones and digital technology have made it easier, cheaper and more convenient than ever before to record video footage.

2012 saw many viral videos cross over from YouTube into mainstream media – Psy had a worldwide smash hit with ‘Gangnam Style’ and became an international pop star almost overnight. TV Channels have created TV clip shows like ‘Rude Tube’ based on YouTube videos. Viral videos are a feature of many other popular shows – for example ‘Have I Got News For You’ and ‘Russell Howards Good News’. Videos like ‘Kony 2012’, ‘Cat Bin Lady’ and ‘Fenton’ have also appeared on mainstream TV news stories.

Social media has created a world that is completely interconnected which means remarkable videos  spread like wildfire - you can reach millions and millions of people in minutes when you get it right.

The way that remarkable videos spread quickly across social networks creates a fantastic opportunity for marketers to shoot their own commercials, stories, interviews, music videos, news reports and reviews.

If you haven’t already realised it, then take this sentence to heart:

You are now a media company. You have your own TV channel (YouTube), your own magazine and publishing channel (Twitter, blogs, your website), and your own radio station (podcasts).

With video predicted to take up 90%of internet use in 2013 (by Cisco), this trend will only grow in the year ahead. So let’s take a look back at some of the viral video success stories of 2012, and what we as marketers can learn from them. Here are 11 lessons from some of the top viral videos of 2012:

Lesson One: Create events that will attract attention 

Video:Red Bull Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights

Views: 31 Million

RedBull have done a great job in associating their brand with extreme and adrenaline sports, and the Austrians 23 mile freefall was essentially a publicity stunt, funded by RedBulls marketing budget. It was televised live on TV channels around the world, and when RedBull posted this highlights video to their YouTube channel, it has attracted millions of views, plus thousands of shares and comments. Not every business can afford to drop a man from space, but you can still draw attention and create positive association with your brand by creating your own events or sponsoring other events which appeal to your target market.

Lesson Two: Be Creative

Video: OK Go - Needing/Getting – Chevrolet

Views: 23 Million

This video is a fantastic example of being creative with your product – this ad is original and unusual and fits In perfectly with the music video-watching demographic they are trying to reach. As a result, it is the kind of video you want to share with other people. So ask yourself: how can you be creative with your product or service?

Lesson Three: Have a sense of humour

Video: Dollar shave club – Our blades are f***ing great

Views: 7.8m

This video is a classic sales presentation – it highlights all the features and benefits of the service and the product, includes a call to action and gets across their USP. However because it’s done with tongue-in-cheek humour and a sense of fun, it is highly entertaining and feels like you are watching a piece of comedy rather than a commercial. Oh, and an additional lesson from Dollar Shave Club: any video is improved by including a dancing bear…

Lesson Four: Use animation

Video: Dumb ways to die

Views: 34m

Rather than the usual shock tactics, the ad agency involved created a childrens-style animation with a catchy song. Free animation tools like Goanimate, Devolver and Animasher make it possible for any business to create an animated video to get across your marketing message.

Lesson Five: Ask your customers for ideas

Video: Folksam – parachuting cats

Views: 284,000

When Swedish Pet Insurance company Folsam asked their customers for ideas they shold put in their adverts, one of them suggested skydiving cats set to R Kelly. This is the result…

Lesson Six: Create a music parody

Video: Farmer style

Views: 10m

There are pages and pages of Gangam Style song parodys – my favourite is ‘farmer style’ by the Peterson Farm Brothers, which now has over 10 million views. Song parodys are a great way to communicate a marketing message in an entertaining way, and if you choose a viral sensation like Gangam Style (over 988m views), your videos can reach a huge audience very quickly.

Lesson Seven: Have clear calls to action and reach out to influencers

Video: Kony 2012

Views: 95m

Invisible Childrens Jason Russell created a video which harnesses many great marketing ideas – it tells a compelling story, it is emotional, it is personal and it is touching. What made this video a viral sensation though, was the fact that it gave the viewer clear and  simple actions to take. One of the calls to action was to target influencers in social media, one of which was Lady Gaga. The views took off when Lady Gaga retweeted the link to her 32 Million Twitter followers.

Lesson Eight: Video doesn’t need high quality production

Video: Isaacs live lip dub proposal

Views: 16m

Often business owners are put off by creating video because they feel they need expensive equipment, lighting, a studio, editing equipment. The success of this video shows that if a message is emotional, sincere, entertaining and remarkable than it can be  shot on a handheld camera. This video does, however, significantly raise the bar for anyone considering proposing to their partner…

Lesson Nine: Create suspense

Video: A dramatic surprise on a quiet square

Views: 40m

This ad creates a sense of drama and curiosity, and when the moment arrives, the surprise is incredibly satisfying – it makes you immediately want to show the video to someone else. It is also worth noting that as well as parodys, there are video reviews, responses, and sequels to this hit video from TNT (many getting hundreds, even thousands of views) proving that you can get an audience by putting your own twist on an existing viral video.

Lesson Ten: Respond to negative feedback

Video: Bodyform responds

Views: 3.5m

This spoof message from Bodyform ‘CEO’ (it’s actually an actress) is a satirical response to a long rant that was left on Bodyforms Facebook page. The lesson: don’t take your brand too seriously and have fun with your marketing. Many people worry about getting negative comments on  social media, but when you handle them like this you are participating in the conversation and can influence the outcome.

Lesson Eleven: Social media has changed the world

Video: Facebook parenting  

Views: 36m

When a father goes to YouTube to publicly discipline his daughter for publicly complaining about him on Facebook, you realise how different the world is now compare to ten years ago. This video shows that, like it or not, social media has changed our lives irrevocably and there’s no going back. 


What other videos have caught your eye this year? And what trends do you think we will see in video marketing in 2013? Let me know your thoughts...

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Article by Will Williamson