Herding Cats (Part II)

I thought the herding cats title would be apropos for the subject of this post as well.

“Let’s do a viral video!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a marketing director say this. From my experience, this exclamation is usually code for 1) we need to get as much exposure as possible for no money. 2) we’re bored with our run-of-the-mill product marketing and want to do something that will stand out among our peers. However, according to Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, only .33% of the videos on YouTube have more than 1 million views. 50% of YouTube’s videos get less than 500 views! You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than making a video that goes viral.

START with clear messaging and value proposition

Like all marketing communications, a video needs to have a clear purpose, a simple, simple message and strong value proposition which ties back to your business. If it doesn’t, you’re basically creating an entertainment piece on your marketing dime.

Here’s an example of an IBM Viral Video which lampoons the idea of viral videos:

Another “The Office” parody. Somewhat entertaining and funny. I’m sure the marketing team had a blast making it and it was highly viral inside of IBM. The only problem: 98% entertainment, 2% product bullet points. The only thing I remember is that IBM did a funny video. Was that the intent?

Strong call to action

Videos online need to have a strong call to action even if it’s a branding campaign. What do you want your audience to do or think after they watch the video? Unlike with TV ads where the viewer may be sitting on their coach watching 24, online videos are perfect to move your customer down the buying cycle because they are online already. These days you can even embed clickable links within the video.

A look and feel that adheres to the company’s brand

I’ve seen a lot of marketing videos that create their own unique look and feel. While it may adhere to the look of the campaign, it looks completely different than other videos from the same company. When this happens, the video misses out on leveraging the companies brand equity, or helping the company to build its brand. Check out this joint effort between HP and AMD.

Again, very entertaining and gets traffic, but at what cost? The brand was sacrificed here in order to get people’s attention. I’m not even sure that the knockoff of the MTV show resonates with an older, more conservative IT audience.

On the other hand, let’s take a look at an example Michael Parker presented from Symantec. They invented a fictitous character “Hal” who would be their spokesperson throughout a series of videos. Here’s an example:

Now, this video wasn’t nearly as racy or fun as “Pimp my Infrastructure,” but it’s effective, because it’s right on message, clearly identifies itself with an IT audience, and communicates the value proposition of the product. It also has 50K+ views on YouTube. Not too bad.

Quiet on the set

Once you’ve identified…

  • The video’s purpose
  • The value proposition
  • The message
  • The call to action
  • The airing venue (an online tutorial vs a keynote introduction)
  • The appropriate budget for the type of video

…you’re in much better shape to produce a video that will tie back to your business’ objectives and stay on track when your agency presents their ”Superheroes of the Data Center!” concept.

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Herding Cats (Part I)

I love video. It makes you laugh and cry. It educates and informs. For marketing communications purposes, it’s ideal for drawing the customer into the world the marketer wishes to create – telling the brand story. It is the most powerful medium for making your audience “feel” a certain way about your brand or product.

Here’s a famous Superbowl ad you may remember for a very difficult-to-communicate B2B service offering, IT outsourcing.

It’s simple, clever, and memorable. It’s successful because the folks at EDS had the discipline not to squeeze all their offerings into 30 seconds. They stuck with a simple analogy – “we herd cats”- and wrapped it with a humorous spaghetti Western theme.

What’s the catch with video?

Besides being one of the most expensive forms of communication to produce, it can be hugely wasteful if not done right. With video projects, many marketers get drunk with creative juices or seduced by the creative agency’s superhero concept and forget that their main purpose should be aligned with the business objective – whether it’s selling product or extending customer loyalty.

I attended the “Value of Video” breakfast in San Francisco hosted by video distribution vendor BrightCove. VP of Interactive at Symantec, Michael Parker first asked his audience, “Does anyone in this room want to be a Hollywood director?” Some folks raised their hands. “You should all move to Hollywood,” Michael says, “Because you have no business making marketing videos.” It was refreshing to hear a video evangelist advocate common sense rather than razzle dazzle.

Video ROI

The cost of the video needs to be in line with its objectives. Because of the sliding scale nature of video production, it’s easy for costs to escalate well beyond what makes sense for its purpose. If a video is intended as a product tutorial for the Web, you can produce this very inexpensively with voice over and flash or even still photos. Such a video should cost less than $10K. No need to go into a studio and film products. But, if you’re introducing Steve Jobs for a product launch at Comdex, you would be justified to spend more than $100K to set the tone and blow people out of their seats even if the video is only used once.

Like any marketing communication vehicle, a video communication needs to be tied to the business and communication objectives. The marketer should develop these core elements before the project moves forward and stick to them.

I’ll talk more about these fundamentals in the next post…

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What do Avatar and HP Enterprise Services have in common?

They say there are only seven original stories on which all literature, fables, myths, and movies are based. From Hamlet to Avatar, all the plots can be summarized in this short list:

  1. Man vs. nature
  2. Man vs. man
  3. Man vs. the environment
  4. Man vs. machines/technology
  5. Man vs. the supernatural
  6. Man vs. self
  7. Man vs. god/religion

Source: Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians’ Internet Index (LII).

People remember stories, especially ones in which they can recognize truths about the world or their own experiences. But, so often in B2B marketing, we forget that we are communicating with human beings. I’ve seen tech brochures and Web sites frequently loaded down with endless bullet points of speeds and feeds, for fear that if it misses one detail our customer will bail.

Our customers are not robots. Just because they are evaluating more complex, technical products and have a longer sales cycle, doesn’t mean they will respond to or even recall all the facts and figures we throw at them. Our customers also go see Avatar and are equally driven by basic instincts when it comes to purchase decisions – risk avoidance, fear of making the wrong decision, peer pressure, group think.

At HP, I recently started working on the Enterprise Services business (formerly EDS). When I made my first trip down to Plano, I got a tour of their “Experience Center” – an operational control station in which they also demonstrate their capabilities to customers. I was amazed at how well they articulate their customer stories through a video series. For example, check case study out about the Royal Air Force.

Now, they could have just interviewed their clients in suits about how great HP is. They could have gone into the data center and pulled out a few boards. Instead, they show the end user’s experience. “The office moves around at about 500 miles per hour.” The Enterprise Services team understands how to add the “man vs.man” story giving it a much more theatrical and entertaining experience.

Here’s another story about how John Weir went the extra mile for a customer. This didn’t have the same “Top Gun” entertainment flair, but the producer showed the personal side of Mr. Weir – his family, his kids opening presents on Christmas time.

Watch the Video

I find that often in our marketing efforts we are hesitant to show our personality behind the scenes. But, this is what makes this video so much more compelling. A well told story in the context of B2B marketing can be a powerful tool to help marketers communicate a complex or intangible value proposition like Enterprise Services.

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