If you were anywhere near the internet recently you could not have missed the ‘This is a Generic Brand Video’.
It has been written about in leading trade publications and got truck loads of social shares. When silly cat videos and poorly sung songs go viral we initially wonder why and then it dawns on us: there is an inherent entertainment value in such videos without an overt commercial angle. And therein lies a masterclass for brands – especially corporate brands, start-ups, on content marketing through videos. I am not referring to the straightforward TV commercials which go viral on YouTube – they do so because they are very well made ads. The key learnings for me on the success of This is a ‘Generic Brand Video’ were these:
Spotting an opportunity: talk about keeping your antenna up. The idea for the video came when the folks at Dissolve saw this article on McSweeneys.
We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.
Is doing lots of stuff
That may or may not have anything to do with us.
See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker?
That means we do research.
Here’s a picture of DNA.
There are a shitload of people in the world
Especially in India
See how we’re part of the global economy?
Look at these farmers in China.
But we also do business in the U.S.A.
Or want you to think we do.
Check out this wind energy thing in Indiana,
And this blue collar guy with dirt on his face.
Also, we care about the environment, loosely.
Here’s some powerful, rushing water
And people planting trees.
Our policies could be related to these panoramic views of Costa Rica.
In today’s high speed environment,
Stop motion footage of a city at night
With cars turning quickly
Makes you think about doing things efficiently
And time passing.
Lest you think we’re a faceless entity,
Look at all these attractive people.
Here’s some of them talking and laughing
And close-ups of hands passing canned goods to each other
In a setting that evokes community service.
Are all words we chose from a list.
Like this guy who’s looking up and pointing
At a skyscraper or a kite
While smiling and explaining something to his child.
Using a specific ratio
of Asian people to Black people to Women to White men
We want to make sure we represent your needs and interests
Or at least a version of your skin color
In our ads.
Did we put a baby in here?
What about an ethnic old man whose wrinkled smile represents
the happiness and wisdom of the poor?
It was genius at work to have spotted the link between the above article and the core business of Dissolve – royalty free HD footage for today’s storyteller. Which brings me to the next point.
Hardwired to the central brand promise: masquerading as a general comment on the state of brand video and entertainment was the fact that central idea was hardwired to the business proposition of Dissolve.
No overt brand sell: Dissolve could have made a 30-second ‘this is what we offer’ type video like in a straightforward TVC but chances of it going viral are relatively lower.
Entertainment with relevance: lastly, the entertainment is rooted on an insight. Consumers and the kind of businesses Dissolve is targeting have seen many corporate videos which follow the template which Dissolve spoofs. So it got the ‘I know what you are referring to’ nod of approval.