When marketers started making staged, “user-generated” videos and sharing them on YouTube to get them to go viral, it was cute — at first.

Here is a fun example done by Chupa Chups as an April Fool’s joke this year. It depicts the sighting of an alleged lollipop artist in Singapore by a tourist: 

Good stuff? I was tricked, too, but it was all in good humour. Here is the behind-the-scenes clip that “gave the game away.”

A string of copycats followed. Some good, some bad (mostly bad).

If you are just jumping on the bandwagon because all the other brands are doing so, I’m sorry to say you might be too late.

I find this “viral video,” for example, in bad taste:

There is no context, and I feel like I have been taken for a ride by the marketer. The video was supposedly promoting a new brand of chocolates called “Bournville” by chocolate company Cadbury.

Yes, you have more than one million views. But what has this video got to do with your brand?

Then, this one came along (turn your sound down if you have young or easily offended ears around you):


Seriously? Come on, Guinness … you can do better than this. I can smell your beer just watching this video on my computer screen. (Although Guinness denied they had anything to do with this video.).

I think there is a fine line between playfully tricking your audience into engaging with your brand and blatant trickery to get your audience’s attention. Either way, your video will go viral — but audience sentiment toward your brand will be different.

Are one million negative engagements better than none at all? At least the videos got people talking about Cadbury and Guinness. When was the last time you struck up a conversation with a friend, opening with the name of a chocolate or beer brand?

What do you think?