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video email?

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Roy Schneidervideo email?
by on Feb 13, 2010 at 8:48:18 pm

Hi All:
I am working on a new project for a client and wanted to see if any of you have done anything like this before. I am interested in the different approaches some of you might take to the delivery aspect of the following project.

My mission (and I have chosen to accept it, in fact, I pitched it) is to create 10 viral marketing videos for a fitness company put them into an HTML business email, and send the to a list of addresses provided by the customer.

Have any of you done this type of delivery platform for video. How would you approach it?

Thanks for your input.

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Richard HerdRe: video email?
by on Feb 13, 2010 at 11:25:31 pm

Believe it or not, it's actually very difficult to do correctly, so I suggest one of many email marketing vendors...via google, phone book, word of mouth etc.

Why is it so difficult? Because email formats come in 4 flavors:
-- web
-- text
-- html
-- aol

Yep, you have to send out 4 emails and you have to know which email receives what kind, very specialized technical field.

File size is a real problem. Measuring results is also a real problem. Valuing click-throughs is also a problem. You'll run into terms like:
-- click-through rate (each link in the email is a numerator, where total emails opened is the denominator)
-- conversion rate (turning an email into $, like a hotel reservation)
-- open rate (open/sent)
-- delete rate (deleted/sent)

There's also detailed list resting regulations having to do with avoiding spam. A proper vendor will have all that information.

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Chris BlairRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 1:51:54 am

I'll second what Richard said. We do some email newsletters and it's like working in the dark ages of the internet. Most email client software (there are approximately 20 that are commonly used by business people) has limited graphical support, which is typically limited to HTML. That means no java scripting, no flash and often no video support.

I read a report from one of the email newsletter companies (I believe it was Campaign Monitor) where they tested a video file in an otherwise very simply designed email newsletter and it only worked in about 3 of the 20...and in the 3 it worked in, the video didn't play smoothly or correctly in any of them. So in essence, it didn't work at all.

Email newsletters also have to be VERY simply designed to display properly across email clients. No flash, no CSS, no scripting, no rollovers etc. etc.

A better route is to design your e-newsletter around the video's subject and just put a link to a nicely designed web page with the video embedded. This also works for the text version of your e-newsletter since users can copy and paste the URL to view the video.

If people want to view it, they'll click and you'll also a better feel for "click-thru" results this way.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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Mike SmithRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 12:52:48 pm

Viral means that people send it to each other, not that you mass mail it. Many folks will not like very big video files in their in box. Many ISPs cap email file size at not very much (5 Megabytes is not untypical).

For all these reasons, you might do better to create great, fun videos that people want to watch (the wii hula example is just one approach) and mail people who've consented to receive stuff from you a series of links, each perhaps with a small image thumbnail to tempt. Then on the website hosting the videos make sure there's a "mail link to a friend" button ...

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Chris BlairRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 5:52:46 pm

Just to add to this...I've always hated the terms "viral video" and "email blast," which are often used by marketing and advertising people when they talk about trying to generate PR through email or the internet.

As Mike points out, viral video is really a phenomenon and isn't usually something that's intricately planned. It's like someone setting out to give everyone the flu.

I'm sure there are cases where somebody set out to produce a "viral" video and succeeded, but my guess is it's rare. Same with calling e-newsletters "blasts." Noboby wants to get bombarded with information they don't want.

One thing we try to remember about every email newsletter we create and sent (for others or our own), is that the information needs to be relevant and useful to the recipients. We also try to avoid "selling" in an e-newsletter. And lastly, we don't send them out to large lists, but usually to smaller lists of people who've agreed to or asked for more information from a company...or to current client lists....meaning people who are using the company already and might benefit from the information.

I don't mind getting sales based e-newsletters as long as they're short, to the point and include relevant info I might use. I have a folder in my email client where I drag e-newsletters I may later use and I occasionally go through those to read when I have a spare half-hour.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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Tim WilsonRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 7:02:47 pm

[Chris Blair] "As Mike points out, viral video is really a phenomenon and isn't usually something that's intricately planned."

Sometimes not, but actually, it often IS intricately planned.

A recent example was of Susan Boyle from Britain's Got Talent. Did you see this thing? Here's a frame, with the full video at the end of this post.

She doesn't look like much, but this video will give you chills. You can see the audience rolling their eyes when she comes on stage, then see them gasp when they realize that she has the goods. People emailed the link to this clip at an insane pace, such that her album racked up the most pre-release sales in Amazon history. Released at the end of November, it was the second-best selling release of the year in the US. Amazing. And it didn't hurt the ratings for Britain's Got Talent, either, which you can easily see is the original source for the video, not some schlub's VCR.

A similar but contrasting example was the famous D*** in a Box video from Saturday Night Live. NBC let the version as broadcast, that is, bleeped, get onto YouTube...then visibly pulled it, and posted that AND the uncensored version "by popular demand" onto its own website.

Another heavily planned campaign is the singalongs for T-Mobile. They actually created viral *events* - going into public spaces, setting up massive singalong screens, passing out scores of microphones, and turning the thing loose. They originally aired as 60-second spots, but were posted online as full length clips. I've posted the 4-minute version of Hey Jude recorded in Trafalgar Square. It gives me chills.

One of my favorite viral videos was co-opted and aired on TV, which is where I first saw it, the "I'm into nuggets, y'all" video that a couple of kids made, in celebration of their love for chicken McNuggets. They didn't have any plans for it apart from goofing around for YouTube...but McDonalds got wind of it and ran a high-res version of it as a TV commercial for a while. So McDonalds co-opted a virus, and spun it up to where NOW people would start emailing it even more. Which they did. (Presumably, they also paid the boys along the way.)

I worked for a company that was desperate to create viral video, even hired a guy to help pull it off, and when it didn't work, they of course sent the poor guy packing...but how COULD it have worked? Only one way: come up with a video that people wanted to watch more than once, then pass it along.

The point is that, for all of the genuinely viral videos of cats playing pianos, people can, and do, create very carefully orchestrated viral campaigns - ironically, most often using TV, and often at great expense. Not every attempt works of course, but a great many do. To use the influenza metaphor, they create a bug, and fuel the conditions that contribute to an epidemic. All of the videos I've mentioned have many millions, even many hundreds of millions, of views.

It actually goes much, much further than that - companies pay attractive people to go into bars and seduce other patrons into buying the sponsor's drink. It's insane. The point is that big companies have learned how to do this, and they do it.

That said, I agree that most business people who talk about viral video have no idea what it actually is.

So here are some clips for you. The Susan Boyle clip has embedding disabled, but it's TOTALLY worth checking out the whole thing:

Here's the T-mobile, also TOTALLY worth checking out all of.

Only 48 seconds, so no excuses.

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Simon StuttsRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 9:08:18 pm

Tim and Chris have pretty much covered this, but - it feels like you're combining to very different approaches to marketing - viral video & email blast to a client's list have very different styles of reaching the audience.

Viral videos can be intricately planned (as Tim pointed out), and even the way that they are released and promoted can be delicately planned out - but it's quite a bit different from the standard methods of marketing. I would question the effectiveness of "viral videos" that are mass emailed to a client's email list. Viral video is all fine and good - but to be effective it needs to be shared socially - and email is not really an effective social environment.

If someone tweets about some cool video they watched, and I watch it and like it, I can re-tweet that to my list of followers within seconds of watching the video, with little to no effort on my part. They can then do the same, and within a few minutes hundreds of people may have come into contact with it. Same with facebook and other social networking sites. If I were you, I would look to these social networks as the primary distribution center for the viral videos you are making.

The big E on the eye chart, though, is that if the company has to email me (and all their other customers) their latest "Viral Video" - then it's not a viral video. Find ways to reach your upstream influencers and early adopters, and push the video where they will see it (as well as all the major internet media channels) - then let them filter it downstream to the public.

Tim has alot of good examples on his post. For more crazy stuff, take an hour and break down 42 Entertainment's Alternate Reality Game that they did for the Dark Knight.

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Tim WilsonRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 10:20:54 pm

[Simon Stutts] "For more crazy stuff, take an hour and break down 42 Entertainment's Alternate Reality Game that they did for the Dark Knight."

I was just watching a special that recounted the viral marketing that Sanchez and Myrick came up with for Blair Witch Project. It's easy to forget just how overwhelmingly effective it was, building on the work of just two guys with no money. That's a great example of what you're talking about Simon - getting it to thought leaders, and letting them take it from there.

As Simon also notes, Twitter is especially effective when used to message within a specific network of people who are genuinely known to each other, far moreso, and more quickly than, email alone.

I'm going to slightly differ re: the big E on the eye chart, though - the source of the video doesn't matter. That's simply the virus itself. The video goes viral comes when people choose to pass it along...which they still mostly do via email.

That said, I echo the folks above that less is more. You can do the work you need to do, without trying to mess with video players embedded in email. Per Chris, it's darn hard for the player itself to be visible...and what about the format of the video? As more mobile email platforms (esp. iPhone, iTouch, iPad) come online that don't support Flash, it's getting harder to figure out what used to be the easy part!

So Roy, if you can come up with ONE video that actually goes viral, you've accomplished something truly remarkable. I'm not sure if it should be on this thread or a new one, but it's an interesting question - how do you make a video that somebody wants to pass along?

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Simon StuttsRe: video email?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 7:28:36 am

This wiki has a full listing of everything that went down with the Batman ARG. If you are not familiar with it, it is seriously worth a look. The level of imagination and planning that went into this is unreal.

Truly mind-blowing. My favorite example of viral marketing that works.

Favorite point:
One of the links in the chain of the viral game leads to a website, which has a list of addresses on it. Participants are warned not to phone ahead, but to go to the location and pick up a package for "Robin Banks." All of the locations are bakeries. When whoever got to the location first asked for the package and received it, the website was updated to show that. The packages received were cakes with phone numbers written in icing on them. When the participant called the phone number, the cake starts ringing. There's a plastic bag with a cell phone and some one-of-a-kind joker-themed knicknacks inside. These phones then received text messages, which their owners shared online with the rest of the community, leading to the next link in the chain.

Totally insane. Nothing like traditional marketing. I love it.

AND - most importantly - it catches and holds the fascination of the die-hard fans and early adopters, who in turn go and tell everyone in their sphere of influence how amazing they believe the movie will be.

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Alan LloydRe: video email?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 11:15:22 pm

Sending links is far better.

Sending me video content unsolicited is a good way to make sure I block your email address immediately.

Your client may wish to reconsider the ill will this might generate.

Give your recipients the option, don't inflict it on them.

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Mark SuszkoRe: video email?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 9:33:33 pm

A viral that worked: people sharing clips of the "accidentally released un-accepted spec spot" "evil Ford Ka kills cats and pigeons" spot. Lots of shadenfreude there.

A viral that failed: Sony Christmas viral for Playstation that was easily traced back to the source. You can google more about it.

I agree: set up a web site with the clips, send a few links only by email to key nodes in a social network, then let them take it where they will... or not. The whole thing is a crapshoot, a gamble, and it may be worth trying because it is cheap to do. Check the cell phone popcorn viral or the cell phone in microwave emits demon viral clip for more examples.

While the complicated puzzle-based virals like the batman or pre-halo-release-bee thing are cool, they are also too much work for the bulk of an audience, and they risk not getting passed on versus a simple copy-paste of a url to an embedded clip.

Places to try and post a viral to launch it might include gizmodo, stumbleupon, digg,, and metafilter. But beware; the audiences in these spots are savvy and wary of being marketed to in too blatant a manner, and can do you more damage than good if your video isn't good enough. (see the Sony example for this)

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Roy SchneiderRe: video email?
by on Feb 16, 2010 at 4:30:40 am

Hi All:
Thanks so much for your input and thoughts.

I should not have called these really viral videos, they are really video training tips. The are sent to people on the companies mailing list. These tips accomplish 2 things they introduce members of the gym to the trainers and give a little training advise as well.

I am definitly not going to send the video file via email, but send a link. In what form, I am still debating. I did see a company called Bomb Bomb that specializes in this, but do not know anyone that has used them.

Thanks again for the thoughtful insite and exchange of ideas.

Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!

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Alan LloydRe: video email?
by on Feb 16, 2010 at 6:25:06 pm

There are multiple companies doing this sort of thing. Create a file, place it in some sort of webcast-like format, send out a link to it, and people can watch it once or repeatedly. Most of them are in some way Flash-based.

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Richard HerdRe: video email?
by on Feb 16, 2010 at 6:29:37 pm

I'm curious what your thoughts are on running time of these videos? I believe you're approaching it correctly:

-- an established opt-in email list
-- sending links to web page of videos

Trying to do a similar thing, we have had discussions on running time and the discussion breaks out as the following:

-- (positive) a short video means people will reach the call to action
-- (negative) a short video feels like an ad
-- (positive) a long video means the video will contain all the information
-- (negative) a long video means most people will not stay to the end

This matrix has caused us to grind to a halt.

Just curious, if you have had similar discussions?


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Roy SchneiderRe: video email?
by on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:10:31 pm

Richard we are leaning toward 1 to 2 minutes per video. A quick introduction and one training tip. Our goal is to create a personal connection between the staff and members, and hopefully sell personal training.


Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!

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Chris BlairRe: video email?
by on Feb 17, 2010 at 12:43:10 am

If you get anyone to spend more than 2 minutes watching an unsolicited video sent via a link in an email...bottle it and sell it!

We can't get people to spend 15 seconds reading an email about a deadline oriented project that needs answers by noon in order to go out the door that day!

I'd say 2 minutes max...a crisp, superbly-written, well-edited minute would be even better!

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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