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October 6, 2015
Telling Epic Brand Stories in Video
If you have an effective marketing campaign underway, you already know the value of a good story. You’re probably telling brand stories in a number of ways: An “About Us” page on your website likely details a brief history of your business, while a company blog offers another medium for storytelling. If you attend trade shows and other in-person business events, you likely spend a lot of time telling your brand’s story out loud.

Another kind of storytelling is gaining ground in the world of content creation and curation, and for good reason. Video is one of the most effective ways to tell a story. A high-quality video will stand out and may even go viral — but what constitutes quality? The same element that works for video is at the core of any good story: emotion.

Read on for three examples of highly successful video campaigns and what worked for them.

Wells Fargo: “Learning Sign Language”
A recent Wells Fargo ad took media by storm. The video showcases two women learning American Sign Language so they can adopt a young deaf girl.

What Worked: Authenticity and Conviction

“Learning Sign Language” was featured on a number of LGBT-positive media sources, including Towleroad, The Advocate, and The Huffington Post. Critics called it “sweet” and “heartwarming.” However, because it featured a lesbian couple, the campaign faced significant pushback from religious groups. Still, Wells Fargo didn’t budge, insisting the ad was never meant to titillate and that it was simply a commercial about families.

The story isn’t only about families. It’s also about hard work — an authentic American value. It’s about a company’s pledge to offer support to hardworking Americans, as evidenced by the closing line: “Working together, we can help you prepare financially for when two becomes three.”

Most importantly, it’s about love. By telling this story and featuring multiple underrepresented demographics, Wells Fargo showed its audience that representation matters — and that as a brand, they’re invested in supporting everyone, no matter what their background. In response to the controversy, the company released a short, simple video starring the cast of the original. The message? “Love is love.”

Blendtec: “Will It Blend?”
Blendtec, a small Utah-based company that specializes in high-end blenders, was virtually unknown prior to its “Will It Blend?” campaign.

According to legend, in November 2006, the technicians behind the product spent $50 on a lab coat, some marbles, a rotisserie chicken, a garden rake, a couple of Value Meals from McDonald’s and some safety goggles. They filmed company CEO Tom Dickson asking, “Will it blend? That is the question.” He proceeded to blast each and every item into smithereens. The videos hit six million views on YouTube in five days.

Here’s an example of an early “Will It Blend?” video: Dickson blending an iPod into toxic dust.
What Worked: Interactivity, Humor, and a Down-to-Earth Style

Blendtec has been at the forefront of viral video advertising for the better part of a decade. Dickson’s down-to-earth (some might venture so far as to say “hokey”) style is relatable, while the charming humor of the video series is undeniable. One of the biggest driving forces behind this campaign, however, is interactivity. Blendtec solicits “Will It Blend?” requests on Facebook. Dickson and his PR campaign take their favorite suggestions to make new videos of everyday objects being blitzed in a high-end blender.

The videos continue to demonstrate the power of Blendtec blenders, which can blend just about anything — though, according to Dickson, “It will not blend a crowbar.” As a result of the campaign, the company’s online sales grew by 500 percent in 2008 — and that was just the beginning. Today, over 150 “Will It Blend?” videos have amassed more than 265 million combined views on YouTube, according to real time data updates from SocialBlade.

Dickson is still blending everything from hockey pucks to high-end Apple products. And in case you were wondering, yes — the Apple Watch will blend.

Cat®: “Lantern Festival”
Heavy-machine manufacturer Caterpillar has been promoting its #BuiltForIt campaign for over a year. Earlier videos in the campaign showcased the sheer power of Caterpillar equipment in a way that was conceptually similar to the Blendtec theme — though, obviously, on a much larger scale. Videos showcased Caterpillar machines playing “the world’s biggest Jenga game” with 600-pound wooden blocks, as well as constructing a Guinness World Record-breaking sand castle over 41 feet high.

One of the most recent videos in the #BuiltForIt campaign is called “Lantern Festival.”

What Worked: A Global Message with Gorgeous Visuals

While the “Lantern Festival” certainly shows off the brand’s mechanical might, the video does something even more compelling: It tells a story about people coming together. Using one super-powerful generator, Cat lights up the largest lantern festival ever seen in the remote village of Yuhu, China. The video speaks to our human need for sharing community — a poignant message, because it’s true all over the world.

In addition to telling a global story about the beauty of humanity, “Lantern Festival” offers the viewer a stunning visual landscape in motion. According to the video, “In China, lanterns symbolize prosperity and good fortune.” For Cat, the generator-powered lanterns capture joy and delight, while also showcasing the brand’s worldwide reach.

Bringing Video to Your Brand
The numbers tell all. Hubspot recently created an infographic roundup of the latest stats about the reach of video marketing. Here are just a few:
  • Using the word “video” in an email subject header increases email open rates by 19 percent.
  • Online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile web traffic.
  • 55 percent of people watch online videos every single day.
  • When given the choice, 59 percent of senior executives prefer watching video over reading text.
As evidenced above, there’s a lot you can do with video to show off what your brand is about. Whether you want to showcase a product or send a positive message about your services, video is a fabulous medium for storytelling. Video and social media shares go hand in hand, which is why a well-conceived and professionally executed video has so much potential for viral reach.

It all hinges on appealing to human emotion through a compelling story, whether with curiosity, humor, sentimentality, or all of the above. 

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Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer based in Pennsylvania. She has been passionate about career development ever since her college years — all four of which she spent interning in her college’s career center. Now that she is her own boss, she shares the practical advice that she finds works in her own life. To see more of her work, visit her design blog.
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