Archive for the ‘rich media’ Tag

Whiteboard Videos in the Crosshairs

Walk the halls of any marketing department and you’re bound to hear someone planning a whiteboard video project. The success of UPS’ advertising campaign has spurred imitators at every turn. If asked to produce such a project, how do you respond? For me, I gather up all the wooden stakes and silver bullets I can find – it’s time to put these requests in the crosshairs

What appears simple in the UPS television commercials is anything but simple. What made these spots work? They were surprising, the operative word being were, past tense. It’s clear when a technique has peaked, just watch for the growing number of parodies. The UPS spots are short, not a 20 minute marketing promotion. The ads make one simple point rather than a bullet list of complex messages best covered in a written white paper. And finally the talent brings just the right combination of presentation and artistic skills to make the commercials interesting.

When one of these project requests crossed my desk, I met with the client and listened, nodded at the appropriate moments, and made all the motions as if taking detailed notes. The marketing prime was using whiteboards as the centerpiece for a series of interactive, small-group meetings. It’s a wonderful meeting format for those participating in person at one of the events. But creating a “whiteboard video” to promote the event series wasn’t going to work. I promised the client I would use some whiteboard techniques, but the promo spot would employ other techniques as well. The production team at SAS included graphic and animation support from Tim Cherry and post production editing was handled by Kevin Alexander. In the end, the client was happy with the results and is using the program to promote the event series.

There are times when a whiteboard video is a good way to approach a project. Our team at SAS has done many such projects. Most are for internal use rather than external marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind about such projects.

1) Whiteboard or Smart Board – There is a difference. A whiteboard is just that, a flat drawing surface. A smart board offers the advantage of interactivity and the use of computer-generated content. This is one way to create animation which on-camera talent can interact.

2) Pre-Produced Content – With a smart board, content can be pre-produced. It can be graphic animation as in some of the UPS commercials, PowerPoint charts can be presented, or software can be shown and interacted with. Pre-planning content elements minimizes the need for talent to draw upon their inner artist – they can remain focused on the content.

3) Hire an Artist – When a client insists on creating “one of those clever whiteboard videos,” start looking for a graphics professional. Use the search terms: videoscribing or whiteboard animation. The animation does not need to be done on-camera, a voice over can work just as well. Animation can also be pushed to a smart board for the on-camera talent to interact.

4) All Things in Moderation – If one or two coffees, why not eight or ten? As in the example produced for SAS, a little whiteboard animation goes a long way. It takes a very clever production team to make the technique work over an extended project. A better approach is to use it sparingly and build out a program using other complementary techniques.

5) Bang for the Buck – If you use a professional artist for the project, consider making use of the animation separate from the original project. A shortened form of the animation could be used to promote the full-length program. The graphic sequences could be made into short clips that when pulled into PowerPoint can enhance other presentations while strengthening message continuity.

When asked about producing a whiteboard program, take ownership of the project. As a media professional you’re the one most qualified to make the decisions that will delight your client. You can save the wooden crosses and silver bullets for vampires and werewolves.


5 Tips for the Dreaded Corporate History Video

The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.

1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.

2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!

3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.

4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.

5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.

For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.

News & Information in the Era of New Media

News, and the business of news, has changed.  Advances in technology, in parallel with changes affecting the business of broadcasting, have had a profound effect on how consumers receive news and information.  The June meeting of the Central Carolina Chapter of MCA-I explored these themes with a behind-the-scenes tour of WRAL and a look at how news and information is managed across multiple channels, technology platforms, and made available 24 hours a day.

Companies like Capital Broadcasting (parent company of WRAL) have long had multiple divisions and more than one way to reach an audience.  Station owners often had television and radio properties that ran as separate businesses.  Fast forward to the era of new media, and those lines have blurred.  The Internet and web-based media have given consumers new choices in how and when they receive information.  Accelerating this trend is the mobile web, with information available anytime and from almost anywhere.  To survive in this new environment, broadcasters like WRAL have made significant investments in on-line, web-based channels.  In today’s 24-hour information environment, content must be available from more than just static websites ‑ consumers also demand access from their choice of mobile platforms.

The changes affecting broadcast news are clearly visible when visiting the WRAL newsroom and touring the facility.  At every turn, traditional broadcast teams sit and work alongside the new media team.  Now undergoing a massive digital facility upgrade, WRAL is constructing a new master control room and streamlining the process of asset exchange between the TV and new media teams.

In the news room, news gathering and reporting producers sit side-by-side with their counterparts on the .Com side.  WRAL has 30 content producers assigned to the new media team.  Having both broadcast and new media channels available, breaking news is never embargoed.  Once verified, the station has the option of delivering the news through its website, on Facebook, or by Twitter.  “Our broadcast and new media teams work together in the newsroom every day,” said John Conway, Creative Services Director at WRAL.Com.  “We’ve created an environment for cooperation and sharing where WRAL-TV does the first line reporting and news gathering, which will then be used by the WRAL.Com Web Content Producers.”

From its website, WRAL.Com delivers over 40 hours of live video each day.  The website provides access to over 45,000 video clips in its archive and delivers over 60,000 video views per day.  For advertisers, WRAL.Com offers a highly targeted marketing opportunity.  Over 70% of the website users are within the local viewing area, putting ads in front of people who shop locally.  Traffic to the website peaked on the day of last presidential inauguration.  WRAL.Com supported up to 3,000 simultaneous connections and delivered over 890,000 video views.  That’s a lot of web traffic!

Thanks to the team at WRAL-TV and WRAL.Com for a fascinating inside look at how news and information is managed in the era of new media.  Great meeting!

The Buzz on Viral Video

Working at a high technology company often requires me to provide very specific, technically-detailed answers.  This is particularly true when a technologist wants information about what they consider the soft field of marketing.  It’s important to answer in their language in order to get your point across.

In a recent meeting about an upcoming marketing campaign, several people asked me how to go about creating a viral video.  We talked about this for awhile but I sensed those in the meeting were looking for more.  Later, back in my office I thought about the elements of a successful viral video.  I thought of the 4 Ps of Marketing and then offered the team a formula for creating viral videos.  My suggestion was:  (.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.

There are all kinds of viral videos, but for purposes of brevity this post looks only at the creation of viral video for B2B and B2C companies.

Product ‑ Delving into the formula, 60% of the effort in creating a viral video should go into creating the Product.  That is the content as well as the production.  It’s critical to keep in mind that a viral video does more than deliver a singular message, it represents the company brand.  There are many creative ways to create viral content, but not all fit well within a brand framework.  Common themes for viral video content often include: humor, surprise, interactivity, and of course sex.

  • Humor:  Everyone enjoys a good laugh and comedy is a frequent component of many successful viral videos.  Of course humor is very subjective and requires a deft touch when used within a corporate brand strategy.  The Mac vs. PC ads went viral because of the passion Mac users have for their computers and the clever use of humor to drive home the message.  Including Brazilian model and actress Gisele Bündchen added to the effectiveness of the spot promoting iMovie capabilities on the Mac.
  • Surprise:  The wow-factor that makes viewers want to share a video with friends and colleagues.  In the interest of fair play, Microsoft scored on the viral video charts with their fake Greatest Slide Stunt Ever video developed for Microsoft Germany.  Who cares if the stunt was fake?  That’s not the point… it’s all about the buzz.
  • Interactivity:  Many sites offer users the ability to dynamically insert pictures or names into an animated presentation for sharing with others ‑ turning themselves into virtual brand ambassadors.  Think Jib-Jab and the famous Elf Yourself campaign.  Office Max’s 2008 holiday promotion proved amazingly popular and was the viral hit of winter 2008.
  • Sex:  It sells, but won’t work for all organizations.  The Carl’s Jr. ads featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton washing cars while devouring a burger created a lot of buzz, drove million+ web views, and the scorn of many.  What it did for burger sales, I have no idea.

Price ‑ Coupled with Product is the element of Price.  Developing outstanding creative content most often comes with an associated cost.  Producing a viral video may involve an outside creative agency; will require crew, equipment, and other below-the-line costs; and could involve celebrity talent.  A forewarning, in discussing viral video, someone is sure to mention a video created in 10 minutes, without a budget, and using low end equipment.  They’re out there, usually involving animal or pet tricks, cute kids, or a “thank goodness it’s not me” video.  The question you must answer is, would such a video reflect well on the company brand?  In most cases the answer is no.  As the viral video market has matured, you can point to a growing number of successful viral videos that both deliver impact and support brand attributes.

  • Creative Concept:  Viral videos can be conceived internally, or may require hiring an outside agency.  The key is the big idea, something perceived as remarkable and that communicates your message.  Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is one of the most successful web-based viral campaigns.  Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.  For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
  • Production Expenses:  Some believe that web video should have a decidedly low-cost look – inaccurately often referred to as a YouTube video.  My suggestion is to push back with reference to more traditional media.  A client would never permit their “official” product brochure to be written by a brilliant technologist from R&D, illustrated by someone’s kid known for drawing nice pictures, and printed on the copier down the hall.  The product brochure is viewed as a key sales tool, and production quality reflects on the product as well as the company brand.  The same holds true for a viral marketing vehicle.  Keep in mind the old adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.”  How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 20M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?
  • Celebrity Talent:  A viral video does not require celebrity talent, it’s a tactical decision.  But people are fascinated by celebrities.  There are countless websites devoted to following every aspect of a celebrity’s life and which will embed these videos and help extend the audience.  The cost of using a celebrity can be a major expense item, often beyond available budget.  And to prove that celebrities never go away, much as would like many of them to fade away, advertisers have turned to wrestling icon Rick Flair to WOOO state lottery players with jackpots of mega millions.

OK, it’s entertainment time.  The hottest viral campaign currently running is the Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa showing off his six pack abs.  The campaign is an excellent example of strong product and illustrates the issues of price as a component in delivering a viral video campaign.

Millions of views and major brand buzz

Placement – Viral videos appear in many places on the web.  Each media channel has unique attributes and publishing requirements.  The critical element of placement is less about the channel than it is about how you describe (tag) your video.  Tagging information is the metadata that search engines and viewers use to locate your video.

  • Title & Description:  Your video title and description should be both descriptive and engaging.  Review carefully the visible word count in the description field provided by each media channel.  Then limit the description to the visible information field.  Anything accessible only from the <More Info> section of the description will seldom be seen.
  • Tagging:  Add tags… lots of relevant tags.  The more keywords used to describe your video, the more likely your video will appear within search results and be found.
  • Single Posting:  If the video is part of a series of presentations, each should be posted to a single page with its own title, description, and tagging information.
  • Embedded Links:  These enable other content authors to link directly to your video.  The best example is the use of embed code from YouTube.  (As I did above in posting the Old Spice video.)  Many of the views of your video will be driven by blog posts, included in emails, circulated via Twitter, and on and on.

Promotion – Videos posted to the web with compelling title, interesting descriptions, and rich metadata tags have a head start in the battle for eyeballs.  Promotion takes work and is not an overnight process.  It involves multiple elements and communication tactics.

  • Thumbnail:  The major media channels all show a visual from within the video, along with the title and description.  Unfortunately, each media channel handles this in different and unique ways.  It’s well worth the investment in time to understand the unique way each video sharing site determines the thumbnail image deployed with your video.
  • Channels:  Of course there is YouTube…  and there are other channels as well, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Facebook Video, specific industry websites, and of course your company’s own website.  Publish to as many sites as are relevant and that you can support with follow-up communication.
  • Social Networking:  Create communities of interest for your content and share regularly.  As you befriend more people ask them to invite others to subscribe as well.  Reach out to bloggers and others of influence and allow them to help spread the news.  Send them the embed link along with some unique information (previously unpublished) and you may gain access to an audience you might otherwise not reach.  Promote your video project and keep the video front and center in as many communication opportunities as possible: blog, Tweet, post, comment, email, advertise… above all stay engaged.
  • Bubble Up Ratings: Videos that create a buzz (comments, ratings, views) will move to the top of the search listing.  Ask for comments and respond to those comments.  These actions not only drive views, but move your video higher in the results list.

So that’s my formula for a successful viral video.
(.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.
I would like to hear your thoughts and comments.  What’s been your experience?  Comments welcome.

For more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It!

Drive Click-Through Rates with Video

The numbers are almost meaningless… ≈ 170M unique web viewers/month, 14B streams/month, time per viewer up nearly 60%.  The bottom line is that the growth of online video has exploded and will continue to grow ‑ becoming as ubiquitous as text on the web.  Don’t believe this?  Ask any IT manager responsible for data storage and content delivery.

The explosion of video has been driven by user generated content; commercial content distribution; and web-based video/multimedia, much of it supporting promotional campaigns.  The naysayers point out that for promotional campaigns, overall advertising click-through rates are disappointingly low.  Point taken.  But, those websites and marketing campaigns that customize ads and multimedia content to fit individual customer interests have demonstrated markedly higher click-through rates.  Two of the most well know examples of successfully tailoring content to the interest of their users are Apple, with the iTunes Store, and

 As video has become an accepted part of the web experience, marketers are looking for ways to exploit the engaging qualities of video.  Video has the unique ability to convey a story through sound and motion – creating a more powerful emotional response among users.  Results of recent studies by DoubleClick show that when used for direct-response online advertising –the click-through rate– online video ads perform extremely well.  The data shows online video ads deliver click-through rates ranging from 0.4 to 0.74 percent depending on the online video format.  By comparison, click-through rates for plain GIF or JPG image ads ranges between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.  Given these data, it’s no wonder that in the troubled economic climate of the past year, marketers have rushed headlong to enrich their websites, direct mail campaigns, press releases, and corporate communications with various forms of digital multimedia.

 A recent industry report from StrongMail Systems highlights the trend.  As reported in BtoB Online, Kristin Hersant, StrongMail’s director of corporate marketing, the “2010 Marketing Trends” survey finds that online marketing spending will be up in the coming year, with video a key driver.  “We also think that marketers will be able to increase relevancy by using video in e-mail,” Hersant said.  “Video is going to make it a lot easier to promote the things that their customers are interested in, such as webinars, training, and product education.”

A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC released US results for the first half of 2009, showing that online ad spending continues to experience robust growth, increasing 38% from the same period a year ago.  As online advertising continues to draw spending away from other forms of traditional advertising, spending for online video is projected to reach nearly $500M in the US during the first half of 2010.  In a similar report from Forrester Research, video advertising will grow to account for one-fifth of European online display ad spending – nearly €1 billion in 2012.  Forrester Research also issued their US Interactive Marketing Forecast 2009 – 2014, showing 60% of marketers plan to shift marketing dollars away from traditional channels in favor of interactive marketing initiatives.

This move to interactive multimedia-supported marketing is not the sole province of big companies.  In Chapel Hill, NC a local wine, coffee, and tea merchant is taking advantage of the click-through promotional power of video.  3CUPS is a business dedicated to bringing high quality products to their customers while stimulating them to learn more about what they sell… the really good stuff.  They recently began adding video promotions as an element to their email marketing and on their website home page.  “Using video allows us to show what it’s like to come into our store and learn about our business,” says Badi Bradley a partner at 3CUPS.  The first promotion to include a video element delivered 600 views in the first several days.  Following the success of the first video, 3CUPS has released three more videos and has five projects underway.  Lex Alexander, owner of 3CUPS, believes video offers a unique way to differentiate the business.  “Video allows us to entice customers with a story that demonstrates we are very knowledgeable about the items we sell.  People don’t read as much these days; they’ve become accustomed to TV.  It helps us personalize the business.”  The video was produced in HD by Jim Fink of New Century Digital Media and shot and directed by Ken Peterson, SilverLight Productions.  The HD Flash video is hosted by NCDM.  According to Fink, “We support the concept of a full television experience that people have become used to in their home.”  Fink provides clients with more than just production and hosting, he also provides access to stats on the performance of each video.  “Clients have direct access to a lot of data about their videos.  It allows them to better manage the use of video as part of their overall marketing activities.

 For a business like 3CUPS, customizing the content of promotional video as part of their direct mail advertising has proven effective.  The high engagement factor of video, combined with better customer targeting and improved Internet tracking capabilities, offers advertisers a highly accountable way to improve response rates and deliver bottom line results. 

Don’t Forget Traditional Media

Social media, new media, rich media, interactive channels… Open any marketing publication (OK, visit their website, read a blog post in your feed reader, etc) and it’s easy to come away with the impression that all communication messaging has moved to the net-based world. It’s true that companies are continuing to shift an increasing percentage of ad dollars away from newspapers, radio, magazines, yellow pages, direct mail and even TV to interactive channels. But, don’t lose sight of the role for traditional media in any marketing communication campaign.

Last year Starbucks faced a new challenger when McDonalds took on the coffee giant with expansion of their line of McCafe premium beverages. Despite a drop in sales because of the economic downturn, Starbucks ramped up a $28M advertising campaign. It began its first concerted branding campaign with a series of newspaper ads. The campaign made the Starbucks’ case for its prices, including health care for its employees, relationships with coffee farmers, and its dedication to sustainability. Starbucks CMO, Terry Devenport, addressed the print strategy in an interview with Advertising Age Magazine. “One of the things [we did] was to find a way to get our stories out there in a way that both our existing customers would recognize and that would speak to the employees and partners and give them a sense of pride, and that’s clearly happened. We’re exceedingly pleased with it to date. We’ve had a huge return on that investment.”

Starbucks Morning Joe2In addition to the traditional print campaign, Starbucks began running one-time TV ads in high-profile shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” or quick hits on news networks such as CNN, which then drive traffic online. Furthering their traditional media presence, last week Starbucks announced a title sponsorship of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” A natural partnership, Mr. Davenport said, it will include occasional references to the chain’s environmental activism or efforts in volunteerism.

150px-Smirnoff.svg[1]Radio can play an important part in promotional campaigns as well. When Smirnoff, the makers of America’s most popular vodka, made plans to introduce its first line of ready-to-drink products in the United States, radio played a key role in creating a high level of buzz. Unique radio and on-site promotions included on-air DJ product-tasting parties, bar and club events, and customer testimonials. The success of the initial campaign triggered an immediate nationwide rollout of Smirnoff Ice. The campaign generated sales of 300% above projections in test markets, resulting in one of the most successful new spirit introductions in the United States.

And let’s not forget traditional broadcast television. This year’s Super Bowl provided a big score for online video giant Hulu. In a last minute decision, company CEO Jason Kilar bought a spot during the fourth quarter of what proved to be the most-watched Super Bowl in history with an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, and the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind. The promotional strategy worked. According to Kilar, Hulu’s Super Bowl ad was directly responsible for increasing the online video portal’s business by 49%.

Hulu Super Bowl Ad Scores Big

The battle for the minds and wallets of consumers will continue to be waged on many fronts. Spending for online media will continue to increase as a percentage of overall promotional spending. As communicators we’re largely leading that charge. But, let’s never lose sight of the impact traditional media can have within the context of a well planned promotional campaign.

Social Network Marketing – It Ain’t Your Granddad’s Relationship Selling

My mom is 85 and does not have Facebook page, doesn’t tweet, in fact she does not have a computer.  But, she has taught me everything I need to know about the value of social networks to an integrated marketing communications program.

 Even though the cost is a penny of two more, my mom fills up her car at the same service station every week.  She knows the owner and rewards the relationship with her business.  People and businesses do the same.  If everything is equal (price, quality, etc.) or nearly equal, we do business with those whom we have a connection.

 With social networking taking center stage in any discussion of relationship selling, we’ve entered a new era of marketing through social media.  But how effective is it?  I was in an online chat about social networks and someone mentioned a 2008 Forrester Report citing that less than half of survey respondents indicated Forums, Online Communities, and Social Networks as being an information source impacting the decision making process.  Does that mean the buzz about social network marketing is just that, buzz and nothing more?

 In taking a look at the report I come to a different conclusion.  With a title only an unabashed academic could love, The Social Technographics® Of Business Buyers, a key finding reports that four of the top six influencers on technology purchase decisions involve people-to-people contact.  Social network marketing is about building those inter-personal relationships.

 Here’s the list:

  • Peers and colleagues – 84%
  • Vendor, industry and trade Web sites – 69%
  • Your direct vendor salesperson – 69%
  • Technology or business magazines – 66%
  • Consultants, VARs and SIs – 65%
  • Industry trade shows or conferences (in person) – 59%
  • Forums, online communities and social networks – 45%
  • Industry analyst firms – 45%
  • E-mail or electronic newsletters – 41%
  • Web events or virtual trade shows – 40%
  • Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos – 30%
  • Blogs – 24%

 Dell Computers is the now well known business case example of integrating social media within a marketing program.  Following a much publicized customer service problem, Dell embraced social media by launching a community site, numerous blogs, multiple Twitter IDs, and a Facebook account.  In a public statement, Dell has acknowledged they’ve earned $1M in revenue from the use of Twitter alerts.  At Dell, the use of social network marketing is a central element of their integrated marketing campaign.

 And take a look at one of the latest promotional campaigns launched by McDonald’s to build brand association.  The video shot at London’s Piccadilly Circus is moving up the ad charts that track viral videos.  Does it sell burgers?  Not directly.  But building positive brand awareness through viral social networking will certainly move the brand scorecard in a positive direction.

Social networking provides capabilities for people to discover new ways of connecting with each other.  Social network marketing offers B2B and B2C marketers the opportunity to establish those same connections.  As I’ve learned from my mom, we buy from people we like.

Make me a viral video, and super-size it!

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you recently. A client comes to your office and asks you to make them a viral video. Marketers everywhere are reading trade journals, going to conferences, and learning of case studies where a video presentation topped a million views on YouTube. They want the same, and want you to deliver it.

As a corporate communicator, how do you respond? Got an unlimited budget, willing to compromise your integrity, open to the idea of lawsuits? If so, you can deliver a message that will spread and super-size the number of views. But in the real world – a world driven by content, messaging, and qualified sales leads – the process gets a lot harder.

Part of the job of a corporate communicator is to challenge concepts and requests received from clients… carefully of course. Organizations expect us to consider communication requests and offer clients our best advice. That’s why we were hired. How do you respond when asked to deliver a viral video? Below are some of my ideas. I hope you will comment and share some of your thoughts.

    It’s About the Brand: Arguably the most successful viral video of all time is Dove’s Self Esteem campaign. Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty. For Dove, the campaign is about associating their brand with efforts to raise self-esteem among women, especially young women, and to widen the definition of beauty. For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.

      That’s where the money is.” OK, the truth is bank robber Willie Sutton never used the phrase to answer the question, “Why do you rob banks?” Still, it makes for a good story. It also makes the point that sales leads come from attracting the right audience, not just any audience. The formula for success will be somewhat different for B2B than for B2C marketers. For those in the B2B space, the total size of an audience is less relevant than who comprises the audience. The question needs to be asked, “Where is the target audience the viral video is aimed at attracting?” If the target audience is unlikely to be spending time viewing the hottest videos on the web, time and money might be better spent fishing where the fish are.

      Viral Does Not Mean Cheap: There is a cost to everything we deliver. The expense may be internal, inherent overhead cost (soft money), or above-the-line billable dollars. Yes, there are countless examples of amateur videos drawing big viewing numbers on video web portals. Countless numbers of animal lovers watch live streaming video of puppies sleeping in a crate. Drawing a big audience and delivering a compelling message about a product or service are two different things. Keep in mind the old production adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.” How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 10M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?

      “Show Me ‘da Plan!” To paraphrase a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, what’s the plan to incorporate a viral video into a larger, integrated Marketing Communications campaign? The success of Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is the completeness of the marketing initiative. While compelling, the viral video is but one element of the campaign. The resources available from the Dove website fulfill the need for specific, actionable information. What’s the call to action? A viral video is only one component. It’s the fun part no doubt. But a viral video does not stand alone; it must be part of a well thought out business plan.

      How viral is viral? Is the view target some arbitrary number based on a case study presented in a marketing journal? Is a million views really needed? How about 10 thousand? Come to a mutual understanding about how success will be measured.

    Why no mention of creativity in this post? Simple, that’s step two – after the business issues have been addressed. I hope you will comment and share some of your ideas.

    What’s New in New Media?

    I was reading posts on a LinkedIn community and came across an interesting question. Responsible for naming a corporate media department, the author posed the question, “What is new media?” That got me thinking about how corporate communication has changed, and the role of technology in affecting that change.

    Technology is a fundamental force driving our economy. Advances in technology drive innovation across a wide range of industries. In communication, technology is central to the process of message delivery. As technology advances, it affects all forms of communication. Communication changes culture; and changes in culture drive technological evolution. The circle goes round and round.

    Corporate communicators have long relied on print as the primary vehicle for communication. However, over time technology changed the paradigm. In the late 70’s, print was joined by video as a key communication technology. Vast networks of VHS tape players became a fixture in many offices. Moving into the 90’s web-based technology emerged as the primary channel of both internal and external communication. New technologies emerged and were integrated into the communication process at a dizzying pace – forever changing the communication landscape.

    When web-based technology emerged as the primary communication channel for most organizations, “network pipes” were limited. The broadband connectivity we take for granted today was still a decade away. Early adopters of communication via the web were limited primarily to text and simple graphics. Photography, multimedia, video, and audio were pushed to the sidelines. Then along came fiber optic technology, Fast Ethernet, and a new generation of more powerful multimedia servers. The relentless advance of new technology emboldened communicators to demand more from the network. A new battlefront emerged with IT on one side, facing off against those pushing the envelope and demanding better communication capabilities. IT insisted on centralized control and governance over media distribution. Communicators pushed for a richer online experience. There are still skirmishes between those who manage infrastructure and those who use network resources to communicate with audiences both internal and external. The battles continue, but the outcome is certain.

    New media, rich media, multimedia are one in the same. Web-based communication has become a mashup of data from multiple sources combined into a single, integrated tool. The line between text, graphics, animation, and video has blurred. All represent content, that when creatively combined create a persuasive new form of communication. Video has emerged as a key component of new media on the web. In 2008, video accounted for 60% of all Internet traffic. The amount of video on the net continues to increase and is projected to account for almost 90% of all Internet traffic by 2011. Combined with video, graphics and animation enable video to be presented in new and different ways. Live video webcasts have become an important part of how many organizations communicate. Websites increasingly offer users video content in streaming format or for download to a portable media player. Where once content downloads were limited to a PDF document, multimedia is now a common form of content download. And this not limited to large Fortune 500 organizations. Sure, IBM has video on its website, but so does KnittingHelp.Com.

    What’s new about new media? Nothing, and everything. At the dawn of history, cave painters illustrated the results of the hunt. The application of technology, charcoal, made some hunters more successful than others. Incorporating technological change is what corporate communicators do. There’s nothing new about that. What is new, and central to success, is having a vision and the ability to put powerful evolving technology into the hands of skilled communicators who in turn can deliver compelling messages in new media form.

    10 Ideas for Weathering Recessionary Times – Part 2 of 2

    This second post continues a look at how experienced media professionals are dealing with the downturn in the economy. Everyone acknowledges it tough out there today. Clients have seen their budgets cut and have less money to spend. Just keeping the doors open is a challenge, let alone doing great work.

    Thanks to the many media professionals who offered their ideas for this list of 10 Ideas for Weathering Recessionary Times.

    6. Production Choices: Several people I spoke with commented that despite the downturn in the economy, cutting back on innovation and creativity is never an answer. In fact, it may be more important now than when clients have more to spend. A project I recently developed for SAS was planned as a live, in-studio webcast. Scheduling problems and the skyrocketing cost of international travel, forced a look at other alternatives. Since the key messages were well supported with PowerPoint charts, it was agreed that rather than a video webcast, an audio seminar would work equally well. The client was pleased with the program, as well as the smaller hurt I put on their budget.

    7. Alternate Distribution Channels: The past several years has seen the unrestrained growth of many new distribution channels. Broadcast television commercials will remain a mainstay for many producers, but in some cases there are alternatives. Dan Schwartz of Philadelphia’s Center City Film and Video has found this tactic effective for some clients. “We have used viral distribution of advertisements on YouTube, marketing through Face Book and other social media platforms, when the target viewership required it. This is a huge cost saving over TV media buying. Of course, more traditional marketing outlets always have to be considered as well.” Use of alternate distribution channels requires a different kind of communication’s campaign and possibly a different creative approach.

    8. Virtual Office: Next time you need to shoot in Russia, or need something shot for you in Moscow, check in with my friend Fyodor Mozgovoy. Working across distance is something Fyodor does all the time and knows a lot about. “I cannot imagine doing business without Google, Skype, and iChat nowadays. Google services offer me a virtual office with multi-access calendars, ability to collaborate on planning, and share all important documents at a click. This saves me and my employees lots of time, and money for travel expenses. Skype is a great money saver, and iChat is amazing in its ability to share your screen on-line while keeping the voice connection, making online presentations easy and very impressive.” What can I say; the man knows how to squeeze a Ruble.

    9. Production Sharing: Reduced budgets mean more than doing more with less. Sometimes sharing production responsibility can help reduce costs. Projects that are developed as part of a coordinated marketing campaign can use elements between projects and reduce overall cost. For example, photos used in a brochure can be incorporated into a video project, reducing production costs. “Resource sharing with clients and their other production agencies can help lower costs” said Jim Fink of New Century Digital Media in Chapel Hill. “Some clients have in-house production resources for creating graphics and web content. Using some of what they have already developed can help hold down expenses.” Such assets don’t always fit easily into the production process, but with some creative design, they can reduce costs and improve the bottom line.

    10. Communicate-Communicate-Communicate: “Keep your client in the loop – (over)communicate – updating them often on the status of the project, milestones, and action items.” Great advise from Melanie Raskin, writer, actress, and voice over artist. “Prove your value every time. Not only strive to be the fun, engaging, creative, easy, can-do pro to work with – but also measure what you’ve done – put dollars and cents to those efforts. Send surveys to customers asking how your work/video/webcast/communication helped move the needle for the audience/users…and the company. This can be as simple as just a few questions to your clients or as complex as a survey clients can distribute to their audience (complimentary, of course!). In a challenging economy, clients are asked to make tough choices; make it easy for them to choose you and your services.” What more can I say, Melanie is the consummate professional.

    There were many other ideas that came from talking with a great group of communication pros. Please comment on the two parts of this post and offer any suggestions of your own to share with the online community.

    Networking was something that came up quite often. A number of people expressed ideas similar to what Melanie Raskin summarized so well, find ways to stay in touch with clients even if a current project is not underway. Maybe ask them for ideas about a blog posting. 😉