Our 10 Favorite YouTube Marketing Campaigns

YouTube marketing is serious business, and if you're unconvinced then just consider this statistic: in 2011, YouTube had over 1 trillion views. That breaks down to about 140 visits for every person on earth. That's a lot of eyeballs.

Advertisers who use YouTube for business reasons would love nothing more than for their campaigns to go viral, but when you realize that 72 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, it's clear that the competition is pretty stiff. What does it take to become a YouTube superstar? Creativity, luck and a little something extra that's hard to define. Nobody can recite the secret recipe, but we all know magic when we see it. Take a look at these 10 video campaigns, and be dazzled:

10. Yes They Did. “Did Will.I.Am and John Legend just sing me proof of Barack Obama's awesomeness?” asked millions of twenty-somethings in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election. The celebrity-packed “Yes We Can” music video wasn't created by Obama campaign officials, but those officials definitely weren't upset with the result. The video may have even have had a small effect on election results. If that isn't YouTube marketing success, we don't know what is.

9. Blended Entertainment. The “Will It Blend?” series of videos, released by Blendtec, lets viewers watch as everyday items are stuffed into blenders and systematically destroyed by rotating metal blades. It's not hard to see why this YouTube marketing campaign set the social media world on fire. After all, who doesn't want to see golf balls and cubic zirconium pulverized into powder? That's right – no one.

8. YouTube's Got Talent. Everyone's a critic, a fact that NBC capitalized on last year when it partnered with YouTube to allow viewers to submit their “America's Got Talent” auditions online. The resultant two-hour TV special earned first-place ratings, and millions of viewers saw Kmart's ads. But our favorite part? The cringe-worthy auditions. There's nothing like a little schadenfreude with your orange juice in the morning.

7. The Force Is Strong. If you had a roundish graph that showed Internet addiction percentages as a function of subculture membership, you'd be holding geek pie. So if you want to use YouTube for business reasons, follow our advice and use the force. That's what Volkswagen did, and their pint-sized Darth Vader went viral faster than Jango Fett's seismic charges can destroy an asteroid. Yes, we speak geek.

6. The Evolution Revolution. These days we're inundated with airbrushed magazine photos,  so much so that we don't even notice anymore. So when Dove's “Evolution of Beauty” video used time-lapse photography to show exactly how many degrees of separation exist between a real model and her glossy counterpart, women everywhere listened. Think about what happened here. A beauty company effectively managed to make money by pointing out how screwed up the beauty industry is. That's no easy task.

5. YouTube Loves Cats. Want social media sites to like your YouTube marketing video? Here's a tip: put a cat in it. The fluffier, hungrier or sleepier he is, the better. Anything you do after that is automatically guaranteed to be successful. One of the biggest players in the field of viral cat marketing (that's Internet videos with kittens, not the trafficking of diseased felines) has to be Skittles. You know, the candy people. Their interactive “Touch the Rainbow” video starts out fun and ends up disturbing – kind of like every visit to Chuck E. Cheese's.

4. Bear With Us. This YouTube marketing video, “A Hunter Shoots a Bear,” is more genius than it sounds. The reluctant hunter refuses to follow through with the video's promise, and instead uses Tipp-Ex brand correctional fluid to blot out the violent title. Viewers can type in alternate ideas to unlock different bear-friendly videos. So basically, when you watch the full-grown man shake it in a bear suit, you'll be learning about Tipp-Ex in the process. Actually, are there any other reasons to learn about correctional fluid? Like we said, it's brilliant.

3. Pizza-Pocalypse.Deliver Me to Hell” is a lot less like a series of videos and a lot more like a choose your own adventure story. Created by Hell Pizza, a chain of pizza shops based in New Zealand, the campaign follows a hapless delivery boy as he does his best to survive the zombie-infested streets with his brains and his pizza intact. At several steps along the way, viewers can choose his fate by deciding what to do next.

When the videos were first published, users who made it to the finish line were rewarded with a contest entry for a chance to win a year's supply of free pizza. Although the contest has since ended, the gory adventure is still up, and it's sure to zap at least 15 minutes from your work day.

2. Videos With Drive. DC Shoes' Gymkhana series is not for the faint of heart (or for mothers of teenage drivers). The series follows stunt driver Ken Block as he drifts through hairpin turns, catches wicked air (people still say that, right?) and miraculously manages not to die. It's easy to see why the fourth video of the series was the most shared video of 2011. It's hard to take your eyes of of Block's car even for a second. Since it's completely plastered in ads, we're guessing that's the point.

1. Spice Up Your Life. No discussion of YouTube marketing would be complete without mentioning Mustafa, or as most of us know him, the Old Spice man. Clever copy and flawless delivery made these videos an instant hit, but the interactivity is what really helped them go viral. By incorporating user comments into future videos, Old Spice struck Internet marketing gold. By staging a social media battle between Mustafa and Fabio, they achieved something far more impressive: successful product placement in the dreams of ladies everywhere.

Don't think you have the creative abilities to outrank these YouTube marketing all-stars? You're in luck, because on the Internet, terrible videos can go viral even faster than awesome ones. So if you don't have the budget to hire a stunt-car driver, you can always tack your business's logo on a bed sheet and hire your drama-queen cousin to film a “Leave Britney Alone” style meltdown. It might just be crazy enough to work.

But if you want to convince the boss that your ability to use YouTube for business campaigns warrants a new promotion, it wouldn't hurt to run your ideas past a few colleagues first, just to be safe. Remember, what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. Forever.

By: Alayna Frankenberry, staff writer at The Content Factory.

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