We came across an article today from ReelSEO talking about the business of video virality. Once a video is produced, then what? How do you start to build an audience? The ReelSEO article links to a couple of videos from ABC News. It seems that ABC had the same question about what makes an online video take off into the mainstream. So, they hired an agency to help. One video is the full report on the process of conceptualizing, producing, and marketing the video. The other is the finished video, now at over 1 million views. It was an interesting experiment. So, what are some lessons that can be learned from this process?
Plan – The ad agency spent time with the client, brainstorming all kinds of ideas. They got to know the client on a personal, professional, and philanthropic level. It was only after they learned about the client, were they able to come up with an idea that reflected his interests and values.
Find Influencers – The agency did their research and found specific sites with large audiences who write about and discuss topics similar to what’s seen in the Hovercat video. Getting those influencers to share that content with their audiences boosted views. It pays to do the research.
The ReelSEO article also points out that the ABC News piece didn’t even cover the views that can be gained through social media and email. ReelSEO also acknowledges some of the shortcomings of the video itself, and speculates (rightly so, we believe) that the video could have gained much more traction if the content itself had a bit more substance to it. Regardless, it’s a good experiment, and it demonstrates how a brand can gain significant views on their video content with the right amount of planning and research.
I’ve always enjoyed commercials produced by ESPN over the years. The “This Is SportsCenter” series are full of classic, memorable spots. Viewers can appreciate the commercials, even if they aren’t sports fans; even if they aren’t familiar with the particular athlete or team being represented. In recent years, promos for ESPN’s College Game Day have become just as memorable. But what is it about these commercials that are so effective?
Personality. The people on screen are charismatic. They’re captivating. Forget for a moment that the news anchors, athletes, and coaches are celebrities. Think about how they present themselves on camera. They’re relaxed. They’re having fun. They’re natural. They seem friendly. Whatever video project you’re working on, make sure that the people on camera have personality. Your talent needs to connect personally with your audience.
Juxtaposition. The “This is SportsCenter” campaign is a lesson in contrast, and that’s part of the appeal. They take athletes, coaches, and mascots, pull them out of context, and place them within the confines of an ordinary, corporate office environment. Visually, it doesn’t match up, which lends itself to some great comedic moments. At the same time, it perfectly captures what ESPN is all about – they live sports. How can you communicate the core identity of your business or service by meshing two seemingly contradictory ideas or visuals?
Performance. The ESPN commercials are not centered on complex animation, bold graphics, intense music, or a stylized look. They are based on a solid idea, with strong copy, and excellent performances from the on-camera talent. A good video isn’t built on a lot of sizzle and special effects. Those things can certainly enhance a video, but without a creative idea at its core, your message won’t be communicated effectively. Start with the idea. Lean on a video production company to help you develop it into something unique. And rely on the performance(s) of talented individuals to give the video life and personality.
Here is one of the latest ESPN College GameDay commercials:
I usually fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket, even though I don’t watch the regular season very closely. I think there are others who can say the same. So what is it about March Madness that draws so much interest, even from those who don’t consider themselves basketball fanatics?
I believe that the allure lies in the idea of community.The tournament has a knack for bringing people together. We want to compare our bracket with others. We want to compete. We want to cheer for something. We want to brag when our bracket holds up better than the next guy. And we want to share our frustrations with someone else, whose bracket crumbled as quickly as ours. March Madness promotes a singular mindset and singular focus. And AT&T has tapped beautifully into this spirit of camaraderie with their “Brackets By Six Year Olds” campaign. I love this series of videos. In each episode a journalist interviews children to get their insight into each college team. See below:
There are some marketing lessons that can be gleaned from this campaign, and from March Madness in general:
Be Community-Oriented. As stated above, March Madness builds community. Your marketing efforts should do the same. Cultivate an environment that makes it easy for clients and customers to talk to each other and to you. People like to be around others with a similar interest. Everyone knows that March Madness will happen every single year. Perhaps you can create some kind of event, promotion, etc. that happens on a regular basis. Maybe it’s a training class or giveaway. You can also create an online community, in the form of a Google+ hangout, forum, group, or webinar. Whatever it is, create something with a singular focus that clients and customers can look forward to.
Be Timely. AT&T decided to “piggy-back” on an already popular event to create a great marketing campaign. Knowing that people are heavily interested in the NCAA tournament, AT&T capitalized and produced videos centered on that event. You might look at ways that you can take advantage of pre-existing events to boost the conversation around your brand.
Be Imaginative. Nothing will help your brand stand out like a unique perspective. And children have the greatest imaginations. Consider Sony’s recent ad, directed by Wes Anderson (but written by an 8 year old). AT&T tapped into the minds of children to create some wonderfully imaginative perspective on college athletics. And that kind of imagination draws people in, because who doesn’t find the mind of a child cute, funny, and remarkable? Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to utilize a bunch of children into your next marketing campaign, but it is important to communicate an interesting point-of-view to your audience.
Perhaps you have ventured into the online video arena by uploading a little bit of content to your website, YouTube channel, or Facebook page, and now, you’re interested in learning how to make the most of these efforts. I came across some advice from Kelly Wallace (Chief Correspondent and Head of Video for iVillage) while watching an episode of The New Media Minute, hosted by Daisy Whitney. iVillage is one of the most popular sites on the Internet, ranging anywhere from 26-30 million unique visitors per month. Over the past few months they have been increasing the amount of video content they produce for the site. Currently, videos on iVillage generate 4 million views per month. Here’s what Wallace had to say for those interested in adding more video to their site:
Start out small. Video is more expensive to produce than written content so don’t try to bite off more than your advertising budget can chew. If you start out small and invest just enough to get you up and running you can easily see what works and what doesn’t work. Then, as you familiarize yourself with the process and you work out the kinks in your format, you can begin to invest more and more into the production and post-production of your videos.
If you have a variety of video content than spans different themes, think about organizing this content into playlists or channels, to help viewers find what they’re looking for.
Think about creating regularly scheduled programming so your viewers know when to expect newly released content. Much like a TV schedule, you can set up to release videos on theme #1 on Mondays, while Theme #2 is released on Friday. The more familiar your audience becomes with the schedule and with the on-camera talent, the more they will begin to relate to you, your people, your brand, and your topics.
Video is an extension of your brand. It’s another way you can reach your potential customer. But remember that the quality, the format, and the value of the content will ultimately reflect back on your brand and will effect how the public perceives you. Think out your video strategy carefully and be diligent to produce the best possible content you can.
This just in – your customers matter. Sounds like a no-brainer. Sounds like a topic not really worthy of discussion. Everyone knows it. What more needs to be said? As simple as this concept sounds, it seems that some businesses aren’t heeding the advice. Consumers are angry over increased fees, changes in services, changes in the business model, changes with products… you name it. When consumers feel slighted, they immediately take to the Internet to voice their opinions. Unless businesses address these concerns, they can quickly become mired in a very sticky PR situation.
All one needs to do to see the effect of this consumer backlash is to look at Netflix, who quickly ditched their plans to spin off their DVD service into a separate company called Qwikster. Or consider the uproar that Bank of America caused when they decided to start charging customers a monthly fee for using their debit cards. According to this article from USA Today, they too have backed down in the face of public opinion and have decided not to charge a debit card fee. Conversely, consider how Domino’s Pizza responded to customer feedback in late 2009.
What does all this mean for marketers, advertisers, and PR professionals who work to build up brands?
Decisions must be weighed carefully. Don’t rush into any decisions regarding marketing/advertising strategies unless you have done your homework and thoroughly understand your ideal consumer; his/her opinions, buying habits, likes/dislikes, etc.
Don’t underestimate your consumer. With social media at their disposal, customers have a very loud voice and can stir up support for their cause quickly at the grassroots level.
Difficulty awaits those who find themselves trying to rebuild trust among their consumer base. There are two items to note from the USA Today article referenced earlier. One is a quote from famed PR guru Howard Rubenstein, who said, “Every company is now sitting on electronic quicksand. It may look like solid ground, but one wrong move and you’re up to your chin.” The second is a statistic released from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The study states that “some $58 billion in transactions may be at risk from Americans who had a problem with a product or service purchased in the last year.”
Businesses can’t afford to aim wildly with their marketing, advertising, or PR decisions and just throw something at the wall to see what sticks. A company’s reputation (and its bottom line) is at stake. Well-crafted, well-executed, and well-targeted messages will always work best. Be communicative. Be consistent with who you are as a company. And remember who matters the most.