Google Eats Its Own Dogfood: 7 Ways Its Using Video

Okay let’s just get this out. I’m a big Google fan, user, and customer. I’m also making non-trivial income from Google’s YouTube Partner program (through ad sharing on my Nalts videos seen 200 million gazillian times). So I really hesitate commending the company in a post headline. It looks I’m friggin’ shilling incognito and I hate that crap (see my parody on f’ing buzz marketing).

Instead I prefer to prank, complain and criticize the company to ensure my “checks and balances” are in place. It can border on “biting the hand that feeds you,” but I’ll call it tough love. You don’t own me, bitch (sorry I’ve got an authority issue).

Today’s post, however, is to observe that Google’s brain seems to be developing a frontal lobe (the rather useless part of the brain where insanity and marketing occurs). I’ll be damned if Google isn’t using video (even the YouTube player to keep Salar “Little Superstar” Kamangar happy) in increasingly effective ways. (The marketer rubs little puppy’s tummy and says good boy, as he naively thinks he’s more evolved than a wonderfully blissful animal).

Parenthetically I literally laugh outloud every time I refer to the head of YouTube as “Little Superstar” because I’m aware it appears so completely inappropriate and racist. But I’ll trust you WVFF loyalts will know that if I really felt that way I’d suppress it incredibly well. I stereotype into only two segments: people who make me happy and people who suck away my will to live. Anyway Salar isn’t even Indian he’s Persian or Iraq, and frankly I don’t know the difference or care. I just needed something to use to “downsize” him, since my ego is threatened by him having the coolest job in the world. It was the same thing with Chad, but Chad was a much easier victim since he generally looked stoned.

I wonder if Chad and Samar ever went to Dubai together and ate sushi off of woman’s stomaches.

Okay back to the news. Google using YouTube shouldn’t surprise us at first glance, but put aside Google’s products and branding (it’s hard to do), and ask yourself a question. Do you see Google as a great marketing organization? Or put more succinctly, how well does it tap the advertising medium that feeds it? Right your reaction because I’m coming back to read ’em.

Google historically has done almost no advertising for itself. It kept quiet, muted PR, and rarely showed evidence of advertising/marketing competencies from an external view. Sure, you might credit YouTube took out a Superbowl ad years ago (side note: good luck finding it on YouTube). But I’m convinced that was not for viewers, but simply to sneak access to “Superbowl Buyer’s Man/Boy Club” to pitch well-funded brands on the merits of diverting TV dollars to web.

But now I’m seeing real signs of life. Google print ads with direct-response offers? A discount on Google ads and to encourage app purchases? Really? It’s like watching my son Grant suddenly blossuming academically and reading voraciously. I know I had nothing to do with it, but I’m proud of the double G’s. Sidenote 2: Did I ever tell you I had a clubhouse in my house that I named Google in the late 1970s? Note to self: get time machine, go to 1995 and squat domain name for your childhood clubhouse.

So now the engineering anthill is using video to engage customers and promote? How charming! Let’s review recent and cumulative examples.

1) Branded Entertainment: Today we see a “Google Doodle” (typically an illustration of the logo marking an event) taking video form. The typically clean/sparse homepage features not a small custom image, but an embedded player with a nicely done Charlie Chaplin homage.

2) Satire/Entertainment: On April Fool’s Day Google pulled its annual prank by rolling out advanced “Gmail Motion” via video. The new solution featured a typical Google product director’s awkward monotone, complemented by a model (Steve Buscemi) demonstrating how physical movements (thumbs up, waves) can be interpreted it into text. One might expect a collective drone if he/she concedes that it was a clever prank, but I liked it. Why? It wasn’t too far fetched, it was executed fairly well, and I interpreted it as a subtle diss on Apple and its self aggrandizing swipes, pinches, and three finger whatevers.

Steve Buscemi in the Gmail Motion prank video

3) Product Launch: Google is increasingly using video to promote and teach out new products (see “advanced gmail” video). Sure Google has been criticized for a somewhat dated approach to product marketing (and some “areas for improvement” in its design/test/launch). But the sheer number of new innovations have me increasing my daily time-share significantly, and I want a Google GPS, Android simulator on my iPhone, and a Google-search brain implant for “just in time” information.

4) Humor: I’m not kidding. You have to look hard, but there’s humor lurking in the hallways. It’s probably like a secret society afraid to draw attention to itself among fellow engineers. But there’s the humanized personification of Google auto-complete (Hiring Autocompleters) that was funnier than its view count would suggest. (Last minute update- I was searching for more examples before hitting post and I remembered I was part of “Demo Slam” to promote additional tools/solutions to a broader audience… now you’re going to think this whole post was motivated by that, and you can kiss my ass because I nearly forgot I did it.

5) Public Relations: Remember all the drama about privacy invasion resulting from Google Earth (buttcrack) and Google Street View pictures? This video that shows “behind the scenes” of Google’s streetview camera vehicle. It replaces the images in my head of a creepy zit-faced MIT intern driving a black van, snapping photos, and wearing no pants.

6) Education & Community: Google uses videos to support community, health education, public service and economic summit Davos whatever… but that’s so damned boring I don’t feel like writing about it.

7) There is No Seven. I just don’t like posts with six items. Actually seven is “reader’s choice.” What’d I miss?

Geek Squad Driver Goes Ape

Yesterday I was driving home and spotted a Geek Squad van (Geek Squad is a computer repair division of retailer Best Buy). I thought it would be fun to create a video where I play a fictional Geek Squad hero responding to farcical “help calls,” so I shot some footage of the Geek Squad van. Later, I decided, I would videotape myself in our van, and edit it so it appeared I was the driver.

As I began to videotape the van, the Geek Squad driver became suspicious and concerned. He was speeding, so maybe he thought I was going to report him… and that intimidation would redirect the situation. He began to take photos of my car, write down the license plate number and give me odd looks. So at a stop light, I handed him my business card and explained my intent in hopes that it would diffuse the situation. I told him I was making a video parody for YouTube — not at his expense — but in a parody of people who call tech support for erroneous reasons. He replied, “good now I can sue you.” I thought that was an antagonistic response to my gesture, but I just smiled and drove away when the light turned green.

Minutes later I saw police lights in my rear-view mirror, and posted a video real-time on my Unclenalts account. I also Tweeted pictures of the event, and alerts. Seems the Geek Squad driver called 911 and reported me, saying I got out of the car at a red light.

The video documenting my experience is now among the most highly-rated videos of the week on YouTube, and the comment cloud below summarizes the reactions. Twitter exploded with @bestbuy and @geeksquad alerts, propelled by fellow YouTuber CharlesTrippy. Nearly 700 people “thumbed up” the video versus 16 “thumbs down.”

YouTube comment cloud on the "Geek Squad Calls Police" video show reactions from viewers

I’m still not quite sure why the driver became so defensive, or the rationale for the “reckless driver” citation I received for $85. I do plan to contest it, if only to keep my nearly perfect driving record stable.

Meanwhile it’s unfortunate for BestBuy (who I regard as one of the better companies in social media, as well as one of my favorite stores… until yesterday). Here’s a blog post I wrote about BestBuy’s Barry Judge, and my “man crush” on him.

No official response from BestBuy or GeekSquad, although I did get a positive tweet response from http://twitter.com/AgentEAN. I did alert BestBuy’s corporate PR to the situation via e-mail on Friday. No response yet.

I’m really no fan of drama like this, much less when it reflects negatively on a corporation I like (BestBuy) and involves the police. But I do feel obliged to surface this via social media… the driver’s defensive and confrontational reaction reflects poorly on Geek Squad. And it not only got me a police citation but ruined a rare date night with my wife last night. Hard not to look at the Geek Squad logo without getting a viscerally negative feeling… like when you smell burnt hair or hear a chalkboard scratch.

BestBuy, known for its heroic approach to social media, didn’t acknowledge the Twitter tornado on Friday (almost all searches for BestBuy and GeekSquad were about this situation).

Here’s the video on my Nalts channel that shows the blow-by-blow. I thought the police officer handled it well, even though I would have appreciated him not giving me a citation given that it was based on a report from the Geek Squad driver (rather than anything he witnessed). I can’t envision that holding up in court, since the “eye witness account” was clearly not objective. I would have also appreciated him allowing me to talk with the driver, which he refused.

Parenthetically, it’s not illegal to videotape a van or a policeman in public, despite many myths. I’ve only heard of people getting in trouble when videotaping in a private place and refusing to stop or leave…. or for obstructing justice or demonstrating disorderly conduct in public while videotaping.

Video Case Study: Efficient Logitech & Hitviews Challenge

PRWeek ran a story titled “Logitech Finds Value in Campaign Video Strategy,” and here are the highlights (the story requires login, but it’s here).

You may remember the video (below) called “Amazing Kitten.” Congratulations to the 5 randomly-selected commenters, and the 5 winners of the video replies (who I just finally contacted).

Client: Logitech (Freemont, CA)
Agency: Ruder Finn (San Francisco, CA)
Campaign: Logitech DVS YouTube campaign
Duration: September – October 2009
Budget: $25,000 – $30,000 –no, I didn’t get all of this… prizes, Ruder Finn, Hitviews

Situation

After Logitech acquired WiLife in 2007, home digital video security cameras (DVS) became a part of its portfolio. Logitech PR manager Ha Thai explains that general awareness is low in this category, and the team hoped to change that fact.

Ruder Finn (RF) was hired to work on a broad DVS promotional effort. HitViews helped the team identify a popular YouTube content producer who could integrate DVS into one of its videos.

“We wanted to spread the word in an efficient and budget conscious way,” says Andy Pray, VP with RF. “YouTube provides a good audience with existing affinity— they create content and are used to webcams.”

Strategy
The idea was to create a video that highlighted the DVS system’s ease and positioned it as valuable for families. YouTube “star” Kevin “Nalts” Nalty, whose videos often involve pranks on his kids and wife, was chosen. Pray says Nalty’s large audience reach and family focus made him a great fit. An online challenge was designed to maximize engagement. The team also employed social media and blogger outreach.

Tactics
In his “Amazing Kitten!” video (launched October 13), Nalty used the DVS system to catch a kitten in outrageous acts. Pray says it was important that the video feel authentic to Nalty’s audience so it kept with typical tone.

For the contest, audiences could submit a response video to Nalty’s YouTube page or leave a text comment. Contest information and a coupon code were shown at the bottom of Nalty’s video. All entrants were eligible to win a DVS system.

Nalty also created a making of the video clip (“How Kitten Defied Gravity”), which Thai says was a surprise and bonus. Nalty used his Twitter and Facebook pages to spread the word to YouTube influentials and others. The team promoted the video and contest on Logitech’s existing Twitter page, its blog, and their personal social media pages.

Other outreach focused on cat and content enthusiast bloggers. Pray adds that messaging was based on the video (rather than DVS) to maintain authenticity.

Results
As of January 18, “Amazing Kitten!” has garnered more than 160,000 views (more than 2,000 five-star ratings) on YouTube and 38,369 views on Yahoo Video. Pray says it was a top 50 video on YouTube the week of October 13. The making of video drew another 14,200 views. The contest yielded 42 video and 2,270 text entries.

The team reports thousands of tweets from online influencers. Though Logitech won’t disclose sales, Thai says there was a “strong surge” on Logitech’s Web site around the campaign and coupon codes drove sales increases.

Future
Thai says plans include expanding on getting top-tier media coverage of customers’ DVS stories. RF will continue to work with Logitech on DVS promotion.

(Nalts Extra)

I have to thank Hitviews, Andy from Ruder Finn, and Logitech. But I’m also grateful for DavideoDesign, who helped with the concept and special effects. Thanks so much to all of the video replies. It was very hard to select the winners! See them all here. Parenthetically, while using the Logitech System I happened to bust my children with a fight, and was able to find the guilty party!

To purchase a Logitech system:
http://www.logitech.com/dvs
(enter code Nalty20 to get a 20% discount)

How to Implement Social Media Despite Agency Limits & Stakeholder Fears

This Content-to-Commerce post revealed some interesting social-media statistics, and prompted me to answer two questions:

  • “Why aren’t digital agencies bringing social-media to clients?”
  • “Why can’t brands seem to overcome their internal inertia?”

I have the somewhat rare experience of having seen social media strategy and tactics in various roles: as a marketer (client), client stakeholder (legal, PR, web), agency and even as a vendor to agencies.

afraid of social media

The agencies will tell you that their marketing and PR clients WANT it, but the marketing client’s attorneys and bureaucracy is preventing it. The marketer may blame delays or failures on the digital or PR agency or more likely internal stakeholders. The reality is that all three (brand team, client stakeholders and partners) need to be aligned, or face months of nonsense for a tactic that may not yet be proven.

Here are some additional excuses and some ways to snuff them:

1) Agencies aren’t profiting on social-media like they do on web development and media buying. This, I believe, is the real reason agencies have been tentative about social media. Solution: give your agency an incentive by allowing them to conduct projects that aren’t specific to web development. Allow fees (project or retainer) to cover social-media strategists and monitoring. Sure it’s free to create many accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) but doing it well requires expertise.

2) My PR agency, AOR and web firm are telling me different things. Solution: Find one agency to lead social media, because it’s not easy to share it. Typically this would be your digital agency, although some are not driving social media as a progressive PR firm. I would not expect much out of an offline agency of record.

3) My internal stakeholders are “questioning it to death.” Solution: This is common, and your agency should help you develop the business case based on what you’re hearing as inevitable internal obstacles (which aren’t usually new, and were used to stop marketers from embracing the web). Attorneys are legitimately worried about legal ramifications, but a well-managed social-media strategy will address those risks and minimize them. Most problems attorneys fear are extremely rare. Public relations leaders are terrified about a negative Wall Street Journal resulting from a social-media error. Again, rare, but there are certainly enough examples to substantiate their fear.

There are two ways to address irrational stakeholder fears: first, make the business case to offset the risk. Second, put the risk in perspective. If you don’t do both, your chances of realizing the benefit of social-media are reduced by 80%.

4) My agency is clueless about Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Solution: Demand expertise, and drop the agency if they can’t respond. Often the client is underwhelmed because his/her account team is not well informed. Sometimes there’s a social-media expert that’s cross accounts. Give your account team a reason to engage that person and learn from him/her.

5) The final excuse may require some self examination. It’s quite possible the marketer is the obstacle. If you haven’t been convinced social-media can drive sales, you’re probably sending your agencies mixed messages. Solution: Tell your agency you believe social-media may be important, but need to be convinced. Give them an opportunity to challenge some of your preconceived notions, like:

  • My target customer doesn’t use social media.
  • I don’t want my brand on the wild-west of YouTube (we said that about the web a decade ago).
  • It’s going to be too difficult to implement — too many internal barriers. The “return on hassle” isn’t there.
  • The ROI isn’t evident.
  • Even if I did something, I’m not sure it would scale enough to impact sales.

These are legitimate concerns, but be open to facts that may convince you otherwise. Keep in mind that some of the highest performing levers of the marketing mix (paid search and websites) faced similar scrutiny when they were new.

Viacom Becomes Poster Child for Good Cause Gone Overboard

viacomm logo for public domainIf you think you have the worse job in the world, imagine working for Viacom in the public relations group. The organization has decided that, above all else, it must fiercely protect its copyrighted material. A worthy cause when your core asset is not your people, but your family of brands, movies and shows.

But is the legal attack on YouTube (which now appears to invade the privacy of YouTube creators and viewers) worth the fuss? Viacom is becoming the poster child for excess… a noble cause gone mannic like God-honoring terrorists. It’s making Disney look like Kevin MacLeod.

If you haven’t been keeping track, many of the most popular videos on YouTube right now anti-Viacom rants. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could hit the top of the “most rated” section if I shot a video of me pooping… as long as the title was “Viacom Sucks.” Heck- click here for a search on YouTube by the word “Viacom.”

TheReelWeeklyNews has made a whole cause out of calling out Viacom in a series of videos (with a somewhat annoyingly rhythmic speech pattern) that are further catalyzing the YouTube community’s absolute despise of Viacom. See video below.

Even the jaded are aghast. Viacom may have a legal right, but the PR damage will not soon heal. The real question is whether that damage will trickle down to Viacom’s otherwise beloved brands

We’re talking big names with strong equity: Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, even AtomFilms and AddictingGames.

In the meantime, I’m staying the heck out of it, and making videos of myself pouring candy into my coffee. A cause against Viacom will forge a temporary bond among advocates of privacy and freedom of speech. But it’s fleeting. Like Stephen Covey says about bashing people behind their back… it forms a cheap morter.

I’d avocate that the energy now placed against Viacom (or Scientology for that matter) would be more influential if it was directed to a positive alternative. Kinda like athiesm — being anti-God isn’t really a sustainable position. You gotta be for something else. For athiests, maybe that’s pro-science or pro-intelligence or something. Not really sure. God strikes me as a bit more interesting than science. And while I’m on this tangent, why are athiests always trying to prove God doesn’t exist and force believers to prove He does? I believe in God but if you don’t, it doesn’t really concern me.

So what is that positive alternative to Viacom’s madness? I dunno. I’ll leave that to smarter people. I don’t even know what net neutrality means, so I’ll go penis poke someone.