arts and pop culture | March 21, 2013

Why A Wealth Inequality Video Went Viral: Rob Walker On Stories That Sell

The newest video to go viral on the Web doesn't have anything to do with Goats Yelling Like Humans, nor does it feature anyone doing the Harlem Shake. In fact, as pop culture speaker Rob Walker writes on Yahoo!, the content of the most recent video to take the Internet by storm is actually quite serious. Titled simply "Wealth Inequality In America" (embedded above), it explores the distribution of wealth across the nation using simple graphics and a straightforward voice-over. While the information is fairly well-known and often discussed, many major news outlets such as Forbes and Mashable have taken notice of the video. Despite the somewhat grim subject matter, the story has attracted millions of hits.

This leads Walker to question why this video in particular sparked the attention of the online world and prompted so many people to share it others. "As a strategy, this is sort of a Bizarro World version of contrarianism," Walker writes. The video compares American's perceptions about wealth distribution, and their idealized view of it, with the actual facts. This leads to a fairly startling comparison. "Instead of, 'You think X is bad—but viewed from this other angle it’s good,'" Walker explains, "we get, 'You think X is bad—but viewed from this other angle it’s infinitely worse!'" Not everyone agrees with the facts presented in the video, Walker notes, but in the end what's more important is that viewers are connecting with the content in some way or another. This adds value to the video and helps increase the view count exponentially.

Walker recently joined Yahoo!, where he routinely writes about technology and culture. He often discusses consumption patterns and explores the important role that a relateable story can play in upping the value of an object—even if it may not seem valuable at first. In his keynotes, he explores the valuable insight gained from his myriad of creative ventures (including the popular Significant Objects project on eBay) and his experience writing about branding and marketing. A go-to voice on marketing, branding, and culture, Walker takes companies inside the mind of their consumers—and teaches them how to connect with them in a meaningful way.

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economics | March 20, 2013