Breaking Down 9 Wildly Successful Video Marketing CampaignsYouTube is not known primarily as a hub of video marketing for businesses; it’s reputation instead consists primarily of generally low quality, homemade videos. You’re more likely to come across a video of a cat than a corporate marketing campaign. YouTube is, for the most part, used in a non-professional way as a medium to share entertaining and informal videos. While several entrepreneurs have been successful in efforts to make money from YouTube, most use it in an exclusively recreational manner.
But there are certainly examples of corporate success stories on YouTube; it’s been the starting point for a number of successful campaigns run by businesses, from start-ups just getting off the ground to massive publicly-traded corporations trying to enhance their brand. Just as most personal videos uploaded to YouTube struggle to gain traction and receive only a small number of views, most “corporate campaigns” on the video site are relatively unsuccessful. But there are several examples of video marketing gone viral that has delivered positive ROI to the companies behind them. Here are a few examples of some of the more successful video marketing campaigns of the past several years:
1. Dollar Shave Club
This is perhaps the best example of a well-done YouTube video serving as a launching pad for a start-up business. The video is short, to the point, and most importantly laugh-out-loud funny. All of those qualities helped this introduction to a novel business concept go viral online, generating a massive amount of free advertising for a company that at the time had very little marketing budget.
The reputation forged by the first video has become a great asset for the company; a recently released YouTube video highlighting a second product line already has over 1.4 million views.
What Made It Work: Comedy. As mentioned above, the video is crammed with clever one liners and funny gimmicks. It’s legitimately funny, and also clean (which significantly increases the potential audience and social velocity).
2. Kony 2012 Campaign
The Kony 2012 campaign obviously wasn’t a for-profit venture, but the organization behind it had similar objectives to the other corporations highlighted here. And by almost any measure, they were wildly successful; this video generated millions of views within a few days of going live, and has been seen almost 100 million times since its launch.
“Kony 2012″ became a mainstream topic thanks largely to the free publicity generated by YouTube, and the organization sold out of its support packages almost immediately. The fact that the video is a half hour long makes the success all the more impressive.
What Made It Work: Emotional appeal. There’s obviously nothing funny about this video; instead, it relies on appeal to more serious emotions to succeed. The professional production quality of the video combined with the incredibly emotional images and stories made it a must-share video. There’s a satisfaction that “sharers” of this video receive when introducing it to friends, family members, or social circles; they feel as if they’re helping to spread the word about an important cause, resulting in a feeling of satisfaction.
3. Dove Real Beauty Campaign
Though the best YouTube success stories tend to involve nimble, creative start-ups, plenty of larger corporations have cracked the code as well. Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” video has been viewed more than 56 million times in a few months, a tremendous figure for what is essentially a three minute commercial.
The branding initiative here is clearly aimed at older women, with Dove attempting to convey its brand of beauty and skin care products as something that enhances the natural beauty of all types of women. This video was produced using extensive footage from a larger experiment in which dozens of women were asked to describe themselves (as well as others) to an artist.
What Made It Work: Drama. Most viewers of this video are probably hooked from the beginning, on the premise of a sketch artist drawing women he can’t see based only on their descriptions of themselves. Once that’s revealed, there’s a desire to see how his work turns out–is he able to accurately portray the women without seeing their faces? And what happens when someone else provides the description? There’s also a very powerful emotional element to this video (I’d guess more than a few of the 56 million who have watched it have been moved to tears) that no doubt encourages large scale social sharing.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
The fifth installment of the Grand Theft Auto franchise has become one of the most successful video games of all time, generating more than $1 billion in sales within three days of its launch. The incredible anticipation for the launch was built in part through a YouTube video published about two months before the game went on sale.
The video, which has been viewed more than 25 million times, gave fans a preview of the upcoming game. Almost five minutes in length, it featured plenty of video of the actual gameplay, but also an explanation of the behind the scenes work that promised to make this version such a unique gamine experience.
That 25 million figure is even more impressive considering that users must sign in to YouTube with a Google and verify their age in order to view (given the adult nature of some of the content).
What Made It Work: Exclusivity. Given the tremendous popularity of the series, excitement was already building for the game prior to the video’s release. The video offers fans something they can’t get anywhere else: a detailed sneak peak of the game, along with an explanation of specific features that will make it so enjoyable. If you’re a fan of the Grand Theft Auto games, it’s hard not to enjoy this video. And because it’s so well done, it’s hard not to be even more excited about playing the game after you’ve watched it.
5. Red Bull’s “Freefall”
The video, which is about 90 seconds long, is actually pretty boring–which makes it an interesting case study in video marketing. Freefalling from 128,000 feet is of course thrilling for the guy taking the leap, but doesn’t make for great viewing. Nevertheless, the video is a huge success form a marketing success; it’s been viewed more than 35 million times, and includes plenty of mentions of the Red Bull brand throughout.
What Made It Work: Exclusivity, Uniqueness. The thought of skydiving from the edge of outer space is so extreme and over-the-top that it becomes hard to ignore. This video offers unique perspectives on the record-breaking feat, making it one of the only places the official footage of the jump is available. For those fascinated by the specific attempt or at general attempts to push the limits of the human body, the concept behind this video makes it so compelling.
6. Old Spice
The deodorant brand (which is owned by Procter & Gamble) has established a reputation for its commercials over the past three years, pumping out ads featuring bizarre but funny characters and situations. The result: ten YouTube videos with at least five million views, including one that’s been seen more than 46 million times. These videos are nothing more than the 30-second TV ads the company runs; there’s no additional production work of concept cultivation. Rather, Old Spice has managed to get visitors to go out of their way to view its commercials more than 100 million times.
What Makes It Work: Comedy. This video is certainly quirky, containing incredibly original comedy. It works because it makes us laugh, something that is very hard to achieve in a short commercial. Because truly funny commercials are so hard to come up with, those that are creative and original enough to stand on their own as a comic production are so likely to go viral. We inherently have a strong desire to be the source of funny content to friends and social media connections, which explains the massive, overnight success of truly original and funny video content.
7. Adam Carolla’s FundAnything Campaign
A YouTube presence has become a key component of the various crowdfunding initiatives that have been made possible by sites like FundAnything and KickStarter. This four minute video produced by Adam Carolla’s campaign features the surprisingly funny Bryan Cranston, best known as the star of Breaking Bad. There’s a very clear goal here; you’ll note the front-and-center linking to a page where viewers had the option to donate to the campaign (Carolla was aiming to raise $1 million to cover production costs for an upcoming film).
This video didn’t get nearly the attention of some of the others on this list–to date it’s been viewed about 185,000 times–but it’s hard to argue with the results. The FundAnything campaign raised about $1.4 million, or 40% more than the original goal.
What Makes It Work: Comedy, Star Power. The fact that it (unexpectedly) stars a popular actor on one of the most talked about TV shows of all time certainly didn’t hurt this video. And while YouTube wasn’t the only driver of traffic to the donation page (Carolla has a popular podcast and did a promotional media tour), it clearly helped to push the initiative well past its goal.
8. Samsung’s “Looking 4 Myself”
This extended ad (it comes in at about 150 seconds) features pop star Usher and a version of one of his recently released singles. Integrated into the music video is Samsung’s Smart TV, and the video is designed to highlight the Smart Interaction feature. This is a pretty good example of native advertising execution; it certainly feels more like a music video than an ad, likely making viewers more receptive to the messaging around the featured product.
The response was pretty impressive; the official version of the video was viewed more than 40 million times in June alone and has since eclipsed the 50 million mark.
What Makes It Work: Star Power. Replace Usher with a no-name musician, and this video probably gets only a small portion of the 50 million+ it’s already received. Featuring celebrities with loyal followings–especially in the creation of an exclusive or semi-exclusive song or video–is a surefire way to have a video marketing campaign catch on. Of course, this strategy requires a pretty hefty budget; Usher doesn’t come cheap.
Samsung has also executed similar strategies using LeBron James.
If you’ve never heard of Krrish, you’re definitely not alone. But you may still be able to learn something about video marketing from the success of the campaign around this highly anticipated Bollywood movie. The trailer, which runs a little longer than two minutes, received more than 12 million views in the 10 days following its release (it’s now received more than 16 million). The trailer came out in early August, a couple months ahead of an October debut for the feature film.
What Made It Work: Exclusivity. Though promoting a different product to a very different market, the success of the Krrish 3 trailer serves as a validation of the video marketing strategy that also propelled the Grand Theft Auto V preview. This movie is the third installment in a popular series, so there’s an existing brand and built-up anticipation. So the creators of this video campaign have a nice advantage; they’re the only ones who can satisfy the demand for a preview of an upcoming film. Their product clearly accomplished resonated with the audience, as evidenced by the millions of views of the video.
For purposes of comparison, Sony’s official trailer for Captain Phillips–a big budget Hollywood film–generated about a million views.
Besides their success, the video marketing campaigns highlighted above appear to have very little in common; they were promoting different products to very different target audiences. But there are some recurring themes when we examine the factors that are responsible for the success:
- Comedy. When something truly original and funny appears on YouTube it has a pretty good chance of attracting a lot of eyeballs–regardless of who put it together. In that sense, comedy is the great equalizer of video marketing; a start-up selling razors for a dollar can put together a video that will be far more successful than big budget video marketing campaigns from larger competitors. Of course, executing an original and funny idea in an advertisement is an extremely challenging task–and it happens very infrequently.
- Drama / Emotion. While comedy is perhaps the surest way to ensure visibility of a video campaign, other emotions can do the trick as well. The Kony 2012 and Dove campaigns highlighted above show that emotional appeals can also drive engagement and success. When viewers are moved to tears, or simply experience strong feelings of anger or sadness, they are often spurred to share the source of that emotion with their social circles.
- Exclusivity. Some of the campaigns mentioned above, such as Krrish 3 and Grand Theft Auto, capitalize on their ability to satisfy provide something no one else can: an inside look or preview of an upcoming release for which some degree of excitement and anticipation already exists. This is obviously a huge advantage–there’s pent-up demand for their campaign–but still requires execution of a video that is going to be shared socially and satisfy potentially critical fan bases.
- Star Power. This is perhaps the equivalent of free agency in baseball: the teams with big budgets have the ability to go out and buy a superstar. But just as those deals don’t always guarantee a championship, a superstar alone doesn’t make a great video marketing campaign. A poorly executed video featuring Usher and a new single can still flop, but it’s certainly a huge advantage.
Each successful video marketing campaign is unique, but most will incorporate one or more of these elements!
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