Believe it or not, this weekend marks the 45th anniversary of Woodstock, the legendary three-day festival of peace, love and music held on a muddy 600-acre farm in Bethel, NY in the summer of 1969. Woodstock promoters planned to draw thousands. In the end, it attracted nearly a half million people, shut down the New York State Thruway and secured its place as one of the largest rock festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late 1960s.
Simply put, Woodstock went viral. It did so without the technology, digital space and social platforms that connect people, marketers and brands with the entire world today. It went viral at a time when there was no Internet, snail mail was considered speedy delivery, and phones featured rotary dials and were attached to walls by tangled, five-foot cords.
But the fact is, despite the 45 years between the “Summer of Love” and the digital world we live in today, the basic ingredients of a viral campaign remain relatively unchanged. When you get right down to it, whether something goes viral or not depends on other people – the audience – communicating, sharing, passing along the message or content. And what people are drawn to most is content that’s original and, perhaps most importantly, connects on an emotional level.
In 1969, Woodstock struck a chord with a new American youth that felt passionately about social and political ideals. The festival embodied an emerging idea of music and a new way of life – and went viral before the term had even been coined. The following represent five examples of recent content/campaigns that have gone viral. All include the critical elements of originality and emotional connection that are cementing their own place in history. Click on each to experience for yourself:
WATERisLIFE’s documentary of people in third-world countries accompanied by captions of common modern-world complaints generated more than a million views the first week it was posted to YouTube. It’s had more than 6.3 million views to date.
This bank turned its ATMs into “Automated Thanking Machines,” captured the reactions of their customers on video and shared it with the world on July 24. The video has already generated 9.5 million views.
Visa recently used the elements of originality and emotional connection to fuel this commercial about it’s new Visa Checkout feature, which promises to save customers time and deliver convenience. And they prove a 15-second piece of content can go viral, with 5.5 million online views since July 16.
GoPro continues to build awareness for its brand and products via a continuous cycle of thrilling, heart-stopping videos shot using its cameras. The series – which features videos shot by the brand as well as its customers – has produced viral hit after viral hit, becoming the most popular YouTube channel in the world.
Under Armour takes an original and emotional approach to tell Misty Copeland’s story of determination and perseverance. The piece has generated more than 5.4 million views in just two weeks.