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JK Wedding Dance – The Evolution of Viral Marketing

By now, many of you might have seen the the JK Wedding Dance, the latest viral video to hit the web. The video shows couple Jill and Kevin’s creative spin on the traditional entrance of the bridal party at their wedding. Set to the song “Forever,” by Chris Brown (incidentally who was recently charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend) the video soared to instant popularity online. Even traditional media picked it up including CNN and Good Morning America. Here’s the video below:

Now the interesting thing is that I have been hearing rumbles about the authenticity of the video as well as the role that Sony (the label who owns the copyright of Brown’s song) played in promoting it from all corners of the web.

The Charges:

a) The video is totally fake, and was created by Sony to help bolster Chris Brown’s flailing career

b) The video is real, but has had a “corporate helping hand” in promoting it to help bolster Chris Brown’s career

c) The video is real, and everything we are seeing is the result of content going viral, organically.

The Evidence:

I am listing all the points, even the flimsy ones:

1) Many people have mentioned the consistency of the song quality throughout the whole video is incredibly good considering it was recorded on a handy-cam. Some speculate a higher quality version of the song was added after the video was shot.

2) The video was uploaded on July 19, on July 25th the entire wedding party was on Good Morning America. To get national media attention within 6 calendar days seems a little fast, even for the web. Other people have also mentioned that the video while entertaining, wasn’t hugely innovative compared to the thousands of other “funny wedding videos” available online. They were a little surprised to see all the media coverage.

3)   Go-Digital.net Blog reported an interesting discrepancy betweeen the number of views and and trends on various social networks including Twitter, Google Searches, etc. They hypothesize that the promotional activities (ie/ the aforementioned Good Morning America appearances, etc) created the initial push which THEN gained momentum online instead of the other way around.

4) According to Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart, all of the videos that made its top ten list took between three and six months to fully gain momentum.

5) Google reported on their official blog that instead of using copyright infringement as a reason to pull the video (as Sony and other labels routinely do) Sony capitalized on the video’s popularity by running text ads during the video and placing click to buy ads below:

At YouTube, we have sophisticated content management tools in place to help rights holders control their content on our site. The rights holders for “Forever” used these tools to claim and monetize the song, as well as to start running Click-to-Buy links over the video, giving viewers the opportunity to purchase the music track on Amazon and iTunes. As a result, the rights holders were able to capitalize on the massive wave of popularity generated by “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” — in the last week, searches for “Chris Brown Forever” on YouTube have skyrocketed, making it one of the most popular queries on the site:

This traffic is also very engaged — the click-through rate (CTR) on the “JK Wedding Entrance” video is 2x the average of other Click-to-Buy overlays on the site. And this newfound interest in downloading “Forever” goes beyond the viral video itself: “JK Wedding Entrance” also appears to have influenced the official “Forever” music video, which saw its Click-to-Buy CTR increase by 2.5x in the last week.

The Outcomes:

  • As of today the video has over twenty million views.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Brown’s song, Forever, climbed the charts landing at No. 4 on the iTunes Single Charts and No. 3 on Amazon’s best selling MP3 List, no easy feat considering the song was released nearly a year ago.

Interestingly enough, Softpedia reported that  Sony wasn’t totally sure about its approach, initially disabling the embedding feature and then changing their minds afterwards.

The Verdict:

I think after looking at all of the evidence I am going to go with option B. The video itself is real, but someone at Sony spotted an incredible opportunity to help one of it’s troubled artists and jumped on it. Both parties made some money and Brown’s song increased in popularity. Everyone wins.

What this means for Viral Marketing:

Spot the Good Wave. I find this case study particularly interesting because it challenges the traditional pressure faced by marketing folks to go and “create something viral.” Instead, a brand manager’s role now involves focusing on spotting vehicles like video that can help a brand gain online momentum.  This allows companies to avoid the pitfall of manufactured content. With the JK video the world was entranced by a human moment, something that an organization would have had a difficult time recreating. (Unless I’m totally wrong and the video is completely fake and Sony has fooled us all, lol) Much like surfing, marketers will need to develop a skill to differentiate the real gems from the thousands of other videos out there that can give their brand that extra boost.

Consumer Generated Content Can Be Your Friend. One can hope that this example has opened the eyes of Sony execs to the potential uses and profitability of user created content. Instead of forcing people to pull their content down, there is a possibility of both parties benefiting from making it available online.

Tactics will change and evolve. As more videos become viral, viewers will become increasingly suspicious of popular content which will mean that brands will need to invest in their online relationships in order to understand how consumers wish to be engaged.  If it’s interesting, I will watch content whether it is created by a company or not, I just want to know up front. Others might be completely indifferent. Knowing these nuances will spare companies a lot of headaches in the future.