Every marketer wants to go viral and everybody wants a community; it's as trendy as a five-gallon designer bag. The sad truth is, not every brand has the right combo of pizzazz and heft to start a "conversation."
If you made a list of brands for which community dreams don't make sense, you might have included Blendtec, maker of commercial high-end home blenders. The company's boast that juice bars and gyms around the world use its product incites, at best, "Huh. Who knew?"
But George Wright, director of marketing and sales, hit the marketing jackpot with videos of company ceo Tom Dickson attempting to blend the seemingly unblendable.
From a wacky idea produced on a shoestring to a national tour and major media coverage, the campaign took more than a year to catch fire. The first five videos went up on willitblend.com in November 2006. Wright sent the link out to employees, customers and business partners; employees posted it on their blogs.
Now, the YouTube videos garner several million views and more than 10,000 comments each. Moreover, Blendtec's numbers show the impact of this hard-to-measure medium: Sales are up 700 percent.
How did you start the campaign?
Wright: I'd been with the company almost a year. I had an on-staff video producer, a graphic designer and a Webmaster I borrowed from it - and that was it for the marketing staff. One day I happened to come into our demo room, and there were wood shavings on the floor. Someone told me, "Oh, don't worry. Tom Dickson was testing some blenders." The way Tom would test design changes was by taking a 2x2 board and trying to destroy the blender by shoving the board down into the blades. He'd been doing this for years. The amazing thing is, it blends the board.
I proposed we videotape extreme blending and put it out there. I got approval for the Blending Marbles campaign, with a $50 budget. I bought willitblend.com, a white lab coat, a six-pack of Coke, a rotisserie chicken, a bag of marbles and a rake.
Some of this stuff seems so dangerous -
like the Bic lighters. Are you risking your ceo's life?
Wright: The Bic lighters, that was a fun point in the campaign. Boy, did it shoot a fireball clear to the ceiling. We're professionals, we're prepared for contingencies.
Why did the idea work for Blendtech?
Wright: This is a branding campaign. Before this, few people knew there was a blender of this quality they could have in their home.
Did you know it would?
Wright: When people talk about it now, they say "duh." But it wasn't obvious, it never has been. I believe there's sawdust on all kinds of floors out there, and people just don't know how to use it.