Blendtec’s Viral Video Success

A little over a year ago I was at a conference, where a large number of people of people with about $1500.00 to waste and nothing better to do with their time, spent the day listening to big time ad industry folks show bad power point presentations about topics everyone in the audience probably already knew, and which no one actually cared about. I say this because 90 percent of the people there were so busy blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, tumbling, stumbling upon, and surfing the web they couldn’t have heard much of what was actually being said by the people on stage anyway.

One of the major presentations being given was by BBDO and GE. Over the course of 45 minutes they proceeded to give a  60 plus slide Power Point where they pretty much read each slide. The topic was their recently launched “Imagination” campaign for print, web, and TV. During the presentation they showed a few beautifully shot TV spots, which used a heavy amount of high-end of CGI and post compositing to re-create man’s first flight at Kitty Hawk with GE jet engines magically appearing on the fragile wings of the cardboard airplanes. The 30 second spot had to have cost close to a million bucks by the time it was all said and done.

Later on the representatives from BBDO and GE told us that the total cost of this campaign was close to $350 million.  But it was all worth it they assured us because “GE’s brand image was enhanced!”. Granted they offered up no solid proof that they had actually improved GE’s brand image, or made any real impact with their target audience. Come to think of it, I don’t think they really ever mentioned who the target audience was. Any way it doesn’t really matter because this post is more about what happened next.

The next speaker up was Tom Dickson the engineer from Blend-Tec that is featured in all of the “Will it blend?” viral videos on YouTube. On stage Dickson went on to  blend bricks, bearings, an eight foot garden rake, and variety of other stuff.  Then he blends up a Blackberry that some fool in the audience gave him (no it wasn’t an audience plant. This guy actually gave up his own Blackberry). Dickson then went on to explain using one simple slide, that each “Will It Blend?” video is shot at Blend-Tec in one of their labs, the costs for each shoot runs about $50 plus the cost of what ever they grind up, and every time a “Will it Blend?” video runs Blend-Tec sales go up between ten and fifteen percent. The crowd went nuts. They went nuts for a few of reasons.

1. Dickson gave a great presentation that didn’t put everyone to sleep. And,

2. He showed that you don’t need to spend millions in order to generate sales, even in a down economy.

3. More over he demonstrated the power of how a subtle, humorous, series of YouTube videos can have greater impact than all those expensive media productions that have been the traditional forms of advertising and marketing for the last 60 years.

Blend-Tec did more with viral video, in one year spending less than 10 grand than GE did spending 350 million. What does that tell us people? Well it tells us that if you aren’t thinking about leveraging this kind of media channel then you are losing out. If your company has a product, or is planning on launching a product, you should be pulling a Blend-Tec, and building buzz through a channel that has faster growing media penetration then any other source. The fact that these videos are available on your computer, your phone, and if you are lucky enough to have a net connected set-top-box on your TV as well, says something about the changing face of advertising.

Blend-Tec has been so successful, because almost from the day YouTube launched they have had a presence on the site. The Low budget videos don’t seem like advertising, their tongue in cheek delivery, and production seem genuine and honest. I have to admit that when I first began watching them, I wasn’t they were real. More over, the fact Blend-Tec has stuck with it is a testament to the power how solid this marketing campaign has been. They got the timing right, the delivery, right, and connected with a new audience growing their consumer base as they went.

In my current job, we are in the middle of launching a new product line. They first pieces actually hit store shelves in October with little to none in the way of marketing and advertising support. At the time, members of the team wanted to do a number of low-budget, high quality viral and social media campaigns leveraging the power of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the iPhone. All of these suggestions either fell on deaf ears or were rejected as to risky. “We don’t want to show our hand to the competition.” Now at the eleventh-hour, two and a half weeks before Christmas, we are talking about doing some sort of viral video campaign to promote this stuff. I just keep thinking how much further we would be in terms of sales, if back in September we had taken the Blend-Tec approach and gone crazy with product demos, example videos, and other offerings. There is no way the competition could have caught up to us before Christmas, and the amount of potential buzz for little investment could have been huge.

Either way, better late than never I guess.

By the way, I reallly like the GE campaign that BBDO did. The total cross channel integration and overall look is really nice.