Will It Blend: How an Internet Meme was created

For those not in the know, an internet meme is a saying, image or idea that spreads like wildfire across the internet until it is embedded in the global online consciousness. Memes are self perpetuating, in that a loyal following forms around them and mrore content is created without the creator of the meme asking (or expecting it).

While most memes are created organically, sometimes a company can create one, and while the chance of this happening are mostly slim, if it is pulled off the exposure can be worth millions of dollars of free publicity.

There has been one internet meme started by a company that stands head and shoulders above everyone else and it was created by Tom Dickson, the owner of a company called Blendtec.

Tom had a good quality blender that he wanted to market to people however he wanted to market it in a different way. The competitive advantage of Tom’s blenders was their durability and Tom wanted to showcase that to people. The idea that Tom came across launched one of the biggest company organized internet memes of all time. Tom had the idea to create a web series called ‘Will It Blend’ where he would blend a random item in his blender to see if that item could blend or not. Because Tom’s blenders were high quality they could blend things you would never expect could be blended… such as an iPhone!

Where Tom was so successful was not just the fact that he made a video that got a lot of views, but that he was able to replicate this success over and over again with videos blending all kinds of random items. Even now browsing YouTube on a totally unrelated video you will hear people commenting “This is great, but will it Blend?”.

Please enjoy some of his other videos below:


Glow Sticks

Wii Remote


The Black Swan of Viral Video

Over the weekend I had a chance to read an interesting and thought provoking book called the Black Swan. Written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it talks about the highly improbable, and how humans have the tendency to believe that something is impossible or doesn’t exist, until the moment that it happens.

While a lot of the science in the book skimmed over my head the basic premise started with this: before Australia was discovered everyone assumed that there were only white swans. One day, one of the first (I assume) outback bush rangers stumbled upon a black swan, the first time ever in history. Suddenly what seemed so certain, that all swans were white was tipped on its head, however no one would have thought to assume there were black swans, and because no one had seen one or heard of one everyone assumed that was the case.

Let me give you another example to lead into the topic of viral video. A chicken is hatched and is fed every day by his ‘master’ and by all accounts the chicken feels like it has a good life. It can relax and have all its food provided for it. From the chicken’s view point this is the life it’s used to and there is no reason for it to expect anything different, that is of course until the day the master comes in and decapitates the chicken for the local grocery store. From the chicken’s view point, this was a Black Swan, in the chicken’s life time nothing would have made it question why it was getting all the food it wanted for nothing until one day its neck was put on the chopping block. By the same token, the sub prime mortgage crisis in America led to many venerable financial institutions losing all the money they had made in the last 20 years in one year. Up until then their practices had seemed like a conservative financial institution that was protected from the wild swings of the market, that is until the Black Swan came and did something that no one could have ever predicted.

History fools us into believing the world is not random and there are causes for large effects which can be predicted before time. Of course with the power of hindsight this may almost seem true, however while we may delude ourselves into thinking many major world events could have been predicted, if you were to look back to the written accounts of the era you would find many did not predict anything of the sort.

Many viral videos are black swans. They are shot up unexpectedly through a number of causes (including the video itself being original, word of mouth online, good timing) however it is almost impossible to determine which video will go viral and which video will not.

For example, there has been a video that has been released recently of an iPad 2 review, it’s not an actual iPad 2 review, but it’s very funny and has all ready received over a million hits. It has a lot of the elements of a viral video including a high quality production, humor, and the right timing (everyone is waiting to get a glimpse at the iPad 2 so it’s a hot topic right now).

Viral video is a risky endeveaour however if you can pull off the Black Swan it can be very worthwhile. The idea of working to create a viral video means that you may have to try several, ten, or a hundred times before a video catches the eye of the YouTube community.

However there is a different strategy when it comes to getting viewership on your videos, and this strategy involves moving away from high risk, high return to medium risk, medium return. The idea behind this strategy is to create videos for your particular market segment and target them. If that means your videos only receive 400, or 2,000 hits that may be all you need to make the activity worthwhile for the marketing cost and effort expanded. After all if each client is worth $10,000 dollars and only 1% of clients convert from your video that is a return of $40,000 (assuming you get 400 visits).

It’s very tempting to look at videos on YouTube that have gotten 100,000 hits and compare your productions to these videos, however remember that in a lot of cases, while in hindsight it may look like the producers of these videos had a strategy that they executed, look can play a major part and this is something you will have to accept when producing video content that you plan to make viral.

If you take this conservative road it’s not guaranteed, however you can be much more successful then the person that will spend a whole year trying to get a video viewed by millions of people.

Subliminal advertising: myth or reality?

In 1957 a market researcher by the name of James Vicary conducted an experiment where he flashed the words ‘Drink Coke’ and ‘Eat Popcorn’ for 1 frame in a movie thetre. He reported that after doing this, the sales of Coke and Popcorn had gone up significantly. And so with that the concept of subliminal advertising was born. This was a new art that could manipulate people into doing things for reasons they aren’t aware of, advertisers will soon be able to control our every thought! Countries took action. The UK and Australia banned subliminal advertising, consumers had to be protected from this wicked, mystical craft. There was only one problem though, the study was a gimmick, a myth, to which even Mr. Vicary admitted to in Advertising Age. However by then it was too late, the momentum had taken hold and soon hundreds of research papers had been published on the topic and books written. Of course, the fact that James Vicary’s experiments could not be replicated by any independent studies did not matter. People were convinced.

Let me begin by saying that what most people believe about subliminal advertising is at best an exaggeration and at worst a complete fabrication. There is some sort of pull in the concept that people can be controlled by forces they don’t understand, people are uneasy and fearful of such things that they can’t explain.

Unconscious Threshold and Learning
There is some small nuggets of truth to subliminal advertising. It has to do with a term called ‘unconscious learning’. As an example listen to the sounds around you right now, were you aware of these sounds before you read the sentence. Just because you were not aware of them consciously does not mean your subconscious mind was not registering them. It is true that people notice more ads for food when they’re hungry then when they’re not. In other words there is a threshold at which you notice something and another threshold at which you don’t. While an ad may theoretically go slightly below this threshold and register in your mind subconsciously, the idea that it could direct your behavior without your knowledge is an overblown assumption. Even if it could, everyone’s conscious threshold is different, to create something that universally flies under everyone’s radar is next to impossible. At the end of the day advertisers have far more effective means to influence the public than subliminal advertising.

Subliminal Self Help Tapes… useful or quack science?
Take subliminal self help tapes that ‘program’ you to lose weight or increase your self esteem or wealth by delivering subliminal messages to you while you sleep. In an experiment people found that listening to these tapes did in fact help them with their self esteem and wealth… however the same percentage of people reported the same positive benefits in the group which listened to a tape with no ‘subliminal messages’.

Subliminal hypnosis tape. All you have to do is lie in bed and you’ll be programmed for wealth… the science is not very convincing unfortunately.

If It Doesn’t Work, Why Do Companies Keep Doing It?
However even though subliminal advertising has been proven ineffective, the question would remain why there are companies, even big brands that still engage in it? Well the reason has more to do with graphic design pranksters then anything of any real substance. For example on The Iron Chef in 2007 a single frame of the golden arches flashed across the screen, or in the campaign ad from George Bush attacking Al Gore the words ‘Rats’ flashed. Well the reason for this has more to do with digital graphic design pranksters then anything else. The temptation for a graphic designer or artist to slip something into a program or mass marketed advertisement without anyone knowing can be very seductive. In fact a cartoonist for the London Daily Mirror which was owned by Robert Maxwell wrote the words ‘Fuck Maxwell’ in tiny letters amongst the squiggles.

The word sex is written somewhere in the ice cubes on this ad for Absolut Vodka. If you can’t see it don’t worry, that makes two of us.

Hopefully this has convinced you about the powers (or lack thereof) of subliminal advertising. Thank you for reading. Oh and our good friend James Vicary who pioneered the original study with the ‘Drink Coke’ and ‘Eat Popcorn’ single frames on a movie screen? In 1984 he sat down with Advertising Age to discuss the evidence that was building up against his case and admitted his study had been a gimmick all along.

Examples of Subliminal Advertising:

George Bush ‘Rats’

McDonald’s single frame..

Paid product placement… shaken, not stirred

In 1934 a film called It Happened One Night featured actor Clark Gable appearing without an undershirt, following the release of the film undershirts fell by 40 percent. While product placement in movies and shows can be traced back many years, some paid for and some unpaid it has only recently come on to the radar of advertising agencies. While anecdotal stories such as Reece’s Pieces confectionary sales increasing by 65 percent after appearing in E.T. were commonplace, marketers doubted the usefulness of placing products into a fictional setting without clarifying an explicit message.

The proliferation of product placement in popular movies lately has not been the result of a new initiative taken on by marketers but a necessary change that companies have had to make with regards to their product due to various technological changes.  For example, with Foxtel IQ you can now rewind and fast forward live television which means ads no longer have the same impact they had before the introduction of such technologies.

However considering the success of brands such as Ray-Ban after the release of Men in Black and Pinot Noir wine in the wine afficando film Sideways it’s a surprise it took this long for marketers and brands to catch on.

While product placement in films and television shows is limited in the number of ways you can communicate your product and brand it nevertheless has implicit advantages that cannot be ignored.

Absorbing Context Association

Ray-Ban sunglasses claimed a 55 percent rise in sales following Risky Business.

While product placement may not be able to convey an explicit message regarding the benefits of a particular product or service it can convey an implicit association. For example, if Johnny Depp is seen wearing a particular brand of jeans, while the ad is not explicitly conveying that these jeans are superior the simple act of wearing them gives them the same characteristics as the actor. It’s said brands are judged by the company they keep.

Reinforcement of Familiarity
We feel more comfortable with things that we are familiar with and seeing a brand in films can prevent alienating us when it is then shown on billboards and regular television advertisements.

Men in Black did the same for Ray Ban some years later, tripling sales of Ray Ban.

Make it subtle
Scoring a close up of your product in a film may sound like a major win however be warned that product placement can have a negative effect when viewers are aware that your product is paid for. It is much better to have a product subtly be included in a program so it is registered but not too highly prominent.

Examples of product placement that is not so subtle…

Days of Our Lives seems to be the worst when it comes to blatantly pushing their ads, however in this case I believe Cheerios got away with it only because of just how blatant it is, not to mention the YouTube clip alone has 600,000 views.

I’ll leave you with one of the most successful product placement spots, suprisingly done in an old but well known film, its effectiveness was probably due to its novelty

ET Product Placement

YouTube vs. Private video hosting? That’s simple…

If you’ve made the decision to implement video on your website a question you will undoubtedly have to ask yourself is how you will deliver the video to your prospective clients or web visitors. After all, a video has to be stored somewhere right? The truth is there are hundreds of different options when it comes to video hosting (storage) but the main ones are public and private hosting.

Public Hosting

Public hosting involves placing your video on a video sharing website. There are many out there but really the biggest one by far is YouTube.  This is the way to go in my opinion. The reasons are below:

More Chance of your video going viral
If your video is hosted privately on your own server then the only way for potential clients to view it is on your website. This may not be such a bad thing if your website has a large amount of traffic, however most company websites do not have the required traffic in order to have their videos reach a significant amount of their target customers.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google and in Australia alone there are 6.6 million web users who use YouTube to watch a variety of different videos. Why would you stop yourself from reaching this potential market?

Google PageRank
PageRank is a number between 1 and 10 that Google assigns to your website and which is used in its searching algorithm to decide where to place your web page in search results. The higher your page rank the more likely your website will show up for search terms which would mean more targeted traffic and customers for your business. Because YouTube is owned by Google there are advantages to integrating YouTube video on your website. Hosting your videos on YouTube can not only help to have your video seen by more people, but because of its close ties with Google will allow you to raise your PageRank and thus increase traffic to your website at the same time.

Private Hosting

I am against private hosting of video unless the reason is due to privacy or subscription based content or any other type of content that you don’t wish for the world to see. If that is the case then private hosting can be a suitable option.

Faster Delivery Time
Another benefit of private video hosting is that if you are hosting your videos on a fast server then video delivery time (that is, how quickly a video loads in your visitor’s web browser) can improve substantially. This is probably the biggest reason in favor of using private hosting, the guarantee that your video will load fast. After all, there’s no point in having video on your website if the end user has to wait 30 seconds for it too load, in most cases if that’s the case your video will not get seen.

Copyright and Content Control
One other advantage of private hosting is that you are able to have more control of your content and where it’s distributed as well as less chance of someone stealing your video and using it for their purposes. In many cases this is not really a major problem if your goal is to get a message out there.

It is my belief that if you are making content that you want viewed by your potential clients then hosting on YouTube is a great advantage. While YouTube is not perfect its user base makes it difficult to be ignored in the world of online media.

Education – the best way to attract clients

When people go online to view videos (which in most cases will involve going to YouTube) they have different goals for the content they want to watch. A popular topic of lookup, and the one most widely employed to attract potential customers by businesses, is the educational video.

There are two types of educational videos that you can produce; product instruction and project videos.

Product Instruction Video
A product instruction video is a how-to video that shows customers how to install, configure and use your products. If you have a product that is difficult to use or has a steep learning curve this may be a good approach.

One example of a production instruction video that’s used to good effect is the Fluval video that shows how to install the newest canister filter in your aquarium. As the canister filter has to be connected in the right order there is a bit of a steep learning curve.

You can check out how the video is created by clicking the Play link below:

Some other ideas for a product instruction video are below:

  • pharmaceutical company – how video to use the latest inhaler
  • computer sales – how to video to set up a home network
  • software application – a video guide to set up and use a software product
  • pool supplies – video on how to install a pool filter

Project Video
A project video is more generic then a product instruction video and shows viewers how to complete a project using your product. You don’t show users how to use your product, except in the course of completing the project.

The key with this video is to create truly useful content that a large segment of your market is searching for. The benefits to creating a project video is that it is less of a hard sell and more infomercial like, which is what works best when it comes to promoting your products/services through video. However in saying that don’t be shy in showing your product in action, perhaps including a close up shot with product name and price.

Let me give you some examples of companies you may be familiar with:

Bunnings Warehouse (http://www.bunnings.com.au/learn-how-to-DIY_diy-videos.aspx) has a section on their website dedicated to how to videos in various areas of renovations including flooring, bathroom and kitchen, gardens etc.

Coles has a YouTube channel located at (http://www.youtube.com/user/ColesSupermarkets) where viewers can learn the basics of cooking with celebrity chef Curtis Stone.

Other examples of Project videos can include:

  • mechanic – how to video check oil and other common maintenance tasks that expose need for check up
  • dentist – how to video for kids on how to brush and floss teeth
  • accountant – video showing small businesses how to setup and manage their books

Coles has produced 144 videos for their YouTube channel showing the basics of cooking

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how you can package your products into useful videos that will generate views. If you wish to discuss your needs with a Head Studios representative please call 1300 TEN 700 and for further reading I reccomend the book YouTube for Business.

Thank you for reading have a great day!