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Chris Carter

What Boring Shampoo Commercials Taught Me About Video Marketing

Chris Carter
What Boring Shampoo Commercials Taught Me About Video Marketing

When was the last time you saw a female-geared shampoo commercial that didn’t feature a beautiful model twirling around in slow motion, showcasing her long, luminous locks? After seeing these ads, do you even remember which brand produced them? Or, do they all blend together into one big ball of shiny hair?

We’ve seen this time and time again throughout the history of broadcast and digital video marketing. Rather than creating unique, authentic stories to engage and entertain audiences, brands focus on the features of their products and highlight the benefits consumers will see from purchasing them. They claim their goods are the fastest, cheapest, and best — but they fail to captivate their audience with a story that illustrates these unique selling propositions. 

Without a story to tie everything together, brands end up making unsubstantiated claims that are easy to ignore. Stories are what pull back the curtain on a brand’s core essence and values — key factors that drive consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The Battle for Market Share

Too many companies wedge their marketing efforts into a box because of self-imposed branding guidelines and restrictions. This stifles their creativity and results in bland, generic ads that look like everyone else’s — which is obviously not the best way to gain market share and move the needle.

I’ve experienced this on both sides of the agency fence. When working for a predominant commercial real estate brand, my company knew that developing creative and innovative ideas wouldn’t get through the higher-up gates, let alone actually get produced.

So instead, we played it safe and stayed within the lines — this performed adequately, at best. Now that we’re working with brands, it’s our job to continuously push the envelope, experiment, and really go for it. But sometimes, feedback like “That just doesn’t seem like us” comes our way — well of course it doesn’t; it’s a new way to tell the same story. It’s time for a game changer.

Understandably, we’ve had clients who are afraid to push the envelope mainly because they’d prefer not to risk their jobs on a campaign that has the potential to bomb. And that’s the reality whenever you try to do something different. Infinite media, precise insights, and excellent creative can still sometimes fail. Still, there’s a zero percent chance of hitting a home run if you’re just sitting on the bench.

Sticking to the predictable creates an opening for other brands to swoop in, tell a unique story no one else is telling, and fundamentally change the way an industry communicates with consumers.

One of the most notable examples of this is what Dollar Shave Club did to the razor world. Instead of creating videos that showed celebrities shaving off their five o’clock shadows or strange demonstrations of razor flexibility, this startup revolutionized the market with a much different approach. Dollar Shave Club knew that Millennials love subscription-based economies, love humor, hate getting ripped off, and hate driving to the store every time they need a new razor. So, instead of telling the tired story of “Our razors will leave your face smoother than all the other razors in the world combined,” the brand told a humorous story of convenience and affordability that is successfully winning over the market — so much so that Unilever decided the startup was worth a billion-dollar price tag.

In this comical digital video, founder Mike Dubin takes aim at the razor industry and lists a bunch of things he thinks is wrong with it. He offers his company as the best solution for consumers, but he hardly says anything about the actual razors he’s selling (other than the now-famous line “Our blades are f*cking great.”)

The story he tells primarily focuses on what makes his company unique and why it exists in the first place. Dollar Shave Club had great timing with this video, and the whole campaign was executed flawlessly. The company paved the way for countless other digital and broadcast commercials to emerge that also use a combination of comedy and “the big guys are ripping you off” messaging to justify a selling proposition.

Make Your Lasting Impression

There are countless ways you can go about telling a unique story in marketing videos — the right approach really depends on your industry, your company’s history, and the general personality you’re striving to portray.

Here are a few strategies that will help steer you in the right direction:

1. Get back to basics. Before you start developing creative, go back to square one and identify why your company’s founders created the brand to begin with. What was the market need they were seeking to address? What’s your brand’s value proposition? Why should a customer choose your product instead of a different one?

Everything about your marketing videos should circle back to the answers to these questions. Don’t beat around the bush; you may only have one shot to win over a prospect, and this video — even if it’s just a 15-second clip — should make your purpose, vision, identity, and value all abundantly clear. 

2. Speak the speak. Consumers say that videos are the most believable form of marketing, but with that power comes great responsibility. Even the most beautiful, most creative video in the world won’t drive results unless it’s conveying a message that matters.

Go out of your way to get to know your audience. Gather key insights into their wants and needs, understand their motivations, and learn what makes them tick. Then, link your brand to these factors: Show your viewers you understand their lifestyles, desires, and future goals, and explain why and how your product will help get them there. 

Always keep the word authenticity at the forefront of your strategy. Anything that feels overly advertorial will have the exact opposite effect of what you set out to do.

3. Borrow and avoid. Take stock of the content being made both inside and outside of your industry. Study what different companies are doing, and use your findings to fuel your own creative efforts. Always develop key insights when studying how your target audience is interacting with content, and use those key insights to develop a story that works for your brand. 

When looking at the videos your direct competitors are making, use this as an opportunity to find your route to differentiation. If they’re using limited color palettes and avoiding humor, incorporate every color of the rainbow into your videos and tell some jokes. Go against the grain, and have your videos stand out from the pack. 

If brands want to create breakout campaigns, they need to break away from their old tactics.

Boring Shampoo

Mediocrity is a disease that’s been spreading throughout the marketing world since the invention of the internet — and the source of this epidemic can be traced to brand managers and CMOs who are afraid of deviating from what worked in the past and doing something different. 

Video marketing is a key venue for brands to highlight why they’re different, tell a story that resonates in an audience’s heart, and ultimately build long-term loyalty. Differentiation is what allows businesses to thrive; it’s why products are successful, and it should be the reason your marketing videos are successful, too.

So, be the shampoo company that steers the conversation toward something other than shiny hair. Connect with your audience on a deeper level, and be a breath of fresh air they can relate to. The results will follow.

Chris Carter is CMO of REP Interactive, focused on helping brands take a holistic approach to their video initiatives. An award-winning producer and a finalist for San Diego Business Journal's "Emerging Generation: 25 In Their 20’s," Chris has helped REP Interactive employ more than 500 creative professionals, complete more than 1,000 projects around the world, and work with more than 130 brands from Fortune 50 companies like Amazon and Coldwell Banker.

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great post
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