Viral marketing insights from WillItBlend.com

Posted by Rachelle Money
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How Blendtec used video as an effective viral marketing tool, from Wordtracker - the leading keyword research tool

Key Points

  • Just like Blendtec has done with Will It Blend?, always back up your promotions with on-page SEO – lots of pages and text targeting relevant keywords.
  • Blendtec piggybacks major events like the Superbowl, or the latest computer game release, to boost their search engine rankings.
  • Be careful what you wish for. Remember, when a piece of content goes viral you can't take it back.

Creating great content means you have to look beyond the norms of written articles and blogs. Extending the possibilities to video can be a valuable and rewarding platform (and it doesn’t have to be expensive either), as the phenomenal success of Blendtec’s Will It Blend? has proven.

It’s amazing how far you can make $50 go. In November 2006 the guys at Blendtec bought a white lab coat, some marbles, a couple of McDonald’s Extra Value Meals, a rotisserie chicken, a garden rake and some safety glasses. They then set about filming five videos featuring their boss, Tom Dickson, who asked, “Will it blend? That is the question.” He then blitzed the various items into smithereens.

Five days after posting the videos on their specially designed website, Will it Blend?, and on YouTube, Dickson’s then marketing director, George Wright, came to him and excitedly said: “Tom, we’ve hit a home run. We just had six million views on YouTube.” Dickson replied: “Who Tube?”

Within weeks Dickson had created such a buzz that he became an online celebrity, giving interviews to the world press, and by June 2007 became a keynote speaker on the effectiveness of viral marketing campaigns. It goes to show what a few minutes on film can do for a company.

Speaking from Blendtec headquarters in Orem, Utah, Dickson told us that the video campaign grew from an idea on how to raise brand awareness.

“Even though we had the best blender in the world, people didn’t know who we were. We wanted to demonstrate the power and durability of the Blendtec blender.

“For years I’ve been doing a test where I start the motor and jam a piece of timber into the blades and test the strength of the drive component, the electronics, and the blade itself. We thought it might be fun to try out some other things that people might find amusing. “

As their videos on YouTube grew in popularity, Blendtec found their online sales grew by 500%.

A grandfather of 28 children, Dickson has blended an iPhone, iPod, glow sticks, a golf club, marbles and a Halo 3 computer game. Soon he plans to blend 4 Nintendo Wiis and a round of 12 and 20 gauge shotgun shells.

Dickson is an affable man and has the ability to fill a Dictaphone unprompted.

“What is the worst blend?” he ruminates. “Hockey pucks. That was a tough blend, and the smell was one of the worst smelling things I’ve ever done - it smelt like cow pies.”

He continues: “What will it not blend? A crowbar - it will not blend a crowbar.” He’s on a roll. “What’s the most popular request?” he asks. “To blend another Blendtec blender,” he answers with a laugh.

In SEO terms, Blendtec are in the enviable position of having tens of thousands of inbound links to their Will It Blend? website.

Jeff Robe, Blendtec’s current director of marketing, said their webmaster works hard to ensure each video and piece of content is optimized.

“We include keywords that are going to be relevant and put us higher up in the search engine rankings.

“It’s a viral piece that’s been out to so many websites, and probably tens of thousands of sites have a link to our YouTube videos or directly to our own site. That, as much as anything, has helped our optimization and boosted our rankings, and put us at the top or near the top for a variety of searches.”

He added: “We take AdWords with Google and with Yahoo and they have been effective too.” Robe said that at one point the search term for ‘iPhone’ would put the video of Tom Dickson blending the product before the Apple website.“That was pretty incredible and just shows the power of viral marketing,” said Robe.

When asked about his feelings towards viral marketing now, Dickson said, “The interesting thing about viral marketing is that when you put it out there there’s no way of taking it back - it’s gone. You might get people who say bad things but that’s just going to happen.

“Most of what’s said about the campaigns is very positive. In fact, if someone says something negative about me or the blender, we don’t have to do anything because others will come back and defend me and the product.”

Soon after the Will It Blend? campaign took off, Blendtec competitors decided they wanted a slice of the viral marketing action. They posted a video which compared their product to Blendtec’s.

“It was real obvious they were faking it,” said Dickson. “There was no voiceover, no motor sounds and they weren’t pushing the right buttons on our product. They had people write in and say it was ridiculous and within two days they had to bring the video down and they were crucified.

“It bit them really hard so people have to be careful. You have to build on your reputation, but it can turn on you and damage your reputation if you don’t get it right.”

Blendtec have a full time videographer who works on shooting these videos, as well as other promotional videos, which Dickson says are “more professional than the hokey Will It Blend? ones.”

Hokey or not, Blendtec’s down-to-earth style is obviously working. They’ve had more than 100,000,000 views in the last year and around 60,000 subscribers to their videos on YouTube. Not bad for a company who simply filmed what they’d been doing for years - demonstrating their blenders to the public.

In fact, so popular is this worldwide phenomenon that 210,000 people logged on to eBay to view the leftovers of a blended iPod and iPhone. The dust of each of these products fetched $800 and $901 respectively. The company quadrupled the value and donated it to a sick children’s hospital in Utah.

The iPhone video is the most popular on Will It Blend? – probably because it was and still is a very sought-after product. This piggy-backing is deliberate on Blendtec’s part. They say they try to be “timely” and shoot skits which relate to the Superbowl, the Hollywood writer’s strike or the latest computer game. Tapping into what people are most likely to be searching for helps them in terms of search engine rankings.

So after destroying a number of Apple’s products doesn’t Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, have a few choice words for Dickson?

“When I threw the iPhone into the blender, it was still playing a video even when it was halfway destroyed, so I think Steve Jobs was pleased that it lasted that long. This is the ultimate test and it did very well.”

The 61-year-old engineer believes Will It Blend? has the capacity to run for a long time as new products are released onto the market.

“There’s no limit to what will blend. We have hundreds of thousands of requests of things to blend. When we walk into a store I am always looking for things to blend and we never know what’s going to happen.”

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