When I first got into the field of animation, the last place I thought I would ever find myself is the world of content marketing. Really, it’s mostly because the term was never used this frequently in the history of advertising, let alone as late as 2011. That’s when I stumbled into it accidentally… Before I knew it was a thing, let alone what it was.
This is the story of two videos I created during my tenure at DNS Made Easy, and how changing our approach translated directly into more eyeballs on our content, and a big spike in our brand awareness overall.
When I joined DNS Made Easy’s team in 2009, I did so with the simple request to create animated videos in the vein of the “Erin Esurance” spots that were very popular at the time. Our series would have a cool, friendly protagonist representing our brand, that would do head to head salesmen battle with a no good caricature of the pushy annoying big corporate salesman, who was altered to fit whichever competing company we were lampooning. While all of our claims were based on industry truths and we used information that made us an attractive option in the spots, we got very little response. Granted we did manage to get some inflammatory critiques from the people within the companies we were poking fun at.
While getting under a fierce competitor’s skin can be rewarding in its own way, it’s hardly the result you want when you’re pouring resources into creating content that’s supposed to be creating conversions, getting shared, and getting you noticed.
Following our missteps with the Dean S. (clever, right? I still think so!), spots, I pitched changing our tact, and no longer putting the service itself forward, but creating something that created value for the person watching it. To that end, we created a series of videos that described key components of an IP Anycast DNS solution. While these proved to be far more popular than our series of Dean S. spots – pulling 3 times as much traffic, they still weren’t performing as well as we had hoped.
I thought about why and arrived at the following conclusions.
- These spots were still touting DNS Made Easy as the superior service, and dropping the company name every other sentence. The direct sales approach.
- The spots were too technical, and created little entertainment value for the viewer. Despite their accurate and helpful content, they just weren’t that shareable.
Taking this into account, we did some research and found that the most successful videos from brands did 3 things. They informed. They entertained. And they barely mentioned the brand. This was really the moment of truth for me, and I pitched it up the food chain. That’s when we agreed on the topic, the style, and the tone. What resulted was our most popular video to date, blowing our competitors’ videos out of the water.
Soon after its release, The Importance of DNS was picked up by Laughing Squid, which lead to its distribution through a ton of other big culture and tech blogs. Most notably, Geeks are Sexy, Technorati, Slash Dot, and others. The wide distribution and sharing over social media brought the video’s view count to well over 70,000 hits in a few short weeks, climbing to over 90,000 today.
This was also just before the scandal with SOPA erupted, which naturally led us to the final piece of our puzzle. Simply put, be current. With SOPA’s focus being on DNS filtering, we were put in a unique position to create a tremendous follow up video, which would go on to quadruple the amount of viewership of our previous effort, and is still one of the most viewed web videos on the subject.
At over 6 minutes long, DNS Explained already breaks the first cardinal rule of online video–keep it short–but the subject matter is complex enough that we didn’t have much of a choice. The script was the product of tons of back and forth between the CEO of the company and myself. I was ready to put out a much shorter, abbreviated video, but he insisted that we would be losing too much valuable information. It wasn’t until after I saw the first draft that I believed him, and realized that the 6-minute run time seemed WAY shorter due to the interesting content we had created.
Again, with very limited mention of our brand and a few well placed, but subtle jabs at Washington thrown in, we created something that was funny, interesting, and positioned us as an authority on the subject of DNS. Pickup was slower this time around, until Vice.com picked the video up from Laughing Squid and included it in an article they wrote on the subject. Currently, the video has over 370,000 views, more than any other video on the channel (save for one paid promotion), and more than most videos on the subject or from competitors.
The bottom line is this. Your customer does not want to be sold to. Anyone can tell somebody that their product or company is great, and hey–that person might even listen, but you can’t make them take that message and share it without offering something of value in return. Instead of just saying “I’m great and this is why you should listen to me,” you need to focus on creating value and proving that you know what you’re talking about.
A video like DNS Explained isn’t lightning in a bottle. It’s the bi product of careful planning, research, and simply giving people something they want to share while positioning the brand as an authority on the subject. It entertains, it enlightens, and it engages. It answers questions that we didn’t even know we wanted to ask. If you think hard enough about your product, your space, and your audience, you can create content that does the same thing. Having a creative cloud production service like Visually in your corner doesn’t hurt either. Visually teamed up with Learn Liberty and took the same approach. What they created was something which garnered even greater results.