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Video+Story+Connection+Humor+Interesting = Viral Spread

June 14, 2010 1 comment

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This article from Fast Company highlights the viral spread of Dorito’s ads as part of a Super Bowl contest.   They are provocative and violent and the company doesn’t have to take responsibility, yet they benefit from the marketing.  One theme of  viral spread may happen when inhibitions are eliminated.  When something seems tasteless, immoral, or even wrong but you aren’t held accountable, are you (the general “you”) more likely to share it?

In this Dorito’s example, you can’t help but ask the question how YouTube and other technologies contribute to the general lowering of inhibition (comfort with exposure) and with the capacity to spread quickly.

There are some more provocative examples embedded in the article.  Here’s one that won a contest and ended up being shown during the  Super Bowl:

This article starts out by highlighting some pretty negative examples (of which, I’m sure, there are too many on YouTube) to count.  It also highlights a really great video that went viral related to a contest by Dorito’s in Canada:

It’s not just the “good” aspect that made it go viral.  There’s some other appeal here. This particular video is produced in the style of those produced by Lee and Sachi LeFever of Common Craft (check-out their cool videos explaining all sorts of social media such as Twitter).  It’s cool, quirky, different, a little funny, and VERY easy to follow.  This “Crazy Cheezy Dream” video is humanistic, yet fun and interesting to watch.  It tells a great story, but just enough detail that we can insert ourselves into that story (too much detail makes it hard to do that) – this is when we CONNECT with it!  Steve Denning talks about this phenomenon in his research and books about storytelling.  It seems so simple, yet makes all the difference in the world!  I would make the argument that this connection element exists in the more provocative examples from a fantasy perspective – something we wish could happen.

Today’s Lesson:  When videos tell a story that we can connect with, but are funny and interesting, too, spread happens.

Meaning of “Catalyst”

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What does “Catalyst” mean?

  1. A substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible (Merriam-Webster).
  2. An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action (Merriam-Webster).
  3. Catalysts work by changing the activation energy for a reaction, i.e., the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur. This is accomplished by providing a new mechanism or reaction path through which the reaction can proceed. When the new reaction path has a lower activation energy, the reaction rate is increased and the reaction is said to be catalyzed (reference.com).
  4. Any substance serving as the agent in catalysis (yourdictionary.com).
  5. A person or thing acting as the stimulus in bringing about or hastening a result (yourdictionary.com).

When does something or someone serve as a catalyst?

Based on these definitions, someone or something serves as a catalyst when they/it:

  • Provokes
  • Speeds up, or
  • Stimulates an action, reaction, or change.

How does this understanding impact the spread of ideas?

I just love the 3rd definition that talks about changing the activation energy, the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur.  Think about any change you would like to see in your home, organization, or community … what do you think is the minimum energy needed for that change to occur?  Isn’t that a fabulous way to think to think about what “catalyst” is required to move an idea forward / to spread?

How does this impact the ability for people, organizations, and communities to change (aka have an impact)?

Some pre-thought about what will be required to insight action / change is required.  You can’t just “will” a change to occur.  You have to take action.  OK, so this isn’t a novel thought, but how much effort gets wasted without having thought about it in advance?  If we are better able to define the minimum energy required, then we can better target our efforts to spread ideas and be a catalyst for change.