COMMENT: Online video advertising can be the cat’s pyjamas for retailers

How can retailers leverage popular interests and create engaging and dynamic video campaigns that grab customer attention? Google UK's retail director Martijn Bertisen pens his thoughts.

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COMMENT: Online video advertising can be the cat’s pyjamas for retailers
Not every retailer can look to leverage the cat craze, but every retailer can find the content that is delighting viewers and find a way to tap into it.

Forget Kim Kardashian and the Instagram Egg, if you really want to break the internet you need a cat.

Cat videos and memes are among some of the most shared content online and this trend has barely wavered for over a decade. Cat videos now have their own film festival, at one point outselling Captain Marvel in Detroit. It’s no surprise that the late, lamented Grumpy Cat amassed nearly 13 million social media followers and garnered her owners a large number of lucrative endorsement deals.

While not every retailer can look to leverage the cat craze, every retailer can find the content that is delighting viewers and find a way to tap into it. So how can retailers leverage popular interests and create engaging and dynamic video campaigns that grab customer attention?

Purrfect positioning

Naturally, if you’re a petcare retailer or cat-focused brand like Whiskas, you’re going to want to take advantage of the cat phenomenon. In 2015 the pet food brand started a still ongoing collaboration with YouTube: launching Kitten Kollege, entertaining videos that also contained useful advice on kitten care.

The series was a categorical success (sorry) with impressions 27 per cent above goal, improving the brand’s SEO rankings by a whopping 257 per cent and generating a search uplift of 306 per cent. Such was the demand for more fun but educational content, Kitten Kollege evolved into a branded content platform: the K.I.T or Kat Institute of Technology.

“Every retailer can find the content that is delighting viewers and find a way to tap into it”

This double-pronged assault on cat lovers has helped Whiskas retain the best return on investment in parent company Mars’ history of using digital platforms. Sales across the UK, Russia and Germany rose 3.6 per cent, 3.9 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively with a 537 per cent increase in online mentions of Whiskas and a 104 per cent rise in positive sentiment.

Finding what matters to your customers

But if you’re not a cat-focused brand or a pet retailer? What if a cat repeatedly bopping things off a table or leap-failing to the windowsill just doesn’t match your brand values?

The lesson here isn’t that a retailer needs a cat to grab attention online and increase sales. It’s that you need to think about fun, engaging, creative and educational video content that really resonates with your customers.

Online fashion retailer Mr Porter, for example, decided to experiment with narrative and use a sequence of online video ads – playing with form and engagement to grab the attention of shoppers on YouTube.

For the first time, Mr Porter curated a suite of creative assets to appeal to both new male and female shoppers in their test as they targeted Christmas shoppers. They were then able to package these up for existing customers too. Male shoppers saw how to properly “look the part” by upping their personal style, while the creative for female shoppers focused on helping them choose the perfect holiday gift for the man in their life.

The results proved that sequenced storytelling was effective at driving upper funnel metrics (ad recall and brand awareness) and user engagement (CTR). Once the campaign was finished, Mr Porter had set a new benchmark for holiday season success. The brand was able to drive 16.3 per cent higher awareness for new female shoppers, and 10.4 per cent higher awareness for new male shoppers compared to past Christmas campaigns.

The brains behind Fenty Beauty’s much anticipated launch, meanwhile, tapped into the need for greater representation. The advertising supported the brand’s key values while leveraging the huge cultural demand for greater diversity in advertising and media. By highlighting the message of “beauty for all”, the mantra of founder Rihanna, the launch of Fenty became YouTube’s biggest ever beauty brand launch, and triggered worldwide discussions around inclusion, with shoppers lining up outside the shops worldwide.

Not every brand or retailer’s online video campaign needs to be a contender for an industry award, aim to reach 100 million views or create industry-changing conversations.

Successful online video campaigns speak to their audience in a way that triggers an emotional response. This could range from finding amusement in fun animal content, to something more emotional, educational or even hard-hitting that sparks action.

In a world of social media and creative viral content, remember that there’s no such thing as a “low-engagement category” anymore. Focus on what your business does, rather than what it is – this will widen your creative process to help find the right stories just itching to be told.

Martijn Bertisen is the Director of Retail at Google UK

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