How to master a Lean YouTube Campaign

Before planning a campaign, it’s important to look at how the channel you are using shapes your overall strategy. This is part of the Lean Content philosopy: you don’t just copy-paste the same ideas across all the channels you can. Your select a channel because it fits your overall strategy, and you then put the energy into making that work really sing. 

YouTube is an amazing proposition, offering you a free video hosting platform that can scale to millions of views at zero cost to you. But of course, video is a steep curve: scripting, production costs, editing, effects…it’s not to be taken lightly. It may be worth going after, but you’ll want to really play to its strengths and plan carefully.

I’d like to show you some of the example videos I like to share with folks planning out a video campaing for their small business. I think each offers a real-world lesson and example of how to really put YouTube to work for your brand.

First up, let’s look at the first video I share if I’m trying to explain the concept of content marketing to someone who’s new to the idea.


Masterclass: How to Iron a Shirt

This video works as piece of content marketing because it’s useful. It offers the viewer something of value, a lesson. And YouTube is perfect for this type of content as people are already looking to it for how-to videos. The content fits the channel.

It’s straightforward, and It does what it says on the tin. But notice just how well it delivers. The first lesson in content marketing (and the hardest to actually follow through on) is that you have to have the goods.  In this video, it’s clear this guy not only knows his stuff, he seems to be at the cutting edge of the technique, and he demonstrates it effortlessly. If you’re going to promise a thing, deliver that thing. Not just passably, but have something new to add.

This video establishes their brand in your mind as the definitive experts, (you believe this guy when he leads with “Now I’m passionate about shirts…”). And it gives you a thing of actual value; you’re going to remember that this snappy British dude saved your butt when you were running late to your job interview.

Next I’d like to point out the subtle art of making the turn, from content to sales material. It’s the subtle way you lead the viewer toward taking that next step of engagement where the art lies.

And that’s my next lesson: use the buttons. Understand all the tools available to you on a medium. In the case of YouTube, take the time to really look at how other channels are taking advantage of the widgets: links in the description, subscribe buttons, annotations, and cards. Stay up on the state of the art. Be curious, and be a bit of a hacker. Notice how subtle the sales pitch in the T.M. Lewin example is. It’s really just a tiny button in the corner, and that’s a confident move that only works if the content is this strong. You could watch this, not buy a shirt, but still be one step closer to doing so, as the branding has worked in a subtle way.

Take a look at this, from James Gurney. Gurney sells DVDs and instructional courses, and you’ll see right away from his videos that he is a gifted painter and teacher and definitely “has the goods.” Watch through the video, but look how he turns it over at the end, from a tight, engaging free lesson, into a literal engagement machine.


Ultra-compact Watercolor Sets

Those buttons are tactile and moving and just saying “push me,” but they also show a real understanding of YouTube’s features. He had a physical object custom-built to cleverly use YouTube’s own annotations and cards.

He has two versions of this end-of-reel element, moving buttons version, and this one, which swings a small field into position, again, cleverly hacking YouTube’s built-in features:


Painting a Winter Pond in Gouache


It’s worth pointing out the varying levels of production value between the T.M. Lewin spot, and Gurney’s videos. Gurney has pumped a ton of effort into great, reusable props and an overall high production value, with highly edited and produced spots. While the ironing video could have been made on a phone, but still has 2.5M hits. In planning your campaign, think clearly how your production value will reflect on your brand proposition. Gurney is selling videos. It makes sense that his need to be slick and creative, while there’s something refreshingly simple about sharing the facts of the ironing technique in a bare-bones manner. If bare-bones can work for you, by all means, focus those energies on the content, not the flash!

And finally, just for fun, let’s look at how even a heavy manufacturing company can use video content to make you want to share their content:


SSI’s Bowling Ball Shred (Widescreen Edition)

So, did you buy a shredder? Will anyone actually buy one based on this video? I mean, they’d only have to sell one to make all their video content worth it. But nobody will likely follow a link from here to the “Add to Cart” button on a piece of equipment like this. However, something memorable and fun such as SSI’s video series will catch your attention (it might also catch the attention of Health & Safety, but let’s overlook that for now). The reason I think this approach makes sense for this business is simply that this video will make their booth immediately popular at the trade show: “Oh, that’s you guys! Of course we’ve seen that.” It gives their sales team an easy icebreaker, and that conversation is what can turn into an eventual sale of a million dollar maw of destruction.

Viral is viral. If there’s a cool thing you know about your product, show it in the best way you can. If you make shirts, how can you make your shirt look good? If you make shredders, start thinking what you can chuck in there. There is always a base-line question of what will get views, simply because views will come back to you as business in ways you may never understand fully. No matter how you scheme your campaign, don’t forget that posting huge numbers is another way to get your poles out there.

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