Three lessons in brand video content from Zappos

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Improve your content strategy by analyzing Zappos’ approach. Use YouTube and other media platforms to respond to consumers’ behavior and conversation. 

They may be best known for their ability to get your order to your door with superhuman speed, but the team at online retailer Zappos has another super power: brand content.

There seems to be no end to the company’s brand videos. Back in October, Zappos made headlines when it hijacked a Google event by inviting participants to exchange the treats given out by the tech company for Zappos products. The resulting video, posted to the Zappos YouTube channel, generated major media buzz.

Most recently, Zappos took a page from the WestJet promotional playbook and rewarded a segment of its customers with a holiday surprise. After nightfall, employees descended on Hanover, N.H. – a small town that the company says is filled with “fiercely loyal Zappos customers” – and left Zappos boxes filled with winter weather gear on 1,900 doorsteps.

Zappos’ approach to video content is as varied as its product inventory. After word hit Twitter in November that a dad had accidently filmed his entire Las Vegas vacation with his GoPro in selfie mode – generating 8.5 million YouTube views – Vegas-based Zappos jumped on the opportunity to join the conversation that surrounding Irishman in Vegas.

Zappos added a new dimension to this conversation, as it set out to recover the lost footage by filming the scenes he missed in Irishman in Vegas: Footage Recovered.

Just last week the brand posted video of what it’s calling a “Snowman Prank,” wherein it replaced a life-size snowman decoration with a human in a snowman suit to startle Zappos employees.

What can we learn from the retail giant’s approach to brand content? Here are three takeaways to keep in mind when you’re creating videos of your own.

1. Mix messages to display the many sides of your brand

For all of its pranks, Zappos isn’t only about mischief. Earlier this year, a video called Dad’s Day Off  saw Zappos reward a dedicated dad of four on Father’s Day by completing all of the chores on his “honey do list.”

For Veterans Day, the brand profiled young veterans and their work with non-profit organization Veterans Village.

Look closely and you’ll see that there are videos for virtually every audience and demographic. “Video is just another way we can highlight Zappos’ marketing efforts, and ultimately build our customer relationships,” explains Kristin Richmer, who works in awareness marketing at Zappos. “There are only so many customers we can touch on an on-the-ground activation, but by capturing video, we are able to share the experience with the masses.”

2. Show customers what sets your brand apart

Some brands are still approaching video storytelling as though it’s a universal course of action guaranteed to deliver results. They’re quickly discovering, however, the humor, animation, or corporate social good angle that works for one brand doesn’t always pan out for the next.

Instead of emulating others, look for ways to express your brand’s unique value offering and voice. In the case of its Hanover, N.H. holiday surprise, Zappos’ goal was to underscore its dedication to customer service by doing something “bigger than the everyday surprise and delight moments that happen on the phone and over chat.” Meanwhile, other videos demonstrate the company’s playful side.

“As a brand, one of our core values is to create fun and a little weirdness,” Richmer says. “That generally sets the tone, along with our commitment to being adventurous, creative, and open-minded.”

Like any smart brand, Zappos also makes a point of offering customers a peek behind-the-scenes. It’s a tactic ideally suited to offering insight into a company’s philosophy and heritage, building affinity, and humanizing the brand.

Videos on its Twitter feed have featured employees’ pets in conjunction with Zappos’ pet adoption initiative, known as #pawlidayz. Others have seen staff rewarded with a team-building party. “It’s the simple things that build the best company cultures,” one tweet read.

3. Respect your viewers’ time

Zappos doesn’t maintain a set video production schedule, but it does follow guidelines when creating branded entertainment. By being seasonally relevant and tapping into cultural conversations, as Zappos did with Irishman in Vegas, the brand can effectively drive social buzz.

The brand is also very mindful of video length. “We value the importance of social sharing and understand viewers’ attention spans,” says Richmer, “so we try to keep it brief, typically under a minute.”

To sum up

Brand videos can take innumerable forms, as evidenced by the abundance and diversity of Zappos content. What will your next video be?

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