Can’t You Just Recut It For YouTube?

August 9, 2011
By Tom Mountford | No Comments

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Businesses are finally grasping the fact that online video is now one hell of a marketing opportunity. This is especially good news for startups as it’s a medium where great creativity doesn’t necessarily demand a huge budget. Furthermore if you involve and excite your target audience they will further distribute your content for you. Indeed, many niche startup businesses have become leading exponents of the medium. I spoke with Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of New York and LA-based startup ‘The Art of Charm, Inc.’ after seeing their successful marketing approach mentioned in several blogs. The Art of Charm Inc is a business teaching men advanced social skills and dating science. Jordan uses a combination of YouTube videos and podcasting as the only form of marketing for the business, which now has revenues in excess of $1m. Jordan explains, “The company started in a friend’s basement as a podcast show and quickly grew into a coaching business that now teaches men from all over the world how to improve their charisma and self-confidence. Our podcast now receives well over 1,000,000 downloads”. Rick Mathieson, author of ‘The On-Demand Brand’, writes “When you create something that’s so inherently targeted to a core user group, and that they can directly influence, they become evangelists on behalf of the video and the brand”.

Central to all of this is one key question, a tough question, which must be asked before embarking on any video production aimed at promoting your business on the Web, ‘Why on earth would anyone want to watch this?’ If the honest answer is ‘I don’t know’ then you need to return to the drawing board. Faris Yakob is Chief Innovation Officer at agency network MDC Partners, “The internet is the great dis-intermediator, it connects everything else… previously mass media aggregated attention and brands bought it. To earn your own attention you have to do things, create content, that people actually elect to spend time with”. In other words if people wouldn’t watch it out of choice – they more than likely won’t watch it at all. Jordan Harbinger backs this view regarding The Art of Charm Inc’s marketing, “We do use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about our videos and media, however the subject matter itself is pretty juicy so people tend to spread it on their own. The fact that the podcast now has a large audience of loyal fans doesn’t hurt either, but that has all developed organically over time”. In exactly the same way that brands do not get built overnight an online video strategy has to take a medium-term view, and real persistence, whilst trying to grow a following; as Rick Mathieson points out in his book, “Viral isn’t a strategy, it’s an outcome”.

One agency whose viral video campaigns often have the JMS team laughing, to the point of coffee spraying out of our noses, is New York’s Lucky Viral Branded Content. Lucky is a hybrid of agency and production company based in Brooklyn, and if you’re not on their mailing list take it from me – you really should be! I chatted with Mary Crosse at Lucky and she talked me through the methods employed to try and attain that Holy Grail of ‘going viral’. “We partner with companies to seed our videos on the web. You can’t just make a video and expect it to go anywhere on its own, you have to actually put together some kind of strategy to seed it. That means getting it to bloggers, and influencers on key social media websites, you need to put it somewhere first, and I think a lot of people forget that part, it’s also a lot of work. I think the strategy also depends a lot on the video itself, you don’t want to blast a video to inappropriate places, depending on what the video is about you want to get it on blogs related to that kind of content, and develop relationships with them”. This seems to be an aspect of video marketing campaigns where many businesses fail to follow through, either by themselves or with a third-party agency; Mary adds, “It seems like a lot of clients don’t really want to pay for seeding, it is another cost in addition to production but I think that when they see how much more success they get with seeding it is actually what makes the production worthwhile”. Lucky’s team have an enviable track record in creating top-flight videos for some of America’s largest multinationals (yes, even we are just a little more than jealous of their client list!) and many large businesses outside of the US. I asked whether the common notion of online video as being able to get away with ‘cheap and cheerful’ still held true. “I think many forget that a production is still a production, and no matter where it ends up you still have to pay your crew, you still have equipment, you still have editing and all the costs that go into production whether it’s on TV or on the Web; where you’re saving money is in the media platform, you’re not paying for commercial airtime. Sure, on the web you might still be paying for seeding and digital PR but it’s nowhere near the cost of what a TV commercial would be in terms of media placement, but a lot of people think that because it’s on the web the quality should be less, and should cost less – I think it’s changing though, a lot of the big viral videos now are really polished high quality productions, comparing to music videos in terms of costs”.

By its very nature the internet demands bold content, simply re-versioning an existing corporate video is not going to work – yet we are frequently asked to edit existing seven or eight minute marketing videos down to less than two minutes; our usual response is to ask the client to consider a bespoke production more suited to online use. As a side note, the ‘under two minutes’ concept is to some extent a misnomer – if content is relevant and interesting viewers will stick with it for much longer, especially as technical issues relating to the quality and reliability of streaming video for extended periods have largely been put to rest (as BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer and 4oD have proved).

The long and the short of it is, you can say and do a lot of things online – but boring your audience with irrelevance is never acceptable. The goal is to forge high quality deep engagements that foster further communication. The purpose of communication is to give and receive information, and the best information is that which creates further communication. Get that right and video marketing can be a very powerful tool for many businesses.

- Tom Mountford

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