It’s no surprise that online video can generate attention — and viral views — for brands, but just how to make video work for your brand may not be so obvious. To help you figure out a winning video strategy, we’ve dug into some award-winning social video campaigns from 2014 to figure out just what’s working in social video. Whatever your budget or scale, there are useful lessons to learn from this year’s crop of winners.
Winner: Cannes Lion Grand Prix for PR and Cyber
Though this video is certainly television quality — it was produced for Chipotle by Oscar-winning Moonbot Studios featuring a soundtrack by Fiona Apple — it was made explicitly for YouTube. On the site, the video’s been viewed over 13 million times as well as garnering 71,000 likes and 16,000 comments. It has generated plenty of media and social buzz beyond YouTube, too.
The three-minute film focuses less on Chipotle’s brand — which isn’t mentioned until a logo pops up at the end of the video — and more on the big picture issue of organic, sustainable farming with which the brand associates itself. Shifting the focus off itself allows Chipotle to make a video that tells an emotional story, but that ties back into its brand because of the shared cause. It’s not the first time Chipotle has made a video like this work, either. In 2011, it released Back to the Start, a video about farming that’s very much in the same vein as The Scarecrow.
Whether you have an Oscar-winning budget or not, that’s the big takeaway from the success of this video: sometimes the best way to spread brand awareness isn’t to talk about your brand at all. The Scarecrow works precisely because it’s a big message piece that doesn’t push heavy brand messaging. But when the video is done, viewers associate its message about good, organic food with Chipotle.
When you’re looking for a good social message, look beyond your brand and to the values your brand represents. Tapping into those can make for content that resonates with your audience and is more likely to get socially shared than a more direct advertising approach.
Winner: Cannes Lion Gold for Branded Entertainment
Similar to The Scarecrow, Honda tapped into a cause that could be associated with its brand — but unlike The Scarecrow’s general message, Project Drive-In had a specific goal, a call to action, and even a deadline to motivate people to get involved with the campaign. The cause was the drive-in movie theater, an American institution that facing extinction as the deadline to convert to expensive digital projectors loomed.
The car connection here is obvious, and Honda built a unique social campaign around it. The company donated projectors to theaters in need based on votes at the Project Drive-In website — and they encouraged theaters and movie-lovers to spread the word and even donate to a crowd funding campaign to save even more theaters. And get involved they did; the campaign generated a total of 867 million cumulative impressions between social channels and press coverage as well as more than 408,000 social shares.
Honda managed to tap into community sentiment admirably, kick-starting a cause that built on itself, associating with the brand all the way. Perhaps the best part of this campaign is that it grew organically once Honda launched it, with theaters producing their own video and other social content to encourage individuals to vote for them on Project Drive-In. In this case, supporting a good cause also meant spreading Honda’s name around — and in a particularly positive light, as a company trying to help save an American institution.
Winner: Cannes Lion Grand Prix in Cyber and Film
When producing advertising content for its trucks line, Volvo recognized a very important point: increasing sales meant not only targeting individuals who purchase trucks, but also building brand awareness amongst the influencers surrounding those individuals. The result of this line of thinking was a viral-ready series of videos that demonstrated product and safety features in impractical, real-world situations that made for great visuals and a few thrills, too.
The Live Test series featured six videos, the most popular of which — with over 74 million views — featured actor Jean Claude Van Damme performing the splits while balancing between two moving Volvo trucks. The rest of the series had similarly odd premises, showing a hamster steering a truck up a curving cliffside road and a tightrope walker walking a line strung between two moving trucks. These were all captured in high definition video, of course. The campaign generated 100 million views on YouTube as well as 8 million shares — and thousands of video spoofs and commentaries which brought in even more viewers.
This campaign is interesting specifically because it looks beyond its typical target audience — and by creating video content with broad appeal, Volvo has spread brand awareness significantly, to both truck-buyers and those who might influence their buying decisions.
Winner: Cannes Lion Bronze in Cyber
Launched with a budget of $5,000, Lowes is certainly the lowest budget campaign on this list, and the techniques it uses could likely be duplicated for much less. With Fix in Six, Lowes used Vine’s 6-second videos to share quick home improvement tips and lifehacks through simple stop-motion videos created in-house using an iPhone.
Vine’s simplicity — made entirely in a mobile app with limited editing options — means creating Vines is a relatively straightforward process that requires little investment in equipment, though you’ll still need creativity and time to get your Vines just right.
While 6 seconds isn’t much, Lowes has proven that it’s just enough time to get across a wide range of simple household tips. On Vine, the company offers tips on stripping wallpaper, keeping squirrels out of your garden, cleaning your bathroom, organizing tools and other supplies, and plenty of other things too. It’s even started taking follower suggestions for future Vines, using creativity and home improvement enthusiasm of its fans to build even more original content.
Some of the videos are fairly simple — for example, showing how to remove a stripped screw using a rubber band — but some are more complex stop-motion pieces, like a Vine about cleaning water stains with lemons which shows lemons moving across the bathroom tile in a choreographed dance. Videos like these require more planning, but they also pay off with more attention and shares. Lowe’s Fix in Six campaign has generated over 15 million impressions for the brand as well as thousands of social mentions — not a bad investment.