12 best (and worst) viral brand videos

What makes something get shared or go viral? This seems to be the Holy Grail of brand bliss. Everyone wants their day in the Internet sun. Recently at a Content Marketing Conference at which I did a keynote presentation, another presenter talked about taking her non-profit’s blog from a ghost town to shared by thousands. One of her nuggets of wisdom? Make people laugh, cry or fume.

Here are 12 great examples of brand videos that went viral – and a few are big misses in my opinion. See if you can determine each one’s “secret sauce” and why you think it got shared. How can you apply some of that magic to your own content marketing efforts?

Dollar Shave Club, Our Blades are F**ing Great by Paulilu Productions
10+ million views

Combine a funny, charismatic and good-looking founder like Mike Dubin (he wrote the script) with snappy jokes and quirky scenes, and you get viral video gold. This video makes you laugh out loud while still doing its job of explaining what the heck Dollar Shave Club does for its members. There is no mistaking the brand voice and vibe this company is going after. They make this the cool tribe of which you want to be part. One of my all-time fave brand videos.

Dove, Real Beauty Sketches  by Ogilvy Mather   
54+ million views

Dove uses a forensic artist to compare people’s perceptions of themselves with how others perceive them. Powerful, moving and hopeful. You may choke back a sob. The music and lighting really adds to this piece.

Kmart, Ship My Pants by Draftfcb
17+ million views

You may have seen this ad on TV. Customers use lewd wordplay to talk up Kmart’s free shipping service. It’s clever, fun and a little shocking. Wonder how many outtakes they had on this one that they couldn’t use.

Audi, The Challenge by Paulilu   
5+ million views

Actors Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek (new and old Spocks) square off in a race to the golf club in competing luxury performance cars. While from a true effective marketing perspective, the video is not quite clear on the benefits that make the Audi S7 superior to the Mercedes (except the clear point on trunk space), the video positions Audi as the new kid, replacing the old guard.

Red Bull, Red Bull Stratos by In-house
Almost 3 million views

World record free fall sponsored by Red Bull. Exciting, tension-filled and it captures our imaginations about what is possible. Choice of music is perfect.

Pepsi, Test Drive by TBWA\Chiat\Day
36+ million views

Racer Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman out for a high-speed test drive. This one is a miss in my view, as it’s clearly staged and the man is clearly an actor. Not sure what the main message or takeaway on this should be, but wanted to include it to show you that sometimes shock value is just pure fluff.

Metro Trains, Dumb Ways to Die byMcCann Melbourne
46 million views +

A song listing stupid ways to die, promoting safety around trains. I love this one. It’s clever, quirky, quiet and effective. The use of animation is perfect (I love crazy little monster characters like these so I’m a little biased). And they clearly get their point across with humor rather than by preaching.

H&M, David Beckham Bodywear by Marc Atlan Design
Almost 10 million views

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie directs a short featuring David Beckham running around in his underwear. I’ll let you decide if you think this is an effective video or not. It’s definitely on brand for H&M, though.

Old Spice, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like by Wieden + Kennedy
45+ million views

An idealized man using Old Spice convince the “ladies” to get your man to smell like him, featuring absurd and well-choreographed situations. This entire campaign did wonders for turning around the idea we all had of Old Spice being associated with our dads back in the 70’s.  It’s funny, crazy, well-paced and worth sharing.

Microsoft, Child of the 90s by In-house
33+ million views

“You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer.” Nostalgia targeted toward people who grew up in the 90s. Not sure about the point, except that they are trying to equate those warm nostalgic feelings of youth (within a targeted demographic) with the IE browser. Not sure this one works, as this seems like tugging at emotion for emotion’s sake, not because it advances the brand message.

Expedia, Find Your Understanding by 180 Los Angeles   
2.5+ million views

An elderly father narrates his experience accepting his lesbian daughter’s marriage. Part of Expedia’s “Find Yours” campaign. It’s incredibly moving and may bring you to tears – but as seen in the Comments, it also produced some rage, too, which led to more controversy, views and sharing.

TNT, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square by Duval Guillaume Modem
45+ million views

A dramatic scene is staged in a public square after unsuspecting people press a red button. Classic staged event technique and it’s pretty clever in touting TNT’s expertise in drama. Not sure what the people who were there, however, made of all of this!

Which one is your favorite? Did I miss a juicy one that you adore? Please share in the Comments!


Fine wine brands: “Chanel vs. H&M”

Some of you may know I’ve been a freelance wine writer online and in print before. I’m not an expert sommelier by any stretch but I love wine so I was fortunate enough to share the novice’s point of view and land some fun gigs tasting, researching and chatting up wine experts.  I often tout that good wine is any wine that you like, whether it costs $10 or $150 a bottle.

Recently, I got the chance to hear an inspirational panel of wine industry women. They were winemakers, owners, executives and even a well-known wine industry TV and radio personality.  Women winemakers are making huge strides in this very male-dominated industry, which is fabulous, considering 60% of wine is bought by women. They are on a mission to introduce more women to the rewards of the wine world – and help women use their palates (which are often better than men’s) to have confidence in choosing gorgeous wines.

As far as experiential, emotional brands go, you can’t really find any better example than the wine world. Wine is about making memories, about upscale casual summer night dinner parties with friends. It’s about great – often uninhibited – conversation. It’s about celebrating the simple pleasures of life.  Often, we’ve experienced some of our most emotional memories over a bottle of wine: an engagement toast, a comforting chat with a sobbing girlfriend, an exciting first date, a cherished holiday dinner.

There’s a quote I adore, attributed to Ben Franklin: “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Amen, brother. Tweet this!

The panel’s moderator, Sharon Harris, is owner and winemaker for Rarecat Wines but also founder of A Woman’s Palate, a place for women who want to connect and empower others through wine.  I loved how she described the difference between regular wines and fine wines.

“It’s like comparing Chanel to H&M.”

This is a great brand analogy. It’s not that H&M doesn’t provide fun, good or trendy clothes. But it’s how the products are crafted that makes the brand difference. Tweet this! Fine wine is crafted with love, carefully-honed knowledge of “terroir,” science and agriculture. It’s perfected to evoke a feeling or a memory and is often overseen personally by the winemaker.

The highlight for me was the discussion about all those crazy taste and aroma descriptions critics dream up for wines: “lingering notes of leather and black cherries, with a hint of tar on the nose.” Sharon’s perspective? “Fine wine is crafted with such love and excellence that it results in a complex yet balanced taste that no one word can accurately describe. It goes beyond words. Yet the memory of it lasts for decades.”

Wouldn’t you love your brand to have such an impact?

Which brands do you feel exemplify quality craftsmanship and feel “made with love?” Please share in the Comments below!

How this small biz vodka + sausage + great story hooked us

I LOVE when I see small businesses doing things right.

On a recent wine-tasting trip to Woodinville, Washington, we were leaving one small winery (many of the wineries there occupy warehouse park space so it’s fun to hit like 12 in an hour) to head to lunch when a sign caught our eye:

Project V Distillery & Sausage Co.

What? Huh? Distillery and sausage company? “Oh, we have to check this out!” we said. Intrigued, we locked the car back up again and went to investigate.

We were greeted by a charming, cozy, rustic store full of antiques and cool signs. Instantly, the woman behind the counter smiled and welcomed us. Another kind gentleman asked if this was our first time there and offered to give us a backroom tour and tell us about the place. He turned out to be one of the investment partners.

Project V is fairly new and produces, among other products, Single Silo Vodka, handcrafted from Washington Winter Wheat which is grown on a family farm. As their marketing materials say, “It is a labor of love and it makes damn fine booze.” Damn, yes, this is smooth vodka.

Our kind guide walked us into the back where we joined a few other partied milling about and sipping. He showed us the distillation stills that they built, educated us on the distillation process and the fact that a vodka which is over-distilled too many times actually means it loses some of its flavor. He also gave us some tasting samples. One was a chai tea vodka and as strange as that sounds, it was delicious.

“What about the sausage?” we asked. The place is still so new that the sausage is not yet sold there yet, but the farm is raising pigs on the leftover wheat from the distillation process and hoped to offer those products soon.

The brand vibe was pure, natural, almost Old West with it’s sepia-hued labels and dusty floorboards. They emphasized family farming, craftsmanship and even a joyful love for the work that they do. This definitely stands out from the hip and trendy vibe you feel with Grey Goose or Stoli.

The point here is that Project V has a story to tell.  They start with education to show you why their product is different and better, wrap it with passion, love and pride, and tie it up in a bow of natural, hardworking craftsmandship. You feel like every bottle was distilled just for you. This brand was further exhibited in the kind welcome we got, the knowledgeable staff and the hospitality we experienced even though we’d just “popped in.”

Effective branding and storytelling does lead to sales and word of mouth. We ended up buying a bottle, and here I am spreading the word about this unique little find. Oh, and they’re on Twitter: @ProjectVDistill

That’s how good small business branding is done, ladies and gents. And this is a story none of the big guys would be effectivly able to pull off so elegantly and believably.

How do you use your small size to communicate a unique and effective brand story? Please share in the Comments for some Link Love back to your site!


Battle of the college re-brands: ASU vs WSU and who did better

It’s not often you get to see two similar brand rollouts side by side and see clearly why one way is better.

As you know, sports fans tend to get closely attached to their team’s brand… and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to college sports.

Arizona State University (ASU) has been trying to differentiate itself over the past few years… in some ways successfully, and in others… well, not so successfully.  ASU Athletics, working with Nike,  created a unique launch campaign leading up to the April launch of its new and improved brand.  To help fans, alumni, and the media prepare for the upcoming changes… and to generate some buzz… they produced a series of dramatic and emotional videos teasing the new branding to come.  The first video of the “It’s Time” campaign was released on March 1, followed by this one on March 9, this one on March 16, this one on March 24, this one March 29 and this one on April 1.  Ya gotta check them out – they are really top-notch quality and focus on the emotion and pride behind college sports.

At no point in the early part of the campaign did they mention it was specific to changing the brand.  They just continued to leak bits and pieces about the fact that the new branding was coming.  They apparently handed out cards with an invitation to an event for ASU boosters before the launch (with no details beyond the “It’s Time” messaging) and then launched a video that generated lots of buzz (even on ESPN) about what they planned to announce on the full launch date of April 12.

Rumors and speculation abounded that there would be a new logo for ASU athletics (potentially something that plays up the trident/pitchfork), new uniforms (including some alternate designs/colors similar to, but not as extreme as Oregon’s multitude of uniform combinations) and that the image of Sparky the Devil would be removed from the ASU football helmets.  That last part had lots of Sun Devils choosing sides on whether this is good or bad for ASU.  ASU hew this would be controversial to make these changes and that is why they address it in one of the last videos, saying “don’t fear change” and showing other changes from the past.  Fans and alumni always have strong opinions on any changes, just as customers and employees have strong opinions when a company changes it branding (especially a logo).

ASU embraced many usual social media channels as well… YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Here is the final brand launch press release from April 12 and the online press room.

What did they do right:

  • They didn’t just create a new logo in vacuum, but based it on a clear brand strategy and message
  • They stayed authentic to who ASU is and what it stands for
  • They planned. Yes, planned. They created a multi-stage, timed campaign to speak to various audiences (the public, alums, the press) and built buzz and excitement, which can lead to better adoption and acceptance. This teaser campaign gave them a chance to tell the story behind the new brand before anyone got caught up in colors and typography. It also gave people a chance to get used to the idea of change.
  • They leveraged social media for maximum impact

Contrast that with Washington State University (WSU), who approached their brand change with a simple press release and unveiling event. They also collaborated with Nike on this rebrand for almost a year.

Why the changes? For both schools, it was lack of consistency in brand image and colors, a need to update and refresh a dated brand look and a general need to move forward into the future. “Throughout the project, equal attention was devoted to maintaining an appreciation for the traditions of the past, while positioning ASU for the future.”

Thanks to my good buddy and ASU alum Peter Olson for contributing most of this post.

Five Signs of a Power Brand

Clients often ask us, “How will we know when we’ve got a winning brand?” Rather than telling them, “You’ll know it when you see it” there are some guideposts along the way to tell you your brand is moving in the right direction.

At first, it starts small: increased website hits, increased referrals, uptick in positive social media chatter – even anecdotal evidence like more positive comments from customers or partners. You can look at metrics like newsletter signups, store visits, or customer phone inquiries. Obviously, it all leads to “more sales” but, let’s get real: the sales cycle is like courtship. You don’t propose of the first date, but there are little steps along the way that you must take to get to marriage.

If you launch a new brand or rebrand an existing one, you can put feedback mechanisms in place to see if you’re going in the right direction: focus groups, email surveys, sales trends, even just good ole fashioned talking to your customers and partners. Seek out unbiased feedback but make sure it’s from people that matter to your sales. Asking your 15 year old nephew or your spouse what they think is fine – if they are your target audience. Believe me, more often than not, they are not the right people to be asking, no matter how much your respect their opinion.

Here are some signs of a power brand to which you can map your progress, at whatever scale your business operates:

  1. People are proud to say they work, partner or shop with your company: If customer, partners or employees find that they get greater cache when they sport your brand on their website, paycheck or shopping bag, you know you’ve got a winner. Your brand is transcending into a world where people want to identify themselves as part of your tribe and bask in your brand “halo effect” to make themselves or their business look good. Sort of like hanging out with the cool kids at school. Examples” Apple iPhone and iPad, Harley-Davidson
  2. Your customers are advocates, spreading your story: Word of mouth is key and if customers are going around – unpaid – doing your advertising for you, then that is the holy grail of marketing. Are they chatting you up on social media, sharing unprompted referrals with friends (“You have GOT to shop at Zappos! They have the best customer service.”) creating “spoof” videos on YouTube, or even inking themselves with your logo (hello, Harley)?  Then you’re doing everything right. Examples: Disney, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic (ie customer-generated YouTube “ads” vs. other airlines)
  3. Some people (outside your target) don’t like you: When you are effectively creating a brand, you have a clear ideal customer target and you serve them. This naturally means there will be those who don’t “get” you. And that’s okay. The Justin Bieber craze annoys me to no end, but it doesn’t matter: I’m not the target audience. Having people who don’t like you means you are not trying to be all things to all people. Examples: Dunkin Donuts v. Starbucks; Hyundai “Beware of 16-year-olds” campaign.
  4. You can elegantly recover from occasional mistakes: If your brand has enough “brand good will” built up, it can withstand some gaffes and missteps along the way. It’s like a bank account: the more you put in, the more confortable you can be withdrawing every now and then. As long as you recover with dignity and transparency, a strong brand can withstand a lot. Examples: JetBlue during their infamous winter flight debacles, Apple’s recent flubs with the iPhone 4.
  5. Articles about your company talk about your impact on the industry and/or the world: Rather that just talking about what you sell, press and organizations seek you out as a thought leader and innovator. Examples: People quote Zappos when it comes to innovative online customer service, not just shoes and accessories. Having transformed the coffee category by emphasizing flavor and experience, Starbucks last year introduced value packs in the supermarkets, which allowed them to stay competitive during the recession.

What are some other signs you look for when it comes to a “power brand?”

Battle of the Eco-Markets: Whole Foods vs. Metropolitan Market

Guest post from Red Slice intern Suzi An

I am a Whole Foods fiend. I shop there every week, I read their blog on a daily basis, and I tweet about them constantly. In fact, Whole Foods is the reason I am going to a University; I wrote my college essay on Whole Foods. Now, I live in Queen Anne where two Metropolitan Markets exist. I tried to do the whole Met Market thing but I could not break away from my Whole Foods. Aesthetically, the Met Market’s exterior is pleasing. I am greeted by bundles of different colored flowers and stacks of in-season melons. But once I walk inside, I see minimal selections of everything from dairy to bread and I’m greeted with the smell of grease from the deli. I walk over to the produce section and I see small apples for over $2 a pound and vegetables that do not look so bright. I peruse the aisles and find that I could find the majority of their products at QFC (which is closer to where I live than Met Market). Where is the exciting marketplace that their mission promises? Everything looks generic and bland to me. The florescent lights blare down on my face and I know I do not look good in this light! I was led to believe that Met Market is a supporter of our local farmers but instead they focus on world-class products, which explains the higher prices. My experience at Met Market has been a bit depressing and underwhelming. Then I start checking out and I regret everything I just purchased. With maybe about eight or nine items, my total cost is around $80. I feel like for the amount of money I paid, I should have received much more.

Contrast this with my experiences at Whole Foods which make me feel like a better person. The minute I walk into any Whole Foods, I’m met with the smell of fantastic foods that are being prepared for customers. I walk through the pastry aisles and see a wide array of choices that I usually skip over it because it does get overwhelming from time to time. I then walk through the produce and fruit section where there are great looking colorful carrots on display among asparagus, kale, and swiss chard. The arugula looks amazingly fresh and crisp and I can smell the bananas and pineapple drifting toward me. I then walk to the bulk aisle but get distracted by the seafood section. The fillets of fish are glimmering and look so moist. The fishmongers are attractive and give you a smile as they shout out if you need any help. I weave in and out of the middle aisles until I finally backtrack and head towards the meat department. My mouth begins to water. All the different meats are carefully displayed and my attention goes to the rack of lamb. It sits there so deliciously that my mind wanders into the land of cooking possibilities. After I am done with my shopping escapade, I wobble towards the check out lines with my heavy groceries. My total comes out to be around $70.

Let’s reflect back on this for a moment: I bought fair trade bananas, organic, local, and GMO-free produce and fruits, preservative free products, and hormone-free, antibiotic-free, meats, along with many other snacks. Not to mention there was a fantastic sale on their pretzels and yogurt. I basically bought a good week and a half worth of groceries for less than what I had spent at Met Market, where I experienced lame service (except for the fishmonger, he was very nice) and a generic shopping experience. If I’m going to spend that much money at Met Market, I expect something more than just an average grocery market.

I appreciate the effort Whole Foods puts in to connecting with their customers and making them feel like how they shop makes a difference . I love the fact that every time I tweet about them, I receive a response. I love how the staff actually gives you recommendations and thanks you for bringing in your own bags while you are bagging your own groceries. You may say I’m obsessed, but the experience I receive at Whole Foods will make me a lifetime consumer  – and loyal raving fan.

Apple under fire: When designers get big egos

Oh dear. Branding great Apple majorly screwed up. If you’ve been under a rock, here’s the deal: they are under fire for releasing the brand new iPhone (which has sold really, really well) with reception issues. It seems to drop calls when the phone is touched by a person’s hand in a certain spot. The problem is they tried to blame the carrier at first; then they said it was a software glitch; and now it comes to light that the issue is that the antenna is on the outside of the phone (rather than encased as it is on other phones) so when people hold it in the wrong spot, it drops the calls.

I read that they were initially asking customers to shell out another $29 bucks for a rubber casing that seemed to fix the issue. What?!  You screw up and you make customers pay for the fix? Bad branding, bad!  The big bomb came this past week when Consumer Reports refused to recommend the iPhone as they had in the past. That seemed to be the straw that broke the brand back.

The WSJ today talked about some rumors they heard that engineers actually brought the issue to light, but that Steve Jobs wanted the design he wanted and went ahead with it anyway. And in Apple’s (seemingly more and more smug) approach to product rollouts and secrecy, they don’t give carriers the normal “testing” window that is standard in the industry because they were paranoid about keeping the design under wraps. How full of hubris is that?!

I admire Apple so much for their brand efforts and amazing designs and technology over the years. But as I mentioned in a previous post, these behaviors are tarnishing their brand because they are now acting like “the man” who can do whatever they want and doesn’t care about customer ease or usefulness.

If you watch the video here, I love the comment that the woman makes about people forgetting that the iPhone is less a phone and more of a computer. Phones are not necessarily Apple’s core competency and so they very well should have given carriers time to test the phone as they normally do and not worried so much about launch secrecy – it would be better for their brand if they put customer satisfaction ahead of their marketing blitz.

PS: Friday’s Press release notes can be found here. Highlights include not reimbursing customers for having to buy the case, and “When someone or some organization gets really successful, people want to tear it down” which I find particularly amusing since Apple did a lot of that “tearing down” when they were the little guy!

What you can learn from Virgin America

OK, I have a major brand crush on Virgin America. Huge. I swoon when I see their logo at the airport, thrill when I’m able to fly them on quick trips down to San Francisco, and dream about hanging with Richard Branson over cocktails sometime. I talk about them a lot in my new book, Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget.

There’s a lot you can learn about branding effectively from Virgin America (and Virgin in general for that matter.) And these are lessons you can apply to your own business, regardless of your size or budget. You may not be as big as they are, but you sure as heck can practice these principles to better connect with customers and stand out from the competition.

1) Keep your mission simple, concise and relevant: “Make flying fun again.” Boom. That says it all. And every decisions they make, big or small, is tested against this simple mantra. How inspiring is this for employees? How deliciously irresistible is this to frustrated and road-weary travelers? How different from the other airlines who tout generic, irrelevant platitudes like “best customer service” or “biggest value”? This mission has meaning and even just the wording tells you a little bit about their personality and the type of customer they want to attract. They are not just after those who can afford first-class or private jets who may not share the same flying frustrations as the rest of us. They are FOR the rest of us! Their mission is crisp, clean but still specific enough to their actual products and services. Is your mission something you can actually act on that will guide all of your decisions, or is it some lofty, esoteric statement that is not relevant to customers or employees?

2) Little things mean a lot: They extend their brand into everything from their color scheme that extends to the ticket counters and the airplane cabin to the cheeky wording of their standard airport signs (“While impressive, if your bag is bigger than 24” X 16” X 10”, it must be checked”) to their clever in-flight safety video. Rather than a stiff actor giving me the same instructions we’ve started to tune out on every other flight, Virgin America shows a stylized animated video with all sorts of crazy characters – even a bull calmly reading a magazine next to an anxious bullfighter. The company’s sassy, humorous tone carries over to the script as well: “For the 0.0001% of you who’ve never operated a seat belt before, here’s how it works.” These are simple things (and stuff they need to spend money on to produce anyway), but Virgin makes the most of every single solitary customer touchpoint in order to convey their brand and make their target customers fall in love with them. What opportunities are you wasting to really surprise and delight your target audience? Perhaps well-worded email opt-out policies (If you’d like to unsubscribe, we’d really miss you!) or a memorable voicemail message (We’re out helping our clients be superheroes today) or even a branded email signature can really make a difference. Such hidden delights will surprise and enchant and get people telling others about you, like I’m doing here. Just ensure that these flourishes match who you really are in your DNA and what your brand is all about. If your brand audience is more conservative and formal than playful and snarky, then don’t try to go there.

3) Deliver on your promise: Virgin America directs all its brand efforts on convincing me they will make flying fun again. But if I didn’t experience their confident and polished employees, rapid check-in kiosk process, glorious discount prices, or the private TV’s at every seat that also allow me to order food at any time with my credit card – not just when they decide I should eat – then we’d have a problem. They would not be delivering on their mission and would then suffer from a brand identity crisis. Are you living up to what you are promising to customers? If you say customer care is your number one priority, do I get rapid response to my support issues and easy access to a live person? If your colors and website are all slick, modern and progressive but you only offer the same-old, same-old, what am I to think? It’s worse to go out there and talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk – worse than not promising it in the first place. Don’t just slap a coat of brand paint on your business. Make a promise and ensure your operations, employees, and customer experiences are set up to deliver on it.

Why I (heart) joy…and BMW


Photo credit: orangewheels.co.uk

What a treat to unfold my WSJ the other morning and have an 11×11 object fall out.  It looked like a color brochure, printed on heavy stock, and folded into squares.  The top square said the following:

We do not make cars.

We are the creators of emotion.

We are the keepers of thrill.

We are the guardians of one three-letter word.


Intrigued, I unfolded it to reveal a gorgeous  4 foot by 3 foot poster ad for BMW.  One one side, each square held a wonderful vignette of people interacting with their car, with captions like “Joy is maternal” and “Joy is youthful”. Others read “Joy is who we answer to”, “Joy can be counted” and “Joy is timeless.” They interspersed what can only be described as “car porn” in some of the pictures, showing BMW’s latest models that are nothing short of breathtaking and modern.

This piece exemplifies all the best things about good brand marketing:

1) It’s believable: I really do believe BMW’s claims that their loyalists find joy in driving their cars, and that they find joy in making beautiful machines.

2) It’s credible: Hey, it’s BMW. They are no slackers.

3) It’s benefit-driven: They focused on a mission and an emotional purpose of eliciting joy in their customers. They focused on the thrill of driving a great car, not just the features and gadgets.

4) It’s differentiating: Others might be out touting fuel efficiency and safety these days, all noble, important benefits for many audiences. But instead of singing the same song, this piece caught my attention because it only tried to do one thing and did it well: it tapped into my emotional thrill for a gorgeous car

4) It’s gorgeous: Truly, the piece was visually stunning and also in line with BMW’s brand and what I would expect.

5) It’s unexpected: It didn’t show up in my overwhelmed in-box or as just a normal full page ad in the WSJ. It literally fell into my lap.  Could get annoying after a while if to many people start doing this, but for now it just made me pay attention.

6) It had a call to action: There was a 1-800 number on one of the squares to call for your nearest dealer. Not all brand advertising has to be as esoteric and abstract as perfume ads, ya know. After all, they want to sell cars.

Well done, BMW, well done. You caught my attention. And ironically, just when my husband and I were debating whether we would buy a Mercedes or BMW if we had a choice. Were you eavesdropping?!

Ask the Expert: Using social media to delight & provoke, plus how studios know whether to cast Ashton or not

Part 2 with Scott Montgomery, (see Part 1 here) this time about social media mayhem and his new firm that tracks and analyzes entertainment buzz, Fizziolo.gy. 

RS: Tell me about social media’s place in the branding equation? Who’s using it right? Do you think it works better for smaller or larger companies?

SM: Well I know how companies are doing it wrong. There is nothing more obvious than planted comments to a planted glowing review of a product in a planted blog. I don’t know, maybe that fools somebody, but I think it’s pretty transparent to all but the newest of newbies who would still use the word “newbie” in conversation.

It’s not surprising that, right now, most of the branding successes in social media are directly related to enthusiast brands, those that can offer value through social engagement, and those that are creating a bit of controversy. Google, for example, wins in social media not just because they engage in it, but by the fact that their innovations are worth tweeting about. I can’t tell you how often we’ve seen Google Wave as a trending topic on Twitter, not because of active seeding, but because their tactics have got people talking – releasing controversial videos of Wave in action, beta-testing by invitation – that sort of thing. I’m certainly not ruling out some kinds of seeding, but it’s all more powerful if you devise your product’s strategy to be inherently “political”. By that I mean, create things where the audience has a reason to take your side (or at least a side). Let your product efforts, promotions and events be retweetable.

Guys like me sometimes get a bit of stick because we sing the praises of social media to a background chorale of “where’s the ROI?” I believe we do create mass movement in behaviors. But as in any medium, it pays to harness the energy where the mass is, and not necessarily via a custom community. You don’t have to be a huge company to do it. A few weeks back, a motivated Facebook group succeeded in making an old Rage Against the Machine single 2009’s Christmas Number One. Now, Christmas Number One is a big deal in Britain (remember Love, Actually?) and Jon and Tracy Morter were disgusted that for the last few years, whatever won on Simon Cowell’s X Factor automatically went to number one at Christmas. Did they build a custom website to vent? Nope. They went to where the mass was – created a Facebook community and translated online behavior into real-world results – results that have a real economic impact on all the players in the controversy.

If Jon and Tracy from Essex can do that, shouldn’t a company with resources be able to move online behaviors to real-world action too? You just have to create something that makes people care.
Back here at my agency, we recently won an OMMA award for best standalone video for Microsoft – a review of the History of the Internet  by some of the odd characters who inhabit it – to promote the launch of Windows Internet Explorer 8. But it wasn’t the video itself that was unique (though it is kind of hilarious), it was the way we distributed it. IE8 was set to launch at MIX09 to a crowd of developers. The video preceded the launch, and we made sure the amused attendee had a url to share. As insiders, they were emotionally driven to distribute the link to everyone they knew. IE8 was a trending topic for a big part of the day, and chatter about the video was a big part of it. Getting the Windows community to download IE8 was a key effort for 2009 – motivating those downloads though harnessing social media was a big part of accelerating the effort.

RS:  Tell me about Fizziolo.gy and the new way companies are using social media in their marketing mix
RS: Fizziology  is a tracking company we started in mid-2009 to take advantage of information that can be gleaned from what people post on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media tools. Right now, we’re providing insights to movie studios and production companies, tracking what people are saying about movies as they approach release and upon opening – we’re consistently performing better than traditional tracking companies do.

So far I think it’s pretty amazing.A lot of companies are springing up here and there, trying to make marketing sense of this mountain of data – it’s becoming known as the Real Time Search industry (which I think is a stupid term). But almost all of them use some form of automated keyword scoring methodologies, and they just aren’t real accurate. In our world, “dude, that movie is sick” could mean something bad or good, but you can’t know that from a prejudged keyword algorithm. We actually read and score a statistically significant number of the total volume of chatter relating to a person, entertainment property or brand, and treat it like the world’s fastest, most honest focus group. So we believe we know more about the tweeting public’s intent to take action than a lot of our competitors.

Just recently, and we reported this before anyone else, we saw that the movie The Blind Side was going to significantly overperform reported estimates. Turned out we were right. And we knew The box office for Saw VI was going to be a lot weaker than estimated – we saw very high negatives in the chatter and correlated it with a lower than expected “intention to see”. We could also see the way the interest shifted in Where The Wild Things Are after opening, as people realized that it wasn’t a kids’ movie.

As we move forward, we’re building a database in which we can compare the behaviors of these entertainment properties by genre and seasonality, and we’re building it so we can make comparisons as the public’s usage of social media evolves.

We’ve been asked to track individual actors for insights about how the public might respond to them if they’re cast in a certain kind of role or with other actors. That’s a valuable insight for studios, casting agents, even the actors themselves. We are also beginning to apply the same model to brands.

Every marketer who’s even paying a little attention knows all this sharing is a goldmine for understanding public sentiment about all kinds of things, but there’s no clear gold standard yet. We think our methods give us a good shot at being that.

About Scott Montgomery

One of my favorite people in the world, and the man who teaches me so much about branding and advertising, is Scott Montgomery. Scott is Principal and Executive Creative Director of Bradley and Montgomery,  which has made both traditional and very untraditional advertising, branding and communications for clients like JPMorgan Chase, VH1, MTV, Knoll, Microsoft and many others.

He is also founder of Fizziolo.gy, a firm that tracks and analyzes social media chatter for entertainment companies so they can tell if their movie or TV show will be a hit or a flop.