Cran-raspberry, commutes, and classic rock.

Greetings from Zoom, Slack, and the Cloud, where we're working on covert snack operations and demanding more mind blowing guitar solos.

RIP US patent holder Eddie Van Halen, this one's for you.

The Inimitable and Unpredictable World of Viral Content

Brands and marketers are constantly trying to replicate the kind of mystical alchemy that makes a great meme. At their best, Internet super-phenomena can transcend all demographics and borders, not to mention ongoing international health and sociopolitical crises. We were reminded of this fact just in the past week, one that may go down as the most eventful and patently insane in American political history, but also one where a nation in need rediscovered… Fleetwood Mac? 

In the face of the fiercest possible competition for attention, an Idaho gentleman named Nathan Apodaca—TikTok username Doggface208—captivated literally the entire world with  a clip of him skateboarding on the side of the highway sipping Cran-Raspberry juice and casually lip-synching to the bands 1977 hit “Dreams.” 

TikTok plays count toward the Billboard charts, so of course the streams have doubled this week, and raw sales of the track have tripled. In other words, Doggface’s calming, distinctly DGAF mien made a song from one of the best-selling albums ever released feel functionally new again in popular culture. It spawned, as these things do, imitations from sources as varied as the US military, a Montana gubernatorial candidate, and Mick Fleetwood himself. In the weird melting pot of cultural ephemera that is TikTok, it sometimes seems anything is possible.

Take another look at Nathan Apodaca’s wry grin, the casual, appreciative way he swigs his Ocean Spray, the entirely unexpected but completely natural shift into channeling Stevie. It’s all so simple and yet all so perfect, in a way that really is hard to capture in writing.

Advertisers, try as we might, can only vaguely approximate such comet flashes of talent and prescience like Nathan Apodaca. All the creative talent and all the budget in the world can’t produce the sort of real world event that somehow transcends any statistical or rationally-minded model of virality. And it doesn’t help that we’re often hampered (often for good reasons!) by things like brand guidelines, legal approvals, and countless, countless stakeholders. 

That’s not to say we shouldn’t make the effort. Branded content doesn’t need to go viral, but it should strive to be the best it can be within the obvious utilitarian constraints in which it exists. That means pushing the boundaries of creativity while also respecting business goals, and always caring about craft, whether you’re making a branded dance video or a deck for a sales conference. We may never be able to produce anything quite as magical as Doggface208, who lit up the darkest time in modern history in 15 seconds, but that’s part of what makes him so transcendent in the first place. As a TikToker might say, he snapped.