12 Ways Brands & Businesses Can Utilize Online Video

12 Ways Brands & Businesses Can Utilize Online Video

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how quickly video is expanding online in terms of capabilities and implementation. I consult with a lot of small businesses, and when talk turns to online video, many of them are instantly skeptical. They’re not sure it’s a good path for their business, mostly because their experience with online video is typically limited to amateur viral clips and branded commercials from giant corporations. They tend to struggle to see the many varied cost-effective ways they can make video work for them.

So I thought it would be good to create a nice list of possible video implementations that can be used by companies — small and large — to further enhance customer relationships and grow the bottom line. Not every variety of video is a good match for every business, but there’s definitely something on the list for everyone that won’t break the budget.

1. Repurposed Television Commercial

A lot of companies start out slowly with online video, simply taking a previously-filmed television commercial and placing it online. This is done by large and small brands alike, and is often seen as a way to extend the marketing power of the dollars spent creating the ad. Since the ad is already fully produced, it costs nothing to upload it, and every view received is icing on the cake.

2. Viral Video

A logical follow-up to our first example is the web-intended viral video–an ad or other video created solely for the purpose of getting views online, often through word-of-mouth. You see this all the time. It definitely costs more money to create ads for online consumption that are separate from your traditional television ads. But more and more brands are figuring out ways to avoid breaking the budget when creating web-original videos.

A good example is a flash-mob. Outside of some rehearsal time, and maybe the small cost of paying performers a tiny amount, there isn’t really any cost involved in staging and filming a public flash mob performance.

T-Mobile has had great success with this kind of campaign. And Coke recently released their own flash mob dance ad, which you can see below:

3. Branded Web Series

A trend I happen to like a lot is the branded web series. This is when a company eschews traditional advertising techniques (and even traditional viral video techniques) to create original webisodes. Then, through product placement or overt plot points, the brand’s messaging is conveyed to the audience.

Take the recent Mortal Kombat: Legacy series, which is racking up millions of views. It’s an entertaining and original series (for some, at least), and yet it’s simultaneously helping spread buzz and awareness for the new Mortal Kombat video game. Here’s a sample episode:

4. Product Placement

A form of video marketing that’s gaining lots of traction lately, and which Grant wrote about recently, is product placement. It involves placing a brand’s logo or product prominently in the popular entertainment videos of others. So… rather than creating video from scratch, it’s like hopping on the bandwagon of another popular entity by associating your brand with it.

Remember the NBA dunk contest this year, which Blake Griffin won with a dunk over a car? How much free publicity do you think Kia enjoyed from having one of their cars take part in the stunt?

5. Demonstration/Product Videos

A lot of online retailers are finding success with product demonstration videos, which have been shown to increase conversions. Once you’ve got the customer on your website, viral marketing ceases to be important… what you need at that point is to make the sale. Product demonstration videos can do that in ways mere text never could. Visual evidence of a properly functioning product puts consumers at ease and helps settle their internal debate about whether or not to buy.

You can read about a great case study on product videos for e-commerce here.

6. Testimonials

No one is a better cheerleader for your business than customers who are happy. The happiest among them will often be willing to help you spread the word by recording video testimonials. Text testimonials are great, but they’re just text… they could have been written by anyone. With video, the average consumer can usually spot the difference between a paid actor and a real customer… and the real customer’s first-hand experience with your company carries more weight than you might think.

Here’s a great customer testimonial video for a hair loss product–the customer is very likable and sincere:

7. Fan Videos & Mentions

For the rabid fans of particular brands, testimonials aren’t enough. These super fans go one step further, creating videos about or mentioning the brand they love. This is free publicity for the company, earned simply by going above and beyond in meeting that customer’s needs.

Here’s an example of a guy that loves a brand so much he made a video about it:

That video may only have 2,000 views, but it’s 2,000 people who just got marketed to without the company having pay a dime. There are tons of these videos on YouTube. Get your fans passionate about your company, and you might have some filmmaking superfans as well.

8. Video Display Ads

Many companies prefer to create short video ads that run as display ads on popular websites. It’s a more reliable way to ensure viewers–since a viral video attempt has no assurance of getting views, but top publishing sites can usually promise certain pageview numbers.

You can almost always see examples of video display ads at the top of the YouTube home page, like this one they’re running today for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie:

9. Non-Video Ads Placed On Video Pages

Sometimes you can leverage video to your advantage by non-video means. Specifically, you can place an ad on a video network, like Adsense on YouTube videos. Brands can also place a static display ad on a page that carries video, sometimes to the point of sponsoring the entire page. There are very affordable ad networks that even small businesses can use to get their message in front of a larger audience.

Here’s a screenshot of a Blackberry Playbook display ad on the right side of a YouTube video page:

10. Special Messages

Sometimes a piece of news or a current event warrants special messages from brands. A good example is the apology video from BLANK airlines. They’d screwed up some flights, and felt that the best way to begin building back the customers’ trust was to admit a mistake and apologize… which they did through online video.

The presidents of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air got together for an “I’m sorry” video just this March, when a computer problem created havoc with their flight schedule:

11. Contests

A popular and very inexpensive technique for using video is to sponsor a contest. Ask your customers to create videos for you, with the best one winning a prize. The end result, even if there are only a few entries, is free publicity for your brand or business — every set of eyes that the submitted videos find is one you basically didn’t have to pay for.

A year ago, OgilvyOne Worldwide hosted a video contest seeking the “World’s Greatest Salesperson.” Here’s one of the entries:

Contests create a similar net result to what the superfan videos bring: increased publicity and brand awareness from clips the brand itself doesn’t have to create. It’s tougher to accrue superfans, so contests can be a good substitute strategy to get video creators talking about your business.

12. Internal Communications/Business Processes

As IBM and Microsoft have shown us recently, many companies have begun replacing traditional office tasks with video. It’s fast, easily distributed, and provides better context than text alone can. So from staff meetings to client pitches, video is creeping further and further into the workplace, streamlining processes, increasing productivity, and improving communications.


Any business can use online video to grow their brand, no matter the size. Not all the above-mentioned implementations work for all companies. Some are more expensive than others, and some are more labor-intensive. But there’s an option for every brand and every budget.

What possible business implementations for online video have I forgotten? Feel free to let me know of any you think of in the comments below.


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