The ever elusive viral video and the penguin.

So about 4 or 5 times a month I have a different business email me to ask if I would be willing to work to help them produce a viral video. I’m always excited to be contacted because of my creative design, my brainstorming skills, and my desire to work on the abstract and the abnormal. I always find it a huge compliment when people come knocking but I do have a few things to say about this so-called viral video phenomenon.

As a follow up to the viral video requests I usually send a message filled with all kinds of questions about their business, their message, their personality, their customers, and their expectations. This is the exact point where most of these conversations fall apart. Businesses know they want VIRAL and they know they want to make a video but what they rarely seem to know is their message. What is it that they will try to convey to their customers? I love asking 1 question in particular: What is the personality that you would like to show? A business almost never has an answer to this one. If you think about a business as it’s own entity then shouldn’t it have it’s own personality?

Here is my response to those that aren’t certain a personality is necessary but still want a viral video. I usually send them a copy of this video (mostly because I think it is funny and quite cute, wait can professional ass kickers say cute? Well I said it so get over it):

Then I ask them if I should make a video with a penguin in it because it has nearly 5.5 million views, pretty viral if you ask me, then we could just stick their website at the end (hmm…maybe I’m a bit too crass, what do you think?)

Yes video can be important and yes reaching out to potential millions if not billions of people on the web is an exciting thing but it takes a bit of time and a bit of planning. It also take a lot of getting to know what your message could look like? Then once you know your message how do you visually want to show it? 2 very important questions that will take time but should be fun creating if done properly.

So how do you hone your message? Your personality? I have a few easy tips from other projects I have had the pleasure of working on and some recent advice from an awesome guy I just had the pleasure of chatting with (thanks Drew Dudley).

1. Look at your current content and take all the individual words and images out leaving them by themselves on sticky notes. Then move them around and ask members of your team to pick only their top 3 words and/or images as it relates to the business. This should tell you something about your business and it’s personality.

2. Look at a competing brand/business and look at their messaging and images (are they doing some good work, some bad work, is it similar?). Now do the same thing as activity 1 only with their words and images. Do those words fit your business? Your brand? Your personality? Now ask yourself one VERY important question, how are you different? Why would a consumer want to pick you over them?

3. Ask. Throw out all the words and images you have and start all over. Ask both colleagues and consumers for 1 whole week to just describe your business over and over and over (you can do this in a million different ways-seek creative help if need be to do this in a fun and engaging way). Let those who work in your service and those who USE your service describe you. Believe me this will be an eye-opener for sure. Let it be honest and let it be anonymous (that’s usually where having someone like me come in can be helpful. I don’t work for the business and I can group lots of answers together so people tend to talk a whole lot more freely around me.)

4. Play! Brainstorm all kinds of ideas, play with words, do some colouring, redesign with some mock ups, let loose (again, something adults have become crappy at but an area where I can help most excel. Tends to be the number 1 reason most hire me). This means creating both time and space to do this.

5. Watch. Find some of the funniest and most impactful videos that you can on the internet and look for the cues that really got you hooked. How would those work with your message? With your personality?

6. Plan. Find a bit of time to go over various concepts and put together some storyboards (this by no means has to be a professionally drawn concept but rather a rough outline of how the whole production would flow). Ask yourself what could each part of the video look like? Do all the scenes lead to a strong message? A strong personality?

7. Finally this is a step I just heard about yesterday thanks to Drew. What about thinking about an Anti-Commercial. What would that look like? What kind of language would you use? What kind of corny nostalgic material would you put in it? Who would you get for a cameo? What if you wanted no one on the planet to buy your goods or services, what would that look like? I bet there is some hilarity in there that might just spark a few good ideas.

8. Ok now you are all done and you have shot your video, wonderful! Now what’s the plan for getting it to the masses?

These are some of the tips and a hint at just some of the process I would use to help you design any kind of video you like. So the next time you hit that send button to any company about making a viral video you better be prepared to share your message (a good company can help you craft this) and your personality (one last hint, if they don’t ask you about your personality then chances are that company probably isn’t the right one to work with). Also a good company will be able to gather stories and help you define your personality.

I guess in the end I can ask this: What is your penguin that you would like to show the world?