Kolaveri Di topped the charts with 17 million views and more than 75,000 comments from over 130 countries just 2 weeks after it was released in November 2011 (current views at 37 Million). With this sensational outburst, the unpredictable, unstructured phenomenon of the viral has been revisited.
What does viral really mean? Viral videos or internet memes comprise content that is made popular by internet users who forward, send, re-tweet, embed, post, pass on, recommended & shared at hectic pace with other internet users. The popularity of viral content usually soars not due to externally injected promotional strategies but through inadvertent sharing.
Once Viral, Always Viral
The great thing about viral content is that whether it is impromptu or planned, once it is set into motion on the internet, it doesn’t need external fuelling. For instance, as HT reported, the Kolaveri Di video inspired tons of sequels, spoofs, spin-offs and remixes which only furthered its popularity and viewership. These spin offs, by the way, have become viral themselves. Even if a person comes across the spin off version, their curiosity will lead them to trace the original. Can you believe that Kolaveri Di has a Marathi version, a heavy metal version, a Dutch version, a female version, a cute version sung by Sonu Nigam’s son and a version that has Adolf Hitler. Apparently, even the Japanese are shaking their feet to the tunes of this irreverent Tamil song.
“Now, it has been our conscious effort to long tail ‘Why this Kolaveri Di’ concept by creating official dance mixes of the song, exploiting publishing and distributing the same. We want to keep it fresh, buzzing and alive till each person world over has seen/heard it.”
– Shridhar Subramaniam, President India and Middle East Sony Music Entertainment. [Source]
The logic of Viral Phenomena
Why viral content remains elusive to marketers, common folks and advertisers alike is because it is impossible to formulate or replicate by choice. You never know what the public is going to like and forward. The harder you try, the harder you are going to fall. As Gaurav Bhaskar, Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager at Google India puts it,
“Trying to predict which videos are going to ‘go viral’ is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle— extremely hard to predict. YouTube is a place where culture is created and shared— phrases like ‘double rainbow’ have entered the lexicon. Viral videos tend to share a few characteristics: Like any news story, they are authentic, surprising, and often topical.” [Source]
This brings us to observe the kind of content that makes it go viral. The commonly seen characteristics of viral videos are:
- They are not shot with the intention of going viral
- They are original – usually funny, cute and shot at home
- The content is often plain, non-technical and not complicated
- More often than not, viral videos are shot on ordinary digital cameras and hence their quality is not very good.
- They operate on shock value, a heartfelt message or content that appeals universally.
- Viral content is often short.
"Viral videos are essentially successful because they are in essence non-conformist, anti-convention, anti-establishment." – Prahlad Kakkar [Source]
Some examples of viral videos in India and worldwide:
The Mumbai Flash Mob 2011: On 27th November 2011, about 200 ordinary Mumbaikars came together at the CST Mumbai to break into an impromptu dance on the ‘Rang De Basanti’ song. Although the act looks spontaneous, it was pre planned. The phenomenon spanned across Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Gurgaon and Kolkata.
Shraddha Sharma: An ordinary girl from Dehradun who runs a channel called Shraddharockin (almost 37k subscribers) simply posts Hindi film songs sung in her own voice along with strumming the guitar. The next Justin Bieber of India?
David After Dentist: This is a video about a boy with a cute verbal lisp describing his trip to the dentist’s. Currently standing at 105,720,592 views, 310,872 likes and 20,894 dislikes!
Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!: Once again, a ‘cute video’ which got 85 million views in the first year has now accumulated 250 million and is the most widely watched video on YouTube, reported HT. It currently stands at 410,708,353 views.
Double Rainbow: Currently at 32,356,591 views, this video taken at the Yosemite National Park in the US in 2010 sat on the internet for six months before it picked up and became viral.
Susan Boyle in the American Idol: Who knew that this ordinary looking contestant would draw millions of views, music CD sales and internet downloads? This is an example of a viral video that got picked up from a televised show because of the talent.
Open letter to a Delhi boy: Shahana Nair-Joshi, an ordinary Delhi girl wrote an open letter criticizing Delhi boys on her blog in September 2011 which gathered more than 7000 comments the very next day. She was forced to open a Twitter account, handle public admiration and is not being offered writing gigs!
"I was bitching about Delhi boys with a girl friend so I wrote it on a whim and posted it to my (recently created) blog. It wasn’t based on anything at all, just a rant" – Shahana Nair-Joshi, viral content creator. [Source]
Fat Indian kid dancing to Dhinka Chika: An ordinary fatso Indian kid dancing to a hit number in his underwear in his house had drawn about 1,965,172 views.
If viral phenomena and internet memes are generating some great talent and revenue, then more the merrier!