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"Girlfriend" Video Tops YouTube With Viral Viral Marketing (not a typo)

Bear with me here, this gets a bit complicated…

For years, the #1 YouTube video had been Jud Laipply’s The Evolution of Dance. It’s funny, pretty timeless as far internet phenomena go, and has a universal appeal. It also had about 92 million views as of this writing.

Multi-platinum Canadian pop-tart Avril Lavigne has just dethroned The Evolution of Dance with the music video to her single, “Girlfriend.” This is not all that surprising. “Girlfriend” has a hook approaching ABBA levels of catchy, the video is humorous, and Avril is a Hot-Topic-esque punk-but-pretty girl in a short skirt prancing about suggestively. (For what it’s worth, she’s risen far enough that Hot-Topic is now aping her style, not the other way around.)

This is YouTube fodder, if I’ve ever seen it, but that’s self defeating because “Girlfriend” is exactly that: fodder. How did this middling-concoction get 97,000,000+ views in the last two months? Is it really that clever? Is there ground being broken? Is it, in and of itself, phenomena? No, no, and no.

The video for “Girlfriend” is catchy, sexy and funny. (Edgy, too: she drops the f-bomb, but they’ve edited it out.) However, it’s still the same hook-and-beat ear candy that Gwen, Britney, Madonna and The Cast from High School Musical have been churning out for years. Enjoyable, but without staying power. So, whither all the views? Well, as you’ve no doubt surmised, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye…

On June 19th, the Avril Lavigne fansite Avril Bandaids launched a “Girlfriend” YouTube Viewer (It’s now been retired) with the intention of making “Girlfriend” the #1 YouTube video of all time. The url that hosted the viewer reloaded the video every 15 seconds. The theory was that Avril fans could load up that url, let it run, and Avril would get the top video spot in no time.

Well, Entertainment Tonight, Perez Hilton, Wired.com, The Globe and Mail, The Sydney Morning Herald, and many others picked up the story and started crying “foul.” How dare this hardcore group choose the number one YouTube video for us!? How dare they! And that’s where this story gets good.

There was no foul. YouTube caps it’s views per specific IP at 200 per day. (That may sound like a lot, but it’s not enough for a small legion of hardcore fans to make a dent in a number approacing 100,000,000.) There was no way they could game YouTube in the way they were purporting; and they knew it all along.

This is an excerpt from a letter addressed “Dear Media” that was posted on the Avril Bandaids forum. It’s titled The Two Steps I’ll Always Be Ahead Of You.

…But like a magician revealing the M.O. to a convincing trick, I have to admit that Bandaids’ YouTube Campaign was nothing but misdirection. Bandaiders didn’t cheat: the YouTube Viewer was a Hoax.

All along, I knew that YouTube capped the number of views added to a video at 200 per IP address per day. As such, the only way to make Girlfriend the most watched video on YouTube the fast way was to increase our reach, not our views per person. And the best way to do that was to use viral marketing to tap into traditional news sources. So our members went about inflating the count on the YouTube Viewer and spreading the link around the net.

In the mean time, the real end game of the campaign was unfolding nicely. As media outlets around the world began accusing Bandaids of cheating Avril’s way into the record books, they drove thousands upon thousands of curious folks to watch Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend video on YouTube (yes, even you Perez). This resulted in a much larger boost to Avril’s view count than Bandaids could ever have generated on its own.

Don’t believe me? When the Viewer launched on June 19th, Girlfriend had amassed 88.0 million views on its own merits. On June 24th when the viewer was retired, Girlfriend had 88.9 million views – an increase largely on pace with what Girlfriend had been steadily gaining in the past few months. At best, Bandaids’ YouTube Viewer added under 100,000 (legitimate, as per YouTube’s terms of service) views to Girlfriend’s total view count. The only thing we cheated was hundreds of reporters into doing our promo for us…

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Avril Lavigne Fansite Owner,

Sharifa xx

It was a genius gaming of the system. The foul-criers were perpetrators of that which they were condemning. Whether you like the song or the artist, you’ve got to admire the execution. Now that is viral marketing.

Oh, and this is not to mention the fact that now “Girlfriend” is being covered by bloggers like me, as well. Getting them a third dip out of the campaign from people who otherwise never would have seen the video. So, go over there and watch “Girlfriend.” You know you want to, and it’s not bad, it really isn’t. But then go watch The Evolution of Dance, as long as you’re there. You won’t be dissapointed. It was, after all, number one for a reason.


VC Firm, EDF Ventures, May Not Actually Know How The Internet Works

The irony here is runs thick… A VC firm, EDF Ventures of Ann Arbor Michigan, has no idea how the internet works. The guys are venture capitalists, right? So you’d think they would be entrenched in the web’s culture, rainmakers with money; fingers on the pulse of the internet. Eh, not quite…

These guys just forgot one of the most basic truisms of the internet: If you want something that is online to become well known and famous beyond your wildest dreams, just get a lawyer involved. This is known as The Streisand Effect and it’s been proven again and again.

Someone posted a nasty comment about EDF on The Funded. An anonymous community of entrepreneurs talking about good VC’s and bad VC’s.

“Worked with these people on several deals and they are to be avoided unless you are desperate. Beaus Laskey, the only honest straightforward person in the bunch, has left the firm.’”

Well EDF Ventures has issued a subpoena to The Funded demanding the name of the poster. Well, the joke’s on EDF. Now everyone knows about this guys comment. It’s on the front page of TechCrunch right now. Yes, that’s the TechCrunch blog covering the tech start-up industry to the tune of 900,000+ subscribers.

Avoiding stuff like this should be brand management & public relations 101. Nicely played, EDF.


Socially Selected Colors

Over at Cymbolism.com you are presented with a word and asked to pick from a pallete of widely varying color choices. Once you click on one, it then shows you the breakdown of what everyone else picked. It’s a really interesting exercise at the moment, but as they grow it will become more than that.

They have a search function that allows you to search their database for words. As they accumulate more and more words and votes this will turn into a neat design resource. Say you’re designing a car seat and you want to know what colors make people think “smart” and “safe.” This could be the place to find out. Someday. Right now, it just makes me feel yellow.


Add Bacon: Customer Experience Design I Understand

What do you do when people, by definition, hate interacting with your product? Just add bacon…

WHAT: An alarm clock that wakes you up with the smell and sizzle of cooking bacon.

WHY: No one likes to wake up, especially by an alarm. This clock gently wakes you up with the mouthwatering aroma of bacon, just like waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of Mom cooking breakfast. Unless you’re Jewish.

HOW: A frozen strip of bacon is placed in Wake n’ Bacon the night before. Because there is a 10 minute cooking time, the clock is set to go off 10 minutes before the desired waking time. Once the alarm goes off, the clock it sends a signal to a small speaker to generate the alarm sound. We hacked the clock so that the signal is re-routed by a microchip that in responds by sending a signal to a relay that throws the switch to power two halogen lamps that slow-cook the bacon in about 10 minutes.

WAKE n’ BACON by Matty Sallin.

[via Designer Daily Link Blog]


Stop the Presses! I'm Officially Lusting Over a DELL

I can’t believe what just happened to me. I’m a Mac-o-phile. I’ve worked with PC’s for years, but here at Voltage, and in my home, I have the privilege of working only with Apple products. (We do have a Dell laptop we use to check browser compatability with IE 6.)

This morning I found my way onto Dell’s website where I was confronted by the “the NEW studio Hybrid” PC line. I want one. I want one for the same reason I want an iPhone: I’m shallow and it’s gorgeous.

What’s happening to me? Is the PC industry finally going to use my shallowness against me? I’m lusting after a bamboo-covered Studio PC made by Dell? Dude, I don’t want a Dell. At least I didn’t, until now.

(Full disclosure: Voltage Creative has done some design work for Dell in the past. However, it’s not my department and it didn’t have anything to do with this product.)


I'll Give You $50 for a Worse Brand Name Than Knol

Knol is Google’s newest assault on the rest of the internet. (They’re convinced they own it.) I’m sure it will do well, because it’s a Google property, but…

K-N-O-L is their brand name? I couldn’t think of a worse name if I tried. In fact, I’ll offer a cash prize for a worse name. (Details at the end of this article.) First, let’s explore this:

  • Knol contains a silent letter.
  • Phonetically, It starts and ends with a soft consonant. (This guarantees the following conversation will be had countless times… “Blah blah blah Knol.” “What?”)
  • It’s a play on the word knowledge, masquerading as the root. (Which is actually “know”.) But they drop the “w” and add the “l” leaving us with “knol.”
  • They don’t even own Knol.com. Knol is at knol.google.com. Knol.com, on the other hand, sells steam cleaners in Sweden. No kidding. This is who Google couldn’t afford to buy out.

Google is liquid to the tune of $10 billion dollars. Couldn’t they buy knol.com? Or even something nice like know.com, or known.com? And what’s with the web 2.0 drop-a-letter-add-a-letter bandwagon? This is going to look passé in 6 months. It kinda looks that way right now.

Apple Inc. just bought Me.com. Now that’s a domain. That’s a brand name. Sure the launch sucked, but no one will care in 6 months. They will, however, still be having this conversation:

“…Knol.”

“What?”

“No. KNOL.”

“What!?”

“KNOLLLL.”

“Nal?”

“Eh, screw it.”

Google was a game changer 6 years ago, but that is an eternity in web-years. They’re looking more and more like Microsoft or General Motors when it comes to fresh innovation and execution. It’s like they’re trying to confuse.

In fact, if anyone can come up with a worse brand name than Knol, post it in the comments. Next week I’ll pick out the worst one and Paypal you $50.

The Rules:

  • Has to be SFW.
  • 2 syllable maximum.
  • Has to be pronounceable.
  • I’ll announce the winner here next week. (I’ll also send them an email.)
  • If you’re related to me or someone who works at Voltage, you can’t win.
  • The winner is my pick, which means no whining if/when you lose.
  • One entry per email address.
  • Cuil doesn’t count.

Update: We Have a Winner


3 Quick Ways to Retain More RSS Subscribers

1) Title Your RSS Feed With Scanning in Mind. Your subscriber is most likely going to stick your RSS feed into a list. It’s going to be left-justified for easy scanning. You want your title to be easy to read, aka don’t screw up the flow of an eye flying down the list trying to make sense of each line or they’ll move on. This most likely means using title capitalization and keeping it short and sweet. Get rid of the extra words. You don’t want an ellipses at the end of your title where it got cut off by their RSS app. That’s presenting your reader with a problem with no solution: they’ll move on.

2) Hook-Title Your Articles. You should be doing this anyway, but it’s especially important for RSS feeds. Sometimes a reader may only have the headline of your article to go off of. This is much more likely in an RSS subscription scenario. The title should always make them want to read more. Too many bloggers like to use cutesy-inside-joke headlines. This is bad for your RSS readers. Be clever for the body of the post. Be clear for the headlines. Here’s 8 killer headline formulas that work. (via Copyblogger)

  1. Who Else Wants [blank]?
  2. The Secret of [blank]
  3. Little Known Ways to [blank]
  4. Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
  5. Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
  6. Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]
  7. [Do something] like [world-class example]
  8. What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]

3) Subscribe to Your Own RSS Feed (and others). If you don’t want to read your own RSS feed, why should anyone else? You’ve got to use your medium to understand it. This is known as “eating your own dog food” in entrepreneurial circles, and not doing so is considered a mark of death. How many times have you purchased a slickly-marketed product only to find out within about 30 seconds of use that the person selling it obviously never used it? Some manufacturers can get away with this, but not online. Returning your product, and never buying again, is as close as an “unsubscribe” button.


Google Launches Knol

Google launched their Wikipedia competitor, Knol.com, last week. You can write a Knol on pretty much anything you want. I started a Knol on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) just to get my feet wet.

First impression:
It will survive and thrive. The GUI is better than Wikipedia’s and Google doesn’t have to worry about the chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to building online communities, because they’re Google after all. If they build it people will come.