Brands get in on the Flash Mob Game

Bottom Shape

Krista Neher

Feb 24 2010

According to Wikipedia, a flash mob (or flashmob)[1] is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.[2][3][4][5][6][7] The term is generally not applied to events organized by public relations firms, protests, and publicity stunts.[4][8]

Flash mobs started in 2003 in New York and caught on quickly.

A new trend with FlashMobs has started – brands are creating their own Flash Mobs to take advantage of this trend and get some of the ever elusive viral buzz.

Is it working?


T-Mobile = Success

The T-Mobile Dance got over 17 million views and “The Making of” video even has over a million views.  They also posted other videos including rehearsals and even an instructional video where you can learn the T-Mobile dance.  They also replicated the T-Mobile Dance in other cities across the UK.

The video is also really engaging to watch (which is why it has so many views).

What T-Mobile did right was play off the original Flash Mob concept – they shocked people in a public venue. There was also brand relevance as they showed people taking photos and videos with their cell phones.

Trident Single Ladies = Eh

The video has had almost 4 million views as the Trident Single Ladies performed in Piccadilly Circus.

The dance routine is very entertaining (although I wonder why they did it in Black and White) and ties in to the brand promotion with a Beyonce concert.  The relevance ties to an offline campaign and they have callouts during and after the video to drive action.

This is probably more of a PR stunt vs. legitimate Flash Mob since it lacked the spontaneous element and didn’t include a lot of reactions.  That being said, it did get them 4 million impressions.

Cincinnati Fine Arts Fund = Success

The Cincinnati Fine Arts fund capitalized on this trend by staging Flash Mobs in Findlay Market and Fountain Square (unfortunately it was raining that day).  They also used music from local artists.

This was a great effort since it clearly ties back to the arts and helps build awareness for Cincinnati Arts.  Great idea and execution.  They also posted learning videos so you can learn the dances at home.

There are only 27k views, but for a local effort, with a small budget, I would say this was a success.

Scope = Failure (at least so far)

When Procter and Gamble brands start to participate you know the trend has jumped the shark.  Scope recently launched a Flash Dance for Scope to the song Kiss Me.  You can definitely see the brand relevance in this video (kissing + scope) and they clearly tie the brand in (although somewhat awkwardly) with the T-Shirt at the end and the Scope Bottle Juggling guy.

The video is currently 10 days old and only has 80k views (and it is being promoted by Ryan SeaCrest).  In my opinion the whole thing is a little too corporate, which is partly why it didn’t spread.  Compare the impact of the scope video to TMobile and it is obvious.

They are also offering to donate $$ to charity if it gets a certain # of views.  Also kinda lame.  Donate to charity anyways.  Do it because it is the right thing to do.  Not as an incentive for people to watch your commercial.  If the video was better they would easily get millions of views.  If you have a great idea you don’t need to do force it.

Don’t they need Model Releases?

The initial Flash Mob movement wasn’t commercial – nobody was making money, do they could record reactions of people and post them since it was a non-commercial effort.  I’m not a lawyer, but I would think that the brands doing flash mob videos would need signed model releases from the people in the audience that they film if they are identifiable.  This probably somewhat limits what brands can do.

Special Thanks to Matthew Dooley for pointing me towards some of these videos.

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2 Replies to “Brands get in on the Flash Mob Game”

  1. Agreed. T-Mobile was awesome. Scope video missed the mark. I do actually like the tip-the-scale, Groupon-esque idea for charity – sure, give anyway, but sometimes brands have the clout to really drive some serious giving. Haiti is a perfect example, except it's celebrities. Anyway, thanks for the shoutout too. My boss, Gary, and friend, John, sent me those a couple months ago. Still, my favorite – yet, not commercially-driven and probably only because I grew up the lucky bystander to my mom constantly watching the Sound of Music – is this one…

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