(WARNING: completely fabricated allegory alert! Not sure if this is a real anecdote or just something I made up.)
Back in ancient Greece some wise men wanted to understand how a pig works. Really understand. So they went to the market and bought a big, healthy pig and carefully took it apart. They diligently studied and documented every tiny detail of its various parts. When they had an exhaustive analysis of every tendon, muscle and capillary in the pig, they put all the pieces back together in precisely the same place they came from. Yet somehow how it wasn’t the same pig.
Because now it was a dead pig.
It reminds me a lot of how many brands approach some of the amazing user-generated content that gets discovered every day on the Internet. Of course it’s not unusual for marketers to try to co-opt anything that gets popular. Heck, we are busy trying to line up celebrity endorsements for a client right now.
But there are two ways I think marketers don’t understand the value of these Internet memes. First, a big hit on the web is not the same thing as a big hit in the real world. A monster hit on YouTube may gather five million views over the course of months. A re-run of “Two and a Half Men” gets that in one night.
Meanwhile, do you know how many YouTube videos have gotten a million or more views? Seriously. Do you know. The closest I could come to an answer was a guy on Quora who said there are over 1.2 million videos on there with over a million views. That sounds hard to believe, but it does support my hunch that there is simply an insane amount of content that has gone “viral”.
So counting on a mass audience to recognize and appreciate the web star you happened to rent is not wise. Most of your audience will have no idea who they are. This point was brought home to me this weekend when we were at a friends house and he said, “Man, you’ve got to see this video.” and he proceeded to show me the OK GO treadmill video from 2005. Over ten million views over six years and it still hadn’t made it onto the radar screen of this educated, connected, urban guy.
Second—and this relates to the pig story I recounted/made up—the qualities that make a piece of content blow up on the Internet are so subtle and quirky and often accidental, that is almost impossible to recreate them or bend them around an advertising message without destroying whatever it was that made them magic in the first place. In short, you end up killing the pig.
A great example of this is the Hyundai holiday campaign they’ve run the last couple of years that uses YouTube stars in commercials. My guess is that these have made no impression on you.
Last year they took the cute, catchy Pamplamoose duet that has quite a few million-view+ videos like this one:
Hyundai threw some money at them and had them make this commercial:
I don’t know about you, but I feel like they killed the pig. All the whimsy and charm seems to vaporize as soon as you make them dance and sing in and around a big shiny Elantra. But clearly Hyundai considered it enough of a success to do it again this year.
So this time they latched on to a video that was making the rounds a few months ago: “It’s getting Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot.”
This is a funny, well-executed, pitch-perfect bit of self-deprecating satire. We liked it so much we used the director to edit a video we did for Vibram.
Hyundai obviously liked it as well. They got the same crew together and had them make this.
Did you find it funny? Did it even make any sense?
I suspect the folks at Hyundai and their agency are likely slapping themselves on the back; happily telling themselves that they are warming the brand in the glow of these viral sensations.
Me, I just think they’re killing pigs.