As someone who watches a lot of YouTube videos, I’m used to seeing a lot of ads. I’m also used to skipping them when I’m allowed. If I could talk to the folks who make these ads, my call to action would be pretty simple: Please stop interrupting me when I’m trying to relax in my YouTube Fortress of Solitude. People go online for basically two reasons: to solve a problem or to be entertained. They do not want your ads.
Sound and Vision
My most recent YouTube meandering allowed me to stumble onto a little video titled “Beck Reimagines David Bowie’s Sound and Vision.” I love Beck. And I love Bowie. And those of you who know me will know the only thing I love more than British rock is British rock remade by American artists.
Sound and Vision is one of Bowie’s best-known songs from his Berlin Trilogy albums, and Beck’s performance is spectacular: a full orchestra, a gospel choir, a yodeler – all conducted by Beck’s father, David Campbell. It’s powerful and moving. And it’s an imaginative interpretation of classic rock.
Except it isn’t a music video. It’s a commercial for Lincoln Motor Company.
And after watching it, the musician and the marketer in me were in lock step. I was not only excited about the awesome performance, I also loved the fact that I was tricked into watching something that was an Internet-based promotion and didn’t even care.
But as an Internet marketer, what can I do? Is this just a cool video, or are there larger lessons we can draw from the production that will help us cut through the new pollution of crappy content marketing?
Lesson 1: The “Non-Commercial” Commercial
First, it didn’t look like a commercial. If someone were to search for “Beck” on YouTube, this would come up as just another one of Beck’s awesome videos. Aside from the Lincoln logo appearing briefly at the beginning and end of the video, the piece was also devoid of car commercial clichés: no sleek, sunlit drives along a mountain range, no desert dust thrown into the air in slow motion from a controlled power slide.
Lesson 2: Don’t Sell a Product
Second, it didn’t sell us a car. In fact, the amount of Lincoln products featured in the video hovered right around zero. I wasn’t told to visit a dealership to take a test drive. No silky-voiced announcer asked me if I’d driven a Lincoln lately. At no point did Beck drive in, lay on the hood of, or lean against a brand new Town Car. In fact, after the nine-minute performance, I was simply presented with a link to the Hello, Again site. Which I promptly visited.
Lesson 3: Create an Experience
While luxury cars were not on display, something else was: vitality. Watch the video above and ignore the fact that there’s a Lincoln logo anywhere to be seen. You had fun, didn’t you? Did you feel a little energized? That’s exactly the point. As the New York Times’ Bill Vlasic points out, Lincoln is desperately trying to shift its image from stuffy to stylish, from a company in a “perpetual state of decline” to a company whose best days may yet be ahead. And rather than tell you that, Lincoln is going to invite you to the party.
Effective marketing – online or offline – is marketing that hits you in the gut. It’s something you actually want to watch, listen to or be a part of. The Lincoln campaign, of course, is nothing terribly new. When Edward Bernays reinvented Ivory Soap in the 1920s, he didn’t just focus on extolling the benefits of cleanliness. He engaged in a crossbreeding of disciplines including art and fashion in order to connect consumers to a familiar product in ways that spoke to what they valued.
This is just one more piece of Lincoln’s quest to curate its brand as relevant. Or, as AdWeek’s Gabriel Beltrone writes about Sound and Vision, it drums up attention “for a brand nobody thought was capable of surprising anyone.” And for those of us who want to lead the way in inbound marketing, it’s an example of what can happen when we stop interrupting people and start connecting with them.