Marketing with Video and Rich Media Blog

Are corporate websites dead? No, but some may require life support.


Websites don’t matter. The content on them and the content that gets consumed and shared (wherever) is what matters.

I recently responded to a blog article that posed the question “are corporate websites dead?”  My take was that the purpose and function of corporate websites is changing – they will still serve as a repository for corporate information but the days of websites being a ‘destination’ for information about the things you do are long gone. An Example:

Recent changes to driving laws where I live now make it illegal to hold/use a cell phone while driving. I needed to pick up a good quality Bluetooth headset. While scanning some recent tweets I noticed a comment about a new Plantronics Bluetooth headset. I followed the link to a YouTube video. It sounded interesting but I wasn’t convinced. I then viewed a number of related reviews on YouTube that seemed more credible and decided that this was indeed the device that suited my needs. I Googled to find the best price and ordered the product online. I never went to the Plantronics website – there was no reason to. I know the company and have purchased products from them before so there were no credibility issues to investigate.

The user generated videos I viewed provided good general information but ultimately the more professionally created videos sold me. The whole process took ten minutes and at the end of it I felt very informed and very comfortable making a purchase decision.  Would I have been as confident if I just went to the Plantronics site and consumed their literature? No way. Would I have been as comfortable if I went to my local electronics store and waited to listen to an inexperienced sales clerk sell me on equipment he may or may not have a lot of real experience with? No.

We are moving from the ‘text web’ to the ‘next web’ ( or ‘web something dot something’) and many companies still don’t see it coming. I’d rather watch a video review or video product demo than read product literature because video and other rich media content show me things that a document cannot. It’s also easier to make value judgments about the presenter and the content.

There is huge value in showing your product/service being used, showing people talking about their experiences with the product and showing how it clearly benefits the potential buyer.

It’s the content (and where that content is seen) that matters, not the website and the implications of this reach far beyond simple consumer products. All companies have to take into account how social media, rich media, mobile engagement, word of mouth, and especially the creation of truly valuable content is going to affect their brand and their business. Even companies with long sales cycles that involve complex buying decisions need to consider how they are going to engage the ‘next web.’

Social Media Revolution… the video.

This video presents some impressive and thought provoking stats on the prevalence and influence of social media. Are the numbers true? Hard to know but the overall thrust of the video is clear – Social media – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. is changing how companies communicate with their constituents and the rate of that change is accelerating.

Follow this Socialnomics link for more detail and discussion around the topic.

Talyor Guitars benefits from United Airline’s mess



A week ago I posted about Dave Carroll and his band ‘Sons of Maxwell’ getting the run around from United Airlines after the negligent mishanding of his Taylor guitar. Fed up and frustrated with United’s lack of interest  Dave decided to punish the Airline the best way he knew how – he wrote a song about the experience. (Two more songs are in the works…)

At the time of posting the video had an impressive 200,000 hits on YouTube. That was then. A week later the video has been viewed more than 3,000,000 times and the blogosphere is alight with the story. Must be tough sledding in the United PR department.

Sensing an opportunity Taylor Guitars has jumped into the video fray and published (responded with) their own ‘show of support’ video. It’s difficult to estimate but you have to guess the PR value for ‘Sons of Maxwell’ is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and Taylor guitar has probably never been this famous. Like all things viral this will quickly blow over but the entire incident will have left an invigorated Canadian country band, a rejuvenated guitar manufacturer and a discombobulated airline in its wake.

United Airlines gets smacked by social media

True story.  Dave Carroll, lead singer for the country group ‘Sons of Maxwell’ watched in horror as United Airwaves baggage handlers tossed around and eventually broke his $3,500 Taylor guitar (Read the full story on the bands website).   After nine months of run-around and an almost comic disregard for the consequence of their actions, United was no closer to taking responsibility for the damage. In frustration Dave promised the airline he would write three (not just one…) songs about the incident. This one is the first.  It has already received over 200,000 views online. The song is sort of catchy.

How could the airline be so inept? Does United Airlines care now? Didn’t they know not to mess with musicians?

Video sharing, social networks and the ability to easily spread your message far and wide are all important factors causing (most) companies to reconsider how they deal with their customers. Up until very recently you had to commit a pretty heinous act against a customer for anyone to take notice. Now anyone with a computer, a video camera and a grievance can cause your company a considerable amount of pain.

Spending millions on generic positioning ads won’t amount to much if you choose to ignore your customers and if you choose to ignore social media.

State of Florida misses the ‘social’ mark in new video promotion


Good effort…  but the execution is off the mark.

Like every tourist destination in the world, the State of Florida is looking for new ways to attract visitors during tough economic times. They engaged  Spark - a Tampa agency to help them build a ‘social video campaign’ to spread the word and ‘Share a little sunshine.’

The promotion began with the above video which is basically a call to action to all Floridians to help boost tourist trade – an integral part of the Florida economy. So far so good.  {Unfortunately the campaign got off to a bumpy start as many YouTube posts complained that the poster board concept (which goes back to  Bob Dylan’s 1965 Subterranean Homesick Blues Video video) was ‘stolen’ from a very touching YouTube video entitled Mark by Ben - a plea by a Florida boy to help find work for his father.}

A website and promotional campaign was created to encourage keen Floridians to pass along the good word. The website includes one of three commercials – ‘Romance’, ‘family’, ‘friends’ that participants are encouraged to forward with the promise of a chance to win valuable prizes with each new email sent.

 The State missed a huge opportunity here. Offering a prize for emailing these videos to friends and family is a good idea but I don’t think it’s enough. Sure it’s easy to do and sweepstakes and contests will always guarantee a certain amount of interaction. I just don’t believe that the recipients, if they actually watch the commercials, will care. If someone sent me an email with a tourist commercial from their town I may start watching it, but it better be really good, or have a compelling message or story. These videos were obviously created on a very tight budget and certainly don’t reinforce all of the beautiful stereotypes of the Sunshine State. These stereotypes,  (Eiffel Tower, Venetian Canals, Manhattan Skyline, etc.) are one of the main reasons people choose travel destinations. Yes, reminding people of important social hooks (friends, family and romance) is interesting but there is limited direct connection to Florida other than the fact that someone from the state may (or may not) have forwarded it to you.

There is a place for high quality video and a place for lower-budget video. The problem is that the lower quality video better have something else going for it or it won’t get noticed.

A better option would have been to create or purchase a lot of excellent quality b-roll video and encourage Floridians to create their own tourist videos using as much of the supplied high quality b-roll video as they wanted. The uptake might have been more limited but the viral potential for these videos would have been a hundred times greater – as would the impact.

A contest to forward commercials is not a social marketing campaign, it’s a contest – that’s it. Give people the incentives (the contest and the ‘Help support your state’ video) AND give them the tools to create compelling videos with themselves in the video – now you have the potential for some exponential growth in both viewership and impact.

Some videos would be great – especially if you give the people excellent source material to insert in the videos and some would be pretty bad. But even the bad ones would be good because they would have real people in them and these people would want to forward these videos on to their friends and family and their family and friends would want to watch them and forward them on to other people.

Unfortunately, this campaign results in the worst of both worlds – lower budget commercials with limited social uptake.

Is Starbucks ‘reaching’ or just reaching out.

Starbucks is like Apple in many ways. It has a loyal – some would say fanatical – following, it sells a premium product and it differentiates itself on the experience around the product, rather than simply on the specific features/benefits of the product itself.

Apple however, seems to be flourishing (relatively speaking) during these tough economic times whereas Starbucks is searching to find it’s soul (and bottom line) and to remind everyone that there is still something very special about the Sbux experience.

Howard Shultz CEO of Starbucks is seen above in this video posted to the Starbucks YouTube channel. Although the stated audience for this video are the Starbucks ‘partners’ (employees) it is clear that the intent is to announce to the world that Starbucks is reaching out to all of its constituents – customers, prospects, influencers and employees to tell them that something ‘important’ is going on. (Hint – it’s really just a marketing campaign)

Starbucks is supporting a major marketing and advertising program (very unusual for Starbucks) through a number of social media activities such as YouTube video contests and ‘alerting’ twitter followers to watch out for the new campaign. Clearly you have to be a zealot to want to be notified of any one’s new marketing campaign.

The style of the video – honest, comfortable and personal is good – it supports the overall brand image and hints at something important going on. Just the same, after watching the video I can’t help but conclude – so what? I visit Starbucks mostly for off site meetings, the $4 coffee is just the cost of renting the furniture for a half an hour. Starbucks is not a movement or way of life for me no matter how hard they try to make it so.

I acknowledge that selling $4 coffee is tough during tough times. Interestingly one of the employee/partners ( all seemingly mandated to wear black )  mentions in the video that they do indeed offer alternatives to the $4 coffee.  Starbucks cannot and will not be able to compete on price with anyone so I’m not sure mentioning this does them a lot of good.

I think the short term attention will improve their outlook for a time but I can’t help but think this is more than reaching out – it’s almost a cry for help to all the fanboys and girls out there to keep the faith and help to keep the Starbucks experience alive.

Unilever CMO evangalizes social media

It’s been a slow build since the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto told us in 1999 that ‘markets are conversations” and that ‘thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.” A tech bubble, a tech bust, a resurgent web 2.0 and a global economic crisis later, we are starting to see companies internalize the vision and promise of social media that the Cluetrain conductors outlined a decade ago. An example:

A recent article in Adage featuring Simon Clift, CMO of Unilever and minder of one of the largest marketing budgets on the planet, highlights the keyote speech Clift delivered at Adage’s annual digital conference. The article is well worth the read.

In his speech Clift covers everything from consumer activism to the oxymoronic ‘corporate consience’ and declares that many companies who don’t adapt ‘simply won’t survive this accelerated natural selection.”

Adage concludes the article with a list of new rules for marketing which include ‘Listening is more important than talking’ and ‘PR and Marketing are now the same thing.”

Sure, we’ve heard it all before but marketers are no different than consumers. We tend to wait until the groundswell has shifted us from our comfortable position before we act. Once the big companies adopt new behaviours it’s no longer a trend. It’s the new reality.

Top Social Brands of 2008

Vitrue, a social media marketing company has announced a ”Top Social Brands of 2008′ list. The company developed a methodology that tracked conversations on a variety of social networking, blogging, microblogging, photo and video sharing sites and developed an algorithm to determine the most popular brands mentioned in these social media sites. This list focuses on businesses only - Obama, Palin, Spears and other ‘personal brands’ did not make the list. 

The list is an interesting scan with few surprises which, by-and-large reflects the most well know brands. The one glaring omission is ‘Google’ not appearing in the top 100. It’s hard to imagine that ‘Sears’ registers higher in the zeitgeist of web-users than Google. Perhaps they chose to exclude verbs from their list as well. Here are the top 10:

1. IPhone
2. CNN
3. Apple
4. Disney
5. Xbox
6. Starbucks
7. iPod
8. MTV
9. Sony
10. Dell

The Future of Social Networks


Charlene Li, coauthor of the book Groundswell has put together a presentation that summarizes some of the key messages outlined in her book and that looks into the impact that social networks (people connecting online) and social technologies (Facebook, Tweeter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.) will have on businesses in the future.

There is no end of hype and excitement around the transformative affect that social media will have on businesses. Trusted marketing experts such as Seth Godin refer to the trends outlined in this book as ‘the next industrial revolution.’ (Subtlety is the first thing to go when you when you attain ‘Marketing ‘Guru’ status.)

The presentation is interesting, provocative and convinced me to buy the book. I’m inclined to suggest you do the same. (The revolution won’t wait for you…)

For more charts and more information on this survey follow this link to eMarketer.


Five questions to ask a viral video producer.

A growing number of video production houses and ad agencies claim to specialize in viral videos. By definition a “viral video” is a web-based video that is so popular that people will want to share it with their friends or colleagues (through social media sites, through email, through IM, through blogs and through media sharing websites). That is a very big promise.

One of the best examples of a successful corporate viral video was created by Blendtec, a Utah-based blender manafuacturer. The company created a wildly popular video promotional series called “Will it blend?” which showcased Blendtec founder, Tom Dickson dumping everything imaginable into a blender to answer the question “Will it blend?” The videos contain an engaging mix of shock, humour and campiness that have generated millions of views. “Will it blend?” has become an Internet meme and the series has generated millions of dollars in increased sales for the company. {The company has even made money from merchandising the ‘Will it blend?’ name and shared advertising revenues generated from Will it Blend? videos on video sharing site Revver.}

So yes, it is possible to generate awareness, buzz and even revenue with viral video but success at the level of ‘Will it Blend?’ is the exception. The challenge is that you have to strike a very delicate balance of entertaining without looking like you are selling. If your video looks like a commercial or a blatant promotion, it won’t be shared. If you create something that is hugely entertaining but does nothing to advance your brand, what’s the point?

It’s also getting much more difficult to break through the chatter. YouTube gets a cajillion new videos uploaded every minute. Yours better be really good.

If you’re thinking of creating a viral video here are five questions you should ask prospective viral video production house:

1. How many viral videos have you done, and for who?
2. How will this video promote my brand? (Most viral video producers squeeze the brand into the video)
3. How will you measure success? If the answer is ‘views’, is there a way to qualify who is viewing it?
4. Do you employ any video seeding strategies, title and thumbnail optimization or other guerrilla techniques that help accelerate video sharing?
5. Are there any guarantees? What if it only gets viewed by 100,000, 10,000, 1,000 or 3 people?