LEWISTON, Maine — Press “record” and be unforgettable.
That’s how Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz began their first Diet Coke and Mentos sensation. Voltz told his brother about the simple, one-take video shot in a meadow in Buckfield. His brother watched it online and told someone else.
It spread like a virus. Six years later, New York-based McGraw-Hill is publishing a book the guys have written on making viral videos. It’s called “The Viral Video Manifesto.”
The book is scheduled to arrive in stores on Dec. 19. It is already available on iTunes and Amazon, where it was listed Wednesday at the top of the bookseller’s “Hot New Releases in Marketing for Small Business.”
It serves as a kind of manual for getting a video spread across a wide audience, if that video has content that is strong enough.
The guys tell their own story — from the overnight success of their first video to their mistakes and the values that have helped them follow up their initial success with more viral videos. One had the guys creating waterfalls with sticky notes. Another harnessed the fizzy soda-candy combination to run a specialized car.
“It’s all about the content,” Grobe said Wednesday. “Not just any video has the right hook to go viral.”
The 226-page creation grew out of the pair’s work as consultants and, indirectly, as pitchmen for Coke and Mentos. When their first videos debuted, both companies saw a bump in sales. The guys have since performed at Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta and at the Mentos factory in Holland.
Both companies have become sponsors of the Buckfield-based pair.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working with brands to figure out, ‘How do we integrate your brand into a video?’” Grobe said. “How do we make sure that your brand’s presence doesn’t sabotage the contagiousness of the video?”
Their answers are the basis of the book, which examines their videos and dozens of others.
All aim to make the guys’ main point: For a video to be viral, it must not only be unforgettable, it must also illustrate a sense of humanity, be truthful and be frugal with viewers’ time.
Not all of the examples of their own work are complimentary. They criticize their 2008 sticky notes video for spending almost its first minute on a story that delayed their eye-popping, one-of-a-kind wheels and waterfalls from capturing viewers. The video, filmed by a Hollywood crew, launched simultaneously online and on the ABC Family Network on TV.
Analysis available on YouTube showed that during those first seconds, as a quick story was told, hundreds of thousands of online viewers clicked away, Voltz said.
The video still drew millions of viewers, but not as many as it deserved, he said.
“It’s hard to trust that simply turning the camera on and pressing record is all you need to do,” Grobe said. “There’s a really strong urge to make it fancier, to dress it up, to tell a story.”
In the end, online, “it’s a lot simpler than that,” he said.
To Voltz, the appeal of the viral videos goes back to the circus.
“This is the 21st-century sideshow,” Voltz said. “You want to give something to people that they haven’t seen before. Once you’ve got that, turn your camera on and show it.”
Both men are longtime performers.
Voltz is a veteran theater performer who has also worked as a trial lawyer. Grobe was once a math student at Yale University. He quit to become a juggler. He later toured internationally with an offshoot of Cirque du Soleil.
“The skill set that we had each gotten from doing 20 years of theater and circus was really applicable,” Grobe said. They instinctively crafted their first videos with humanity and humor, honesty and novelty.
That’s what gave their videos more than 100 million visitors, put them on the cover of Advertising Age magazine and sent them around the world for live performances.
It’s something they hope to do after the initial book promotion ends.
In January, the duo plans to begin a “virtual book tour,” by meeting with bloggers and other online media people.
“We now want to get back to making lots of videos,” Grobe said. “That’s what we love to do. “We want to be making videos, and we want to help brands make videos. We want to put these principles into action.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services