Why Brands Should Embrace The Parody

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In branded video, mockery is similarly flattery, and something that brands should not only embrace, but also seek out.

Branded video is unique in its ability to engage viewers and then create earned media through sharing and other social behaviors. One of the key behaviors is the creation of user-generated, or derivative, content. User-generated video helps to lengthen the life of a branded video and spread the brand’s message.

True success of branded video is not only dependent on views of a brand’s original content, but also the videos it inspires, because it signals how engaged viewers are with the content and the kind of imprint it has made on pop culture.

There is no question that the biggest campaigns every year derive a good percentage of their viewership from user-generated content. Volvo Truck’s “Live Test,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, for example, has garnered more than 130 million views since it was released in November. More than 37 million of those views, or 28%, come from spoofs and parodies of the original video.

While all user-generated content is important, brands should jump for joy when their ads start to be parodied. Two of the “Live Test” parodies became viral sensations in their own right and drove major media coverage – one starring Channing Tatum and the other Toronto mayor Rob Ford. When a brand’s content is being parodied, and then when those parodies start to create buzz and drive their own coverage, a brand can know that it has created a cultural moment with its content.

But brands shouldn’t just embrace those parodies of their own work. These days, we’re seeing more agencies and brands parody each other’s work, and it’s a smart move.

Last week, American Greetings and Cardstore released a Mother’s Day campaign, “World’s Toughest Job,” that has gathered more than 17.7 million views. The campaign features real candidates interviewing for a fake job with demanding and outlandish requirements. The big takeaway is that billions of people already hold this position: moms.

The campaign has had lots of media coverage. It’s been tweeted about more than 28,000 times and been posted, shared, commented, and liked on Facebook more than 1.5 million times. It’s a water-cooler moment.

While we haven’t found a ton of user-generated parodies, one brand was brave enough to make fun of the ad: Bud Light. In its latest campaign, “World’s Toughest Job Interview,” the brand tells “applicants” that it is looking for a “Director of Whatever.” After asking a series of odd, ridiculous, and confusing questions – like how you prefer to wear your fanny pack – it’s revealed that people fill this job every day,, and they’re called dads. The brand ends on the thought that you should have a beer with your dad.

While the creative is a classic parody, it’s also completely on-message for Bud Light. Viewership is hovering around 750,000, but the brand already received a fair amount of coverage for capitalizing on American Greeting’s moment.

Another company to make waves with a parody this week was Above Average Productions with its spoof of Dove’s “Patches.” The production company used Dove’s spotlight to show its capabilities, which they are now opening up for branded video projects.

By embracing parodies, brands can capitalize on existing buzz around a cultural moment and engage not only their own target consumers, but also those of the other brand. But most importantly, parodies give brands, and their consumers, a chance to have a little fun!

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