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Apr 07, 2010
Case Study

Innovative Online Video Captures Customer and Media Attention: 4 Steps to a 15x Lift in Web Traffic

SUMMARY: When your brand isn’t getting enough attention from the right audiences, sometimes you have to push your marketing into new territory to make an impression.

See how a surfing and skateboarding brand crafted an innovative online video to attract attention from their target audience, the press, and social media users. The result was an enormous increase in website visits, media coverage and an award that helped promote their previously-lagging skateboarding line.

Despite having one of the best-known brands in the surfing world, Matt Ramirez, Online Marketing Manager, Quiksilver, wasn’t satisfied. The problem? Most people thought of Quiksilver only as a surfing apparel and accessories company, and didn’t realize they were also a skateboarding brand.

Even though the company sponsors skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, the team found many consumers never made the connection between Quiksilver and skateboarding.

"There’s definitely a disconnect there with the fact that we have the most recognizable skater in the business riding for Quiksilver," says Ramirez.

The team needed a campaign to connect these dots. They wanted to draw a picture of Quiksilver as a skateboarding brand and appeal to potential customers for skateboarding apparel and related accessories.


The team had used videos, blogs and other media in the past to connect with their audience -- so they wanted to push the creative envelope and try something their customers hadn’t yet seen.

They created an innovative online video called "The Spot," featuring Quiksilver’s skateboarders breaking out of an online video-player and doing tricks on webpage elements. They hoped the effort would be innovative enough to capture attention and encourage sharing, and designed well enough to connect Quiksilver with skateboarding.

Here are the steps they followed to create the video and promote it using low-cost techniques:

Step #1. Develop concept to appeal to core customers and general Web users

The team needed to raise eyebrows and capture attention in an industry that is not well-known for daring digital initiatives, Ramirez says.

"The reality is we want kids outside skating and surfing, not sitting on a computer. But today, being online and getting those kids’ attention is a necessity."

The team planned a video featuring the team’s sponsored skateboarders in what appeared to be a standard media player on a website. After about 30 seconds, one of the riders would "break free" of the viewing window and begin skating over website elements, such as images and the video’s navigation bar (see links and creative samples below).

While developing the concept, the team focused on appealing to two main groups:

- Actual skateboarders

The team felt the concept would appeal to the portion of their audience who skated regularly.

"From a skater’s perspective, you are kind of cursed with the fact that you naturally see everything as skate-able. If there’s a big grass hill, you’ll wish it was cement," says Ramirez.

The video applied that concept to the Web.

This audience also appreciated genuine skateboarding talent. The team had to ensure the experience did not come off as "gimmicky" and that the tricks performed were not digitally enhanced, Ramirez says.

"We wanted to make sure that it was real skateboarding, and that there was nothing in there that wasn’t a trick done by one of our guys."

- Skateboard enthusiasts

This portion of the team’s market is interested in skateboarding, but does not skate themselves. The team thought the concept of having people break out of a video viewing area and skateboard around a website would be exciting and interesting enough to attract this broader group.

Step #2. Bring sponsored team members on board

The company sponsors a team of 14 skateboarders. They worked with their partnership manager to get five sponsored riders interested in the idea and to secure their participation.

As with their core skateboarding market, the team had to convince their sponsored riders that the finished product would not seem phony or embarrassing.

"We don’t necessarily have to pay them for something like this because they’re under contract with us. That said, we don’t have a relationship where we say ‘You’ve got to do this whether you want to or not.’ They were excited about it," Ramirez says.

Step #3. Create Flash video

The team outlined the basics of the video. The screen would look like a webpage with a video playing in a small player -- but entire screen would actually be the video. After a few moments, riders would leave the player window and begin skating elements of the webpage.

- Green screen technology

The team filmed the video in a green screen studio. They built green ramps and obstacles similar in shape to elements on a webpage. They then shot footage of sponsored riders using the ramps. In post-production, they replaced the images of the ramps with images of website elements.

The team shot about six hours of footage and selected tricks from each rider that they planned to feature. Then, they decided the order in which those tricks would appear, and how the webpage would have to change to accommodate the various obstacles.

- Add ending screen with calls-to-action

At the end of the 2.5-minute video, an end-screen asks viewers to either:
o Play the video again
o Forward the page to a social network or bookmarking site
o View Quiksilver denim, a skateboarding apparel line

Step #4. Promote video in multiple channels

The team needed to limit their promotional budget as much as possible to save money. They also wanted to test the impact of peer-to-peer and word-of-mouth sharing.

In response, their promotional strategy included:

- Facebook ads

The team purchased ads on the social network as the only paid advertising for the campaign. Their purchase was small, Ramirez says, and spread over four weeks, starting at the video’s launch.

They targeted the ads to Facebook users with relevant interests, such as skateboarding and surfing.

- Sponsored skaters’ online channels

Upon campaign launch, the team sent a link to Tony Hawk, asking him to check it out. Hawk, who is featured in the video, tweeted about the video twice to his more than 2 million Twitter followers. These tweets were not part of a formal agreement, Ramirez says.

Similarly, the website of nine-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater, who also is sponsored by Quiksilver, linked to the video page after launch.

- Social networks

The team maintains presences on several social networks including:
o Facebook
o MySpace
o Twitter

They mentioned the video in each channel at launch, and again about one week later, Ramirez says. The team uses an informal style to reach out to followers on these networks, as if they were asking a friend to check out interesting content.

- Homepage

The team featured a large image on their homepage. The image did not explicitly describe the video, but instead featured Tony Hawk doing a trick, and hinted that their skateboarders were "doing the impossible" in a new video. When clicked, the image linked directly to the video.

- Media outreach

During production, the team invited the action sports cable show "The Daily Habit" to visit the green screen studio to film the process. The team also arranged to have three of the featured skateboarders go onto the show to talk about the video. Tony Hawk also mentioned the video during a separate appearance on the show.

The team also landed other mentions in the action sports and video production press.


The team’s groundbreaking video captured attention from its audience, competitors and industry media -- and boosted website traffic about 15x in the first month after launch.

"We knew that [traffic spike] wasn’t sustainable...but we’ve since sustained higher levels of traffic," says Ramirez. "So we consider it a success as we did get in front of skaters and we did get their attention."

The video has been watched more than 170,000 times. After their traffic surge in June, here are the team’s increases in unique visitor rates:
o July -- 52.3%
o Aug: -- 18.8%
o Sept: 5.0%
o Oct: 6.4%
o Nov: 10.5%

Promoting the video in multiple channels paid off. Aside from search engine traffic, the team’s top referrals to the site came, in descending order, from:
o -- a popular surfing news and information website.

- Tweets overwhelm servers

The team anticipated increased traffic to their site. However, Tony Hawk tweeted about the effort twice and twice crashed the team’s servers.

"No matter how much you prepare for it, one Twitter [post] from Tony Hawk can crash your site," Ramirez says.

- Industry kudos

"The pieces that you can’t measure are the excitement from the riders involved, the excitement from the industry, and even from our competitors; one of them said they were excited to see one of the brands push the envelope when these core skate and surf brands aren’t known for being super digitally-savvy," says Ramirez.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Quiksilver’s online video campaign

Members Library -- New Chart: Marketers Disclose Viral Video Costs

Members Library -- Improve Search Visibility with Video: 5 Strategies

Cuker Interactive: Helped create the online video

Quiksilver: ‘The Spot’ (we suggest turning your volume down)

Green Screen Shoot Footage

Quiksilver’s ‘The Spot’ Recognized by Director’s Guild of America



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