UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Viral Marketing: From Store Wars To Web 2.0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Feb 2007

The Store Wars Video

I was told about the Store Wars video clip some time ago. If you’ve not seen it, do so – this spoof of Star Wars is very funny and very witty. Unsurprisingly it is also very popular, with YouTube reporting 112,688 views, 162 comments and 1,139 YouTube users listed it in their favourites.

And, on reflection, I’ve been exposed to clever propaganda: the video was produced for the Organic Trade Association in order to promote their views on the importance of organic food. And here am I, distributing their views to possibly new audiences. The Organic Trade Association has been very astute: the video is available from the StoreWars Web site – but who would find that? Instead they provide a Creative Commons licence which allows the video to be redistributed and uploaded to popular Web sites such as YouTube or embedded within Web pages.

The “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” Video

Having recently received a couple of emails about the “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” video clip (and noticed it getting a mention on the Research Information Network blog) it struck me that the IT development community can learn a lot from viral marketing. Although some developers may feel that you can’t put across the complexities of the Web in a 5 minute video clip (with no accompanying commentary!) I think it is clear that the video demonstrates that this can be done. And don’t take my word for it, look at the statistics: a 4 star rating from over 9,000 viewers and over 1,000,000 views with over 12,000 viewers including it in their list of favourites. It has also received over 3,000 comments.

There are other videos available from YouTube about Web 2.0, such as the U Tech Tips Web 2.0 video, which take a more traditional approach – but for me “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” is the real winner (and I love the word play). And I’m not the only one who thinks this, judging by the statistics for the U Tech Tips video.


What are the implications of the popularity of the “Store Wars” and “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” video clips? What can the IT development community learn from this?

Some thoughts for those thinking of exploiting viral marketing approaches to promote your project, service or idea:

  • If you’ve a great idea, a great product, a great service, give it away! Let your customers or your users promote the idea for you. A Creative Commons licence can be your friend.
  • Beware committee thinking: do you want your idea to be promoted using a worthy but dull approach?
  • Be subtle in your use of logos and corporate branding – users may well spot a corporate video for the first frame and not go any further. Why not be subtle – and leave the logo to the final frame (as happens with the Store Wars video)? Or perhaps even have your logo playing a minor cameo role leaving viewers to admire your subtlety (similar to spottting the Alfred Hitchcock in one of his films).
  • Encourage discussion: the comments feature on services such as YouTube and Slideshare can help generate a buzz.
  • Voting can be useful: people are attracted to what others seem to like.
  • You can subvert the “think globally, act locally” mantra: perhaps you should think locally (“my audience is librarians in the UK”) but act globally (“but I’ll put my video on YouTube, as it may well be of interest to a wider audience”).
  • A commentary in English is likely to restrict your audience to English speakers. Using music can help to provide exposure to a much wider audience (the “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” provides a good example of this).
  • Be flexible: copyright and other legal issues, for example, need not necessarily be insurmountable barriers.

Obvious? Why not view the Ray Of Light video: a great example of a promotional video which shows how popular the St. Joseph Public Library is and how hard-working the staff are. Could you produce something like this in your organisation – or will conservatism inevitably scare you off? Or, on the other hand, as the Going down the YouTubes? posting reports, will copyright owners require such copyrighted materials to be removed? And, if so, would this result in the investment needed to produce such mashups to be written off?

What do you think?

11 Responses to “Viral Marketing: From Store Wars To Web 2.0”

  1. ajcann said

    I’ve just run a focus group today to discover student attitudes to the “viral” videos I’ve been using to try to get across the key points of statistical analysis this term.
    Outcomes: They love the medium, 100% penetration. From an instructional point a view, they complain about excessive length (all shorter than 5 minutes) and file sizes, but they also complain that they want more depth and detail, refusing to let go of the older instructional models they’re used to.
    Conclusions: Great medium, but hitting the right balance in a seemingly casual “viral” short is not easy!

  2. Hi AJ – thanks for your comments. I enjoyed, by the way, the video clip embedded in your blog.

  3. ajcann said

    Mine aren’t quite up to that standard yet, but that is a good model of how to put information across in this format. Whenever I mark a post with the video tag, it gets ~50-100% more hits than other posts. Students are crusing around surfing the video clips, so it’s crazy not to use this format for instructional purposes.

  4. ajcann said

    Doh! Just read your paper: (and referenced it in the ms. I’m writing).
    Now looking forward to your forthcoming blog post on viral videos and accessibility! (hint)

  5. ajcann said

    And this just in:

  6. Interesting to see the Response to the ‘Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us’ video. There I was suggesting use of a viral marketing approach based on YouTube, only to discover its potential for dialogue. This reminds me of the “F— It (I Don’t Want You Back)” and “FU Right Back” dialogue in the charts a few years ago.

    Might we see, for example, the Bad Science column’s criticism of ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith being surfaced as a video expose in YouTube?

  7. well, remember that music “dialogue” is almost certainly organised and not authentic – certainly Jive had to grant Marro (or whoever Frankee was with at the time) rights to the music because it used the original track as background.

  8. Kara Jones said

    Brian, did you see the Money Programme special about YouTube and personal broadcasting last Friday night? Very interesting comment that any business worth its salt has a business model that includes taking their brand online.
    Clive James is their case in point – he moved from tv to youtube, creating his own content and now it’s been snapped up by the satelite channel Artsworld and broadcast there as well.
    Also that tagging helps those advertisers focus who they want to advertise to…

  9. Peter Miller said

    Blog by Wesley Fryer on the possibly detrimental “shock and awe” response to use of videos such as “Web 2.0 The Machine is Us/ing Us” in training teachers and offering “Introducing the Book” as a better way in. Personally, I think it’s a little long but may be worth considering.
    Video at
    Blog entry at

  10. […] do something similar for this year’s event, I wonder? A few month’s ago I posted about Viral Marketing from Store Wars to Web 2.0. Several amusing video clips were mentioned, including, with an IT theme, the well-known “Web 2.0 […]

  11. Project Black Scam

    Project Black Mask review, looking behind the curtains

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