Viral Marketing Campaign Success – Behind the Scenes at Will it Blend

Engaging content is genuine and believable. It appeals to our human sense of curiosity and can even inspire awe in us. The very best content has an un-self-conscious immediacy that makes it accessible to the audience it engages. Content that excels in this way has a tendency to get noticed, passed around, and, yes, attract links too.

The content development process centers on the ability to keep inspired.  When it comes to inspirational stories about content, I can think of nothing better than my friend George Wright’s story from his days at Blendtec. He’s the one who had the genius idea to post videos online from the blender testing lab. Sounds kind of oddball, but these short clips have become an Internet sensation and were recently ranked by Advertising Age as the No. 1 viral ad in the history of the Internet.  George gave me the skinny on how he found inspiration. I’d like to share that with you:

The Will it Blend? story began the day I started up a new marketing department at Blendtec. I walked into a company that had great products but was largely an unknown brand competing in a highly competitive marketplace. Right off the bat, our primary goal had to be building brand awareness. With a microscopic budget, it was obvious that using typical brand-building techniques was not going to be an option.

We began with a brand review and found that everything associated with the Blendtec brand was standardized, from the website, to the literature, and all the way down to the business cards. I highly recommend a consistency review. Think about it, before you invite guests to come to your house, you make sure your living room is presentable, right? With consistency in place, we were now ready for some awareness.

Will it Blend? started as a strategy document. I spent several days brainstorming and aligning objectives and strategies for the company and the marketing department. It was obvious that we needed to show how this blender was different and that it has unmatched power and performance.

While I was developing this strategy, I happened to visit the product testing lab and noticed sawdust on the floor. When I asked what was going on, I was told that this was a normal destructive test, used to stress the components to ensure that the blenders could withstand excessive stress and force.

In other words, they had just stuck a broom in a blender.

The light bulb came on, and the remainder of the strategy quickly came together. I asked the owner, Tom Dickson, to come in and perform some extreme blending experiments with the camera running. We gave him a white lab coat and some safety glasses and asked him to explain what he was doing and why it was so remarkable. Our plan was to blend anything and everything. Although nobody at the company really understood the proposal, they were willing to go with it — largely because it only cost about $50 to put together.

As soon as I saw the first cut of the video, I knew that we had a solid success on our hands. We created a micro-site and posted the first five videos. Within just one week, we had more than a million views on YouTube. As the videos gained popularity, we experienced a 700 percent increase in online sales. We experienced massive growth in all areas of the business, including our commercial lines, but the largest growth came from our web orders.

Building the brand simplified the sales process. Instead of our salesmen trying to introduce a little-known Blendtec brand, their customers were asking them, “Is this the blender that I saw on YouTube blending up marbles?

Some of the videos that we produced were instant hits. We got our hands on a new iPod when everybody was standing in line to get one, and we dropped ours in a blender. Our views for that video came in so fast we could hardly keep up. Normally, when we went live with a new video, we would first post it to, then to YouTube. I recall that for some reason the iPod video took YouTube several hours to upload and go live. By the time YouTube finally had the video up, six or seven of our fans that had already copied the video from our website and had it uploaded and live on their YouTube channel before the official Blendtec video and were getting tons of views. Before Will it Blend?, we had to do all of our promotion ourselves. Now our fans became our greatest marketers and they loved their new role!

The secret to the success of Will it Blend? is simple: Create compelling content that fills a business objective. If your content is truly compelling, people will not only watch it, they’ll pass your marketing message along to their friends.

You Don’t Have to Have a Huge Budget

You don’t have to be a large company with a huge budget to be successful using the new tools of marketing. It’s been five years since the first videos went live — and the campaign continues to deliver results. Sales continue to break records every year.

This viral marketing campaign literally transformed an old company brand into a new, exciting entity. Brand awareness remains at an all-time high and the Will it Blend? campaign is now considered a classic.

I Need My Content to Go Viral

I know a lot of people hear George’s story and think, “Wow, I need my content to go viral like that!” Sure you do, but if that’s all you hear in this testimony, you might be missing the point. For the record, content doesn’t just go viral; viral is something that no one can predict. Even George could never have known on the day he first filmed a broom handle getting turned to sawdust that it would be a total sensation. The real moral of the story is that he created great content that could possibly go viral. It was interesting and original enough to take off. George capitalized on the excitement happening at Blendtec and took the opportunity to turn it in to quality video content. And, most importantly, he demonstrated just how tough their blenders really are to the entire world.

Let’s be honest, content is the fun part of this business! It’s where you get to showcase your expertise. It’s your big opportunity to invite the world to get to know your company and to exhibit how your team’s taking on the toughest problems in your industry and providing the solutions people are looking for.

A big part of any content marketing strategy is trying new ideas. When you’re willing to make a leap into uncharted territory, you can be surprised by the results. It’s not about trial and error; it’s about trial and testing. When you try a new idea, measure its success. You can’t be afraid to try new things in a content marketing strategy, heck that’s true for any marketing strategy. By measuring your success, you’ll reduce the risk of future wasted efforts.

The Odds of Hitting a Grand Slam

You also don’t need to worry about having one big, fat, fantastic idea that gets a million hits on day one. Instead, to go with a baseball analogy, your job is to get a single. Then get another single, and another. Your fourth single is a run scored. You’re more likely to strike out when you try for the big, out-of-the-park grand slam. Since baseball is a statistician’s sport, let’s look at some stats. In the 2011 MLB season:

  • There were 165,705 total at bats.
  • There were 98 grand slams.
  • There were 4,552 home runs.
  • And based on the overall batting average (.255), there were 42,267 hits.

From this data, we can say that about one in four at bats will result in a hit (which implies 3 out of 4 attempts went for naught), while about one in 36 at bats will result in a home run. Only one in 1,691 at bats results in a grand slam! This means that statistically it’s better to work your way around the bases one single at a time. I’m not asking you to lower the standard on your content. If you’re going to work your way around the bases, so to speak, the key is to actually get the single and then keep getting them. This means you consistently produce and distribute compelling, engaging content that’s targeted to your audience. If you get a grand slam, sweet! I just don’t recommend you base your business plan on it.

Tell us about your successful hits in the comments below!

Note: the above is excerpted from my book Accelerate! Grow Your Business Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing. It is a 250 page, step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to kick their content marketing strategy into high gear. Buy your copy today!