Viral Marketing: Is the Harlem Shake Really Worth Your Time?

Viral Marketing- Is the Harlem Shake Really Worth Your Time

“an eccentric upper body dance move that involves the shaking of the upper torso and shoulders” (Urban Dictionary)

Guess who recently jumped on the Harlem Shake bandwagon? None other than Oprah Winfrey and her OWN staff… but at least she humorously told her staff that it was time to move on. The Harlem Shake has spread like wildfire over the past couple of weeks, and brands continue to take full advantage of this latest dance craze sweeping the Internet.

So what exactly is the Harlem Shake? It all started back in 1981 in Harlem, New York City and was inspired by the Eskista African dance and ancient Egyptian mummies. A local by the name of “Al B” first introduced the dance which was originally called the “albee” in homage of the Harlem resident.

As its momentum peaked beyond Harlem, it was newly dubbed the Harlem Shake. The Harlem “shook” itself into the mainstream when Bad Boy label rap artist G. Dep (Ghetto Dependent) featured the dance in his “Let’s Get It” (2001) music video. In May 2012, the Harlem Shake song debuted on YouTube and went viral in February this year – and was even picked up by our very own Miami Heat.

Brands Doing the Harlem Shake

Social Fresh recently released a list of brands that have leveraged the Harlem Shake in their marketing efforts. These brands include:

  1. Pepsi
  2. AOL
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Runkeeper
  5. Red Bull Racing
  6. Ryan Seacrest
  7. Livefyre
  8. Facebook
  9. Google
  10. The Daily Show
  11. Seamless
  12. Hubspot
  13. Scoop.it
  14. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
  15. Ksla News
  16. Maker Studios
  17. Bonus: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models
  18. McDonalds

Since we’re an Internet Marketing company, it’s only natural for us to highlight Facebook, Google and Hubspot’s renditions of the Harlem Shake. The Social Media and Search Engine Giant stick to a more conventional Harlem Shake… like many Harlem Shake videos, it all starts with one individual who is later joined by a mob of wild shakers with crazy costumes and props.

The Harlem Shake – Google Office Edition

The Harlem Shake – Facebook Edition

The Harlem Shake – HubSpot Edition

Hubspot, on the other hand, does something smart. They think outside the box. They stand out from the plethora of Harlem Shake videos circulating on the web. How, you ask? As silly as it is, a man appears when the beat drops and begins to pour a bottle of milk over his head while Hubspot employees shake it in the background.

Am I Too Late to Harlem Shake?

Now if you haven’t done one yet as a marketer, as a brand… you may be wondering if it’s too late. Is it really worth your company’s time? According to the experts the Harlem Shake is now “uncool, annoying and downright over.” Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, a luxury retailer of high-end jewelry and watches says that “If you make (a Harlem Shake video) now, you’re late to the party. You don’t want to appear as the old guy at the party with stale content.”

My Take on the Harlem Shake

I have to agree. Honestly, at this point, why waste your time? If you haven’t shot a Harlem Shake video by now, just face it… you’ve probably missed the bandwagon. The above quotes from the experts are testament to this. You’ve really got to suck it up and ask yourself… if the media is already questioning whether or not you should be doing it, odds are that you are already too late to the game.

As a savvy marketer, you don’t want your client’s brand to jump into everyone else’s stream. You either want to be the first to jump or the one that introduces the next big thing to the world. The only way I see jumping in as worth while is if you truly bring something original to the table… something unexpected or someone unexpected.

Now if Coke pays Filthy Frank and his crew a few million to sit down at the table, recreate the process of how and why they did what they did, with a funny twist that proclaims Coke was at the root of this viral dance phenomenon, well… now we’re talking money.  That in and of itself would be a closing statement for the Harlem movement… a brand that adopts the Harlem Shake in a unique fashion and implies that their brand is the very reason behind this massive sensation… because the brand itself is a sensation.

With all that being said, it still doesn’t mean Coke, or any big company for that matter, will actually go ahead and make such a video. The truth of the matter is if you haven’t done it already, and your resources are limited, why waste them on the Harlem Shake this late in the game?

Viral Marketing

Recently, one of the interns here at Optimum7 asked me for help on a paper for their E-marketing class. The subject was “How to Make an Idea Go Viral”. The professor followed up by saying, “If you nail this, I suggest you don’t give me the paper and quit college right away”. Well, he is right… if you have the secret formula to making anything go “viral”, you can make Don Draper look like a rookie next to you. The truth is, there is no such thing as a “formula” to make something go viral… not yet at least. Theoretically speaking, however, with the right resources and the right approach, anything can go “viral.”

Think about it… the Harlem Shake has been around for over ten years, but only recently did it really take off and go viral. Ask yourself why? And ask yourself who jumped on the bandwagon first? Study the effect it had for each different brand. One brand can be the catalyst for twenty others to do so, each and every one with a different agenda in mind. When the Miami Heat jumped on the bandwagon, it automatically became a lot “cooler” for a specific demographic. When Google and Facebook did it, it appealed to a completely different set of people.

Now with all of this said, the question mark hanging over many marketers heads about the Harlem Shake is plain and simple… “How can I get an idea to go viral?” The exact same question some wise university professor is using hundreds of students to get answers from!

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

Do you have ideas floating through your head? Do you have the resources to get a project going? Ideas are just ideas and plans mean nothing without the proper execution. This is when you Contact Us.

Now I would like to ask all of you the following:

  • What is YOUR take on the Harlem Shake?
  • Why do you think it went viral?
  • What have you learned from it from a marketing perspective?

Looking forward to reading everyone’s thoughts!