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Over the past several months, I’ve been talking to my dealer clients a lot about online video marketing strategies. Many have been asking about using “viral” videos to create “awareness” and “buzz” on YouTube and other sites. While there are many legitimate strategies and goals for using online video, I feel as though many are getting misled concerning what those goals and strategies should be. In my humble opinion, viral videos will not work for car dealerships. And here is a brief explanation why I believe that.

The research
“Twenty-four percent of marketers have run a viral marketing campaign, but many struggle to get the expected buzz.” –Jupiter Research report, Sept 08
Another study, found that 85 percent of viral campaigns failed to achieve the goal of having consumers pass along the brand message. Not good ROI. What about the other 15 percent? How many of those actually resulted in increased sales? While I have read some case studies on successful campaigns I think they are few and far between.

The “new car smell” is gone.
Online Video is not new anymore. When TV was new people loved to watch whatever show was on. And every commercial was captivating. The internet was the same way. Remember signing into AOL through your 14.4K dialup connection and hearing “You’ve Got Mail!” and actually being eager to read them all. That excitement didn’t last long though. Why? Because of Advertisements. Many of them “viral”, sent to you by friends but they got annoying real fast. Some online video successes (such as lonelygirl15) just happened to be there before the “new” wore off.

The missing message.
My wife was so amused by an ad she saw online the other day that she immediately called me on my cell to tell me about it. After laughing about it with her I asked what the ad was for. She hadn’t the slightest clue!
This is the most important reason to be wary of “viral” videos. The idea that is often being sold is that if you create an entertaining ad (usually a joke or gimmick) that people like it enough they will pass it on to their friends and so on. The problem is jokes and gimmicks do nothing to help a build a brand or increase sales. Awareness of an ad is not the same as awareness of a product or service. Sure 4 million people have watched guys jumping into their pants on youtube, but nobody has bought anything because of it. Nobody even knows the name of the company that the ad is for because there is no message.

So how do we use online video? I'd like to get some suggestions from all of you, but for starters I suggest we follow these guidelines:

Make the message informative and truly significant to the consumer.

Offer something of value along with the message that they can’t get elsewhere - do something to make your USP(unique selling proposition) truly unique (you won’t get any buzz if you don’t make yourself buzz-worthy)

Target your videos to an audience that has a real interest in what you are offering.(i.e. your website visitors)

Whenever possible reinforce ideas and brands that are already embedded into the mind of the consumer – it is almost impossible to create completely new ideas in the consumer’s mind.(for more on this concept see Positioning by Jack Trout - also The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing)

Any more ideas to add? Let me know what you think.

Views: 178

Replies to This ADM Discussion


What you have illustrated is that the very fact that when a company is seeking "viral" distribution, that is why the attempt is doomed to failure... Viral Video success is VERY REAL and very well documented, but it is usually not completely contrived or manipulated.

Just ask Universal City Nissan near Los Angeles... They executed an experiment by hiring students from the UCLA Film Academy. Of the 42 videos produced, only one "went viral", but that one video generated over 100,000 views and people walking into the dealership's showroom every day.

To think you can just fabricate such a viral video success is ludicrous... In Universal City Nissan's case, they launched 42 videos and only one took off... And it was not the one they expected.

If you want to see a viral video that worked for a dealership, here it is:

I find it interesting that AuctionDirectUSA posted the following comment on the YouTube page for this video:
"This is a weak attempt at a viral video for UC auto sales...chk the license plate."

Considering over 100K viewers and the floor traffic coming in daily from this video, I do not agree with the "weak" assessment... This is a viral video that actually worked for the dealer!
Nice, but I'm still skeptical that they've increased sales from it. Honestly, most of the peeps who watched that were teenagers looking for porn.
What are the measurements used to determine what percentage qualified floor traffic is generated from this video?

Nonetheless, I'm sure any dealer would be very pleased to have a video with 120K views.
Measurements? When the desk managers at Universal City Nissan tell stories about spoiled rich 20-somethings coming into the showroom... laughing and joking with the salesperson about the videos they saw on YouTube... Well, as Mike Sayre (DP) stands there with his arms crossed, he looks at me and says "now, that what i call viral video results...".

Hey, I prefer seeing stuff showing up in Omniture SiteCatalyst, flowing through to a CRM tool and tracked all the way to a sale, but quite honestly, I have not seen too many dealers who look at all my metrics and measurements and take them more seriously than when they eavesdrop on conversations happening on the showroom floor, and the desk manager says something like "yeah, that the 3rd rich punk surfer asshole this week that has come in here talking about the videos..."

I know, I know... Not very scientific, but until you understand some of the psychology behind the way dealers evaluate marketing and advertising effectiveness, you just won't get it... will you?

I still maintain that getting videos to go viral is a lot harder than it may seem, but can be done with enough experimentation.

One man's porn is another business person's local culture... Remember, this is UNIVERSAL CITY NISSAN, and the owner is into this stuff, as are his clients!
One thing I think we all need to consider... The use of Viral Video distribution has been documented and chronicled many times over... Case studies appear in Advertising Age and many other marketing publications. If as a supplier, or a dealership practitioner you have tried to generate a viral marketing campaign based on video and you have been unsuccessful... That does not mean it doesn't exist. For example, every time I try to slam dunk a basketball, i always miss the rim, not getting enough height. So, I may be prone to saying that slam dunking a basketball simply does not work... I can give you lots of reasons why. However, every time you turn on the TV and watch an NBA game, you will see slam dunks every few minutes... My point? Just because YOU have not been able to create a successful viral marketing campaign with all your geek genius and technical wizadry, don't be so ignorant as to declare something as being impossible when there are hundreds of examples out there in plain sight.

As for whether something generates car sales? NOTHING (to date) sells cars more effectively than a car salesman... Marketing and related advertising generates awareness, site visitors, floor traffic... NOT SALES!!! It is up to assigned dealership resources to recognize opportunities to do business and then engage with consumers in a manner that results in a sale.

BTW, here's another obnoxious Universal City Nissan video that has gone just a little viral, but has helped generate plenty of sales opportunities:

One thing you might notice, if you let your HUMANITY guide your perception, is the use of music that UCN has discovered is a key ingredient to THEIR dealership's video viral marketing success. The last few minutes of the video clip above are interesting because it shows the UCN video team making their next segment...
I am NOT saying that viral video distribution is not real. I AM saying the viral videos are not very effective.
I am NOT saying that we should scrap online video marketing. I AM saying we should try to use it in the most effective way possible.

The reason I'm initially skeptical is because the numbers tell me that likely only 4-5 percent of that 120K that watched the video were in the LA area to begin with. Then the majority of those were probably underage. So of the maybe 2K that watched and are actually ABLE to buy a new Nissan, most of those probably didn't even figure out that is had anything to do with UCN.

My point is I think that all the effort that was put into making those 42 videos could have been used to make 42 BETTER videos that would have been more effective.
I need to correct a big mistake in my earlier posts... The DP at Universal City Nissan that I have met with and who has explained a lot to me about how they get viral video to work is Mike SAGE, not Mike Sayre... So embarrassing! Mike, if you see these posts, please accept my apologies!
Here's a great video from UCN showing the first GT-R delivery in the USA:
Now THIS is what I'm talking about. A video that is actually RELEVANT to your target market! I love it.
I personally think there still could have been a clearer message, but a great vid nonetheless.

btw I would NOT consider this a "viral" video. Do you see what I am trying to get at?
Who decides what is relevent to your target market? My guess is the target market. It is too easy to second guess. Listen to any sports station on Monday, all the callers know what worked and didn't. The people who stand out ignore the naysayers and don't pretend to know what is best for their customers they let the customers tell them. You can't buy success all of the time it takes creativity and enthusiasm. The baby boomers selling to the internet generation is a tough racket. These points are just my humble opinion.
You are exactly right when you say the target market decides what is relevant. Let me clarify what i was getting at.
It needs to be relevant to both the target market AND the message you want to send to your target market. If you get 100K viewers on a "viral" video but were not able to communicate a message to them then you wasted your time. Let's not assume that simply getting views means we are doing a good job at marketing. The following video has had over 185K views. Should we be praising the great marketing work of these kids? I think not.
LOL, no problem Ralph.
Hopefully nobody thought VideoCarLot started automating videos like that:)
If we did tho, I'll bet the text-2-speech computer generated voice would get a few chuckles!
The irony is not one of us actually knows if something works or not until we try it. What works in Jasper, Al. I promise you may not work in Miami or LA. Why would we not try it all until we know it works? We are lazy, that is exactly why.
Path of least resistence.


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