Viral Video Success – The Will It Blend Story
Engaging content is genuine and believable. It appeals to our human sense of curiosity and can even inspire awe in us. The very best content has an un-self-conscious immediacy that makes it accessible to the audience it engages. Content that excels in this way has a tendency to get noticed, passed around, and, yes, attract links too.
The content development process centers on the ability to keep inspired. It’s about seeing opportunities to nab raw materials and turn them into marketable content, like bringing a digital camera to a conference or keeping a small video camera in the desk at the office. All it takes is a proactive mentality and a little creativity.
When it comes to proactive and creative stories about content, I can think of nothing better than my friend George Wright’s story from his days at Blendtec. He’s the one who had the genius idea to post videos online from the blender testing lab. Sounds kind of oddball, but these short clips have become an Internet sensation and were recently ranked by Advertising Age as the No. 1 viral ads in the history of the Internet. I first met George at PubCon Las Vegas 2008, where he told his story as a keynote presenter.
He recently contributed his story to my book (Accelerate!) and I’d like to share that with you:
The Will it Blend? story began the day I started up a new marketing department at Blendtec. I walked into a company that had great products but was largely an unknown brand competing in a highly competitive marketplace. Right off the bat, our primary goal had to be building brand awareness. With a microscopic budget, it was obvious that using typical brand-building techniques was not going to be an option.
Will it Blend? started as a strategy document. I spent several days brainstorming and aligning objectives and strategies for the company and the marketing department. It was obvious that we needed to show how this blender was different and that it has unmatched power and performance.
While I was developing this strategy, I happened to visit the product testing lab and noticed sawdust on the floor. When I asked what was going on, I was told that this was a normal destructive test, used to stress the components to ensure that the blenders could withstand excessive stress and force.
In other words, they had just stuck a broom in a blender.
The light bulb came on, and the remainder of the strategy quickly came together. I asked the owner, Tom Dickson, to come in and perform some extreme blending experiments with the camera running. We gave him a white lab coat and some safety glasses and asked him to explain what he was doing and why it was so remarkable. Our plan was to blend anything and everything. Although nobody at the company really understood the proposal, they were willing to go with it — largely because it only cost about $50 to put together.
As soon as I saw the first cut of the video, I knew that we had a solid success on our hands. We created a micro-site and posted the first five videos. Within just one week, we had more than a million views on YouTube. As the videos gained popularity, we experienced a 700 percent increase in online sales. We experienced massive growth in all areas of the business, including our commercial lines, but the largest growth came from our Web orders.
Building the brand simplified the sales process. Instead of our salesmen trying to introduce a little-known Blendtec brand, their customers were asking them, “Is this the blender that I saw on YouTube blending up marbles?”
Some of the videos that we produced were instant hits. We got our hands on a new iPod when everybody was standing in line to get one, and we dropped ours in a blender. Our views for that video came in so fast we could hardly keep up. Normally, when we went live with a new video, we would first post it to willitblend.com, then to YouTube. I recall that for some reason the iPod video took YouTube several hours to upload and go live. By the time YouTube finally had the video up, six or seven of our fans that had already copied the video from our website and had it uploaded and live on their YouTube channel before the official Blendtec video and were getting tons of views. Before Will it Blend?, we had to do all of our promotion ourselves. Now our fans became our greatest marketers and they loved their new role!
The secret to the success of Will it Blend? is simple: Create compelling content that fills a business objective. If your content is truly compelling, people will not only watch it, they’ll pass your marketing message along to their friends.
You don’t have to be a large company with a huge budget to be successful using the new tools of marketing. It’s been five years since the first videos went live — and the campaign continues to deliver results. Sales continue to break records every year.
This viral marketing campaign literally transformed an old company brand into a new, exciting entity. Brand awareness remains at an all-time high and the Will it Blend? campaign is now considered a classic. Advertising Age recently ranked it the No. 1 viral campaign in the history of the Internet, five years after it launched. Look at the list of companies that Blendtec ranked above: Evian, Old Spice, Doritos. That’s pretty impressive for a $50 marketing campaign from a small Utah company.
I have seen many PubCon keynotes over the years, but when George blended that rake onstage, it became the most memorable of all.
About Arnie Kuenn – Arnie Kuenn is the president of Vertical Measures, an agency specializing in providing strategic search, social and content marketing services. Arnie is also the author of Accelerate! Move Your Business Forward Through The Convergence of Search, Social and Content Marketing. He is a frequent speaker and will be on the Real World Winning Tactics for Content Creation and Marketing panel at PubCon Las Vegas 2011. You can find Arnie on Twitter: @ArnieK Read Arnie Kuenn’s full PubCon speaker biography here.