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Classroom project sends MBAs on viral video adventure

Nov 17, 2010

November 17, 2010

Six MBA students at Simon Fraser University have gained some valuable business insights after their class project went viral on YouTube.

As part of their MBA class Marketing 702, taught by Professor Leyland Pitt, the SFU Business students were challenged to create an online video to spoof an existing product or company.

The video — by students Michelle Au, Ken Lee, Shell Lau, Weijia Liu, Allan Olson and Tina Sun – is an enthusiastic (if slightly earthy) send-up of the recently launched Blackberry Torch. It has garnered over 35,000 hits since being uploaded to YouTube on November 1.

According to team member Ken Lee, the video really took hold when his group submitted it to Crackberry.com, a popular online hub for handheld technology enthusiasts. The editor of the website plucked it from the forum, and posted it to the site’s front page – creating a stampede of Blackberry devotees to the online spoof. “In one day we got about 10,000 views,” said Lee.

The ad celebrates the removal of the trackball from the Torch, a touch-screen smart phone released in Canada earlier this fall. One of the team members, Michelle Au, is a Blackberry enthusiast who had lamented user problems associated with the trackball on the previously issued Blackberry Pearl smartphone. Her idea blossomed into the team’s online message.

“People are very happy about this product (the Blackberry Torch), because the trackball is gone,” said Lee. “We were successful by talking about a product that has recently come out – and making a connection with viewers who have had the same kind of issues with technology.”

Lee, whose catchy singing style closes out the spoof, attributes both strategy and good fortune to his team’s success.

“A lot of these Internet successes involve planning, but on top of that, it’s also luck,” he said. “But we can plant some seeds in terms of delivering viewership.”

He also asserts that content matters. “A shorter video like ours, which is 40 seconds long, seems to hit the spot for an online viewer’s appetite,” he said. “A video that is too long will drive most viewers away. Additionally, the use of humour can motivate people to share the video with their friends.”

And while the company that produces the Blackberry, Research in Motion, has not contacted the students to offer its feedback, another company that has reached out to the budding spoof videographers is YouTube.

The company has proposed an advertising sharing arrangement with the students. “They want to put ads on our future videos because of the numbers we got,” said Lee. “I think we might… but we’ll ask our professor first if we can do that.”

To view the video: