The viral video challenge: It could be the best thing you do for your brand

If you’re a regular user of social media, you’ll no doubt have seen one of the many crazes that have recently taken the digital world by storm. It follows a bumper few years for viral video challenges, that saw top brands and celebrities partake in the Harlem Shake, the Ice Bucket Challenge and police forces around the world take up the Running Man gauntlet.

The viral video challenge may span the spectrum from light-hearted fun to nothing short of ridiculous, but it is fast becoming a powerful form of social media marketing and branding. Social media is a great equaliser, and has that ultimate ‘shareable’ quality: any company can cut through the clutter, regardless of brand awareness or marketing budget. All it takes is a clever idea and skillful execution. It might just be the best thing you do for your brand.

The Harlem Shake

The Harlem Shake was the first viral video craze to make it big with brands and businesses around the world. Videos feature a backing of Baauer’s 2012 single ‘Harlem Shake’ and a roaming shot of some mundane activity or another. A lone hero begins to bust a move, seemingly unnoticed by those around them. As the beat drops, the room erupts into a mass ‘shake’ and all hell breaks loose!

The trend spread like wildfire, with friends, firefighters, even Peanuts getting in on the act. Brands’ participation grew, the marketing teams behind them predicting that riding on the coattails of the craze would pay off in corporate video likes and shares.

To get a better idea of how the Harlem Shake phenomenon played out, take a look at this infographic posted by Mashable a few years back. The impact was profound across social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, with videos from Pepsi, Red Bull and HootSuite attracting the most discussion.

The #runningmanchallenge

Next came the ‘running man’ challenge, taken up by police forces around the world. The original vid, featuring a New Zealand police force throwing shapes in a car park, was initially aimed at boosting recruitment. Their 30 second clip is part of a year long drive.

The NYPD took up the challenge first, which has since spread among forces around the world: teams in Australia and the UK quickly following suit.

Ultimately, it made forces appear more approachable. The word from one officer: “We are trying to get away from the stereotypes the public hold about police officers, that they can’t talk to us, that we are really serious people. We want people to know that we are humans too, we have families, we have children, and some of us love to dance.”

The Mannequin Challenge

The latest in video fads, The Mannequin Challenge, sees people freeze-frame on film and went global in a matter of days. The fad seems to have started at a High School in Jacksonville, Florida, where on 26th October, a Twitter user uploaded a video of six kids holding motionless poses on a table with the hashtag #manequinchallenge.

It’s since been performed by members of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund football team, among many others, and even featured as part of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Some are darn impressive! Take a look at these feats of physics by a team of skiers on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez.

Despite all the fun and games, videos like this have a profound viral impact, with tremendous results online and ‘shares’ in the hundred-thousands. While viral marketing may seem more of a stroke of luck as opposed to a perfectly executed social media marketing plan, it echoes the old adage that the best form of marketing is still word-of-mouth, which is a key element into any video going “viral.”