Nothing beats word of mouth, and people like to talk. And that’s a good thing for Internet marketers because they also like to shoot video of themselves. And that quite neatly has become an industry of vloggers and others who offer their opinions and how-to tips to brands and shared by consumers.
ExpoTV invites consumers to join up and become shoot “Videopinions” of products and in return get points and maybe a little slice of consumer fame, seeing their videos used in commercials or YouTube. The company coordinates consumers willing to use and record their consumer experiences, and then syndicates that for brands to other sites, like major retailers, including Walmart and Amazon and Sears.
The success of Michelle Phan has made what once must have seemed like a silly diversion into a business for a lot of endorsers. It’s also right there in ExpoTV’s wheelhouse.
Jessica Thorpe, the COO, directs me to the Amazon site and suggests I enter the phrase “fall makeup.” Spliced in the middle of that first page of items are four videos that show young consumers applying and chatting about new eye shadow offerings and stuff. Those came from ExpoTV. They’re personal and cheerful. It’s not a commercial, but of course, it is. “We have a very large number of people we would consider beauty enthusiasts,” Thorpe says. Altogether, there are thousands and thousands of them, giving their opinions on all kinds of things. You can sign up at the ExpoTV Website.
Depending on the product and expertise vloggers either get merchandise or get points from ExpoTV that build up until a user gets what its Website describes as “awesome items” like “Amazon gift cards and the latest DVDs.” (The payment relationship between the brand and the video is made explicit.) On the Website you can also view user reviews for some products that were part of the so-called “Tryology” program --the woman who describes how Drano gives her the security of knowing she can handle a clogged drain if it happens when guests are there, and another woman who endorses the Charmin’ Mega-Roll after first worrying the new fatter roll wouldn’t fit on her spindle.
The explosion of YouTube sites that feature how-to videos about products or reviews of them has helped create a kind of cult of consumers. “They do watch each other,” Thorpe says about the “best-of” the contributors. “There is a little community” that she says has actually gotten smaller since Expo TV really revved up in 2008, because the contributors have also gotten better, so that now there are more people who know how to shoot video, but fewer newbies. Many ExpoTV contributors have YouTube pages of their own. (Online product testers and commenters have their own fads. Thorpe says, ”For every ten makeup videos you see, seven will now have a candle burning in the background. They are teaching each other.”)
As they have improved and the genre has expanded, Thorpe says, brands are now coming to ExpoTV just to get the short consumer clips which, she says, can make effective pre-roll ads on their own. Because ExpoTV holds the rights to the videos, those product endorsers might get a little more famous, but not much richer. There are something like 400,000 product videos in the ExpoTV library and obviously only relatively few of those are really current, but there’s a steady stream of new ones coming in. And while a lot of Expo TV’s videos are seen on brands’ and retailers’ Websites, now, they’re also being seen on in-store video displays.
Thorpe says Expo TV used to supply brands and advertisers with “50 or 100” reviews for products, but as everybody has gotten smarter about it--the clients and the consumers--now sometimes just a handful of good ones will do. And good doesn’t mean totally positive either. The ExpoTV site includes a press release touting a study from the consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser claiming consumer generated product video drives revenue an average of 30% higher. What’s interesting to me is that as a part of that release, the brand showcases a video from “Victoria” who is “here to tell you about one of my latest hair removal finds” and that is the Veet Easy Wax Electrical Roll-On Kit. In 2 minutes 10 seconds Victoria shows us how it works, but with a little implied criticism. She still has to do touch-up, for example, and the directions, in her view aren’t exact. But the overall vibe is: Yes, this thing takes hair off legs, no muss no fuss.
“We accept positive and negative reviews” Thorpe says. “We want this very much to be the video equivalent of a text review. The negative comments validate the positive.”