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July 10, 2007

willitblend.com: Speaking through YouTube

by Josh Bernoff

We recently got the chance to interview George Wright, Director of Marketing for Blendtec, the company responsible for the video you see here. The reason I'm telling you about it is that Blendtec is that unusual phenomenon: a company that has managed to make YouTube into an effective marketing tool.

Blendtec makes commercial blenders that you might see in a Chili's or other chain restaurant. The Blendtec blenders use a computer-controlled direct hookup between the motor and the blade. Although the product costs $400, the company wanted to find out: was there a consumer market for such a powerful but high-end blender?

While pondering how teeny little Blendtec could get the word out, Wright popped by the development lab, where there was sawdust on the floor. Mystified, he asked and was told that the developers were grinding up 2x2 lumber as a test. The demonstration was dramatic -- so dramatic that he decided to use his in-house video resources (mostly used for training before this) and put it up on YouTube. I'd tell you the rest of the story, but while we were preparing this post the rascal managed to get himself in the Wall St. Journal.

To see the results, see the blendtec channel on YouTube, or just go to www.willitblend.com. Once the first video, of a Coca-Cola and a chicken, caught on through getting featured on digg, it was clear that YouTube marketing was working for Blendtec. They went through marbles, cubic zirconia, and tiki torches, but the most popular so far has been the iPod obliteration with almost 4 million views.

Forget the views. The question is not "Will It Blend?" but "Does It Sell?" And the answer is: Yes. According to Wright, consumer sales have increased five-fold since the videos went up on YouTube and Revver.

Despite your prurient interest in seeing home electronics and random food items turned into a puree, I know you read this blog to learn about the uses of social technologies in business. So you may be wondering, can I try this at home? No, I don't mean blending, I mean marketing with YouTube. Of course you can. But first here are a few reasons why BlendTec succeeded -- reasons you ought to pay attention to before trying it yourself:

  1. It's funny. It's visually arresting. It's short. These are three qualities your videos must possess. Here's another company that also succeeded with a visually arresting video: Ray-Ban.
  2. It's authentic. These guys are geeks. Wright told me the CEO -- Tom Dickson, who's featured in the video -- is an engineer. It comes across. This stuff ain't slick, folks, and if it were it wouldn't work. (I love the proud and cheesy smile while he watches his company's blender reduce some object to dust.)
  3. It's original. Figure out what your unique value is. Then film it and put it up there. Don't copy Blendtec, or Ray-Ban, or Dove. This may be the hardest part.
  4. It actually connects to the value of the product. You see these videos and you can't help saying "Can that blender really do that? Maybe I should get one." And many people do. You could be a hit on YouTube with a video that doesn't connect to the value of your product, but that will help your ego a lot more than your sales.

Blendtec is now generating revenue from views on Revver. It's making custom videos for corporations (they did one for Novell). But this stuff doesn't matter, any more than the news that the Geico cavemen may get their own TV series. These are all consequences of a successful campaign. The campaign is the key, not the consequences.

All the articles about Blendtec focus on the $50 that it cost to do that first video. But the hard part -- the priceless part -- is thinking it up. That takes brains. And one heckuva blender.

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Andrew Pass

I haven't seen your blog before, but I'm trying to do something similar with education - writing about the influence that technology gadgets can have on education. My blog also includes questions to promote discussion. I"m going to come back here often. Next time I might just bring a blended drink with me.

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