"Will it Blend" Gets Blendtec in the WSJ!

I’ve been a fan of the videos by Blendtec for awhile, see them at http://www.willitblend.com.

Now, the Wall Street Journal has profiled their success and how they turned an initial $50 investment into a 40% increase in sales. Wow!

Also, great quote from George Wright, Blendtec’s director of marketing:

“Be brave. Try something. Sometimes we get a little bit stuffy and stuck, and we have a hard time seeing things from a different perspective. Spend some time with a 14-year-old.

I have a son who is 14, and they see things differently.”

Marketing Videos Became a Hit in Their Own Right

By LAURA LORBER
July 2, 2007; Page B4

How do you know when an online word-of-mouth campaign is successful? When the campaign itself becomes a revenue generator.

Blendtec, a 186-employee company in Orem, Utah, set out last November to build brand awareness for its line of high-end home and commercial blenders. Its idea: Online-only marketing videos that show Chief Executive Tom Dickson blending up iPods, golf balls and other don’t-try-this-at-home ingredients in retro game-show shtick.

[Tom Dickson]
Courtesy of Blendtec
Blendtec’s Tom Dickson blends up a rake for ‘Will It Blend?’

Within a week, the “Will It Blend?” videos hit it big on video-sharing site YouTube.com. Soon after, they also were uploaded to Revver.com, another video-sharing site. Ads featured at the end of the clips have garnered Blendtec $18,000 so far; Revver.com and Blendtec, a division of K-TEC Inc., split the revenue from ads. When the ad is clicked on, Blendtec gets 50% of the revenue.

And in another unexpected twist, the videos themselves have become a commodity. Companies are paying $5,000 on average to have Blendtec film promotions for those firms using the blenders. And the videos are branded with the Blendtec logo. Sales of the company’s home blenders were up 43% in 2006.

That’s pretty good for a company with less than $40 million in annual revenue that didn’t even have a marketing department until last year — and budgeted just $50 for its initial video effort. (Blendtec, which was founded in 1999, makes most of its money through sales of commercial blenders.)

SMALL BUSINESS LINK

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George Wright, 40, who was hired as Blendtec’s first director of marketing in January 2006, recently spoke about the campaign:

Where did the idea come from?

We have a room where we have some blending equipment, and we demonstrate and try out customer recipes and make sure everything’s working the way it should. And there was sawdust in the room, and I couldn’t imagine why.

So I asked people, “What’s going on?” And they said, “Oh, that’s just Tom testing the blenders,” like it was an everyday occurrence. And, to me, great big red flags are going off saying, “No, this is not a normal, everyday occurrence. Blenders just don’t blend 2-by-2s.”

I told Tom, “I want to film this.”

I knew…we wanted to do YouTube. Initially, we were thinking this might be a tool our sales force could use to show how robust our equipment is as part of their training. Quite frankly, if that’s all we got from that campaign, I would have considered it successful.

See highlights from the “Will It Blend?” campaign, plus outtakes from the series.

What did you do next?

I told our Webmaster to set up willitblend.com [a site that specifically promotes the “Will It Blend?” campaign]. I went out and bought some marbles, a couple of McDonald’s Extra Value Meals, a rotisserie chicken, a garden rake. I bought a white lab coat. We had some safety glasses. That first day we filmed five videos.

We posted all those videos on willitblend.com on Nov. 1. Then we…put them on YouTube, and our Webmaster did his magic and started to generate buzz on Web sites that he frequents.

When we ended up on Digg.com [a popular social news site], it really started to happen. We had six million views in a week.

With its upbeat tune and 1970s-style logo, Will It Blend? has a game-show feel. How did that concept come about?

We knew we couldn’t take ourselves seriously. For heaven’s sake, we’re throwing golf balls in a blender. We also knew we did not want to make a hard-core sales pitch. We also knew we wanted to keep it to a minute.

[George Wright]
Courtesy of Blendtec
George Wright, Blendtec’s director of marketing

This was about brand awareness. We wanted to make sure we had was something that I would look at and think it was funny, and I would forward to my friends. We put on a lab coat and safety glasses to give it the real test thing like Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Diet Coke and Mentos guys. At the core, these were originally legitimate tests that we would perform internally to verify our equipment.

What have been some of the ‘viral’ effects of the campaign?

The beautiful thing as a marketer is that I now have other people, with their resources and time and their energy, building my campaign. If you go on YouTube, there are a lot of spoofs and other people’s “Will It Blend?” videos. All of it just adds to the hype.

What advice do you have for small companies looking at viral marketing?

If your goal is to be on the front page of YouTube, that’s probably not realistic. Set your goals: What do you really want? Start with your target customers. You want to have something that’s fun for the people who buy your products. You just need to find the communities you want to focus on and find something that will be appealing to the people in that community, and you will have success. Will it put you on the front page of YouTube? Maybe.

[Blentec trade show]
Courtesy of Blendtec
Blendtec’s demo at an industry trade show
FACT BOX

Business: Blendtec
Founded: 1999
2006 annual revenues: under $40 million
Employees: 186
Executive: George Wright
Title: Director of marketing
Age: 40
Years in position: 1
Biggest hurdle overcome: “Generating public excitement about a home blender on a $50 budget.”
Biggest success: “Convincing my sweetheart to take a risk and marry me and start a family that now includes four awesome kids.”

Make sure that if you’re doing it as part of your company that you are very honest, that this is the company doing this. There are sad examples out there of companies trying to find quote-unquote independent, unbiased third parties to plug the company product. Huge mistake.

Be brave. Try something. Sometimes we get a little bit stuffy and stuck, and we have a hard time seeing things from a different perspective. Spend some time with a 14-year-old.

I have a son who is 14, and they see things differently.

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