This video was circulating Twitter today, and I clicked through, intrigued.
The video was submitted October 21, and as of this posting the video has gone viral with over 138,000 views across several social media platforms. Update: As of December 2, 2009, the video has received close to 1 million views on YouTube.
When I first saw the video, I assumed Robert Lee was the genius behind the marketing plan, and I was thrilled. Nothing makes the heart of a Social Media maven beat faster than seeing someone small and unknown rocket to attention through Social Media channels.
It turns out that Robert Lee didn’t come up with this genius video…these guys did. My bad. However, this is still a compelling story of how social media can work for anyone. It’s just a matter of finding the right formula, and that formula is always related to social behavior driven by our social biology.
Most people’s gut response to this video is to think it’s brilliant, and funny, but what makes it brilliant? What makes it funny? Most importantly, how and why do those elements compel us to share?
The first thing that strikes the viewer, is the brutal honesty. Traditional markers would likely have tried to paint Robert Lee, and his used mobile homes, in the best light possible by embellishing, sugar-coating, and possibly lying. The American psyche is saturated with images of the overly cheerful used product salesman. We’ve become desensitized to the message, knowing that, yes, when what we can afford is used, we will find bargains, but we also need to be on guard against being “taken”.
This video breaks the formula with a transparent and brutal honesty, thereby creating a novel situation. Novelty captures the human mind. The novelty immediately disarms our guard and makes us curious. The honesty, combined with our lowered guard lays the ground for an immediate trust. We like who we can trust. We share what we like. You get the idea.
What makes the video funny is a complex array of numerous subtleties and juxtapositions, such as the background music and sound effects combined just so with dialogue and pregnant pauses. It brings us just close enough to absurd, without tipping the quickly established credibility over the edge into unconvincing. But more important than whether or not we DO laugh, is what happens when we do. When we smile, or laugh, our brains release endorphins, a powerful chemical that relaxes us, makes us feel good, and promotes social bonding.
Powerful formula that. Disarming our guard with the unexpected, transparency, and honesty combined with the release of a feel-good chemical that makes us want to bond. When you think about it that way, it’s not all that surprising that this video went viral.
I was a wee bit disappointed to learn that some guy selling mobile homes in Alabama wasn’t the actual genius behind the viral video, because that would have been awesome on the scale of epic. On the other hand, don’t you think Rhett & Link are some kind of brilliant? Yeah, me too.