Behind the Scenes of the Hit Branded Show about Vampires and Tampons
As part of our Ask the Experts series, we’ve been learning from the world’s leaders in content marketing and sharing their advice. In this interview with Kaaren Whitney-Vernon, CEO of shift2, we chat about the challenges and rewards of creating video series for brands.
The following interview contains excerpts from The Epic Guide To Branded Video– 50 pages of free advice from the experts at The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Mashable, American Express and more!
Pressboard: What’s your role, your background and what first attracted you to content?
Kaaren: As the CEO of the millennial-focused branded entertainment agency shift2, a co-venture with leading production company Shaftesbury and its digital arm, Smokebomb Entertainment, I work with brands to harness the global power of video content on YouTube and social media. Prior to shift2, I was the CEO of Youth Culture for 15 years, one of Canada’s largest youth media companies, creating successful youth targeted products, including popular lifestyle brand Vervegirl, as well as Trendscan, the premiere research study providing data on marketing to youth in Canada for more than 35 national and international brands.
I was first attracted to video content and YouTube when I served as executive producer of The Avenue, the first reality show on YouTube staring YouTube influencer GiGi Gorgeous, which garnered over 2.5 million collective views and developed countless loyal fans. This was my introduction to the power of creating tribes – a loyal and engaged community of passionate people – through smart, entertaining and relevant video content. I knew we were onto something, and that brands could harness that power to deliver their message to consumers (fans!) in a unique way.
Shift2 has had a lot of success creating web series for brands, but the costs of series can be hard to justify to clients compared to one-off videos. Why should brands consider series as part of their video strategies? What advice would you give to brands considering creating video series?
What is the cost of staying ahead of your competition? We tell our clients – a one-off video is like going to the gym once and expecting to be in shape overnight. Yes, one-off videos might go viral, but that is a big “might”. As well, there is no depth to the conversation, just a short burst of awareness for the brand. With the type of branded entertainment shift2 creates – multi–episodic scripted series – a brand can truly be woven into a story using characters that the audience can relate to, to build a community and ultimately, a platform for continuous conversation between the brand and the audience.
shift2 worked with tampon brand U by Kotex to develop the popular “Carmilla” series
Any type of branded content, short or long form, must first fulfill a consumer need – be it entertainment or education, or both. When consumers feel heard and a brand comes in to fulfill a dream, a wish, or an emotional engagement for a viewer, the viewer will become a carrier of the brand’s message and ultimately that brand’s advocate. Our aim is to facilitate that conversation by creating an on-going series featured on the right digital channels and connecting a brand’s values and attributes to fans.
If a brand wants to consider producing a branded entertainment series as part of their marketing initiatives, the keys to success are to first of all align the video content strategy with their overarching marketing programs and then link that content to specific, measurable objectives. These can range from shareability, to lead generation to purchase intent or conversion. The key is to be specific, set benchmarks, and then measure and pivot in an agile way throughout the program, which usually lasts between 4 and 6 months.
What was the most challenging part of working on the Carmilla series with Kotex? What was the best part?
The most challenging part of working on the Carmilla series with U by Kotex, was convincing the brand and their lead agencies not to showcase products or logos in the series, and in fact not mention the brand partnership at all until halfway through the first season. Luckily the clients are innovative thinkers and trusted us with the partnership. By connecting the U by Kotex brand to strong female characters without one single logo in the series, we aligned the brand attributes and values into the series, and pre/post research showed that Carmilla had 93% brand recall.
shift2’s Carmilla case study shows the success of the campaign
The best part of working on Carmilla is by far seeing the fan reaction to the show – the global community that has been built around the show is astounding and touching. The series has been watched on YouTube in over 160 countries and translated into 14 languages by the fans. Seeing the “Creampuffs” in the real world at fan events, making fake armour with the U by Kotex logo front and centre, paying tribute to the show and to the brand that brought them their favourite characters is priceless. Carmilla created a community of fans – friends – that support and encourage each other, where they can have a voice for their shared experiences. The best part is that this community is supported by a bold, respectful and forward-thinking brand that has started and continued a very important conversation.
In your experience, which of the following is the greatest challenge with creating video content?
Measurement / ROI
Distribution. Great content needs a thoughtful distribution strategy that finds the right audience and starts an ongoing conversation where the brand can be included in an engaging way. We work with the brand and their media partners so that the characters can become the brand’s most authentic influencers. Gone are the days of relying on organic reach – the media has to be strategically planned to reach the right audience at the right time, on the right platform. This could be on our own channels, such as Carmilla on KindaTV where other similar content lives, or on the brand-owned social channels.
What’s one habit the best video storytellers have?
When a show, a series, or a character inhabits the lives of viewers and is recalled or identified as part of who they are, that is when we know a connection has been made.
In 100 characters or less, what is your favourite tip for creating great video content?
Create a community that connects around the same passion points using a powerful story and relatable characters.
Pressboard would like to thank Kaaren Whitney-Vernon and shift2 for speaking with us and contributing to our latest e-book.