Harlem Shake Still Draws Some Marketers

Pundits may have decided that the moment of the Harlem Shake – the fastest growing video meme in YouTube history – is uncool, annoying, and downright “over.” Yet, undaunted, selected companies are still joining the fray.

Miami, Florida-based e-tailer 1SaleADay.com, for example, on Monday launched an Android app for its shopping site based around its own Harlem Shake video, which includes the Android bot character dancing along. It posted the video to its 400,000+ fans on Facebook and other social media.

“We had just completed development of our Android app and were asking ourselves how to best promote it,” says Eli Federman, senior vice president with 1SaleADay. Federman concedes that while it may be a little late in the game, this should be effective because it is designed to promote a specific product. The company, he says, is quite pleased with the response so far, with some 4,299 downloads of the app after less than 24 hours.

Chachimomma.com, a maker of dance pants created by the mother of American dancer and minor celebrity Chachi Gonzales, also remains undaunted. The company on Friday launched a contest that promises gift certificates for its pants valued between $300 and $100 to the three best Harlem Shake videos submitted by its customers. The video must demonstrate at least one pair of Chachi Momma pants and will be judged based on quality, number of Chachi Momma pants featured, and the number of views on YouTube. Customers have until March 18 to get in their entries.

“We wanted to get the word out about our pants, and get our fans wearing them,” says Eryn Calverley, social media manager at Infusion Marketing, which owns the rights to the Chachi Momma name. “We were looking at all the Harlem Shake videos and the majority of them have more than four million views,” she adds. She said only one such video had been uploaded to the company as of late Monday, but is still optimistic that more are on the way. “We think this is still alive,” she notes. About half of the company’s customers come from outside the U.S. and many of these may not have yet decided that the Internet meme is indeed old news.

High-profile brands such as Pepsi, Red Bull, and Playboy did not hesitate to get in on the craze of making dance videos inspired by the Harlem Shake – a 2012 track put together by Baauer, the stage name for American music producer Harry Rodrigues – since they began going viral in early February. But, more than a month later, most marketing experts are discouraging clients from jumping in.

“If you make (a Harlem Shake video) now, you’re late to the party. You don’t want to appear as the old guy at the party with stale content,” says Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, a luxury retailer of high-end jewelry and watches.

Indeed, media overkill has given many a downright aversion to the idea. “I’m looking forward to the day when the ‘Shake’ is on the funeral pyre alongside other viral fads of years gone by,” says Hagan Major, chief strategist for YellowHammer Media Group, an online ad agency.

At this point there are plenty of reasons not to run a campaign, from the news that company employees have been fired for participating in such videos to a recently announced lawsuit against Rodrigues for allegedly lifting unauthorized samples to create the Harlem Shake song. (1SaleADay even posted its video to Facebook without any sound to stay on the cautious side of these copyright concerns.) Add that to the growing antipathy on some sides toward the meme and companies could see a backlash.

“When interest in a trend wanes and those who were quick to share their approval on social sites turn the tide, it can affect how a brand is perceived by the public,” says Tessa Wegert, ClickZ columnist and strategist with digital marketing firm Enlighten. “Businesses have to ask themselves whether their customers and clients will hold their participation against them should indifference toward a viral trend turn to dislike. If there’s any chance that the answer might be yes, they’re better off resisting temptation.”

Yet smaller companies may be forgiven if they try to take their chances on something that won’t cost them a lot and could boost their traffic. Adam Rasheed, a California-based business consultant, says he is putting together a Harlem Shake video this week for a hookah bar in Riverside, CA that is popular with the college set, to help bring traffic to the company’s online hookah store. He says the results of the video – which he anticipates will take an hour to shoot – will help gauge the power of such marketing for local businesses.

Whether or not those still posting Harlem Shake videos succeed in their efforts, companies should be setting themselves up to take advantage of the next viral phenomena, according to Jan Rezab, CEO with Socialbakers, a social media analytics firm.

“The adoption curve is accelerating, and social media is now driving content. We call these viral phenomena now, but six months from now, this will just be how content is absorbed into social media. Like Oreo at the Super Bowl, companies have to be set up to be ready for anything in real time.”

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