What started as a pretty bad day turned into a massive opportunity for an Idaho potato worker this September, when a candid video of him lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac went viral on TikTok.
With his video approaching 69 million views, we examine what Nathan Apodaca - a.k.a. the skateboarding Dreams guy - can teach us about marketing.
Being real is really compelling.
It should go without saying, but in an industry obsessed with pithy sayings, testing, and polish, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that as humans, we are drawn to moments of honestly held feelings. In this video, Apocada is cruising downhill, smirking, and open-hearted—the very picture of joy. He hasn't done anything remarkable. He was just an ordinary guy with his board, a swig of cranberry juice, and some classic jams. That was enough to make him happy, and he let us share in his happiness.
And share in it we have. At the time of writing at the end of October, this is the undisputed TikTok video of the season, with an estimated 1,700 tribute videos on TikTok alone. Those include my personal favorite, the jack-o-lantern-headed Pumpkin Spice Latte fanatic, and even Mick Fleetwood himself.
Sales of Ocean Spray spiked, and Dreams quickly climbed to #2 on the charts, with 2.9 million streams in the first three days. Not bad for a tune that's 43 years old!
Viral hits need fertile ground.
By the fateful morning, Apocada's truck broke down, and he decided to skate instead; his TikTok account already had 136,000 followers, in great measure due to previous lip-syncing and dance routines. His brand was already established, and he already had a big enough following, so when the perfect video hit, he had a pre-built audience. He even had the beginnings of a monetization strategy - he was selling beanies that he embroidered himself on the kitchen table of his RV.
Apodaca had no idea he had a hit on his hands until he posted it. In fact, when he saw how fast he was going on his board, he thought about deleting it. But he knew by later that day when it had been watched 100,000 times. He answered the first batch of messages himself, triaged them when they got too much, and when media outlets started calling, he got a manager and put his job on hold for six months.
The next three months will be crucial for Apodaca, as he solidifies his personal brand and figures out how to sustain it. But much of his success so far is due to the groundwork done long before the video was recorded.
Great brands embrace a hit, not smother it.
One surprising result of this hit was the speed at which the brands involved jumped on board - or lack thereof. With the window of virality shrinkingly small these days, companies don't often resist the temptation to reinforce their connection to a hit - usually with bad results. Corporate accounts by their nature are risk-averse and painfully brand-forward, so it's often embarrassing when they try to glom onto a phenomenon - especially on TikTok.
Ocean Spray moved quickly to buy Apodaca a new truck but otherwise, it seemed to bide its time and wait while the cranberry cravings mounted. It took the CEO Tom Hayes almost two weeks to post the seemingly inevitable tribute video, and when he did, it was understated. Ocean Spray could have quickly produced and run a national ad campaign to capitalize on the hit, which likely would have starved it of oxygen. Instead, the brand played it cool and became cool by association.