Master Class: How do you most effectively use online video to support a product launch?

This month's panel discusses effective ways to use online video to support a product launch


Christi Day
Emerging media strategy specialist, Southwest Airlines

Monica Elias
VP of client solutions, Synaptic Digital

Paul Kontonis
SVP, branded entertainment, Matter, Edelman Sports and Entertainment Marketing

Brett Marty
Director of video development, LaunchSquad

Greg Zimprich
Director of brand PR, General Mills

At Southwest Airlines, we pride ourselves on being a little quirky, fun-loving, and not taking ourselves too seriously. Our communications staff includes a video production team of two that helps us convey the more "visual" stories we want to tell. This small team regularly creates relevant and exciting content for our internal and external audiences. A case in point is our LIFT Coffee campaign.

To enhance our customer experience, we decided to update our free on-board coffee blend and serve it in new, eight-ounce eco-friendly paper cups. In addition, we switched from powdered creamer to Coffee-mateĀ® liquid creamers. We felt this was the perfect opportunity to produce an in-house "commercial" explaining all the features of our new coffee service.

The concept was to produce an old-fashioned, 1950s-style video spot that communicated all the unique features about this new product. A team of four communicators storyboarded the concept, wrote a script, found actors (Southwest employees, of course), and used our Inflight Training Aircraft to shoot the video. Shot and edited by our two multimedia superstars over the course of a few weeks, the video played an integral role in our broader external communications strategy.

The external plan included a press release with our video link (our videos are housed on our YouTube channel) and a post on our external corporate blog, Nuts About Southwest. With an internal message to employees, we also sent tweets and Facebook status messages to our fans and followers. The response was amazing. The video attracted thousands of views within a few weeks and was featured on several travel blogs.

Video production has become a critical piece of our communications strategy. This summer, when we roll out our newest in-flight feature, Corona Extra, we'll have another fun product-focused video to share with our online and media friends.

Christi Day, emerging media strategy specialist, Southwest Airlines

So you're planning a product launch and want to incorporate online video? Many factors come into play, including your industry, goals, and, of course, budget. Where do you start?

To maximize ROI, we always encourage clients to shoot launch videos that can be easily repurposed. The trick is to be creative in the way you craft, message, and distribute your video to ensure a strong impression across blogs, industry sites, and social media.

Old tools, new tricks. Take b-roll shot for news stations and add graphics, music, and creative editing to capture the attention of bloggers and audiences alike.

One way to incorporate online video into a product launch is by giving a press release a multimedia boost. It's an easy way to enhance your message with existing video content.

Building buzz. Create a "sneak peek" video of the product to get people hooked. Here, it's all about targeted distribution. Do you want to showcase your video on your website or an influential blog? Whatever your strategy, the key is to produce video that prompts action and encourages users to visit your site, tell friends, or preorder your product.

Tell, don't sell. It's no longer enough just to sell a product. You must craft a visual story in a style and tone that is appropriate for your product and target audiences. Depending on the product, healthcare can be serious or emotional. Depending on the brand, fashion can be catwalk or street-ready.

The fun thing about incorporating video for online is it doesn't need to be told in a "news" style. So next time you're planning a video, think big and try something new.

Monica Elias, VP of client solutions, Synaptic Digital

Digital video content for a product launch allows a company to engage its desired customers in a dialogue during relevant moments in any PR launch campaign. It also allows you to control your messaging and reach while measuring and tracking success.

The forms of video chosen are often based on available resources, as well as the desired amount of control over production and messaging. Product demos and commercials are most often considered during a product launch, but a smart company will also plan for branded entertainment, "edu-tainment," sponsored, and user-generated video.

The Funny Truth About Credit video, which we produced for our client Experian, is an example of branded entertainment, which is scripted, casted, and edited to communicate key messaging in an ultra-creative and compelling way.

To drive high consumer engagement, you can also consider custom-produced infor- mational videos designed to "edu-tain" consumers, an approach we used for our Armor All client with the release of a How to Dirty Your Wheels YouTube video.

The next step is to set viewership and engagement objectives and then bring the content directly to your target consumers online. Create a comprehensive distribution strategy that will make your videos available on your site, discoverable on video-sharing sites within long-term brand channels and within social media platforms, as well as a comprehensive syndication plan - a paid media strategy for guaranteed targeted reach.

The campaign can be measured based on the metrics of video impressions, views, engagement, and activity. These metrics, framed within the context of establishing reusable consumer-facing brand channels, will demonstrate the effectiveness of video in not only launching a product, but driving consumer engagement through the PR launch.

Paul Kontonis, SVP of branded entertainment, Matter, Edelman Sports and Entertainment Marketing

For a product launch effort, online video, as with any type of PR, is about telling a story. And because video offers so many subtle ways to affect the viewer, it can be an effective way to educate, inform, and inspire.

Video has become far less expensive to produce. At a baseline level, all you need is a $200 Flip camera and the software pre-loaded on your computer (such as Apple's iMovie or Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker) will streamline the technical process. Sure, production value still matters, but the lower quality of informal video can often be forgiven if the key story elements are there.

So how do you craft an effective story? For a simple product launch, for example, take a Flip cam and ask the product manager (or executive) to describe their vision and how their product is unique and adds value. Then, ask a customer or two how well the product works for them. If you can't reach a customer directly, you can even send them a camera and provide some basic guidelines for what they should talk about.

After filming, you need to maintain your audience's attention, so keep your story short and sweet - less than two minutes is a good general guide.

Think of your video as a pitch and the voices of your subjects as the quotes in a press release. For PR pros, making the leap to video isn't really that tough. We're already great at telling stories; now we're just transferring those core skills to a new and incredibly powerful medium.

Brett Marty, director of video development, LaunchSquad

Several tried and true techniques can be used to leverage video in support of a new product launch. At General Mills, our brand PR team creates b-roll packages and VNRs and posts content on video-sharing sites, but that's only the beginning. The emergence of new social channels and user-friendly tools, such as the Flip cam, have spawned a whole new world of opportunity, allowing media, influencers, and consumers to engage with brands in ways we never even imagined just a few short years ago.

We'll often seed new products with influential bloggers before they hit grocery shelves. We've asked bloggers to videotape and post their experiences with our brands to demonstrate how easy it is to prepare a Wanchai Ferry dinner kit or make a five-star Betty Crocker birthday cake for their child's party.

We've used Skype to facilitate media and blogger interviews with spokespeople for brands such as Yoplait and Fiber One.

We've placed consumer testimonials online through an innovative custom-video player that also offers coupons. We've even featured behind-the-scenes footage from movie partners and celebrity spokespeople.

Brands have facilitated product "taste-monial" videos through influencers such as Hungry Girl.

Sneak-peak videos are shared with our consumer-influencer network from places such as the Betty Crocker Kitchens and NASCAR tracks. Baseball all-star Albert Pujols even gave members a shout-out prior to the launch of new Wheaties Fuel.

Five world-class champions, led by Pujols, basketball great Kevin Garnett, and football star Peyton Manning, helped us create Wheaties Fuel. The Wheaties team created a six-part webisode series that provides a lighthearted behind-the-scenes look at how the product was actually developed, helping us drive home messaging around the athletes' authentic involvement.

Given the evolving channels and tools, the possibilities are endless for creating inventive new ways to leverage video.

Greg Zimprich, director of brand PR, General Mills

The Takeaway:

Flip cams can produce simple and inexpensive product demos in line with the overall launch strategy and messages

Asking bloggers to videotape and post their experiences with a new brand boosts the chances for broader awareness

Behind-the-scenes videos help tell an authentic, engaging story about a brand's beginnings

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in