How We Made A Viral Video Of Strangers Kissing And Increased Sales By Nearly 14,000%
For the last 3 years, our clothing label Wren has created short videos that accompany the launch of each season's collection. We've always tried to make them fun, sexy and cool, but this is the first time we tried to make one that one was truly worth sharing.
First, here's what happened last week. On Monday, "First Kiss," our Fall 2014 campaign film, quietly launched on Style.com. Later that day, we uploaded a version to YouTube and started sending that link to friends and colleagues on e-mail, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Right away, people were coming out of the woodwork saying they had seen the video, and telling me they liked it. I had a sense that people were sharing it, but I had no idea how much they would like sharing it. By Monday evening, the video reached the front page of Reddit, where it really took off. The incredible community of savvy, engaged, and proactive people at Reddit are the exact opposite of a passive audience you see at many other high-traffic sites.
By morning, the video had been viewed almost 2 million times. By the end of the week, it had been viewed more than 61 million times - and counting. It spawned countless amazing parodies, and was covered in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg TV, Adweek, Fast Company, Inc, and many more.
So what did I learn by creating what is being called "the most successful fashion film of all time"?
1. People like emotional content. A lot.
When coming up with the concept, we were inspired by the success of sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed. We saw that people were most likely to share something if they had a strong, positive, emotional response to it. When the piece of content actually makes the viewer cry or feel inspired or happy, they want to share that experience with others.
What struck me most was how people just felt good about themselves when they shared this video. And recipients felt good about the person who sent it to them. Even the inevitable backlash has become part of the video's success.
2. The bored at work audience is desperate for human connection.
The majority of people spend their days staring into screens, which is essentially the exact opposite of kissing. With this in mind, we set out to create an authentic, touching content marketing campaign in the context of the fashion and style space that took people out of their day jobs. Computer screens are usually seen as faceless and impersonal, but I was just amazed to discover the power of digital to spark emotion and human connection.
3. Direct traffic is important, but it's not everything.
Traffic to the Wren website is up 14,000%, and 96% of those visitors are new to the site. Sales in the online store are up over 13,600% compared to the week before First Kiss was released. While we're delighted with how this video jump started sales, and it certainly shows that an emotional connection with consumers is a genuine business driver, it's not just about that. We deliberately set out to create a film, not a commercial. If First Kiss was full of heavy handed come-ons to "Buy Now!", you better believe that the sharing would have screeched to a halt. What we really wanted to do with this video is to generate lasting brand awareness and love, not just a quick hit sale.
4. Subtlety is your friend.
It's all about speaking to people with authentic emotion and subtlety. Nobody, especially millennials, wants to be screamed at to buy something. The video was shared an incredible 1.1 million times on Buzzfeed alone. That happened because the content was about the content, not about the clothes. And all of this from a simple video from a small American brand that is largely unknown globally.
5. The power is shifting.
This signifies a power shift. With more than 2 billion people online, the Internet has changed not only the way that clothes are sold, but also the way they should be marketed. We are in an age where the prospect can steer around what they are uninterested in. You could have a huge marketing budget, but if no one is engaged enough to want to share your content and ideas, then it's just not working.
This is good news. Social can make ads great again. It gives you space to tell a story. Rather than beating someone over the head with your message, or tricking them into clicking with clever, misleading headlines, the onus is on making quality, connecting content. Shock! Horror! Why shouldn't companies set out to make content that people find genuinely interesting and engaging? We did it, and we couldn't be happier with the results.