Which video do you think is more likely to go viral? A 30-second trailer of Brad Pitt running through a burning building, or a 30-second phone video of Brad Pitt dancing at a local bar? It’s Two-Step Brad Pitt all day. But why? One word: intimacy.

A common beef with technological progress, and especially with social media, is that it normalizes emotional distance. We’ve heard the horror stories of bystanders filming a crime as it happens, rather than intervening. But those scenarios are very rare. Because innovation puts us in a constant state of flux, a much calmer perspective would be to assume that, as we rely more and more on handheld devices, we as a species are attempting to redefine our modes of intimate interaction.

Many big-name brands have harnessed this social phenomenon via their marketing and ad campaigns. While this may very well result in high-budget videos with a low-budget appearance, startups and small businesses should take the strategy to heart.


Thanks to smart devices and social media, even if you’ve got next-to-nothing in the war chest, going viral is less a problem of money than a problem of ingenuity. Here are three prime examples of video campaigns whose intimacy of form and function proved contagious:


Always: “#LikeAGirl”

(YouTube publication: June 26, 2014 – 62.7 million views) 

The brilliance of this campaign is that it combines the essence of its product with a political narrative. Given the rise of identity politics in this decade, Always leverages the fact that its target demographic symbolizes a prejudice that spans millennia: a woman’s menstrual cycle is taboo, therefore often mislabeled as a weakness or filth deserving of shame.

The implication here is that, from such age-old misogyny, arise many of our problematic gender constructs. Examining how “like a girl” exists as an insult in our culture, Always expands its message beyond its target demographic, not only to every woman, but also to every man, as two males attempt to define what #LikeAGirl means during the video as well. By displaying the text, “A Girl’s Confidence Plummets During Puberty,” the hygiene company conflates brand relationship with a time that represents a woman’s growing awareness of how her private body is treated as public space, thus the core of her feminine insecurity.

The video’s call to action is both inspirational and practical: “Let’s Make #LikeAGirl Mean Amazing Things.” Not only does it drive social media traffic; it also allows the consumer to help define the interaction. 


American Greetings: “World’s Toughest Job” 

(YouTube publication: April 14, 2014 – 26.4 million views)


The video’s clickbait title alone sucks you in, partly because of the superlative “toughest,” and partly because it suggests extreme reality TV. The viewer may have many candidates in mind for the world’s toughest job, but, since there can only be one, it’s hard to resist the urge to find out.

Within its production methodology, American Greetings provides a setting that is less intimate in terms of job interview dynamics, yet very intimate for the viewer because of its purposefully amateur style. Because our economy is still recovering, many can identify with the frustration in job hunting, especially when wanted ads include lists of vague qualifications and responsibilities. The intimate vs. abstract dichotomy also hints at the product itself: though a greeting card takes the place of physical interaction, it can still bring two people emotionally closer.

Compared to the #LikeAGirl campaign, this video carries less viral potential, since much of its effectiveness relies on its twist ending (that the job is in fact what mothers do daily without pay). But that Mother’s Day is an annual event certainly helps boost viewership in the future.


 GoPro: “Fireman Saves Kitten”

(YouTube publication: June 26, 2014 – 32.7 million views)


This video is a result of the GoPro campaign where users were encouraged to upload their own footage for possible repurposing by the company. What separates this video from the two above is that, despite its obvious editing, the action itself is completely unscripted. What separates it from previous GoPro campaigns is that the usual adrenaline boost is now coupled with compassion.

Instead of a guy ramping a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, here the heroic yet delicate imagery of a fireman giving oxygen to a tiny kitten redefines the sort of action a GoPro is supposed to capture. Now, talk of GoPro usage can expand beyond just athletes, and beyond even heroic acts to other heartfelt scenarios that may not involve any danger. You could imagine someone assessing the aftermath of a tornado throughout a housing development, or a day in the life of a refugee.

Not only does this campaign suggest new market segments for GoPro, it may even help it to develop new products, or variations on existing products, especially if their idea for the future is to capture both spectacular and everyday life events as genuinely as possible.

Keep It Real

Startups rarely are afforded the PR of a celebrity endorsement. Slowly but surely, that concept of branding is being replaced by authenticity, or at least the appearance of authenticity. And, barring field-specific, high-end technology, chances are your product or service is an everyday thing that can be filmed being used in an everyday world. If done right, this simpler form of brand association can achieve a higher emotional impact, and we remember most vividly what touches us most emotionally.


If you’d like to learn how video marketing can catapult your brand, contact tekMountain today. 


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumMike PattonRod WhisnerAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi.  

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