I’m currently writing the chapter on YouTube in our forthcoming social media marketing book. I’m puzzling over a pretty basic phenomenon of the new media world: the stealth marketing video. Common examples include:
- Guy catches glasses with face – Subsequently attributed to Ray-ban.
- Cellphone Popcorn – Courtesy of Cardo Systems.
- Guys backflip into jeans – A Levis commercial
- Bike Hero – Recently revealed as promotion for Guitar Hero: World Tour.
The process usually goes like this: These videos are posted with only obscure or oblique references to the brands they’re promoting. They’re remarkable and amazing feats (either real or CGI) make then viral hits on YouTube. Sooner or later, the companies behind them disclose the videos’ true origins.
What Do The Brands Stand To Gain?
As in the case of the Cardo Systems video, the company sometimes replaces the video with a new one promoting their brand. Alternately, as in the Ray-ban video, they add a link to their website.
However, in other cases–Levis and Guitar Hero–there’s still no indication on the video page that the video isn’t a legitimate, user-generated and unaffiliated with a corporation.
So why bother? The only tangible, measurable result that I can think of is the free media the companies earn when they go public with the revelation. Of course, this only pays off if the video itself is a success. How many of these corporate stealth videos never get revealed because they only received 8700 views?
There’s considerable value in that earned media. However, this article indicates that “Bike Hero” required four weeks worth of production by an ad agency. That’s quite an expense for what I imagine to be fairly middling media exposure.
As far as I can figure, there isn’t much of a brand awareness gain. After all, the videos usually don’t promote specific brands–that only appears in the subsequent media coverage. And “Bike Hero” isn’t effective unless you’re already familiar with Guitar Hero, the game.
There’s also the question of possible damage to the brand when it’s revealed that the videos are, in fact, from lame corporations. I don’t think that matters very much in the fluid world of YouTube, but it’s worth considering.
So what else do these brands stand to gain?