While not Kanye West himself is not a company, he is most certainly a brand. He has his music, his fashion and an overall image that he attempts to maintain each day. In November of 2013, West released a music video to “Bound 2”, one of the popular singles from his recently released album, Yeezus. This video, which can be seen below, received immediate attention for obvious reasons. It depicts West and a shirtless, then fiancé, Kim Kardashian provocatively riding a motorcycle through scenic backdrops. The video blew up, by anyone’s standards it was a viral hit, and today has over 62.5 million views on YouTube alone.
This assignment asks for us to examine a video that was “strategically placed by a company as part of a viral marketing campaign.” Some may not agree that a music video qualifies, but I strongly believe that this video is just that. Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where almost anything that Kanye West or Kim Kardashian say or do becomes newsworthy. Combine the two in a risqué music video promoting a Kanye West single and you have created the perfect viral video. There is not a doubt in my mind that West, and everyone on his team, knew exactly what would happen to the video.
The initial response to the video was not very clear. As with anything West creates, those who love him loved the video and those who hate him hated it. However, even those who loved it did not really understand it. Spin, an American music magazine, said of the video “a pretty bad idea seen through so completely that it stops being a bad idea.” Even today, in the YouTube comments, fans and haters argue with each other over their opinions.
One of the most interesting aspects of the video is its spreadability. Spreadability refers to the additional value created by the ability for others to remix and repurpose material and is more descriptive and specific than classifying something as viral. While West may have known his video would become incredibly popular, my guess is that he did not anticipate just how spreadable it was. Just less than a week after West released his music video, comedians James Franco and Seth Rogen released a parody video titled “Bound 3.”
“Bound 3” has over 9 million views on YouTube and became a “viral video” in its own right. What amazes me is that this parody video became so well established and accepted that other people began naming their parody videos “Bound 4,” further legitimizing number 3 (A screen shot of a YouTube search for ‘Bound 4” can be seen below). But the parody videos did not stop there. Saturday Night Live aired a short holiday-themed parody in December of that year (link – starts at 3 minutes), and South Park created their own interpretation as well (link).
Despite the millions of views and the breadth of parody videos online (also with millions of views), I think the true testament to the original music video’s spreadability is the ease with which an average person can replicate it. Take me and my friend Justin for example. During our travels this past semester, Justin created somewhat of a mini Instagram project. Whenever we found something we could both straddle together, we took a picture and he posted it with the hashtag “bound #.” It all started with a statue of a donkey in Maastricht. We took the picture, he turned to me with a smile on his face and said: “Yo. Bound 4.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, which further illustrates the power of this video and its spreadability. In total, he posted 6 pictures, numbers four through nine (ok, we started off pretty strong and then kind of forgot about it, but a few examples can be seen below).
The music video for “Bound 2” was released to promote West and his music, not necessarily to go viral in the sense that a company might try with their own video. While I think it would have been a bit presumptuous of West to think he is so influential that two guys would mimic his video while studying abroad, I stand by the notion that he knew what he was creating. In the world of today in which a single person can be just as much a brand as any company, anyone can make their video go viral, but it takes something special to be spreadable.