I recently had the pleasure of talking with Brendan Gahan, Director of Social Media at Mekanism, a digital ad agency that works with brands to tell stories with their video ad campaigns.  The mission to convert brands to a storytelling kind of marketing, rather than a pure advertising, has been an obstacle for forward-thinking ad agencies over the years, but a huge shift has begun to break the ice, and more and more brands and agencies have started to get it.

So here’s Brendan Gahan talking about the process of storytelling, and how brands can use it.

The Key to Branded Social Video Campaign Success: StoryTelling

So let’s highlight what Brendan says in this video:

Storytelling = Entertainment Value:

It’s important to create something relevant to the brand, but overall it needs to be entertaining.

I think a lot of times when we talk about “how videos go viral” we lose the most obvious one: is it entertaining?  We’ve discussed many times before that usually the signs of an entertaining video is that something highly unusual, shocking, embarrassing, funny, and/or sexy are the usual triggers.

Leverage Social Media & Engage with Calls to Action

Marry your strategy of engaging people and leveraging the platforms in the best way possible.

Finding a way to use your social media platforms to get people talking about your video is a huge step towards getting a mass audience.  This is done usually with, of course, great content, but it’s important to issue calls-to-action that get people to talk about it in another way: voting on something, or creating a topic of discussion, or running a contest or handing out giveaways.

Influencers are Critical to Social Video Ad Campaign Success

Quite honestly, you need help getting your video seen, and why not use those with large audiences already?  When you share your video with relevant blogs and websites, and they bite (because your video is so entertaining, remember), the audience for your video dramatically increases.

Check out the Mekanism site and take a look at the stuff that they’ve done.  Check out this video from ABC’s Nightline which profiles an interesting viral video ad project with Mekanism for ‘Hovercat’:

We’d like to thank Brendan Gahan for his time!

View The Full Video Transcript

We’re going to talk today about how brands are adopting online video, how they’re using it and what’s in the future for that.

So, Brennan, for our audience, can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What is Mekanism?

Yeah, for sure. So, I’m the director of social media at Mekanism. We’re an ad agency, we’ve got offices in San Francisco, New York, and we specialize in story-telling for emerging media. So, we do a lot online in social media and really focus on telling entertaining stories on behalf of brands.

What are some brands that people would recognize that you’ve worked with and done some online video with?

Definitely. We do a lot of work with Pepsi, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Twentieth Century Fox, just to name a few.

I’m familiar with brands and what they’re doing online but – I’m obviously not an agency – but, I’ve noticed, I feel like it’s taken some time for them to get this and adopt it. And, you were there early on. Do you feel like brands are getting this now, is there even more opportunity, how are things right now?

Yeah. Yeah. The landscape has changed a lot. Mekanism started out really focusing on online video, even in the pre-YouTube days. It’s interesting now seeing kind of the disparity of knowledge. Some people are super savvy, other marketers are aware that there’s a lot of opportunity in this space but don’t quite know how to navigate it and that’s really what we bring to the table, I think. These big strategic ideas and ways to execute them online.

What is it the brands need to understand about this new media in order to really have success?

I think the important thing is, you know, when you go online you really want people to share your content and so it’s really important to create something that is obviously relevant to the brand and gets the brand’s message across, but is ultimately entertaining first. We kind of internally call it the candy with the medicine. If the content is going to travel it’s got to be something that I would share because it provides value of some sort, typically making something that is really entertaining is the best way to do that.

With some of the campaigns you’ve done, I know you’ve done Samsung, you’ve done some huge campaigns. What was like, if you could answer – if there is an answer – what was like the number one thing that you absolutely – if you didn’t have it , it wouldn’t have been successful?

Definitely. I think the most important thing in social media and social media campaigns in general is marrying both your strategy of engaging people and leveraging the platforms in the best way possible. It’s almost like kind of how Apple marries hardware and software – getting the two to work together in sync is ultimately the key to any successful campaign because, you know, if you’re really just focused on the analytics and media buy but you aren’t getting people involved, the content is just not going to travel and it wont’ transcend and become a mainstream success.

So, for like the smaller guy, is it … obviously they need to focus on the content and the story-telling, but in terms of the execution and the campaign, is it incredibly important that they find influencers, is it more important that they really act within YouTube and build an audience? What are some of the real important things that the smaller guy should do?

I think collaborating with online influencers is critical to any campaign. In social media, you know topping those audiences is a great way to get the ball rolling because these people have massive fan bases that really listen to what the influencers are saying and not only will you get that awareness, but it’ll go a step further, you’ll get engagement which is critical.

Traditional agencies … are they getting this? Are they working with folks like you, or are folks like you taking over that, sort of that space?

I think the bigger agencies are slowly trying to move into the space, but we – our whole business is built, you know, for online, so we really have carved out a niche. It’s kind of like a rising tide scenario, where we’re benefiting from so many brands investing in the space. So, overall, I think agencies like us are going to benefit the most. We were named small ad agency of the year for 2011 I think because of our online, social media capabilities.

Cool. Congratulations on your success. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. If you’re new to ReelSeo and our videos, click subscribe, we have a lot of these every week and thanks for hanging out.