HypeLife Brands Urges Companies Not to Chase Viral Fame; Focus on Creativity Instead

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Marketing and branding agency keys on overwhelming spread of Harlem Shake videos, warns against hasty attempts to capitalize on their unexpected success.

Curt Cuscino, Founder and Principal of HypeLife Brands

Curt Cuscino, Founder and Principal of HypeLife Brands

The best thing brands can do is to keep having ideas and to keep creating. Sooner or later, the next big thing will be their big thing.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last month, you've probably seen a Harlem Shake video. In fact, maybe you've even participated in one. For viewers of these videos, it's 30 seconds of weird, addicting fun. For marketers, it represents what's become the gold standard for awareness: a viral video. And while some of the best marketers in the country are clamoring to develop the next Harlem Shake, the brains at HypeLife Brands have a different message: "Not so fast."

Videos are uploaded to the Internet every day. Hundreds, thousands, all of varying length and subject matter, all with the same goal in mind: Tally as many views as possible. The Harlem Shake is no different, beginning with a single video upload by some college kids from their dorm room. The results, however, have been beyond staggering. If you follow HypeLife Brands on Twitter, you would have noticed that they recently tweeted out a fairly stunning statistic regarding the sudden and overwhelming popularity of the Harlem Shake. The statistic was this: In the first 11 days of February, there were 12,000 Harlem Shake video uploads made to YouTube, totaling 44 million aggregate views.

What’s most interesting about the Harlem Shake phenomenon, however, is user interaction. Its continued relevance nearly a month after its initial blip on the pop culture radar screen is due in large part to the involvement of people throughout the country – and globe – who continue to upload their own versions of the Harlem Shake. There’s even an unnamed military unit that joined in on the fun, and as of this writing, they’ve amassed 27 million views in 2 weeks.

So what does all this mean in the world of Millennial marketing? According to Curt Cuscino, Founder and Principal of HypeLife Brands, "The beautiful, yet aggravating thing about campaigns or videos that go viral is that they are built mostly without a set of directions. It's a confluence of about ten thousand tiny things that have to go exactly right, that have to resonate with the right people, and that have to occur at the right time.

"But as you can see, the results are the things brands dream of."

It's no coincidence that the largest swath of viewers and the group most targeted by marketers both answer to the name Millennial. In fact, according to Zach Russell, Brand Strategist at HypeLife Brands, it's hard for a video to go viral without the support of Millennials. The problem, then, is that Gen Y is fickle, right?

"Sort of," says Russell. "Generation Y is as Internet savvy as they come. And that means they are harder to impress because they've seen just about everything before. Plus, we have the added pressure of getting, and keeping, their attention – which is getting harder and harder to do.

"The trick, then, is somehow creating that feeling of unadulterated joy, the experience of discovering something new and original and fun. And doing it all in about 30 seconds."

Unfortunately, says Russell, trends like these tend to get watered down by click-hungry marketing departments and their focus on view counts, ad spends, analytics and conversions. "The best, most enduring ideas are pure. They're original," says Russell. "And if they appear as anything but, an audience as inherently skeptical and savvy as Generation Y will sniff it out and squash it before it even has a chance to spread."

HypeLife Brands has offices on both coasts and in the Midwest, but no matter where they go, brands still want the same thing: Harlem Shake-scale awareness. And who can blame them? The price is right, the payoff is massive. For Cuscino and Russell, however, there is no perfect formula, only strategic steps:

1. Keep it original.
2. Keep it cool (by keeping the blatant advertising out of it).
3. Keep creating.

"There is no formula for the next Gangnam Style or the next Harlem Shake," says Cuscino. "These are products of originality, and in originality there is no recipe for ease. The best thing brands can do is to keep having ideas and to keep creating.

"Sooner or later, the next big thing will be their big thing."

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About HypeLife Brands

HypeLife Brands is the leading branding and marketing agency focused on helping brands engage the youth market, specifically Generation Y and Millennials. Key client industries include apparel and streetwear, musicians and recording artists, entertainment and extreme sports. Founded in 2001, the agency is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. HypeLife Brands can be found at http://www.hypelifebrands.com/.

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Zach Russell
HypeLife Brands
(800) 936-2170 704
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