Branding and selling in video commerce: start by thinking in shades of grey

Nike is an excellent example of a brand-driven company that sells both online and offline.

Nike is an excellent example of a brand-driven company that sells both online and offline. Click the image above to browse a few brand-oriented Nike videos.

In my last post, I lamented online video has been viewed solely through the lens of branding, media, and awareness-oriented advertising for far too long.  Like many e-commerce professionals, I sometimes view the momentum behind video as a branding and awareness tool as something that comes at the expense of video’s potential as a direct response tool tied to revenue lift and customer acquisition.

The reality is far from this perception.

In too many cases, there’s simply no getting around the fact that video is a powerful branding tool – perhaps the most powerful branding tool.  As video commerce professionals, we need to consider the branding implications of online video and how to balance the tension between branding and selling without drawing battle lines as we plan and launch our video commerce programs.

Nowhere in the e-commerce world is the tension between branding and direct response more acute than at private label retailers,  ‘lifestyle merchants,’ or even mass merchants or specialty retailers that are strong brand stewards.  In these organizations, the power and influence of branding is often engrained deep within the organizational culture.  Especially in these environments, I would argue video commerce professionals are often better off partnering for success with branding professionals than pitching video commerce as a new initiative.  After all, video commerce is nothing more than promoting, selling, and servicing commercial products and services on the Internet through video.  Branding can certainly be promotional, though not always overtly so and not always with a direct response component.

Let’s say you happen to work at an organization where brand management is an important element to the overall marketing and business strategy.  What are some steps you can take to help ensure the successful rollout and growth of video commerce?

  • First, take the time to understand the requirements and aspirations of your brand marketer bretheren, then determine how video commerce techniques can help brand marketers reach their goals.  Read through your organization’s brand book (if the company has one) and familiarize yourself with style guides and other creative resources that are the bread and butter of brand marketing.  Take some of the folks on the creative team out to lunch (no, I’m not kidding)!
  • Next, be prepared to share the vision of video commerce as a cross-functional discipline that spans many functions within the organization.  Outline the possible applications of video for each organizational function (e.g. merchandising, affiliate marketing, brand management, social media, online advertising).  At this point, try to remember it is more important to clearly articulate the vision and possibilities than to agree on specific applications of video.  Brand marketers may object to the use of video in some channels or in certain instances.  Working together, develop a broad set of guidelines for acceptable use of video in established and emerging channels.
  • Third, focus on the benefit of video commerce to brand marketers.  Consider ways that your organization can leverage the power of video to strengthen the brand.  Take note that video (unlike other media) provides a unique opportunity for brand marketers to control the customer experience through immerson regardless of where the video asset is placed on the web.  If your organization has a library of brand-oriented videos, think about applications of those assets that leverage the power of direct response to drive consumers into brand experiences rather than simply toward a transaction.  Brand marketers spend a lot of time and talent creating exceptional customer experiences, and the ability to use video as a direct response tool can drive more consumers into those experiences.
  • Fourth, don’t short-change the power of metrics in brand marketing.  The metrics borne of video usage and distribution can provide brand marketers with valuable insight into the brand’s performance online.  For example, brand marketers may be interested in knowing where the video assets are syndicated across the web to determine the quality of destinations that actively promote video content.  Brand marketers may also want to know which syndicated videos drive the most traffic, views, or engagement in order to determine if video is meeting awareness goals.  Last, brand marketers are likely interested in the ‘influence’ of video.  By observing video activity on consumer blogs, social network pages, or even sharing activity on product pages or brand microsites, brand marketers can develop a better sense for the influence of not only a specific video, but also of those who share videos.
  • Next, remember that video is not an “either/or” game.  A single video can be used in different settings to create and drive consumers toward brand experiences and toward online transactions.
  • Finally, be prepared to hand over some control.  This might be the scariest step of all for direct marketers to consider since direct marketers are usually accountable for metrics such as revenue lift and customer acquisition.  However, if the direct response side of the house and the branding side of the house are able to agree up-front on guidelines surrounding online video usage that both respect the brand while paying homage to the emerging power of direct response video, there should be few surprises or disappointments either on the branding or e-commerce side of the house.

When it comes to online video, we need to remember that e-commerce professionals are often new players in a game that’s been played on brand marketing’s turf for years.  We’d do ourselves a favor to at least learn the rules of the road so we can play together instead of starting a whole new tournament.  That approach could ultimately harm the organization; when that happens, everyone’s a loser.

This will the last post until after the Christmas Holiday.  I wish all of you Happy Holidays and, as always, Happy Selling!