YouTube Viral Video From Chocolate Rain to Gangnam Style

Viral video and snowfall have a lot in common. Most of us want it to snow. Old movies and rose-tinted childhood memories mean we associate snow with snowball fights and long playful days. Those memories often exclude memories like freezing fingers, soaking socks and hard icy falls. Our joy at a bit of snowfall is usually caused by selective memory, rather than any real understanding of the consequences. The hours of work time lost, the potential damage to your car and the inescapable cold.

Brands often see viral video in the same way. They see the success, the massive coverage and the potential for growth. What they forget is the minute chance a video has of going viral, the millions of ‘viral’ videos that got little or no traction and the impossibility of measuring ROI from a viral video. When marketers are asked to produce a ‘viral’ campaign it’s often the result of selective thinking.

Having said that, when a video does go viral it does generate a huge amount of interest. Much like snow, viral video is a phenomenon that we never get tired of. The question is, what does make a video go viral? The answer is many things and nothing in particular. It’s impossible to pin down. The one constant with all viral video is YouTube.

YouTube Has Changed

The video-sharing network has gone through huge change in its 7 years as a piece of modern culture. It’s gone from a marginal social network filled with low quality user generated content to a genuine media network. Providing live coverage of major events and building careers.

To illustrate these changes, and the change in viral video in the last 5 years, lets look at two YouTube behemoths. The first will be familiar to everyone reading this post, the most popular video on YouTube, the most popular online video ever, Gangnam Style.

Gangnam Style

With more than 1 billion views Gangnam Style is more than an online phenomenon, it’s part of global culture. So what factors made it go viral? Let’s break down its standout characteristics.

-It’s weird.

-It looks like a music video, but has a really surreal feel.

-PSY has a really unusual dancing style…

-And odd mannerisms.

-On first viewing you spend most of your time waiting for the punch line.

-The Chorus sticks in your head.

-The music is catchy as hell.

Now let’s look at another video from YouTube’s past. This is Chocolate Rain. It was posted by Tay Zonday, who went on to become one of YouTube’s first ‘celebrities’. The video features Tay singing an original song and became famous for the lyrics and his odd choice of constantly moving away from the mic to breathe. It was YouTube’s most popular video in 2007 and is considered one of the first truly ‘viral’ videos on the network.

Chocolate Rain

Now let’s look at Chocolate Rain’s characteristics.

-It’s weird.

-The combination of Tay’s manner and his voice give it a really surreal feel.

-Tay has really unusual mannerisms.

-The text explaining the breathing just adds to the oddness

-On first viewing you spend most of your time waiting for the punch line.

-The Chorus sticks in your head.

-The music is catchy as hell.

Notice anything about the two videos? They’re totally different; they come from different ages of YouTube and had entirely different budgets and evolutions. But they carry a lot of the same characteristics.

The thing is, it would be impossible to write or plan either video with viral as a target. The characteristics mentioned aren’t the only ones that make a video go viral; they’re just the ones that fit both videos. The interesting thing is that they are so similar, despite the fact that they’re completely different.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Like the way adults still stare out the window and dream of snow.

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