Why “Denali”, a Stunningly Shareable Video, Hasn’t Gone Viral Yet…

At the end of this post, there is a video called “Denali” that is so good, so well filmed, and so emotionally moving, that I believe 98.9% of all humans could benefit from watching it.

I watch a lot of video for a living. I have seen hundreds if not thousands of exceptionally crafted commercial videos that have the potential to go viral, but not many more than this. After you read this post, be sure to watch the video and let me know if you were moved to share it with at least one other person you care about, and, if so, why or why not?

When it comes to analyzing creative content for it’s potential to be shared, many of us in digital marketing chase white rhinos and unicorns while we attempt to identify a creative process that helps us better predict success. We pay attention to masters of the craft who seem to consistently produce viral hits like Jeffrey Harmon of The Harmon Brothers in Los Angeles, because they have worked hard to create a creative process that combines exceptional comedic writing, memorable imagery, ironic moments, and technical commercial filmmaking skill into a marketing product that can be re-created.

While there have been some interesting studies conducted like this 2011 undergraduate research paper by Tyler West of Elon University that attempts to deconstruct and identify the most common elements of some of the most viral videos of all time, there is still debate about what makes some videos seem to spontaneously catch fire. In reality, many of us in the business know there can be no true viral smash without a good amount of “seeding,” the paid promotion of video content to achieve a critical mass of views. But after the seeding, something else has to be there to add gravity, or else a lot of money can be wasted.

In his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger wrote extensively about the subject of virility and elaborated on the concept of “social currency” as a leading indicator of a video’s potential to be virally shared. Social currency relates to the sense of equity we create in our minds when we believe we have discovered something new and valuable ahead of others from an informational standpoint. It’s the feeling you get when you stumble onto a virtual treasure and become compelled to give your discovery away to others, because psychologically when we do, we gain this sense that we will be seen as cooler and more current to people we care about.

What fascinates me about Denali in particular, however, is that because it had been out for over a year, I assumed it had hundreds of millions of earned views by the time my co-worker shared it with me. In reality, the video only has about 600,000 views on YouTube and a little over 13 million views on Vimeo. Now 13.6 million views are nothing to sneeze at, but when I tell you that Denali deserves a hundred million views based on all I know about strength, originality, and rarity of its execution; I look at it from a twisted industry viewpoint that says, “What went wrong?”

I could write several posts breaking down all of the subjective and technical things this video does right, but for now, I want to focus on the data being accumulated by my friends at Strike Social, that is showing how this video’s “Contagious Index” is a 59 and getting better. According to Strike Social’s scoring the lower the CI index, the more shareable the content. Any CI score below 100 is remarkably tough to achieve, and this video has the potential to fall into a sub 20 score or even sub 10 score – if it had some seeding.

Denali has a Patagonia logo at the end of it and was apparently some part of a branded content campaign either before or after it was produced. For whatever reason, this video has not been promoted on YouTube, despite the fact that the most viral videos on Patagonia’s YouTube channel hover at a CI score of around 200.

According to Strike Social’s methodology, Denali is exactly the kind of perfect storm video for a brand like Patagonia, where if they paid for more views, it has an excellent chance of becoming the runaway mega-viral video it deserves to be.

Well, enough with the hype. Watch Denali for yourself and see if you think it deserves 100 million views.

And lastly, I’m a dog guy, so I know dogs rule, but more importantly, so do people like Ben.