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Blend-Worthy Technology

Companies take online video to the next level

How do you turn a little-known company with struggling online sales into a booming overnight phenomenon on a very cheap budget? For starters, you’ll need a video camera, and maybe a Happy Meal and some marbles, too.

It’s no secret that e-commerce is booming, and as certain technologies go mainstream, companies are tapping in creatively to reap big results.

For example, Orem, Utah-based blender manufacturer Blendtec brilliantly explored the power of YouTube to boost brand awareness.

“No one really knew the Blendtec name and we had terrible online sales,” Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson said at the Internet Retailer 2007 conference in San Jose, Calif., last month.

Dickson believed in the strength of the product so much, however, that he would often test its abilities by blending unorthodox objects. One day, for example, the company’s new marketing director went to pick up a McDonald’s Happy Meal, a rake, marbles, Coca-Cola and chicken. This unlikely mix gave the company ideas for five “Will It Blend?” videos, and ignited an online phenomenon.

These quirky clips, which feature Dickson in a lab coat asking, “Will it blend? That is the question,” were uploaded onto YouTube in November 2006, and attracted a whopping six million page views in five days.

The iPod blend was the most popular video to date. After the pricey product disappeared in mere seconds, he joked, “Now you know what I want for Christmas.” The tiny pieces were actually put up on eBay and the auction received more than 58,000 page views.

To date, Blendtec shorts have been viewed 19.5 million times on YouTube and 18 million times on the company’s own video site, WillItBlend.com, which also features a “Will It Blend?” blog.

The videos helped get Dickson invitations to appear on “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” More importantly, however, they have helped the company improve sales five-fold. Blendtec is now reaching a whole new demographic that had no previous interest in a blender. In more good news, this 12- to 24-year-old demographic is convincing parents to buy the product during their trips to Costco or Sam’s Club, he said.

What makes these types of videos work? They have to be entertaining, worth watching, and viewer interactivity is a must, according to Dickson.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people leaving comments and suggestions about what to blend next,” he said.

However, Dickson warned, “Once these videos go up, you have no control over what happens to them. Even if you take it down, it stays on the Internet.”

Although the benefits are obvious, some critics still question the medium, and many say that an ad in a local newspaper could still be effective. But a single ad could cost more than $50,000 and doesn’t guarantee anything.

“Therefore, state-of-the-art retailing is truly the wave of the future,” Dickson said.

I completely agree. And just in case you’re wondering, Dickson’s wife bought him a new black iPod for Christmas.