Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Tiger? No Problem!

Okay, I'll admit it, I like golf.  I like to play it and (gasp) I like to watch it.  Let's be honest here, I fit the mold.  I'm over 40, white, male and firmly middle class with aspirations to go higher.  If there's a cookie cutter for wannabe golfers, I was cut from it.

Really good golfer...not exactly Mr. Personality, though.

Of course, like millions of Americans, I fell in love with the game of Tiger Woods from his very first Major Championship in the late 90's.  Like most, I have followed his career with an almost stalker-ish interest.  But in the past two years, Tiger has been conspicuously absent.  He hasn't won a Major in that stretch, and while he's made a couple of runs here and there, he just hasn't been the same since that fateful run-in with a hydrant in December 2009. 

And now, Tiger has taken his clubs and gone home for this year's US Open Championship at Congressional.  This may be great news to the rest of the field, it's a nightmare for the TV networks who know that viewership goes down when Tiger doesn't play.  It also presents a dilemma for pro golf in general.

Sure, they'd love to have a healthy Tiger playing.  He brings ratings, he brings excitement, he simply raises the stakes.  But pro golf also has an entirely new generation of young and talented golfers waiting in the wings to step up and take over the empty reigns left behind by Mr. Woods.

The problem is, no one knows who they are.  Die-hard golf fans know Ben Crane, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and the others.  But the casual American has no idea who these young guns are.  So, to counter this lack of name recognition, some young golfers and US Golf decided to reach out and touch someone, social media-style.

Take a look at this video that hit YouTube and the airwaves this week:

What's The Point?

Hey, it's a great video, and it's worth watching over and over.  It's clever, it's creative, it's hip, it's in your face without being over the top.  But really, what's the point?

This is a question you have to ask yourself every time you do something online, whether it's a Facebook post, a Tweet, a blog post or a video.  What are you trying to achieve with your actions?  Will your particular post or video help you reach your goal?  Or are you simply throwing stuff up online to fill space and keep your name out in front of your friends, followers, fans, customer and potential customers? 

In the case of the aforementioned video, one has to ask, "What was US Golf trying accomplish?"  Because I don't work for US Golf, I can only speculate.  My first thought is that the powers that be wanted to generate some interest and excitement and draw an audience to this week's US Open.

If that was, indeed the purpose of the video, then sadly, it most likely failed.  It's not that the video isn't eye-catching, or clever or fun to watch.  But the video itself isn't likely to bring any more viewers to the tv screens than would have previously been watching.  It's not like someone will see the video and say, "Hey, these guys are cool, I HAVE to tune in to the US Open to check them out!"

In that respect, US Golf missed the target, and badly.  But in the process, they may have hit a home run on another front.  Perhaps unwittingly, (or maybe they are just crazy like a fox) they managed to bring some personality back into golf.  Golfers can sometimes be a stoic bunch.  Yes, they will wear colorful clothes, and every now and then a few pop up with some compelling stories.  But outside of Tiger, let's face it, the personalities are generally lacking, particularly on the American side of the slate.

But now, with this video, the American public gets a chance to see some of the next generation of US golfers goofing around, having fun, being, well...interesting.  There is no overt or clear-cut message in this video, other than, "Hey, we are pro golfers and we like to have fun!"

But that's okay.  Most of the truly successful videos have messages that aren't immediately obvious to the viewer.  In this case, the golfers in the video produced something that is enjoyable and entertaining to watch.  This alone will grab people's attention and generate views.  And ultimately, that's the goal. 

A Delicate Balance:

That's what makes videos-as-a-marketing-tool so difficult.  Too often small businesses try to hit their audience over the head with their message at the expense of watchability.  We already know that humor is subjective, so that can be another pitfall, but more often than not, if you shoot for humorous and entertaining, you'll hit your mark more than you'll miss it.

But even the most entertaining of videos have a message in it if it's produced by a small business or non-profit.  The message may be, "Get down here and spend your money," but it's still a message.  The trick is knowing how to present that message and producing a video that meets your goals.

In the case of the US Golf video, they may have been off target in their goal of increasing viewership for this particular major, but they DID hit the target of making these golfers interesting and more personable.  In the absence of Tiger, they injected some fun into an event lacking some star-power.

In the case of one of my clients, a veterinary clinic in Denver, they had some very simple and reachable goals.  First, tell people that they exist.  Second, talk about the quality of care they provide.  Third, let people know they are one of the most affordable clinics in town.

It would be easy to shoot a video of the front of the clinic, give an address and tell people, "Hey we're here, we're good, we're affordable."  But that doesn't seem like a very interesting video, does it?

Instead, they produced a series of videos.  One showing a veterinarian caring for a cute little chihuahua, acting like the dog whisperer, talking to the dog directly and listening as the dog talks back.  It's funny, it's clever and it has a tagline at the end, "Our doctors are THAT good!"

The next video shows a man in the waiting room, preparing to pick up his pet.  Within seconds, the front desk girl comes out, hands the pet to the owner as the owner lugs out a huge bag of money to pay for the treatment.  Instead, the girl takes a single bill from his hand and tells him to have a good day.  The tagline is "It's really THAT affordable!"

Notice that there is some consistency with the presentation of the message, that there is a bit of humor in both, they're both short (a minute or less) and they use the right words.  Affordable denotes quality whereas cheap is...well...cheap.  You can check out both videos at www.downtownanimalcarecenter.com

The messages get across that they provide quality care at a price people can afford by blending a short and interesting video with a strong tagline.  At the end, they include a call to action for people to check out the website and make an appointment.

And Now The Tips:

Small businesses and non-profits can reap huge benefits from the use of video, but in order to do so, they have to keep these tips in mind:
1.  Keep the videos short - Anything more than a minute isn't likely to generate a ton of views. :30 to :45 seconds is ideal.  You can go a minute, but you have to get right into the interesting part of the video to hold people's attention.  The only exception to this rule is music videos.  Even then, try to keep it to less than two minutes.  Anything more and you'll probably lose viewers midway through and they won't share the video with friends, which is what you want.

2.  Know your message - The beauty of video is that you can produce a series of short videos, each with a different message.  They can all work together or separately, but know what you want to say before you shoot the first minute of video, otherwise, you have no focus.  If you have no focus, viewers won't know what you're trying to say.

3.  Establish your goals - Know what you want to achieve with your video.  If you want to raise awareness, that's a different type of video than driving business or donations.  Make sure your video hits your target and is keyed to help you meet your goals.  Again focus here helps.

4.  Think entertaining - Make it funny, dramatic, avant garde, it doesn't matter.  What matters is that it's fun and interesting to watch.  That will bring eyes to your video and therefore get your message out to more people.  Plus, the more entertaining the video, the more it will be shared.  Think clever and interesting rather than simply overstating your message.

5.  Keep it simple - Like everything else you do with your marketing, the simpler the better.  You don't want to overwhelm people with too much at one time.  Try to keep your videos to a single message.  The more you try to cram into your video, the longer it will be and the more confusing it will be for viewers.  Confusing is bad.
Remember, we are a visual society now.  The more you can use video in your social media, marketing and promotional efforts, the more successful you'll be.  Just try to keep in mind those simple tips and you'll find your pages filling up with fans, friends and followers.  And if you do it right, you'll also start to see more smiling faces walking through your doors.  And that's always a good thing.

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