Digital Transformation: What Has it Got to Do With Online Video?

Digital Transformation: What Has it Got to Do With Online Video?

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I’ve been ask to fill in for Jamal Mashburn, who is best known for his success on the basketball court, so you could say I’ve been asked to be the “sixth man” at the ÜberTube 2014 Brand Summit on Tuesday, April 29, in New York City. The sixth man is the player who is not a starter but comes off the bench and often plays minutes equal to some of the starters and posts similar statistics. In other words, I’ve been asked to take over Mashburn’s position in the agenda and make similar points on the topic he was going to address: “Digital Transformation.”

Now, if Mashburn had been able to participate in the ÜberTube 2014 Brand Summit, I was supposed to interview him on stage – one-on-one – about “Digital Transformation.” So, I was preparing to ask three or four tough questions of the former college and NBA All Star. With a natural knack for teambuilding, Mashburn has taken his skills straight to the business world without missing a beat. He’s successfully assembled a team of savvy professionals who have quickly developed an impressive business portfolio that has ownership interest in numerous restaurant franchises (38 Outback Steakhouse restaurants, 40 Papa John’s pizza restaurants, and three Dunkin Donuts stores), car dealerships (owner of Kentucky’s Toyota on Nicholasville and Lexus Store of Lexington), real estate, and thoroughbred horse racing.

So, here are the tough questions about “Digital Transformation” that I was planning to ask Mashburn until a couple of days ago and the answers that I plan to give at the ÜberTube Brand Summit tomorrow:

Q: Why are Most Marketers Still Using Strategies From 1948?

A: In his 1948 article, “The Structure and Function of Communication in Society,” Professor Harold Lasswell wrote that “a convenient way to describe an act of communication is to answer the following questions: Who, says What, in which Channel, to Whom, with what Effect?”

Most marketers are still using this old model because it was in their marketing textbooks back when they went to college and they mistakenly assume that it isn’t out-of-date. However, most marketers and their agencies aren’t actually measuring the outcome or effect of communication.

For example, in the late 1980s, my father was the director of marketing at Oldsmobile. He launched the classic ad campaign, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” But sales fell from 900,000 in 1987 before the campaign to under 450,000 in 1991. So, this prompted him to ask his ad agency, Leo Burnett, how they were measuring the ad campaign.

“Gross Ratings Points (GRPs)”, they replied. So, my dad then asked, “How many GRPs do we need to sell a car?” They didn’t have an answer. In other words, GRPs measure a Channel’s audience, not the Effect of an ad campaign.

A few years later, I discovered that Lasswell’s model of communication also doesn’t explain newsstands or the internet.

In the 1990s, I was the director of corporate communications at Ziff-Davis. In 1991, I helped launch PC Magazine and PC Direct in the UK; PC Professionell and PC Direkt in Germany; as well as PC Expert and PC Direct in France. We broke the records for single-copy sales of the premiere issue of a magazine in all 3 countries. In 1996, Ziff-Davis and Yahoo! created a joint venture and I helped launch Yahoo! Europe. Yahoo! was leading Internet guide in the UK, Germany and France during the 1990s.

Ziff-Davis had never published outside the U.S. before 1991 and Yahoo! was a start-up. For all those launches in Europe, I didn’t have an ad budget. In both environments, we weren’t able to “push” our target audiences to pick up one of our magazines on newsstands or visit one of our new websites. We needed to “pull” them to check out our communication channels, instead.


That’s when I realized that Lasswell’s hypodermic needle model might be limited to mass media or an earlier era of communication. That’s also when I started down the path towards Digital Transformation.

Q: Do You Think YouTube Search Changes Everything We Knew About Communication?

A: In my book, YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day, I wrote, “Maybe we need to reverse Lasswell’s old model and ask: Who, seeks What, in which Channel, from Whom, with what Effect? These may appear to be minor edits, but they represent a major paradigm shift.”

This led me to discover how to optimize YouTube videos and channels so people discover them. YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine and its algorithm looks at relevance, upload date, watch time, and rating. So, conduct keyword research using YouTube tools and then optimize each video’s title, description, tags, annotations, and captions, as well as your playlists and channel. Then, upload frequently (a minimum of one video per week), make videos worth watching, and create content worth sharing.

Using these video SEO best practices enabled my content marketing agency, SEO-PR, to boost the number of views that the Voyage Channel on YouTube was getting from 168 to 119,067 a month.

Voyage Channel

Q: Is YouTube the World’s Second Largest Search Engine or Second Largest Social Media Site?

A: Actually, it’s both. Viewers use YouTube in a two-step process. In the first step, viewers “discover” a video. So, digital marketing executives need to ask: Who, seeks What, in which Channel, from Whom, with what Effect? But, in the second step, viewers who have watched a video decide whether or not to “share” it with their friends, family, or colleagues. So, digital marketing executives also need to ask: Who, shares What, in which Channel, with Whom, with what Effect?

There’s a case study in the second edition of my book that provides an example of the Digital Transformation triggered by this two-step process. On January 13, 2010, Piper Aircraft inked a licensing deal with Czech Sport Aircraft to bring the “PiperSport” to market in the US. The light sport aircraft cost $140,000 and was targeted at young pilots and flight schools. The company wanted to unveil the PiperSport 8 days later at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo on January 21, 2010. In other words, Piper Aircraft wanted young pilots to buy its new PiperSport for $140,000.

Now, there was no web search interest in “PiperSport” until after its launch in social media. The brand name had just been coined the week before the light sport aircraft was launched in the US.

Web search interest in PiperSport

And during that week, Piper Marketing Director Jackie Carlon commissioned Michael Kolowich of DigiNovations Video Production Services to create:

  • A PiperSport Light Sport Aircraft channel on YouTube,
  • A PiperSport Light Sport Aircraft page on Facebook, and
  • A PiperSport feed on Twitter.

Kolowich, in turn, engaged Janice Brown of Janice Brown & Associates to create the initial original content for the Facebook and Twitter channels.

In the first 90 days, videos on PiperSport’s YouTube Channel got 43,547 views. PiperSport got 8,204 fans (“likes”) on Facebook. PiperSport got 101 Twitter followers. A Google search for “PiperSport” found the company’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube videos, and photos in 7 of the top 10 search results. And, most importantly, customers ordered 15 PiperSports at $140,000 each.

Piper Aircraft spent under $50,000 on social media marketing. This included strategy development, content development, video production, content implementation, social media channel management, media placement, and promotion. The company received over $2.1 million in airplane orders in 90 days. Customers ordered 15 new PiperSports at an average order size of nearly $140,000 each. So, Piper Aircraft’s short-term return on marketing investment was 24.2.

If you want the formula to do your own calculations, ROMI = / Marketing Spending ($50,000). Nielsen Analytic Consulting has found average short-term ROMI is 1.1.

Q: Why Do We Need to Find the Influencers Who Are Passionate Brand Advocates?

A: Because they play a key role in the two-step model of communication. And, fortunately, YouTube has conducted research to identify the influencers who are the most likely to discover, watch, and share new videos. YouTube calls these influencers “Gen C.”

According to their research, 76 percent of Gen C visit YouTube weekly, and 36 percent visit daily. And 56 percent of Gen C has taken action after watching ads for a product or service on YouTube. Gen C is up to 3.6 times more likely to purchase products and services. And Gen C is 1.8 times more likely to be influencers, agreeing that “people often come to me for advice before making a purchase.”

Pixability provided me with some custom research to discover who the influencers are in the Travel industry. Over 122,800 travel videos on 24,000 channels have almost 1.4 billion views. The top 100 travel videos have an average of 2.6 million views and 41,500 shares.

But, travel brands have created only 6 of the top 50 travel channels by views. And travel brands have built just 5 of the top 50 travel channels by social shares. Surprisingly, one of these travel brands is the Louis Vuitton Channel, which has 67.8 million views and 65,800 subscribers. And it’s worth noting that one of the other top 50 travel channels by views and shares is the Voyage Channel on YouTube.

Pixability data

YouTube Alters The Map of TV Advertising 

In summary, YouTube not only alters the map of TV advertising, it also alters map of content, search engine, and social media marketing. That’s what I mean by “Digital Transformation.” And that’s why re-purposing 30-spot TV spots as YouTube videos doesn’t work as effectively as creating compelling video content from scratch that influencers will discover, watch, and share.

If you want a basketball analogy, re-purposing 30-second TV spots as YouTube videos is like trying to shoot a soccer ball into a peach basket that’s nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the playing court. Passing the ball is the primary means of ball movement. Dribbling is not part of the game except for the “bounce pass” to teammates. The peach basket retains its bottom, so balls have to be retrieved manually after each “basket” or point is scored. There’s no backboard. And there are nine players on each team.

Yes, there are similarities to today’s game of basketball. But, “Transformation” means changing virtually everything about the indoor game that Dr. James Naismith originally called “basket ball.”

And “Digital Transformation” requires marketing executives to change virtually everything they learned back in college to leverage YouTube for maximum brand impact.


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