In last month’s newsletter, I wrote about how more companies are trying to get their videos to go viral. I wanted to expand on how much video is now being produced that wasn’t intended for a typical 30-second TV spot.
Video is a burgeoning part of our business at Coles Marketing. Lately, it seems Videographer Shawn Sorrells, a news photographer and editor for years before joining our team, is always heading out to another site to gather content and then produce polished pieces for clients, such as auto dealer profiles for NextGear Capital.
With most companies having their own website, plus inexpensive video-hosting sites like YouTube, it’s easier than ever for businesses to produce their own pieces and disseminate them across many audiences.
More stories, less selling
These videos are part of the brand journalism movement, in which companies don’t hit people with a hard pitch for their goods and services, but tell stories about themselves, their customers and products.
In a sense, these “replacements” for TV commercials are a microcosm of streaming services like Netflix, which once merely distributed other’s content but is now increasingly a player on the production end, with shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” racking up enough viewers and Emmy trophies to make the networks jealous.
Some of these Web-only commercial videos are deliberately playing coy with their relationship to TV spots. One of the prime examples is Go Daddy, which uses plenty of sexual innuendo in its pieces.
They generated a lot of attention for having a commercial rejected for the NFL championship game for being too racy. Now, they crank them out all the time — usually teased with a tagline like “Too Hot for TV!” Other advertisers soon followed suit, and now it’s a little cottage industry.
Real innovation goes a step beyond
Other Web-only videos move even further away from the “I-sell-you” mindset of traditional TV commercials. Take Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which is more about empowering women to feel comfortable with their looks than fancy soap.
In one of the most-talked-about pieces, women were asked to describe themselves to a sketch artist, and then that artist drew them based on a stranger’s description of them. Shockingly, the women described themselves physically in much more critical terms than how other people see them.
(Just for fun, check out the parody version featuring egotistical dudes.)
It should be noted videos like this can sometimes run much longer than the traditional 30- or 60-second commercial. And people will watch, as long as they’re emotionally and intellectually engaged by the piece.
Reaching out in a new way
The point is smart brands are now looking at producing their own videos and taking them directly to audiences without even thinking about buying ad time on their local broadcast station. It’s essentially a brand new outreach platform, and one that can be extremely cost-effective.
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It seems like every other day some video surfaces as the new viral hit, racking up millions of views in a short span of time. Often it’s serendipitous footage someone has managed to capture, such as a cute puppy breaking up a fight between two other dogs, or the world’s worst parking attempt.
More and more, however, viral videos are not just camcorder highlights but the carefully-thought-out efforts of a company marketing their products or services. Think of the ad craze for “The Big Game,” in which the sharing of and commenting on the commercials has become a cultural event unto itself.
Viral ≠ Expensive
But it’s not only video produced for broadcast on network television. Some of the most impactful ads are ones that were never even aired. Indeed, brands will produce something they know will never make it past network censors, such as this clever one starring Anna Kendrick for Newcastle Brown Ale. The entire piece is her lamenting that their commercial never got made.
Many videos are made for a fraction of the cost of a TV spot, and they are never intended to play anywhere except for YouTube, social media and the company’s website.
Some of these are one-offs that become a viral hit and then go away. But really smart brands are using humorous multimedia as a central plank of their outreach strategy, producing entire campaigns of videos.
Blended efforts produce results
One of my favorites is the “Will It Blend?” series from Blendtec, a company that manufactures high-end blenders.
Founder Tom Dickson wanted a way to demonstrate exactly how powerful their blenders are, and he began making videos of himself stuffing all sorts of crazy objects into their blenders and chewing them up — credit cards, a whole chicken and children’s action figures among them.
Dickson soon began fielding requests from people who wanted to suggest other things to be pulverized in a Blendtec blender. Thus, the name of the viral video campaign was born. The campaign really took off when Dickson put a first-generation iPhone into the blender and turned it into dust.
“Will It Blend?” is awesome because it memorably shows off the features of the product they’re selling while being hysterically funny. (Dickson’s dry “science guy” wit is a big bonus.) To date, the viral series has seen dozens of episodes with more than 300 million views on YouTube — and boosting Blendtec’s sales tremendously.
Challenges with online video
Of course, there are dangers in this sort of “rogue” marketing. Humor is challenging, because not everybody is funny, and not everyone will react the same way to the humor. One person’s killer joke is horribly offensive to someone else.
You also have to consider who your base of customers is and if you can reach them through YouTube and social media.
The best online videos are short — preferably 90 seconds or less, according to Shawn Sorrells. He should know: in addition to being Coles Marketing’s in-house videographer/photographer, he was also a TV news videographer and editor for many years.
“Nothing has the emotional impact of video,” Sorrells said. “If you can hit an emotional chord with someone, you’re well on your way to converting them into a customer.”
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Categories: 2014 July Newsletter, Newsletters | Tags: Tags: agency, Coles, Coles Marketing, Coles Marketing Communications, communications, communications Indianapolis, Indiana, Indiana public relations agency, Indianapolis, Indianapolis public relations, marketing, photo, photography, photos, Video, Videography, viral video