These Viral Marketing Masters Share Their Secrets for Success Essay
Sixty-six and a half million. Fifty-three million. Thirty-seven and a half million.
Are these the balances of my offshore bank accounts? I wish but, sadly, no. They are YouTube view counts on three videos produced by a video marketing startup you’ve probably never heard of. But you’ve almost certainly seen one of their videos.
Meet . Launched in 2011, it’s a viral video marketing boutique that promotes movies and brands online. Through YouTube and Facebook, the videos it has produced for its clients have generated a lot of attention. Remember ? Or ? Yeah, that was them.
Thinkmodo is the brainchild of James Percelay and Michael Krivicka. Percelay, who is 56, is a former TV programming executive at Hearst Entertainment and a former producer on the commercial parodies at Saturday Night Live. Krivicka, 40, is a video editor with more than a decade of experience with various post production companies.
With a full-time staff of just three, which balloons to as many as 50 or more depending on the project, Thinkmodo typically takes on six to eight projects a year. Somehow Percelay and Krivicka have mastered something many entrepreneurs and big businesses are trying to understand: the science and art of going viral online.
“Many of our ideas are 100 percent original and break the rules,” Krivicka says. “Clients value that because they like to stand out. Our videos also don't look and sound like ads. We welcome imperfections and a certain type of rawness.”
Thinkmodo’s clients definitely value their work. The duo charges anywhere from $325,000 to $1 million per video.
Here, the Thinkmodo founders share some of their viral secrets that you can hopefully utilize in your own marketing efforts:
Turn fantasies into reality.
Being “100 percent original” can be difficult. Indeed, it might be the hardest part about creating something people will want to watch and share with everyone they know.
“Visualizing what can’t happen in the real world, but can happen in a video, is attention grabbing and satisfying to watch,” Percelay says. You want to appeal to people’s imagination by inventing objects or scenarios. “Many of my own ideas start with, ‘Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we could…,’” Krivicka says.
One fairly easy suggestion, according to Percelay, is to “observe people’s behaviors on the street to situations, and think how you could turn that into an idea for a video.” For example, he and Krivicka saw a store display in New York City that used a two-way mirror and observed how people reacted to it. To promote The Last Exorcism II, they adapted the idea by putting a two-way mirror in a beauty salon with the scary character from the movie behind a customer’s mirror.
Make it visual.
To make it super simple: what sets video apart from other medium like articles and podcasts is that we can see the subject matter. Video is inherently visual and this isn’t lost on your audience. Do they want to watch a video of a person talking or would they prefer to see something in action? What would you rather watch?
“On Facebook, 80 percent of videos are watched on mute,” Krivicka says. “People also watch videos on the go on their phone while going to school or work. The viewer needs to be able to understand what is going on with visuals alone."
Keep it short.
A short video targets people’s most receptive time frame. “On YouTube you have about three seconds to grab people’s attention, and another minute to keep them focused,” Percelay. And according to Krivicka, many videos wind up getting downloaded, re-edited, and then re-uploaded as much shorter versions to blogs and on platforms such as Facebook.
“We anticipate that kind of sharing behavior and optimize our videos for it,” he says.
To do this, Krivicka suggests starting with your “hook” right away — whatever is going to capture a viewer’s attention in the first three to five seconds. “Show them something visual and catchy right up front that makes them go WOW,” he says.
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One example of this is The Super Strong Meter Maid, a video Thinkmodo produced for a Carlister.co (which has since merged with a company called Auto Live). The opening is immediately “catchy, surprising, visual and, most importantly, fun,” Krivicka says.
Creating a viral marketing video boils down to connecting with people enough to make them want to comment on and share a video. “There is no algorithm for that,” Percelay says, “just good storytelling.”