Rocky Mountain Viral – September 2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in Denver Metro, Boulder and beyond.

This month I am going to dedicate Rocky Mountain Viral to the victims of the Fourmile Canyon fire in Boulder, my hometown. The fact that no one died in the most destructive fire in the state’s history is a testament to the professionalism and hard work of the many firefighters and rescue workers involved, but social media has played an important role during and after the fire as well.

Spreading Information

On the morning of Monday, September 6th, my wife called on her way back from the gym to tell me that a fire had broken out west of Boulder. I checked news sources and found nothing, so I decided to head up to open space  and take a look. Here was my reaction to what I saw:

Fourmile Fire Tweet

Before my tweet and less than an hour after the fire had broken out, conversation about the fire was well under way on Twitter. People were using the hashtag #boulderfire to identify their tweets. Like many people, I spent the afternoon nervous about how much the fire would spread and concerned for friends that live in the canyons west of town. News media was slow with updates at first, but sources like CU instructor Sandra Fish, grad student Amanda Pingel and resident Andrew Hyde were right on top of what was happening. Fish was listening to the Boulder County police scanner and following other sources and tweeting real-time updates. Pingel created a collaborative Google Map of the area with the fire perimeter marked out and people were posting photos and other info to the map by Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, uber-social Andrew Hyde had created a mashup of social coverage of the fire on his blog.

#boulderfire tweets by hour, 9/6/2010

#boulderfire tweets by hour, 9/6/2010 (source: Topsy)

There has been some debate about whether the news media should have been providing more real-time coverage. Like most people, I looked to the Boulder Daily Camera, the Denver Post and other media channels for information in addition to my social media sources, and to be fair they were updating news frequently, if not as real-time as the Twitter stream. In any case, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and numerous blogs kept me and many others informed. And we could ask questions, send our good wishes and feel part of what was happening in a way that traditional news media does not allow.

Connecting

As events were unfolding, I had several offers in Facebook and Twitter of places for me and my family to stay if we were evacuated, though we were well away from the evacuation zone. People I hadn’t heard from in years came out of the woodwork offering help and expressing concern. And we, too, offered our support and help to friends. Many people in the community opened their homes to strangers, and I know first-hand of several new friendships that were formed during the fire. It is not to say that these things couldn’t have happened without social media, communities have banded together in crisis for time immemorial, but my experience was that the Internet played a role in most of these connections. I suppose one thing that’s changed is that our network of human connections is much larger than it once would have been. The “community” that has helped during and after the fire includes people from all over the metro area and beyond.

Rallying Help

While the fire was still raging, local technology firm Sparkplace launched the Fourmile Fire Help Forum, where people could find or offer a place to stay or food or supplies. It has also become a clearinghouse of information for people trying to navigate the aftermath of the disaster, with topics like “Insurance Help and Issues” and “Animal Help”.

Another community effort that has pulled together blazingly fast is the 4 Mile Community Store. The store takes donations of clothing, furniture, housewares and other goods and provides them to people affected by the fire. It was organized by a moderator of the Boulder Rock’n Moms Yahoo Group. She’s spread the word about the store to the group’s 2,500 members, who have spread it throughout the community. My wife heard about the store through the group, and she and my daughter volunteered there last weekend. The store could use more volunteers and they’ve also got a list of things they need on the site, if you have anything to donate.

I would like to list the many other organizations and people who have helped or need help after the fire, but there are just too many. It is inspiring to see how people have stepped up, in small and large ways.  I have focused on the positive things that happened for me and the community as a result of the fire, but I don’t mean to downplay the tragedy of the event. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a home and all the memories inside so completely to such devastation. Those of us who were not affected are very fortunate, and we all owe a great debt to the men and women who worked day and night battling the fire.

Here are some good sources I found on the topics of social media and the fire:

If you’d like to help in some way yourself, check the How You Can Help forum on the Fourmile Help Forum site.

Rocky Mountain Viral – August 2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in Denver Metro, Boulder and beyond.

After too long a hiatus, Rocky Mountain Viral is back! My goal is to get these out monthly from now on. Here’s hoping.

Colorado Girls – one of the most tried-and-true ways to get YouTube traffic is to parody another very successful video. Anthropomorphize a cat or work in some South Park characters and you’ve got yourself a viral hit. Katy Perry’s wildly successful “California Gurlz” video has been this summer’s favorite target, keeping hundreds of parodists busy. At least 37 states have weighed in so far, but it turns out that Colorado girls are among the most popular, with this video garnering over 600,000 views on YouTube. The video was created by three friends in a couple of weeks with no budget. The lyrics are clever and it is well put together, but the real star of the video is our Front Range. The tourism board itself couldn’t have done a better job of stitching together all the quintessential details that make us, well, not California. See for yourself:

Cherry Creek Dance – In another story of native talent, I love this video featuring Emily Sasson of Cherry Creek Dance. The video is promoting her Wednesday night hip hop class, and has received over 4,600 views in just a few days. Sure, that doesn’t compare to Colorado Girls, but this is no parody and includes no South Park characters, just great dancing and great local business marketing.

And then there’s whiteboard girl – in a perfect case study of the is-it-real phenomenon,  “Jenny” took the internet by storm early this month with her very public and scathing announcement that she was quitting her job. She emailed her coworkers photos of herself quitting with a whiteboard commentary on her boss and his Farmville habit. The photos were leaked to the website thechive.com:

We received the following photos last night from a person who works with this girl. Her name is Jenny (not confirmed) – we’re working our contact for Jenny’s last name…

It turns out that Jenny’s last name is Porterfield and her first name isn’t Jenny, it’s Elyse. Porterfield is a Glenwood Springs native and recent UNC graduate who did not quit her job, but is an aspiring actress who did a photoshoot for The Chive. She has a pretty face and was given a funny set of whiteboards and is now a hot commodity thanks to the hoax. Oh, and she’s a California girl now too. I think that’s fitting.

Amazing Girl Quits

Do politicians just automatically count as viral? – wanting to get a jump on the competition, Time Magazine has already announced the best viral campaign ads of 2010. Among them is Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper trying to wash away negative campaign ads on his path to the governor’s office. I like his sentiment, but it seems like an ad should be viral to earn that distinction. With only 40,000 YouTube views for such a prominent campaign, I’m thinking Hick should hire the Colorado Girls crew to shoot his next video.

This is a monthly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 3/28/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in Denver Metro, Boulder and beyond.

Talking About the Weather – I have now lived in Colorado long enough that I am no longer surprised by the massive spring storms that inevitably pummel the Front Range. But I have to say that I still find the regular irregularity of the weather fascinating. In the past seven days we have seen beautiful 60-something degree weather and one of the biggest storms of the season. There is an odd YouTube subculture that captures such dramatic weather swings in the form of time-lapse video. Two such videos drew some attention this past week. The more popular of the two has better quality video, better music and nice placement of wind chimes in the foreground, but I find it kind of long. The  second is much lower quality video, but covers almost the same time span in a fifth of the time, and provides a nice view of the clouds in the sky. Watching the two, I would have to say that clouds are an essential ingredient of time lapse video. Here is the second:

What’s Not Happy About a Happy Meal? – Apparently, one thing that doesn’t look so interesting over time is a McDonalds Happy Meal. While some have agued that McDonalds’ food leads to anything but immortality, the food itself has remarkable staying power. That was the subject of a project and blog post undertaken by Colorado author Joann Bruso, who observed a Happy Meal over the course of a year and celebrated it’s first birthday several weeks ago. She wrote a blog post memorializing the anniversary, which has received quite a bit of coverage. The success of her project highlights the fact that a story doesn’t need a lot of pomp and circumstance to go viral if it is told sincerely and encapsulates a clear message.

Sixty Seconds, Forty Days – Several weeks back, I wrote about Ubuntu now’s Wall of Fame. That was a teeny bit interesting, but in retrospect they should have hired Denver agency Sukle Advertising and Design. The firm is responsible for creating a similar, but more compelling campaign to raise awareness and money for the cause of clean water for children around the world. The campaign is called the sixtyfortyproject, and allows a donor to post a message to one of two very public electronic billboards in downtown Denver in exchange for a donation of a dollar.  The name refers to the fact that a dollar buys sixty seconds of billboard time and  forty days of clean water for a child. Good cause and idea, but I’m surprised that there is not more of a web element to the project – it would garner much more attention (and money) if video of the billboards was displayed live on the web and if contributor’s messages were pushed out via Twitter and other channels.

Save the Tails! - While I can relate to the causes Bruso and Sukle’s are promoting, others mystify me. This Thursday there was a “save the animals” rally in Denver. But the animals in question are not the living and breathing kind, they are the animals painted on the tails of Frontier airplanes. Protesters were concerned that Frontier’s recent acquisition by Republic Airways may spell the end of the brand and it’s two-dimensional mascots. There is also a KEEP THE FRONTIER BRAND AND ANIMALS group on Facebook, with over 5,000 members. While I do see the event and group as a testament to branding, they also strike me as a colossal waste of energy and time.

In Longmont, Colorado Bar T’at – This one isn’t viral, but I can’t resist. The Denver Post did a story on Nature’s Casket, a business in Longmont that produces “green” coffins made out of beetle-killed Colorado pine. The coffins are part of a movement towards earth-friendly embalming and burial methods. Reading the article, I was immediately reminded of the song ‘On Ilkley Moor Bar T’at’. The song is the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire, England, and the lyrics are written in the old Yorkshire dialect. Here is a translation of the last few lines:

Then we will have to bury you
Then the worms will come and eat you up
Then the ducks will come and eat up the worms
Then we will go and eat up the ducks
Then we will have eaten you
That’s where we get our own back

I’m not sure if viral media and casket manufacturing go together, but a pine-beetle version of this song just has to be made. I will post what I come up with next week. Here is an interpretation of the original as sung by some of the lovely lads and lasses of Yorkshire:

Ring Girl ReduxLast month I mentioned how Colorado teen Conner Cordova had launched an all-out media campaign in order to land a senior prom date. The object of his obsession affection was UFC ring girl Arianny Celeste, who ultimately relented accepted. Well, I’m happy to report that the date did actually happen last Saturday night. The boy told Bill Husted of the Post that he got her number and “ended up getting a kiss, which was awesome.”

With Cordova’s penchant and savvy for media attention, he most certainly does have her number.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 3/21/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in Denver Metro, Boulder and beyond.

This Shelf for Rent - The Boulder Bookstore is one of my favorite places to visit after a nice meal on Pearl Street. It is also the subject of a lot of recent interest for how it is enabling authors promote their books. Writers who are having a difficult time getting shelf space in the local Barnes & Noble can pay Boulder Bookstore to carry their books on consignment. This program is strengthening ties to the local literary community, and many of the participating authors also end up promoting the store. I think this is an interesting model for local retailers of all sorts. Is there something you can be doing to cultivate a network of ambassadors for your business?

This Dome for Rent – In a trip to Tokyo a few years ago, I was struck by how advertising covered almost every available surface in the subway system. Well, I think this tops anything I saw there. The State of Colorado is looking to sell advertising space on the dome of the capitol building. The purpose of the plan is to raise money for restoration of the dome, and lawmakers seem to be hanging on to the idea that it will be executed in a “tasteful” way. I’d love to see what PETA would do if they got ahold of a giant dome, but I’m guessing that our dome will have to settle for something a little less controversial.

Everything Tastes Better with Bacon – Denver web design firm Data Incorporated created an interactive game called Find the Bacon to showcase Freebase, the “definitive open database of people, places and things.” The game is based on the six degrees of Kevin Bacon concept, and wins points for an engaging UI. What I find most interesting is that Find the Bacon is joining an already crowded field. The Oracle of Bacon has iPhone app for Bacon enthusiasts, and there’s even a thekevinbacongame.com. There may be such a thing as too much bacon. (I’m sure the PETA folks would agree.)

Yarnbombing – I came across this via the Denver Egotist this week, though it’s not a new story. A group of women called the Ladies Fancywork Society have been terrorizing the city with guerilla knitting. In the dark hours of the night they practice their craft by covering bike racks, light poles, sculptures and other urban miscellany with delightful crochet. If there was such a thing as a Nobel Prize for knitting, these women would deserve it for doing their best to cover up the heinous sculpture outside the Performing Arts complex. Knit on ladies, I love what you do!

Topless Gardening – I am starting to work on a taxonomy of viral media, which I will publish soon. In the taxonomy, I am recording the various principles that contribute to an article, video or other media going viral. One of the most interesting principles I’ve found is what I am calling “piggybacking”. This is where a story gains some of its interest by piggybacking on to another story. This week provided a perfect example of this, when a Boulder resident decided to do some topless gardening. The “news” got picked up by a number of sites, in spite of the fact that it is profoundly uninteresting. What I think happened is that this story piggybacked on all the recent coverage of Boulder’s increasingly strict nudity laws (which I mentioned a few weeks back).

I am still pondering on the viral taxonomy of the skunk that got it’s head stuck in a peanut butter jar. I’m thinking that may deserve a classification all to itself.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 3/14/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

Un-Affiliated in Colorado – People all over were talking about Amazon’s move to cut off their affiliates in the State of Colorado, in protest against state law HB10-1183. The law obliges online retailers to collect Colorado sales tax for goods sold in the state, or make consumers aware that they owe the tax. Within the state, opinions were divided and heated. I myself have gotten in to a few arguments on the subject. Carol Hedges, of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, wrote a piece on Huffington Post describing the debate. What is odd about Amazon’s move is that it is directed against affiliates, who are unaffected by the law. Clearly the intent is to get people fired up, without any significant risk to Amazon revenue. Since many bloggers and internet cognoscenti are also Amazon affiliates, cutting them off has proven to be a very effective tactic.

It’s In Your Hands – There is one topic everyone can agree on: periOperative Registered Nurses should know how to wash their hands. This was the message behind a video contest put on by the Denver-based Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), with the winner to be announced at this week’s AORN Congress in Denver. Sadly, I could not find any Colorado entrants in the contest, but in any case it would have been embarrassing to see them lose to this remarkable entry from Billings, Montana:

The contest is quirky and goofy, but a great way to spread a message on a budget. The rest of the entrants can be found here.

Friended a Ghost Lately? – I’m not sure how I ended up there, but I came across this on the Nachos of Doom blog. Apparently, the Stanley Hotel is pulling out the social-media stops with regards to promoting their paranormal history. Their Facebook Page is abuzz with would-be ghost hunters, and hotel staff actively engage in the discussions. Here’s a little sample from their Facebook Wall:

This is a clever way to capitalize on a colorful past, and create awareness about a beautiful hotel in a beautiful setting.

Snow at First Sight – Unfortunately, I think this one falls short. With the best of intentions, the Colorado Board of Tourism staged a contest called Snow at First Sight. The winners are finishing up their prize this month, which was an all-expenses-paid trip to Colorado for three full months of skiing, snowmobiling and carousing around the state. To participate, contest entrants had to submit a video explaining how they had never even seen snow, and why they deserved to win the trip. There is a web site dedicated to the promotion, a Facebook Fan Page. And the winners have been tweeting away. But considering all of the rigmarole, not very many people are paying attention. One reason may be that it’s hard (impossible?) to find said Facebook Page and Twitter feed from the Snow at First Sight web site. Rule one for getting followed is to make yourself easy to follow. But I think the bigger reason is that it just isn’t all that interesting to watch people play in the snow for three months. I will never forget being with a friend from Costa Rica when he saw snow for the first time. It was great to vicariously experience the wonder of snow. But that was entertaining for an hour or so. Most of the media value of this contest expired shortly after it began.

Why I Am Not a Zamboni Driver – Coloradan Kenneth Waesche got his 15 minutes of viral fame this week when he snapped this photo of a Zamboni fallen through the ice, with a “Caution Thin Ice!” sign in the foreground. The photo got Dugg, Farked, Tweeted and everything else. Kudos to Waesche for lining up the perfect shot.

The Librarian’s Revenge – And last but not least, it’s time to scour your shelves and make sure you haven’t forgotten to return any books or movies to the library. A Colorado teenager was arrested because of an overdue DVD he had failed to return to the Littleton Public Library. The Consumerist asks “Is there a difference between not returning a library DVD and stealing one from a video store?” Well, yes there is, because one isn’t stealing. And if my video store puts out a warrant for my arrest for not returning a movie, I’m switching to Netflix.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 3/7/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

Ok, I guess I’ll take a short break from watching the This Too Shall Pass video from OkGo to write this update. Since the video doesn’t have anything to do with Colorado, I won’t include it here.

More Colorado Cleavage – Last week Colorado Springs was banning puppet cleavage, this week the human variety is under siege in Aurora. Local coffee shop Perky Cups had to remove a banner featuring a bikini-clad barista. Apparently, Perky Cups’ schtick is scantily clad servers. Of course the fact that the banner was taken down has generated far more attention than if it had stayed up, with the story making national news and generating a lot of internet buzz. Personally, I prefer coffee shops that share my obsession for the bean itself, such as Ozo in Boulder and Kaladi in Denver.

Epic Longboard Sliding – I have a number of cycling friends who view longboarders as a nuisance and nothing more. If you share their opinion, you’d better watch this video. It is produced by longboard company Bustin Boards and shot in the mountains of Colorado. Grace and athleticism, that’s all I have to say.

Cubicle Wars 2010 – If the longboard dudes had spent less time boarding and more time playing World of Warcraft, they might have produced this video instead. It was created by Boulder software company Windward Reports, and is the sequel to 2006′s Cubicle Wars. The original has been watched almost two and a half million times. The sequel is funnier.

IE6, May It Rest In Peace - And speaking of software geeks, Denver-based Aten Design Group hit the viral jackpot when they were written up in Techcrunch for staging a funeral for Microsoft’s IE 6 web browser. This was a brilliant stunt all around, combining absurdity and niche-enthusiasm with just the right amount of media savvy. Perhaps the icing on the cake was the fact that Microsoft actually sent flowers to the event. Long live Aten Design, and may IE6 rest in peace.

A High Fiber Diet? – Google is looking for a suitable community to test their planned ultra high-speed broadband network, and several local communities are putting on their Sunday best. The network will deliver up to one gigabyte per second to the home. That’s enough to deliver a typical DVD in a few seconds, and roughly a thousand times what most people have today. The City of Boulder has created a web site, Facebook fan page and Twitter feed dedicated to the effort. And a map showing the location of all the residents hungry to watch Cubicle Wars in high-def.

Self-Promotion for Good – This one isn’t viral yet, but it should be. Colorado non-profit Ubuntunow.org has created a virtual wall of supporters, which you can join for a donation of $10 (or more if you want). The donation goes to help promote gender equality and support the fight against rape and HIV/AIDs in South Africa. And you get your face on the wall and a link to whatever you would like to promote to boot.

Little Green Lobbyists – When I first saw the Peeping Tom Alien a few years ago, I was scared to be alone in the dark. This might be a little freakier. Jeff Peckman, the man who introduced the Peeping Tom Alien to David Letterman, held the Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission’s “Welcome to Earth” campaign launch at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on Thursday. In case you weren’t there, he was campaigning for support for the group to become an official part of Denver city government. Elected officials in Boulder and Colorado Springs are in favor of the measure, as it would make both cities appear uncharacteristically level-headed in comparison.

Back to This Too Shall Pass. Amazing what you pick up the second hundred times you watch it.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 2/28/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

Dr. David Benke is a Hero – Sadly, Colorado was in world news again for all the wrong reasons. “Deer Creek shooting” and related phrases were hot in search engines this week, as word spread about our most recent school shooting. Fortunately, the actions of Dr. David Benke prevented further tragedy, for which he was recognized on the Facebook fan page  Dr. David Benke is a hero!!! More than just honoring Benke, the page has provided people with a place to share their hopes and fears after the shooting. And Benke has since expressed that he does not consider himself a hero, just someone who did what he had to do. Both are true: we are all capable of heroics if we understand the cost of inaction. Thank you, David Benke, I am a fan.

Unreasonable Institute – On the subject of social-media-for-good, the Boulder-based Unreasonable Institute has a different take on the increasingly popular sport of startup incubation. They are looking for applicants to become “Unreasonable Fellows” and participate in a 10 week program focused on incubating businesses and initiatives that are looking to change the world through social media. In their own words:

We envision a world transformed by social entrepreneurship – a world where tomorrow’s leaders develop sustainable and systemic solutions to issues of global magnitude.

As the Facebook-Benke story demonstrates, social media does connect people for good, and a more connected world is a better world overall. I don’t think that is an unreasonable assumption.

On a less serious note, the next three stories demonstrate the power of sex to get a message across, particularly when it doesn’t involve humans.

Puppet Boobs – A billboard company in Colorado Springs did touring Broadway musical Avenue Q a giant favor by banning their advertising, which features (shudder) puppet cleavage. Not surprisingly, this had people all over the web talking about Colorado Springs, puppet boobs, and of course Avenue Q. Note to marketers: design a ridiculous ad campaign that would only be considered risque in the Springs, and you’ve got yourself viral media.

Skiing for Swingers – In a blatant effort to sell to the id, Copper Mountain is giving skiers the opportunity to “ride something new” with a “Swinger’s Pass”. The pass costs $39 to anyone who presents a valid pass for another ski area. The campaign was designed by offbeat agency Wexley School for Girls and includes provocative Craigslist ads. I wonder if Colorado Springs is going to try and ban Craigslist?

(this is one pun I’m not going to touch) – A bit north of Colorado Springs, researchers at the University of Colorado have been working hard to understand what all the fuss is about sex. Specifically, they are reporting that barn swallows tend to get it on more often when they maintain a diet rich in antioxidants. Are any of us surprised that Boulder scientists think we should swap out our pheromone-saturated perfumes for vitamin supplements? In any case, avian biology has never received so much attention.

Haiku Olympics – With all the sports, sex and tragedy this week, few noticed that Colorado was home to our own global competition: the Haiku Olympics. Now I am a fan of poetry, and one of my favorite people is a poet, but this has to be the least interesting YouTube video I’ve seen in a while. Nonetheless, it did inspire me to try my hand at this simple, but deceptively challenging form:

Haiku Olympics
No Vonn No White No Spillane
So Very Boring

This week’s theme song is Hot & Cold, by Los Colorados. No actual connection to Colorado, but holy crap that dude is like the Tommy Bolin of the accordion!

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 2/21/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

This doesn’t really count as low-budget viral, but if you have a helicopter, Shaun White, a secret half-pipe hidden in the mountains of Colorado and crazy-good production equipment, you can be like Red Bull and dominate YouTube.  Oh yeah, and it helps if your poster boy blows everyone’s mind at the Olympics.

Everyone who wasn’t talking about Shaun White this week was talking about Boulder, after USA Today ranked it the happiest, healthiest city in the country. But lest you think it’s all sweetness and fluorescent light in the Gore-Tex Vortex, the Wall Street Jounal also highlighted the city in a story about the challenges of going green. RedState.com was happy to pick up the latter story, and lambast our hypocrisy and megalomaniacal government. In spite of our government, we are a happy people, though it is true we can be a bit hypocritical. But shame on the pundits for missing the best set-up ever for a “how-many-boulderites-does-it-take-to-screw-in-a-lightbulb” joke.

I came across this item just now, but only because I’ve had my head in the sand since the first video came out in 2006. Technologist/polymath David Terrar blogged this week about a series of videos created by Centennial teacher Karl Fisch and Iowa professor Scott Mcleod. The videos illustrate the massive impact evolving technology has had on, well, pretty much everything. And millions of people have watched them. I guarantee that the 4:45 seconds you spend watching the most recent video (below) will be more informative than the time you spend reading this post.

And the award for  ‘Harnessing People’s Limitless Animal-Video Enthusiasm for Good‘ goes to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Their YouTube channel made it in to the top 100 most-viewed non-profit channels this week. I can see why, after watching this adorable video of Sydney the pit bull mix. The videos are a great way for prospective owners to get to know the dogs, and they help create awareness for the Humane Society. Overall, I’m really impressed with HSBV’s web efforts. For example, check out their Facebook page.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this story, but it seems worthy of mention. Two Boulder guys dropped out of “ad school”, whatever that is. Then they created a WordPress template site to showcase their talents and to crowdsource feedback, and they are offering a prize for people who submit comments. The site is graphically uninteresting, and the campaign ideas they are presenting would end up in the discard pile at most agencies. But what surprises me most is how anti-social the site is. You can’t see other people’s comments, there are no social bookmarks, and there is no information on the two dropouts. So the site ends up leaving me feeling cold and lonely, rather than part of a crowd.

And last but not least, here is a true story of viral media and the power of love. Or something like that. Colorado teen Conner Cordova has been stalking wooing Ultimate Fighting Championship ring girl Arianny Celeste via YouTube. For nearly six months, he has been trying to get her to be his date for the prom. And his relentlessness has paid off: she accepted! Check out the story on his site, MMAreligion.com. I’d hire Conner for my agency in a heartbeat over the two aforementioned dropouts. Kid’s got panache.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 2/14/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

In my house the Superbowl came and went, but we are all atwitter about the Olympics. Like many, my sympathies go out to the family of the luger who died. But the Games must go on, and this year sees an increasing number of athletes on Twitter. It is much more interesting to hear the athletes describe the excitement and anticipation in their own words than to watch the over-produced bio segments put on by the networks. I put together a list of Colorado athletes who are at the Games and twittering:

http://twitter.com/#/list/nicobrx/colorado-olympians

Here’s a little teaser from Aspen cross country skier, Simi Hamilton:

simi hamilton

Now I would have thought that statement to be a bit redundant, but never having dived naked in to a swimming pool of awesomeness, I will take Hamilton’s word. Go Colorado! Go USA!

And if you want to shake a little cowbell while you watch the games, there’s an iPhone app for that.

We have our world-class athletes,  but we have our world-class artists too. Denver artist Evan Hecox designed a brilliant series of Macbook and iPhone cases for manufacturer Incase. But that’s not the viral bit – the viral bit is this video that captures the process of Hecox producing the designs:

I love this video and I love these designs. Nearly 5,000 people have watched it in less than a week, so I guess I’m not the only one.

Another local video that’s getting attention is a parody of The Office called The Class and produced by Denver University students. Alumnus Sinbad notwithstanding, comedy doesn’t appear to be a strength at DU, but give them credit for aiming high. And the clip is striking a chord, as more than 20,000 people have watched it in the last couple of weeks. In particular it is getting talked about and linked-to by teachers and faculty all over. That should be a slam-dunk for an A.

And here is viral media at its best: Boulder toy store Playfair Toys was robbed by an employee at the end of the year and the robbery has put Playfair in a tenuous situation, given the already difficult economy. Proprietor Marilyn Walker bared her heart and balance sheet in a moving appeal for help. And she’s not asking for handouts. Until they get their cash situation sorted out, they are offering all of their inventory at 40% off. The story and video spread like wildfire, especially on mom-centric forums and groups. I haven’t found data on how successful the appeal has been, but a number of items show out-of-stock, which is a good sign. So hurry and buy something. This is an unbelievable deal, these are good people and this is a good cause.

If you are wondering how Coloradans distinguish themselves on Facebook, researcher Pete Warden has some data you might be interested in. He’s done a comprehensive analysis of Facebook user’s Fan page habits and identified some interesting geographic trends. Colorado’s Facebook habits can be found here. The navigation is a bit weird, but worth digging around a bit. There are way too many trends to cover here, but I will point out that Coloradans are fans of the Colorado fan page, but Kansans are not fans of the Kansas fan page. Can’t say as I blame them ;-)

As a little pre-Valentine’s treat, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) dragged a bed down to 16th street mall and populated it with attractive and scantily clad couples to promote the message “Fur Out, Love In.” The event got decent press, but was apparently a little underwhelming if you bothered to show up. In the words of one Denver Egotist commenter, “what a pathetic stunt that turned out to be.” I guess all the skin on TV and the internet  has desensitized us to near-naked hotties. Still, I’d much rather see that than buckets of blood.

Ironically, the PETA folks may need to stay away from Boulder, where stricter public nudity laws are being considered. In classic Boulder fashion, the ordinance got stuck on the question of equal treatment of topless men and women. If male toplessness is outlawed, I’m pretty sure CU will become an all girls school. Good for parking, I guess.

This is a weekly update, please comment if there are topics or items I have missed.

Rocky Mountain Viral – 2/6/2010

Viral marketing news and other viral happenings in the Denver Metro and Boulder area.

Boulder agency TDA Advertising & Design gets credit for an infectious campaign created for Titus Cycles. There are two parts to the campaign. One part is a contest whereby participants submit a tattoo design featuring Titus.  The winner gets the design permanently tattooed on his or her body and a $5,500 Titus bike. The other part is for those more timid among us. By voting on submitted designs, you get a chance to win a Titus t-shirt. You have to become a Facebook fan of Titus to see the submitted tattoos, but I assure you it’s worth it. There are some truly beautiful and truly ridiculous submissions.

Titus Logo
I also love that would-be tattooees are battling it out on Titus’ Facebook wall. Well done TDA.

I definitely don’t want to get bogged down in the political tomfoolery that we can expect between now and November, but a couple of videos featuring local politicos are getting some attention. In one, Governor Bill Ritter is lambasted in a visual collage set to Johnny Cash and featuring cameos by Chewbacca the Wookie and Fred Gwynn, among many others. I couldn’t make much sense of the video, but it is an effective technique and a lot of people are watching. In the other, Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff takes aim at PAC money and the political system it supports. While I found the video a bit campy, his message clearly resonates. The video has over 1,000 views in just a few days. While the two clips come from very different ends of the political spectrum, both show the power of viral media to get a message out.

Last week, I mentioned a blog post questioning the cost versus benefit of Foursquare and other location-based services. This week, Techcrunch took issue with Foursquare in one of the best-named blog posts in recent memory: Does Foursquare Have a Douchebag Problem?. What surprises me is that they quote a comment by Colorado-based web guru Dave Taylor without crediting him. The fact that Foursquare alienated an influencer like Taylor both supports the Techcrunch story and indicates that they are revving up the engines to jump the shark.

A little less hip than tattoos and Foursquare, this story features an icon near and dear to my heart. I travel through Denver’s Union Station every day, and find its cavernous space a monument to missed opportunity. This video, beautifully executed by Harvey Productions in Denver, describes the history and planned redevelopment of Union Station and surrounds. While the video is a trailer for a longer feature that was released on Friday, nearly a thousand people have watched the clip. Considering that the phrase “historic preservation” is most closely associated with paper doilies and pillow mints, that’s quite a turnout. And it was also announced Friday that the US Department of Transportation will be kicking in $300 Million to the redevelopment. Denver’s biggest missed opportunity could become its greatest landmark.

And last-but-not-least, search engines saw a big rise in searches relating to druids and wiccans this week, with news that the  Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has created a place of worship for a variety of pagans. I like the sentiment expressed by Academy Chaplain William Ziegler, who described the move as “another example of celebrating the freedom we enjoy as well as the freedom we, as Airmen, have pledged to defend.” But while the Academy has said that they are accommodating a pagan cadet, I suspect that it is really part of a secret weapons project.

This is a weekly update, please let me know of topics or items I may have missed.