Walk Around A Car, Get Famous. Break a Guitar, Get Infamous

Jose Castillo is a new media marketing consultant. He wrote this post for the June/July 2011 issue of Streaming Media on video and social media. I cut it down just a bit.

Tactic No. 1: The Rip Van Winkle

I am not a fan of car dealership commercials. Most of the yelling, screaming, and silly gimmicks are annoying; these tactics only turn me off from shopping with any of those dealers. So it was with a sense of trepidation that I recently visited with the owner of several regional auto dealerships. I politely stated up front that I was not interested in working with him if he was going to use some of the traditional approaches to selling cars. But I was pleasantly surprised in our conversation to hear that he was open to taking a dramatically different approach to building his business. The recent economy and surge in social media usage has everyone scrambling to figure out how to survive and grow in the new business world order. What was most interesting to me though was one small part of an initial review of the dealership’s web content. The dealership had started a YouTube account more than a year ago and had posted a bunch of mostly canned car reviews (most with zero views), but there were a few videos that stood out. Someone had taken a 3-minute video just sitting in and walking around a car, pointing out its features; the video had thousands of views. The owner was unaware that it had any views at all, much less a respectable number. After a quick dig into some of the analytics, we found that this video had been viewed around the world and was posted on several car sites. It turns out that this small southern dealership had become a trusted resource to people interested in this specific model of car a year after the fact.

Tactic No. 2: The Million Camera March 

Imagine if you had unlimited time and an infinite budget to create whatever video content you wanted to. Visualize a thousand production companies lined up to do your bidding. Close your eyes and envision an army of videographers all focused on telling your story, each one with his or her own unique perspective. After flashing back to reality, this may seem like a silly daydream. But The Million Camera March tactic is no pipe dream; in fact, it may already be working for you at this very moment.

The continuing march of technology has placed high-quality video cameras in the hands of millions of consumers. Smartphones, pocket camcorders, tablets, gaming devices, and just about anything with a power button on it have given consumers the ability to create and share video instantly. Yes, I am suggesting that your customers can create content to help you build your business. I know, this is a very unnerving thought for some of you. But the rules have changed, and we must change our tactics.

The Million Camera March tactic is not an entirely new concept. Business has tapped into customer minds to help create content and launch ad campaigns for years. But the current breed of electronic tools has leveled the playing field in the quality and speed-to-market categories. One clever YouTube video can help one company (Taylor Guitars) and can drop the stock $180 million of another (United Airlines). It’s a few years old, but the “United Breaks Guitars” story is worth reading again. [EDITIOR: video embedded below]

So what is the best way to implement The Million Camera Tactic? First, be very clear about what you need and how the process will work. Do you want a 30-second TV spot, a first-person review of your service, testimonials, how-to videos, or feedback on your products? The Ford Fiesta Movement selected video applications for 100 agents who would receive 6 months with a free car in exchange for videos and photos of various excursions. Make sure you set up guidelines for how to create videos, where to submit them, how you will select one, and what people will get in return. Supplying them with existing images, videos, and music can help provide some direction and even provide b-roll fodder for the more adventurous.

Secondly, be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Left to their own devices, consumers can create some very interesting things. The creators of most of the bad videos probably would have said something negative about you even if there weren’t an official channel for response. Policies that allow for removal of false or inappropriate material should be clearly posted. Possibly worse than the bad ones are the ugly ones, but remember, if you are clear up front with what type of video content you are looking for, it makes it easier to cull through the chaff—for example, “We want a 30-second spot, not a documentary.”

Finally, follow through. Pick a winner, use the spot, share the content on official channels, make the process into a video, celebrate with all your participants, and have an open dialogue about what to do next. An honest and transparent conversation with your customers/participants can do wonders for a company. Just remember, they are the ones with the million cameras. You only have one.

Tactic No. 3? 

Online video is changing rapidly. Not just the tools but also, more importantly, how we use them. The next 3 years are going to be a wild ride for any industry, whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a freelancer in your basement. I would encourage you to embrace these tactics but also realize that there will be new ways to engage with your customers just around the corner. Tactic No. 3 is the one that you will discover when you think like an underdog and take a fresh approach to online video. Remember to use what you have on hand, leverage your existing content, and empower your customers and partners to build your buzz for you.

The sun begins to set along the clear blue horizon. The soft sounds of island music drift down from the thatched roof of the bar. The warm sand on your feet and the cold beverage in your hand help settle you deeper into your lounge chair. Your tactics have bought you a few precious moments to yourself. And as you drift off to sleep, your final thoughts dance through your head: “Is someone filming this? This would be great for our next campaign!”

Like this? Here is the contact info for Jose.


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