Video Use in Direct Marketing

Catalog University

I keep hearing that video use is going to be expanding greatly with more bandwidth on the web, on iPads, and on mobile devices. So I decided to take a look at what direct marketers are currently doing with video on their websites. I was surprised to find that only a handful of catalogers were taking full advantage of this wonderful medium. Below is my unscientific look at how a few direct marketers are taking advantage of video.

Best in Class

I looked at five direct marketing sites that I would consider to be “best in class” for video use – based on the quality of the videos, amount of available videos, ease of finding the videos, and overall customer appeal.

A search for “video” on the Crutchfield site brings up 1087 products with video. In the left nav bar, you can select “Article/video matches (360), to find actual videos on the site. I don’t love having to take this second step, but because Crutchfield is a direct marketer who sells a lot of video equipment, this second step would be probably helpful for most customers.

Once you get to the product videos, the quality of the videos is terrific – explaining how Crutchfield products work, or showing easy steps for use or installation. As you watch a video on Crutchfield, a pop up box comes up, asking if you want to sign up for emails about the product in the video, and/or for specials and promotions – which is a great idea. Crutchfield uses a mix of presenters with a great mix of close ups by an expert. They have been shooting their own videos for about a decade and their expertise at this is evident. Crutchfield videos are mounted in a black box v. YouTube.

Duluth Trading has a number of great videos on their site. And I like that when you put in a search for “video”, you get to a page boldly titled: Duluth Trading in Living Color, Product Videos. The sub head is “Our best sellers in action”. Duluth videos are a mix of live narrative by “Ricker, the Product Manager”, mixed with Duluth branded illustrations. The messages are quick and to the point. A selling feature I like on this site is a link right under the video frame to “Shop” that item. Duluth’s use of close ups gives personality to the camera angles, and helps share details with a potential customer. Duluth videos are mounted in “YouTube” frames – a feature I don’t love.

King Arthur Flour has a wonderful video collection on their site, demonstrating “baking techniques, tutorials, recipes, and stories about our farmers, our company, and our employee owners,” with a “VIDEO” link right in the top nav bar. The videos are professionally made with great story telling and music and come across as natural as the KAF brand. And the ones that explain baking – like how to accurately measure a cup of flour, or how to make bread, are really helpful and have a few surprises. The videos are posted in a “YouTube” box, but run right from the KAF site. The videos don’t sell product as much as they sell the richness of the KAF brand. There are links to the recipes for the demos – which naturally include King Arthur Flour.

L.L.Bean also does a great job with videos on their site. While they don’t include “videos” in their menu bars, if you search for “video”, you get to a dedicated page for videos. Video “channels” for L.L.Bean include links to men’s women’s, kid’s, outdoor gear, hunting and fishing, luggage, home, Outdoor Discovery Schools, Heritage and Values, and television ads. As you might expect, the Bean video collection is extensive, explaining how products are developed and made. These videos are professional and beautifully shot but are not overly polished so they still come across as friendly. In the “heritage” section, there are some great, inspiring videos about “discover something”. Bea is selling a story in these videos, with the product as an underlying “comfort” factor. L.L.Bean videos are not posted in YouTube boxes.

Steve Spangler Science is another site with many great videos, and a link right in the top nav bar. When you click on “VIDEOS” on this site, there is a bit of a hurdle – you have to sign up to see the Experiment Library and agree to the terms and conditions of the site. Steve does some pretty crazy experiments, so this is no doubt a requirement of Steve’s lawyers who want to make sure you know what you are doing if you try anything you see in a video! And it gets you to subscribe to Steve’s newsletter…Most of the newsletters I have gotten as a follow up have included fun videos. Some just sell product – but the video aspect has kept me from unsubscribing – so far!

If you are not familiar with Steve’s work, I’d recommend checking out the site even if you never plan to do videos! Steve is a great performer as well as a teacher, and his tag line, “Making Science Fun”, is proven in the videos. Steve does a lot of work with teachers and you can see how his site would be helpful to them. Under the “sick experiment” category, you can find dozens of experiments that explain all sorts of scientific concepts. Products used in the videos are listed as “ingredients”, with a product menu running along the left side of the video site for easy purchase.

Of note: You can click to watch Steve’s videos on YouTube rather than on Steve’s site. I’m not sure why they would want you to do that. The site also says you can see his videos in 3D, and can download them to mobile, though I couldn’t get the 3D to work on my computer.

Good video use on site

These four direct marketers have videos on their site, but they are either hard to find, are limited in number, or are limited in the use of the medium.

  • Brookstone,
  • Cuddledown,
  • Duncraft,
  • Green Mountain Coffee/Keurig,,,

Brookstone has excellent videos on their site – but the videos are hard to find. A search for “video” brings up a list of 272 products – some have video links; other are selling a product that has the word “video” in the name of the product, or in the product copy. You have to go product by product to see what the possible video might be, and even then when there is a video, the link to the video is somewhat hidden over or under the product shot. Because of the nature of the Brookstone products, I guess I expected to find more on this site. Brookstone videos are mounted in their own, black box.

A search on the Cuddledown website takes you to a number of good videos, from how products are made, to how to choose a comforter, to how to fold a fitted sheet! The videos are helpful and interesting, but are tightly scripted and lack some of the fun and emotion of the best in class videos.

A search for “video” on the Duncraft site brings you to five products. You have to click on “more details” under the product to find the video, which is then tucked in over to the right side of the screen. Once there, one video has helpful animations, but no sound. Another is a short clip of a hummingbird in a Duncraft nest. Another includes clips from a video they sell. All are good, but are inconsistent in voice – keeping Duncraft out of the “best in class” category for me.

Green Mountain Coffee/Keurig has a few great videos to explain how to maintain your Keurig machine, but I found little on the Green Mountain site.

No video on site, except for video products

I was surprised that another 30+ top direct marketing sites I looked at had no video section for a customer to review. It may be that they have videos tucked in somewhere on the site, but product demonstration videos did not come up in a search the other twenty or so companies I reviewed.

Possible issues with video

There are several possible issues with getting more video on our websites. One is that it takes time and none of us have time to add “get videos shot” to our to-do lists. The other is bandwidth. If video slows down our site load, we don’t want it. There is also a problem storing large video files. Many are getting around this by posting videos to YouTube, but this still slows down a website. There is also a privacy issue using YouTube – once you put a video up, it is very difficult to get it down. And if your customer sees “YouTube” as part of your video post, they may be tempted over, only to return hours later, exhausted from checking out additional videos on random topics, as all of us have done. And the #1 problem I have heard for why there are not more videos – we don’t know who to turn to to shoot them.

At the same time, the use of video by the “best in class” direct marketers mentioned here shows how powerful this medium can be and that investing in the time to shoot, mount, store, and maintain a charming video selection would have great customer appeal resulting in a good ROI. I have also read that videos in email get about a 90% click through rate!

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Janie Downey
Co-founder Catalog University