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Marketing with a blender – 10 lessons on viral marketing from BlendTec

Patrick Stafford /

feature-blendtech-200It’s one of the most successful viral campaigns of the internet age.

BlendTec, a manufacturer of industrial blenders, started uploading videos to YouTube as early as 2006, attempting to display the strength of its product by blending all types of different products.

It started with some marbles, a chicken, golf balls and a six pack of Coke. Then BlendTec started blending electronics, including iPhones and iPads, and the company’s popularity surged when director Tom Dickson stood in front of the camera and blended an iPad into smithereens.

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“Yes, you can blend an iPad,” he said.

In six years, the company’s sales have grown by over 1,000%, and it has even created a marketing department to help other companies create similar campaigns.

Its videos, which show the company’s blenders smashing iPhones, cans of deodorant, glow sticks and all types of toys, have amassed tens of millions of views. The iPad video itself has 14 million views, the majority of those shortly after the video was uploaded in 2010.

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Now, Dickson has spoken to SmartCompany about the campaign, and what small businesses can take away from the company’s success:

1. Actually have a good product

Viral campaigns can often go wrong when they’re based around a product that isn’t actually of a good quality. The popularity of the campaign is in direct proportion to the quality of the product involved.

Dickson says the campaign only took off because the company had spent years developing and perfecting its offer.

“For 44 years, I’ve been bent on making the strongest blender in the world. I got one back in 1968 for a wedding present, and I could immediately see the faults in it.”

“So for years, we’ve been trying to develop the best kitchen appliances.”

2. Develop a brand

Creating a great product is all well and good, but it’s nothing if you don’t know how to market it. Dickson says the company essentially had no brand of its own, which is why it ended up embarking on a slightly left-of-centre campaign.

“We just did not have a brand, at all. My strategy was to get us into the coffee shops, and smoothie shops and so on, and they would demonstrate our blenders to the world.”

“It wasn’t quite like that. So we just needed to develop a brand – and that’s where I felt we needed to hire a marketing person.”

3. Hire someone outside your expertise

Dickson is an engineer – he’s been an engineer all his life. So when it came to developing a brand, he needed to look outside his usual area of expertise.

Dickson hired a marketing manager who immediately got to work in selling the company’s product in unusual ways.

“He was aware of some of the crazy things I’ve used in a blender before, and he went and spent $50 on some marbles, a chicken, some golf balls, and a six pack of Coke,” says Dickson.

“We taped it, and then all of a sudden the next thing I know he came back and said we have six million views on YouTube!”

“I said, what’s YouTube? I had no idea what it was.”

“We needed to create a brand,” he says. Hiring outside the normal realm of expertise did just that.

4. Move with the times

This was six years ago, when YouTube had just been purchased by Google. But the stunt got them into the big leagues – the company was being asked to make appearances on the most popular US talk shows and morning shows.

Dickson says taking those invitations on board, essentially taking the concept and running with it, brought it into the big leagues.

“Because of that success, we had the opportunity to create a brand. We just took what we had and kept going with it.”

5. Have the resources to keep it going

Dickson points out a key problem with many viral campaigns – the companies don’t actually have the resources or momentum to keep it going.

They let it remain popular for a week or two, and then it simply drops away. But Dickson says the company was dependent on making sure these videos became as popular as possible, so it just started making more of them.

“You really have to be prepared for success,” he warns, noting the company’s servers were knocked out from the traffic of the original video.

“You need to tap into what people are interested in.”

BlendTec didn’t stop at marbles and chickens, but expanded into consumer electronics and even hockey pucks – which brought in an entirely new audience of viewers. Dickson says it was important the campaign draw in as many people as possible from all walks of life. Having that drive means the success of a viral campaign continues well beyond its initial lifespan.

“We blended hockey pucks, and got every hockey player in the world interested in what we were doing. If it’s of interest, they’ll watch.”

Continued next page.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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