7 Content Marketing Lessons from the Harlem Shake

Intel does the Harlem ShakeWe’ve all seen the videos by now: The Harlem Shake has taken YouTube by storm! The humorous dance videos all follow the same formula where a single person begins dancing before being joined by others. While this cultural phenomenon may seem completely unrelated to marketing, content creators and marketers have plenty to learn from this viral fad.

In fact, some brands such as Intel have taken advantage of the trend and released their own Harlem Shake video. While it’s probably too late to catch onto this trend, the lesson learned would be worth adding to your 2013 marketing plan.

  1. Humor sells. More and more brands like Old Spice have taken advantage of a good ole laugh and incorporated it into their advertising. Plus, humorous content is more likely to go viral than serious content. Want proof? Consider that 60% of advertisements that go viral are produced by smaller companies – companies that don’t take themselves as seriously as larger corporations. Have you seen this hilarious Dollar Shave Club commercial?
  2. Do the content shake. The Harlem Shake has a clear formula. One guy starts dancing – others join. Yet despite the predictable outline, each Harlem Shake video has an element of surprise and creativity. They’re not just shaking Harlem, they’re shaking up the content as well. Your content doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just shake it up and add your unique voice and twist.
  3. People want to feel. In content marketing, we always discuss how people should feel emotionally connected and invested. Well, emotions aren’t always the only thing we feel. As Kid President once said, “Sometimes, it’s just time to dance.”
  4. Timing is everything. If any company tries to jump onto the Harlem Shake craze at this point by releasing a video, they’ll tarnish their brand by being behind the trend. Posting content at the right time can put your marketing on the map or even make your content go viral. Remember that Oreo meme that was released within minutes of the power failure at the Super Bowl? Brilliant!
  5. Be spontaneous. What was so fun about the Harlem Shake was the spontaneity and unexpectedness of each video. Even if you’re content and marketing plans have a set formula, there’s plenty of room to be creative and spontaneous! Just think of how many different jokes that our favorite little GEICO gecko has cracked over the years!
  6. Develop a content strategy. When Intel released their version of the Harlem Shake, there was likely a lot of planning that went on behind it. They had to ensure that their “image” was protected in a video that is goofy and pushes that “invisible line.” By developing a content strategy as we suggested in a previous article, your brand will easily jump onto the next craze since you’ll have a solid idea of what your image is.
  7. Have fun! This may seem like common sense, but seriously, why in the world do we still get stuck with boring commercials and marketing? No one wants to do business with a boring business. This is 2013, ya’ll! Show your personality and get dancing!

Is your content doing the Harlem Shake? We’d love to hear your story below!


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Daniel Chioco is a writer living in Nashville, TN. He earned his Commercial Music degree at Belmont University, where he also studied creative writing and wrote for the student newspaper. When he isn't creating content, Daniel works as an actor and films YouTube videos. He is also a freelance musician and is authoring his first fantasy novel.

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