How 5 of 2014’s Most-Viewed Videos Built Huge Audiences
2014 brought another year of hyper-viral Web videos that racked up millions of views. We looked at five of the most watched to see how they generated so many views and shares.
Representing a range of industries and organizations, as well as B2B and consumer brands, the videos we reviewed showcase elaborate productions with big budgets, and DIY productions on shoestring budgets.
They prove that views on the Web don’t necessarily correlate with your brand or industry, how much money you spend, or the message you’re putting out. Rather, it’s about executing on the elements that compel people to watch and share videos—elements that every person creating a video should think about.
These five videos may not represent the style or type of video you would replicate, but each one offers an important lesson you can apply to your next video.
“First Kiss,” Wren
Takeaway: Audiences love authenticity (even if feigned).
Produced by Wren, a small and virtually unknown fashion brand, “First Kiss” documented 10 couples kissing for the first time. What makes the video engaging are the candid and authentic moments shared between the couples. You see their expressions of vulnerability, nervousness, and excitement. It’s as if you’re invisible and witnessing private moments between two people on a blind date. It looks and feels candid and authentic, making it hard not to watch. Despite the discovery that some participants were actors and entertainers, “First Kiss” demonstrated why authenticity is so important to holding an audience’s attention.
First Kiss has 156 million views on YouTube.
“Always #LikeAGirl,” Always
Takeaway: Video’s immersive quality heightens emotional impact.
We’ve all heard (and perhaps used) the phrase “like a girl” to describe how someone does something. It may seem like an innocuous phrase, but it’s meant to denigrate whomever it describes; to do something “like a girl” is to do it feebly or without confidence. Procter & Gamble had a hunch that society’s use of “like a girl” eroded girls’ confidence during adolescence, so it sought to redefine the phrase, turning the negative connotation into a positive one. It launched its “Always #LikeAGirl” campaign with a video experiment that shows how the meaning of “like a girl” changes as people mature from children into adults. Witnessing this revelation through people’s actions, words, and expressions demonstrates the immersive quality of video and how it intensifies emotional impact.
“Always #LikeAGirl” has nearly 54 million views on YouTube.
“10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” Rob Bliss
Takeaway: A simple production and great timing can be the best strategy.
Also a social experiment of sorts, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” features a woman walking and following a hand-held camera through the streets of New York City. It’s a low-budget, DIY production, produced with minimal preparation, equipment and editing. But it’s extremely effective at making its point: Simply walking around parts of New York City as a woman results in constant cat calling and verbal harassment from men. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the video was released shortly after the national conversation about Ray Rice punching his wife started, making it timely and especially relevant to the broader context of how some men in society treat women.
“10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” has 39 million views on YouTube.
“Dear Kitten,” Purina
Takeaway: Originality can make a stale category fresh.
I’ll admit, there’s something not right about praising a cat video for its originality and reach. But that’s what makes “Dear Kitten” worth noting. Purina proved that smart creative and originality can work in an over-saturated category. “Dear Kitten” has a clever concept, holds your attention with an engaging and funny narration, and, of course, features plenty of entertaining kitten scenes. Taken together, Purina shows that with original and creative thinking, you can riff on an idea that’s already been done millions of time.
“Dear Kitten” has nearly 20 million views on YouTube.
“What My Mom Does at GE,” GE
Takeaway: Be as imaginative as possible.
GE reminds us of what a powerful instrument video can be for the imagination. With “What My Mom Does at GE,” the company could have gone a less imaginative route, perhaps simply interviewing a bunch of cute kids on camera playing grown-up where their moms work, sitting at their desks, walking around GE offices, and focusing the video solely on their cuteness. Instead, GE created a magical visual story that presents its products in fantastical scenes only a child could imagine. We watch a little girl descend to the ocean in a submarine and explore a farm of underwater, tide-powered turbines. We see her gaze up to the sky as jetliners with feathered wings and GE engines fly gracefully overhead. It’s dreamlike and visually arresting and it definitely required a big budget. But by thinking imaginatively, GE got what it paid for: broad reach and strong brand recognition. “What My Mom Does at GE” expresses GE’s “Imagination at work” motto perfectly.
“What My Mom Does at GE” has nearly 2 million views on YouTube.