We see this in social media like YouTube and in shared postings on Facebook as amusing viral videos. The positive way we usually react to such visual stimuli translates to the urge to share the experience with friends online. So much so that when we see viral videos like those featuring The Coke Happiness Truck or Banc Sabadell’s Ode To Joy, we become part of a virtual flash mob. The physical world experience of being part of a flash mob, however, is so much different.

The flash mob is a mixture of performance art and street theater done by its instigators to provoke spontaneous response from a captive and unsuspecting audience. Usually staged to appear impromptu in public places, such performances hope to achieve a spur-of-the-moment blur between the performer and the spectator. A flash mob to be considered successful must involve the audience in such a way that the experience of performer and spectator is unified.

Pop beginnings

Long before the term got to be coined, 60s icon, The Beatles pulled off a publicity stunt just like the sort of flash mob marketing we see now. Back in 1968, when John, Paul, George and Ringo were in the thick of recording sessions for what would be their last studio effort, “Abbey Road”, the pop quartet rocked that busy portion of a London district via the now famous Apple rooftop gig. The morning hour gig didn’t last long as the Bobbies quickly put an end to it when a mob of starstruck fans snarled traffic down below. Nevertheless, the media attention it got globe trotted its way to fan consciousness. That’s why we know about it to this day.

Fast-forward to the current millennium and we still find such familiar spectacle although staged in lesser magnitude by street mime artists, musicians, and underground visual artists, in malls, parking lots, town squares, subways, mass transit stations, public parks and such other high foot traffic areas. It has become so familiar that shopping culture would never be complete without such forms of flash mob situations.

Fodder for marketing

Flash mob offers spontaneity and infectious visual and aural spectacle that captive audiences take to them almost always positively. This makes it good fodder for marketing and big business has thrown caution to flash mob to provide consumers with brand affinity. There are certain flash mob elements you need to know if you’re considering staging something like this to market your brand. Take a quick look at the elements discussed below:

  • Level of active spectator participation. Make sure that the way you stage your performance enjoys a high possibility rate of spectators joining in the “fray.” It can’t be considered a mob unless the crowd behaves like a mob. It must encourage willing and active participation with a strong join-in-the-fun quality to it. The Coke Happiness Truck is a perfect example of this.
  • The element of surprise. A huge amount of unpredictability must accompany whatever you stage. It must come off as something done at the spur of the moment and must catch its audience in its unguarded moment. As the flash mob situation progresses, and as the crowd realizes what it has willingly participated in, the die has been cast and they can all be happy to oblige.
  • Documentation and virality. Make sure that you document the flash mob from beginning to end. This will be the video material you are to post on social media. Spectators usually do some documentation themselves via smartphone video capture for subsequent sharing via MMS. Business applications like RingCentral phone systems, for example, make sharing of such marketing material doable. Observe how fast the video goes viral. This determines the success rate of whatever you have staged. The more hits on YouTube, the more brand exposure. The more shares on Facebook, the more viral success.
  • High emotional content. Flash mob is meant to get attention from an initially unsuspecting audience. The higher the emotional content, the better chances of success. Happy and uplifting are operative words that must guide your flash mob ideas. Flash mob marketing success depends much on the immediacy and emotional accessibility of its content among consumers.