When a Mentos gets dropped into a can of Diet Coke an explosive reaction occurs. But what happens if hundreds of liters of Diet Coke get combined with hundreds of Mentos? Prior to the Internet, finding out or seeing what might occur would be an expensive proposition. Thanks to YouTube and the experiments of Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the 10-foot geysers of Diet Coke became a viral video sensation.
Millions of people jumped online to view the experiments. Grobe and Voltz used this exposure to gain an audience in the mainstream media. The pair appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and on the Today Show. Hundreds of impersonators appeared on YouTube, and Mentos became more than just an after dinner breath mint. The biggest winner in the viral videos went beyond Grobe and Voltz. Mentos received millions of dollars in free advertising and sold thousands of dollars worth of their product. And the Mentos marketing department did not have to lift a finger.
When something takes off on the web a brand name or a product can become an overnight success for free. The term “word of mouth once” literally meant people telling their friends and relatives about a product. The Internet has turned word of mouth into a transaction that can take only a few minutes or seconds. Re-Tweets or Facebook wall postings can turn an idea into a cultural topic. One of the first examples of video going viral was the now famous dancing baby from the mid-90s. This simple, even grainy graphic enjoyed a popular run that has kept it in the public view for over a decade.
While the Internet offers companies and individuals with the chance to reach a massive audience for free, it is almost impossible to know what videos will capture the imagination of the public and become viral.