Solar Freakin Roadways went viral

Solar. Freakin. Roadways … Solar. Freakin. Roadways … SOLAR. FREAKIN. ROADWAYS!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you must have been living under a rock, because Solar Freakin’ Roadways took over the Internet for about a month. People liked its YouTube video, shared its Facebook posts and newspapers across the world lined up to interview the company. Was it because its product was so revolutionary that everyone was lining up to listen?

Believe it or not Solar Roadways was having a very difficult time getting on anyone’s radar. For years Solar Roadways was attending conferences like “Ted Talks”, and Google’s “Solve for X” but got little attention. After its initial research grants dried up it turned to crowd funding site Indiegogo in an attempt to raise $1,000,000. What people don’t know is that Solar Roadways was in big trouble because its indiegogo campaign was on the verge of failure, until …


The folks behind Solar Roadways knew they needed something to boast their message, and got lucky when director, writer and animator Michael Naphan reached out to them. We got in touch with Naphan and talked about the challenges, production and marketing behind his viral video.

Q: First off, what kind of marketing challenges was Solar Roadways facing before they got in contact with you, and why did they want a video to spread their message?

A: Solar Roadways is a pretty thrilling idea and I thought it deserved a chance to reach a larger audience. I got in touch with their team and offered my animation services. I had no idea that they had an Indiegogo campaign soon launching. I agreed to do an animation of a moose crossing the road initially. After the campaign had begun, they asked me how it was going and were hoping that it would go viral. I knew that it wouldn’t. But I told them I thought I could make a viral video that could do more for their campaign. I basically said what their initial Indiegogo campaign video said, but I said it louder with more humor and excitement.

Q: How challenging was the creative process you went through in order to figure out how to market an idea like Solar Roadways, and why did you choose the in-your-face direction with your video?

A: The Solar Freakin’ Roadways video pretty much popped into my head once I started conceiving it. The challenge was packing in all the information while making it fun and entertaining. The Solar Roadways idea was pretty ambitious with a healthy dose of moon-shot thinking, but I know there are a lot of people out there who want something to feel optimistic about. I tried to capture that feeling without being emotionally manipulative.

Solar Roadways - Michael Naphan

Q: After the video was created, what steps did you go through to make sure you got eyes on the video?  Was it as simple as just throwing it on YouTube, hoping someone saw it?  Or did you have a strategy going into the marketing of the video?

A: I simply handed the finished video over to the Brusaws to put on their YouTube channel. I thought the video was strong enough to reach a larger audience simply based on the small community of followers already aware of Solar Roadways. I don’t mean to sound boastful, but I simply knew that it would work.


Q: What were the big markers in the video’s viral journey? Did you reach out to George Takei, or how did he find out about your video?

A: Anyone who supported the video did so on their own. We did nothing that I know of to further promote the video. It simply gained a life of its own.


Q: Also, are there any plans for making another viral video for Solar Roadways in the future?  Or what approach would you take for a follow up video?

A: I’ll be meeting the Brusaws very soon in person. We’re going to discuss the possibility of creating future videos for Solar Roadways. If one were executed, it would no doubt follow with the theme and feel of the original to capitalize on its success.


Having spoken with Naphan, I’m left hearing the words of Matt Cutts in the back of my mind, “Content is King!”  Solar Roadways might not have known it at the time, but it followed all the rules for viral marketing.

1. Create viral content that tugs on the emotions.

2. Create content that is easy to share.

3. Engage social media audience and let it run wild.

The reason Solar Freakin’ Roadways went viral is because it created content that touched the emotions of its fans, added a unique perspective to a hot topic, and in turn added real value. The best part of its content, though, was that its fans felt like they too were adding value by sharing the content. Let the success of Solar Roadways be a lesson to all of us Internet marketers and notch one up for viral marketing.

For more information on Solar Roadways, visit its website today!