This week Melissa Coker did what most advertising industry folks would have thought impossible. On a budget of $1,500 (and she only actually spent $1,300), she created a content marketing viral video sensation for the fall line of her LA based fashion label, Wren, that as of March 24 had achieved well over 69 million views on Youtube. The 3-minute video, shot artistically in black and white, was called, “First Kiss” and featured 20 strangers who were paired up and asked to engage in the vulnerable act of kissing each other for the first time. The content marketing component was very low key. Apart from the word “Wren” appearing in small type in the top corner at the very beginning of the film and then disappearing, there is very little to tie it to a business. The folks participating were Coker’s friends, a collection of singers, designers, and musicians. They were all wearing Wren label clothing, but that is not at all obvious. The film shifts from initial awkwardness, through emotional vulnerability, to discovery, and adds a dash of humour at the end, as one persona asks, “What was your name again?” Amongst the 10 couples, it mixes in naturally what are societal taboos for some: an older woman kissing a younger man, two guys kissing, and two girls kissing. According to Coker, the participants didn’t know the names of the people until they walked on camera (no advanced Googling!), and some were actually in relationships with others. Perhaps they were issued a day pass for the film?!
If you’re curious and you’re not yet one of the 66 million, you can view the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpbDHxCV29A Coker pushed the initial link via email to 21 friends last Monday, saying she had produced a new video and requested they share it if they wish. That was it. We can assume the participants likely shared with their circles as well.
The Wren fashion label http://wrenstudio.com/ is positioned as “free spirited exuberance, restrained elegance and low-key sophistication.” Melissa Coker founded the company in 2007 after working in editorial at Vogue, W and Details. The line is now sold globally through retailers in the US, Canada, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Spain, UE, Kuwait, Puerto Rico and Lebanon. She also does significant sales direct to customers online throughout the world.
You know you’ve hit the mother load when you invite a parody on late night talk shows. Jimmy Fallon featured his take on the video this week – pretty much the same as the original, but using puppies and kittens. It’s adorable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaGAkU_K_EY
This video success really points to the future of viral branding. And it’s an example of content marketing at its finest. While some called the company out for tricking them, once they realized it was for a clothing company, most saw the universal appeal and vulnerability of a first kiss for what it was: authentic and emotional. That’s what made it so shareable. The fact she did NOT having a big budget or advertising agency behind the idea, further added to the authenticity.
So why did it get shared by so many and hit over 66 million views in less than a week?
- It was emotional and showed universal vulnerability
- It tapped the “voyeur” in human nature – to get a peek at what you’re not normally allowed to see.
- It was surprising and nudged our need to discover – we want to see what happens. It also begs the question; did any go on a date afterwards?
We could certainly argue that the real reach was likely far greater than 66 million, since “First Kiss” also became a news item within traditional broadcast media such as TV and newspapers. Many forget that to reach the many, they first have to reach out to one, and give that one person a reason to share it with their community, thereby achieving the many. I call this the “power of one.” That’s exactly what Cocker did with her artistic film. She made it about others, not about her business. She provided them content, that when shared, allowed them to appear smart, connected, funny or insightful. Her CONTENT motivated others to share because it made them look good. While this is a subtle shift of thinking, it’s an important one. The Wren label was simply tied to the content in an elegant and restrained manner, not unlike how she positions her brand. Brilliant.
And what was the bottom line return on this investment? Coker claims traffic to her website is up 1,400% of which 96% are new visitors. Sales are up 13,000%. No there is not a misplaced zero in there.
Not bad for a budget of $1,300 which apparently covered food, babysitting and lighting.
You can see an interview with Melissa Coker on the making of the video here: http://www.bloomberg.com/video/how-wren-got-20-strangers-to-kiss-for-first-time-nMvu5y7CSri9xMTk13CXpQ.html
Until next week, be creative, be entrepreneurial and love what you do!
PS: A little shameless self promotion follows. I will be moderating this event for Business in Vancouver this Tuesday, and I’ll be chairing the roundtable discussion on social media that follows the panel discussion. You may wish to check it out.
Business in Vancouver presents The Business Excellence Series: Marketing to Increase Sales breakfast, March 25th at the Pan Pacific Hotel. Where are the best places to find sales prospects? And once found, what can you do to grab their attention and engage them in your product or service? Astute marketers know it is essential to get the right message to potential customers via their website, social media and promotional materials, but is the message the same when trying to close a deal? BES: Marketing to Increase Sales will tackle the strategies and processes that get you in front of the right clients and engage them just as they are ready to buy.
7-8am: Registration & breakfast
8-9am: Panel discussion
9-10:15am: Roundtable sessions
President and Founder, Idea Rebel
Chief Marketing Officer, Shaw Communications
General Manager, Traction Creative Communications
President, Charleson Communications