Commentary

Epic Living: Why We All Want To Create The Ultimate Video Selfie



When Atlanta traveler Richard Dunn found himself stranded overnight at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport last weekend, he didn’t waste any time or creativity. Instead of retreating to a hotel or grabbing a clear patch of carpet, he made an outrageous, professional-quality video of himself lip-synching to Celine Dion’s hit version of “All By Myself.” 

Since Dunn’s video hit the web, the social media sphere has gone nuts. His iPhone creation has been played more than 15 million times in just over a week. “The Today Show,” Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and many more news organizations in search of click-bait have covered his ultimate video selfie. Celine Dion herself even released a video response, inviting Dunn to see her show next time he’s in Vegas. She also said he’s “more than welcome to use her bathroom.”

Dunn’s video is undeniably clever. Using nothing but his iPhone, a wheelchair, a roll of luggage tape, some improvised riggings and a lot of ingenuity, Dunn achieved everything from push in and pull out shots to tracking shots (he used the moving walkways). But why has Dunn’s video gone viral so quickly? What makes it so irresistible?

In short, Dunn’s video selfie aligns perfectly with a trend we call Epic Living. The quest for unique experiences coupled with widespread social media sharing has turned up the pressure to live life beyond the ordinary. Dunn transformed a perfectly mundane experience – being stuck at an airport – into an epic opportunity for self-expression. 

While Dunn was not motivated by social media attention (he says he did it mainly to make his wife laugh), the “make it shareable” impulse In today’s social media infused culture is real. People increasingly seek (or create) over-the-top experiences as markers of status and self-expression. In fact, one in four agree that they “sometimes pursue new experiences just so I can share about them on social media.” Among Millennials, that jumps to 41%, according to the Finger on the Pulse Survey, May 2014.

The media and advertising implications revolve around the nature of virality. While babies and cats always get it done, they’re a little obvious and not always on-message. Instead, explore ways your brand transforms ordinary, humdrum situations into unexpected or extreme experiences. Cracking the code of Epic Living could help you unlock the value of earned impressions.




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2 comments about "Epic Living: Why We All Want To Create The Ultimate Video Selfie".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 18, 2014 at 8:48 a.m.
    Rare few people can do this as Dunn did because ultimately it was not about himself. They are called selfishies as in I am part of this world but the world does not revolve around me. Our mental health is suffering.
  2. Kirk Olson from Horizon Media , June 19, 2014 at 11:10 a.m.
    I agree, Paula. Dunn made it pretty clear in his media interviews that he mainly did it for his own fun. It's partly because Dunn wasn't seeking the attention of the world that he got it. And that makes it tricky. Dunn's video was also unexpected, gloriously DIY, well-made, and dealt with an ordinary situation many people can relate to while pushing it to a level of epic absurdity. I think that's the key takeaway for marketers. If we can replicate this recipe (without looking like we're trying too hard) while connecting the content to our brands in an authentic way, we may get closer to the virality we often seek. But as you said, it's not easy. We could all debate whether social media is fostering a population of narcissists, is simply a reflection of a more widespread focus on "self," or is something else entirely. I do think that for those growing up craving social media likes, shares, and retweets, it's just another form of self-expression. Does that mean they're self-centered? I don't know. There are studies that say Millennials are only concerned with money and fame and others that say the opposite. For the youngest, lifestage may be a factor as much as generational cohort. I remember when my generation was labeled "slackers" for our cynicism and ambivalence regarding authority and established institutions. But somehow, most of us still became productive members of society. ;-). As is always the case with generational friction, only time will tell. Thanks for your comment :-)