Television is the format of choice for many of today’s top entertainers, and in new ways, marketers are taking notice. Rather than produce sitcoms or procedurals, many brands have taken the idea of a serial program and applied it to their social and promotional videos.
Just like on the TV networks, some concepts have had more success than others in drawing an audience. Maybe it’s star power, savvy writing, or lavish production. Other shows have become hits for their kitsch factor or their sense of social responsibility. Here are five brands that created smart serial video series, along with an explanation of why they worked so well.
1. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
One of the best examples of a video advertising series started with one of the earliest viral ads. The combination of hunky actor Isaiah Mustafa and his rapid-fire, straight-faced delivery of one crazy line after another kept fans in stitches.
Old Spice’s clips of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” showed how to adapt and build out a bigger campaign from one hit idea. Mustafa starred in several official commercials, but the brand also had him create video responses to fans from across the Internet and social media. Some of these 185 clips are directed at celebrities, but others are ordinary people. The brand even helped out with a marriage proposal.
Opening up its spokesman to dialogue with the audience not only increased the brand’s appeal, it helped boost Old Spice’s social media engagement as well. It was a smart move that further solidified the company’s screwball tone and established it as a leader in novel approaches to marketing. Even though the campaign is several years old, it’s still a great example of how being at the forefront of leveraging new tools can pay huge dividends.
2. Blendtec: Will It Blend?
This series took a very simple idea — testing the limits of a blender — and pushed it to ridiculous extremes. While these clips first made a splash several years ago, the Blendtec team is still hard at work pulsing and pureeing strange things for its Will It Blend? series.
Part of the appeal with this series is certainly the strangeness and novelty of seeing smartphones, glow sticks, and hockey pucks pulverized in a blender. The clips stretched credibility to the limit by destroying seemingly indestructible items, and that shock value when the blender succeeded kept audiences coming back for more.
Another big draw of the series comes from the production choices. The script isn’t fancy. In fact, most of the writing is just the repetition of that simple phrase, which quickly became a signature catchphrase. The set has no calculated lighting or dressing, and the company embraced the low-budget look. With the cheesy music, game show-style logo, and hammy performances, this series created a very clear voice that hasn’t changed in years.
3. Toshiba: Field Tests
This series by Toshiba takes a similar approach to Blendtec, putting its laptops and electronics in strange situations. From surviving dog drool to throwing a tablet like a discus, the Toshiba products get put through the ringer in Field Tests series. However, these videos set a very different tone than Blendtec.
The production values are noticeably higher. The company has clearly invested in creating fun settings and costumes for the hosts of the series to conduct their tests. This set a tone of professionalism and conveyed the message that even though the Toshiba was thinking about entertainment, it still takes its brand reputation seriously. There’s also a subtle, unstated message that the company has the cash to back up its claims.
The series is also successful because it actually includes some videos where the computer doesn’t pass. Not only does this help prove the legitimacy of the successful tests, but it gives viewers a more accurate frame of reference for what to expect with the real product in their possession. It creates more uncertainty about just how crazy the tests can go, meaning more suspense and interest for viewers over the run of the series.
4. Anthropologie: Away We Go
Product pages for most clothing companies are pretty predictable. Models standing in front of a white backdrop, probably a shot of the front and back of each garment. Rather than rely on these static images of its garments, Anthropologie starting creating video showcases of its products with the Away We Go series. These clips show how the clothes look on a body rather than a mannequin, but they inspire different ways to combine items and create a look — an important idea for a fashion brand. Although the videos use soft, artistic lighting, they are still more of an honest portrayal of how the garments really look — as opposed to still photos that may have been retouched.
Many of these video series, although they are used to market a product, spend very little screen time focused on the merchandise. Their appeal is equally the voice, and the production. Anthropologie’s Away We Go videos are all about product, but still offer more to viewers than a sales pitch. The clips capture the light-hearted style and ethos of the brand. They depict beautiful locations around the world, from as far as Vietnam and as close as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The series gives more depth and interest to what’s essentially a product photo.
When your brand has merchandise you believe in, don’t be afraid to show it off. If you can highlight your product in creative ways that also builds your social media presence, that’s even better.
5. Whole Foods: Dark Rye
Grocery chain Whole Foods has long been a trailblazer for its social media use, and the company took an innovative approach with its video series. Very little in the Dark Rye clips involves food. However, the series takes the company’s ideas and mission beyond just the products.
With profiles of innovative people linked to issues of an online magazine of the same name, Dark Rye allows Whole Foods to showcase the intersection of food, health, and sustainability. The sharp color palette and contemporary music sets a forward-thinking, edgy tone for the videos. However, they don’t have much of a formula; each clip tells a story or shares information in a slightly different way. This makes the videos feel less like promotional tools and more like unique mini-movies.
This approach of video as content marketing is a convincing way to be more than just a brand, and to have a more meaningful connection with your intended audience than a traditional sales pitch. Think of your company almost as a person, with certain traits and beliefs. Introduce yourself to your fans with those characteristics in your videos and in your social profiles, and you’ll establish a very strong relationship with your target audience.