Advertising should be like Harlem Shake

The biggest meme of the year thus far has been the Harlem Shake. Originally Harlem Shake was a dance coined in Harlem in 1980´s. It was inspired by Ethiopian dance called Eskista.
Last summer EDM artist Baauer did his song by the same name. It was played in the clubs, but nothing major happened.
Then it was quite quiet until YouTube-user called Filthy Frank did his version:

This video inspired other one, which created the current form of the Harlem Shake video:

Currently there are over 4000 Harlem Shake videos uploaded daily to YouTube with over 40 million views. The mainstream media is also quick to catch to the new Internet craze:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Harlem Shake is great example of what kind of content spreads in YouTube.

What marketers can learn about Harlem Shake?

1. Make it short
Attention span for the content in the Internet is getting shorter and shorter.
Who has time for a three minute music video?
Or a 500-word blog post?

You have to be able to tell your message in 30 seconds or 140 characters. That is all the attention you will get.

2. Make it stupid
If you want to make viral hit, you have to hit the lowest common denominator. YouTube videos are majorly consumed in coffee breaks. People want then to escape their boring routines. They want entertainment, not education. Harlem Shake fulfills that need.
You can watch quite many Harlem Shake versions within your lunch break.

3. Make it easy to participate
The concept of Harlem Shake is simple.
First the video starts with one guy (usually masked) doing usually quite boring dance move. After the breakdown the scene turns to total mayhem with more people. And that is basically it.
No difficult choreographies or difficult lines you have to remember. Just gather as many people you want and go crazy. This makes it also ideal for offices and workplaces to participate. Easier than have the whole office running marathon. Engagement has to be made as easy as possible. Harlem Shake provides a blank creative canvas where people can create their own interpretation. If you want to make it big and difficult, you can do it. But also if you want to make it quick and dirty. Harlem Shake just provides you the form and leaves you with the actual creative execution.

The Harlem Shake is interesting phenomenon from music and marketing perspective. Baauer´s label Mad Decent has been quick to ride the bandwagon and compiles the new versions to their Tumblr-blog.

Is it new Gangnam style?

That remains to be seen, but traditional popular culture mechanics were turned upside down in this case. Harlem Shake will be hit because of the consumer-generated meme*. With Gangnam style the pattern followed more the traditional music video route (the dance was in music video).

*And if the meme is machinated by Mad Decent, it makes it even greater case example for marketers.

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One thought on “Advertising should be like Harlem Shake

  1. […] If you do not act like this, you will be doing Harlem shake versions in 2015. […]

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