The Harlem Shake Shakes Up Social Media

Ciara Bartholomew  Follow

If you’ve been anywhere on YouTube lately you’ve probably seen a version of “the Harlem Shake.” The premise to these viral videos is ridiculously simple, but somehow they have the ability to not only keep our attention for 30 seconds, but to literally make us LOL. Most videos start the same way with just one person dancing while every other member of a crowd (or group of people) stands still. After about 15 seconds of awkwardness, , all bets are off and you’re in for another 15 seconds of having to question whether or not you’re hallucinating. Haven’t seen it? Check out the Norwegian Army  version of the video, which is the most popular with more than 35 million views! The absurdness of the video is actually jaw dropping.

Once the “original” video went viral, people all over the world took it upon themselves to create their own Harlem Shake dance routine. Among the most viewed videos on YouTube were those of a father and son  killing time while mom was out, and the University of Georgia’s swim team and football team  making the most out of practice.

The ‘do-it-yourself’ idea hasn’t only appealed to college students and bored families , but to many companies, bands and organizations across the country. The Harlem Shake has become a tactic to showcase a brand’s creative ability to capitalize on this craze by executing time-relevant campaigns. This suggests that in order to capitalize on these fads that frequently sweep the nation and the world, it is essential to be timely and pay attention to cultural trends. Among the inspired groups that uploaded their own Harlem Shake videos are Pepsi  (over 5 million views) and the band Matt & Kim (over 9 million views). It matters for brands to be abreast of cultural fads like this because they might result in amazing opportunities that not only get relatively free publicity, but also helps proves to consumers that a brand is creatively savvy and aware of current social media conversations.

An article in The Wall Street Journal called “Why The Harlem Shake Matters" explains what specifically makes the Harlem Shake so appealing. “More than most Internet memes before it, the Harlem Shake has exploded with a surprising speed and global reach. More unusual is how rapidly it drew a wide spectrum of gung-ho participants, from office workers to advertisers, who seem to be setting a new benchmark in participatory Web culture.” This fad really relates to everyone, whether you’re a major international company or bored at home with a group of friends on a Thursday night. The ‘do-it-yourself’ notion allows for everyone to take part in the fad in their one uniquely creative way.

People are referring to this dance craze along with the similar insanely popular Gangam Style dance as this generation’s version of the Macarena, a scary thought for many I’m sure. Despite the fear you might have that at the next wedding you attend you’ll have to participate in a Harlem Shake taping, you must admit that when it comes to branding and implementing creative campaigns, a brilliant strategy is to follow trends and constantly have a strong presence in social media.

If you’re interested, take a moment to enjoy a few other Harlem Shake videos featuring and/or made by recognized brands and icons: Puma | Nintendo | Dr. Pepper End of Story Ciara Brinkdmann is an intern at Prosek Partners

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