Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rob Cantor's Brilliant Marketing Play

A guy named Rob recently made a music video to promote his new album "Not A Trampoline”. Instead of just singing his song normally, Rob decided to impersonate 29 celebrities. The impersonations are pretty amazing, and his video grabbed the #1 spot on youtube a few days ago. He currently has ~7 million views, <10 days after he published it.

Check it out, it’s pretty solid for a 3min low-budget music video:
(29 Celebrity Impressions, 1 Original Song – Rob Cantor)

So why did this go viral?

If you’re a Jonah Berger fan, you can go down his list of 6 virality ingredients and see that Rob hit almost every one of them:

1.       Social Currency – People share things that make them look good to others.
I’d argue that this video is pretty cool, and a lot of my friends were pretty happy that I shared it last week. A few million others agree with me.

2.       Triggers – Top of mind, Tip of tongue.
By using 29 well known celebrities, Rob included both audio and visual triggers that make people remember his music. People see/hear the celebrity, and then remember Rob’s video + his music.

Thanks to a well-executed Gilbert Gottfried impression, I am now going to be humming this song every time I hear an AFLAC duck commercial. Same idea for the other 28 celebrities he uses. Rob has effectively weaponized the fame of 29 established individuals to promote his own brand, and did so in a tasteful way.

3.       Emotion – When we care, we share.
Emotional content works best with emotions that get your blood pumping and neurons firing. Stories invoking high-arousal emotions like awe, excitement, anger, anxiety, and humor get shared more than stories that promote low-arousal emotions like sadness or contentment.

Rob picked two of the best emotions for getting people to share things. Awe, and humor.
Awe – He nailed every single impression, and did this in a single take. Oh and the song’s good too. Seriously impressive.
Humor – The video is hilarious, especially since some goofy white guy is perfectly singing like Christina Aguilera and Flipper.

People share more when they are in a high-arousal emotional state. This video executes perfectly here.

4.       Public – Built to show, built to grow.
Rob released the video on youtube, which is a platform built for viewing and sharing content. He also had a pre-determined plan to announce his creation to the world via high-profile social network personalities and leveraging connections from his old band Tally Hall. A lot of people were aware of his video minutes after release and had the tools to easily pass it along.

5.       Stories – Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.
This video falls a little short here. I mean, it’s kind of interesting to talk about a guy nailing 29 impressions while singing a song, but there isn’t really a dramatic plot there.

Or is there?

This video is actually 100% fake. Rob released a video last night once the initial round of sharing died down, showing his millions of viewers that they had, in fact, been punk’d by a 20 person team and a very well-produced video. 

Now everyone that watched the video originally, is re-watching to see if they can spot any slip ups or clues to the fakeness. A flood of comments on the original video appeared minutes after the hoax was revealed saying “I knew all along it was fake”. Now there’s a story to go along with the video, and everyone has something juicy to talk about. Oh, and the entire time Rob and his music are showcased. Very well executed.

Watch his "Making Of" video to see the reveal:

(The Making of "29 Celebrity Impressions, 1 Original Song")

The genius of this can be best summed up by a random youtube comment, of all things:

His story is now being picked up by sites like Gawker and the Today Show. The reveal has now poured gasoline on a smoldering marketing flame and the resulting inferno is still going strong. Check out his Google Trends:
(Can you spot where he launched his video?)

6.       Practical Value - News you can use.
So the video(s) accomplish two goals here.
First, I can now pass on some quality music from a relatively newer artist to my hipster friends.
Second, I can now use this brilliant strategic play as an example of viral marketing done right, and share with all my business pals. This also makes Rob look like a marketing genius (he might actually be one), which is pretty useful hype to have on your resume when it comes to getting shows, appearances, and attention in the music scene.

So there you have it. How to create and leverage a #1 Youtube video to achieve viral hype. This is still blowing up, so it will be fun to track and see how far he can stretch his 15 minutes.

At the very least, you have a quality soundtrack to listen to today:

EDIT 7/15/2014: Here's a quick before/after look at Rob's social media sites.

Youtube: 700 subscribers to 37,499 (+36,799)
Facebook: 1,250 likes to 4,775 (+3,525)
Twitter: 1,700 followers to 3,365 (+1,665)

Not too shabby!


  1. A lot to think about here. Nice analysis.

    1. Thank you sir. Was just reading about how to do something like this, and then Rob comes along and executes it perfectly. The stars aligned!