Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why Do Some Things Go Viral? Six Common Factors

Caine's Arcade at the Exploratorium
Caine's Arcade at the Exploratorium (Photo credit: the_exploratorium)
I recently found a delightful inspiring video called Caine's Arcade on YouTube.  I posted it on my school counselor blog.  I used it repeatedly in classroom guidance in a career lesson I'm teaching.  The students are always totally enchanted by the enthusiastic creative nine year old boy who creates a cardboard arcade which unfortunately has only one customer.  That one customer decides that the arcade is so amazing that he makes Caine's day by setting up  a flash mob surprise visit and video taping the whole thing.  Here's the video:

When I show Caine's Arcade in the classroom, the children are totally enthralled with the idea.  They not only think Caine's Arcade is amazing but they talk about how that's what they want to do as well.  They aren't the only ones who like it.  The video has had over  3,500,000 views! What about this video caused it to go viral?

In the book Contagious: Why Things Catch Onby Jonah Berger, he outlines six reasons something goes viral. This video meets many of those criteria.

Social Currency

The first reason something goes viral, is that people tend to share things that make them look good.  Being in the know about something, sharing something that is clever or unique or amazing is a natural part of being human.  What do kids do whenever they create a picture or master a new skill?  They shout, "Look at me!  See what I can do!"  Adults are a little more subtle but still have the same need.  We love to share what we have found, at least partly because it reflects back on us.  When I discovered this video, I couldn't wait to share it with other adults as well as kids.  It demonstrates so much of what I think is important in life;  ingenuity, determination, helping others. I love it when others are equally enthralled with the video as I am.


Triggers refers to words or phrases that catch our attention.  It can be a color or an image. Incorporating a trigger into an advertising campaign can make the difference between success or failure.  There are lots of examples in the book of triggers that signal interest or that send a message.  In this video, the title comes to be a trigger that sends a message of creativity and imagination.  In fact out of the video came a whole movement that inspired other children to create things out of cardboard on a special imagination day of October 2nd.  


When I show the video in the classroom, I watch the student's faces while they watch the story unfold.  By the end of the story they are not only smiling but some are even cheering!  The film creates emotion through depicting Caine's efforts to entice customers into the arcade that he has put so much of his heart and energy into.  There is sadness in the beginning when they realize that he has put hours and hours into the arcade and has only one customer.  There is excitement at the end when the flashmob descends on the arcade and he has hundreds of visitors.  The video creates emotion and when we care, we share.


When something is public, it is more easily shared.  And when something is shared, there is potential for growth.  If you look up this video on Youtube, you will notice that it is one of several videos about the arcade. The videos chronicle the outcome of the flashmob visit to Caine's Arcade.  Celebrities have visited the arcade.  An imagination foundation has been set up to encourage others to be creative.  A college scholarship for Caine has been funded.  All of this because a customer not only created a flashmob to make Caine's day but he also filmed the experience and went public with it.  If it is built to show, it's built to grow.

Practical Value

People like to share things that are practical and useful.  When you get an amazing deal on something don't you like to tell others about it?  When you learn a terrific new way to do something that is easy and efficient, don't you share it with others?  Caine's Arcade takes something that is ordinary and readily available (cardboard boxes) and shows how a child can create something extraordinary.  Doesn't every child like to play with cardboard boxes?  This video shows just how creative someone can be with an everyday item.  People like to share news that others can use.


Finally, Caine's Arcade is a great story and people love to share stories.  People remember stories, especially extraordinary ones and this video certainly fits the bill.  Every time I show the video, someone asks me, "Is that a true story?"  They love to hear that the answer is yes because they can identify even more with the main character and if he an do something extraordinary so can they.  Information is best shared within the context of a story. 

What is the relevance of understanding how things go viral?  Whenever we have a product to share, it is important to understand what creates marketing buzz.  What engages people?  What do they respond to best?  What do they want to share with others?  Building in some of these six factors will insure success! 

Want to learn more about goal setting and how to Be Do Have, even with a busy life?  Join me for a free teleseminar on February 19th with Jen McDonough!  Details are here:  Teleseminar

Want to spend an entire day learning more about following your passion and making your goals happen? Attend the Called Woman Conference  in March and listen to an impressive line-up of speakers who can teach you how to take your dream to reality. 

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  1. Thanks for sharing that clip ... I'd seen a plug for it but I'd passed it up until your trailer piqued my curiosity. The emotion is what hooked me. I just LOVE his only customer who got so excited about his FUN pass and made all of that happen for Caine ... the power of ONE!


    1. You are so right Barbara--it does show the power of one and how one person can impact the world for good. And not just in the example of Nirvan, the film-maker. Caine has also impacted the world by inspiring other children to be creative and persistent.

  2. Oh, Lynne, what a fantastic post and inspirational video! I can see exactly why your children at school were excited by this. It shows that hard work and creativity can and will pay off in the end. Also, it tells them that they are never too young to be of value, never too young to accomplish, never too young to dream!
    Beautiful! Got to share this one, my friend!
    Blessings, Lynne!