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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