Truth, Justice, and Viral Videos

I haven’t posted in the past week. I know. It’s because I’m on vacation (which I will be)… or too busy (which I’m not)… it’s really something much more simple: there’s really a dearth of interesting videos this past week. The August slump.

Yeah, you got your Corizne Attack ad. I have to ask, is George Bush still a relevant attack? My eyes kinda glazed over, but I did like the clapping sound.

In a rarity, you even have a Corzine positive delivered by President Obama.

I thought I’d get outside the political realm today to show this video:

4,698,344. That’s how many views the video has (maybe 20 from me).

20,465. That’s how many comments have been generate.

30. That’s the number of says this video has been posted.

4 million hits in 30 days — are you kidding me?!

It got me thinking, why? Sure the song is catchy, but 4 million hits catchy? The #1 song on itunes (Black Eyed Peas, “I gotta feeling” has 6 million + hits in two months).

Here’s my best guess.  I think it comes down to a good story, well told. The song tells a great simple story: “United Breaks Guitars.” It tells that story in a funny way that dramatizes it without taking itself too seriously. It’s not visually compelling, but it is emotionally compelling.

A favorite phrase of mine these days is “the process is the message.” That’s true here, the story that the song tells is one piece of the story, but the story of the guy who wrote the song and why he wrote it becomes an additional piece of the story. It’s powerful, it’s authentic.

It taps into folks angst about airlines, indifferent employees, bad service, indifferent employees (oh, did I say that already? I really hate indifferent employees).

It’s bigger than one broken guitar, it’s Don Quixote tilting at corporate windmills, David versus Goliath. There’s a mythic element that should not be ignored.

The story is also very well executed. Imagine the same story, except this time, the singer is on camera, telling his story to camera without the song and funny video. How would that work? Can’t imagine it would get near the same response.

The video, while low-budget by ad standards, doesn’t try to do too much, is funny and clever (love the CSI scene). It was a simple concept; my guess is it still cost $5k – $12k to produce (that’s not including the cost of original music production), maybe less. It matches the sharp lyrics in tone and its tongue-in-cheek quality.

The real question: Could you replicate this? Maybe, but not by trying to replicate it. The next song “American breaks laptops” or some such will feel cheap and like a knock off.

But I think the lesson is an authentic story that’s told in an interesting way can break through to folks, especially if they’re ready to believe the message. And you don’t need a million dollar ad buy to do it.

Take that, Jon Corzine.

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