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Video Marketing Is on the Money

Client: Western Union
Vendor: Poptent
Objective: Develop socially viable, sharable videos to up the brand’s storytelling ante

Western Union—it’s iconic, it’s trusted, and it’s probably the first thing you think of at mention of the words “money transfer.” Like Band-aid, Kleenex, Wite-Out, or Ziploc, Western Union has come to epitomize the service it provides.

A company like that, the focus shifts from generating brand awareness (they’ve already got that covered) to evolving its brand story to keep it fresh for new audiences—all without losing any of the authenticity that made the brand recognizable in the first place.

And for that, video is the ideal tool.

“We’re a legacy brand with more than 160 years of story behind us; really, we’re the largest money transfer company in the world,” says Karen O’Brien, senior director of global social media at Western Union. “So with video, what we’re looking to achieve is branded storytelling; in other words, to share the voice of the customer in a way our customers can really relate to.”

But even for a well-known brand like Western Union, ramping up a video marketing strategy from scratch is no easy feat. There’s the script, the talent, the production, the expense—and the need to make sure that whoever’s creating the video really gets the brand. The latter point, however, turned out to be easier than it sounds.

Before making a massive investment in video, Western Union decided to experiment with Poptent, a social video marketing company that uses a crowdsource model to create videos for brands and agencies. Video seekers write up a basic creative brief outlining their needs and upload it to Poptent’s site. From there, multiple filmmakers and videographers in the Poptent network submit video concepts for the brand to review. If the brand likes what it sees, it can buy as many of the completed videos as it wants or ask for edits and changes.

Western Union’s assignment was simple—conceive and shoot a 30-second video execution promoting Domestic Money Transfer ($5 to send $50) to be distributed online and through social channels—with this caveat: “We want to create an emotional connection around family and friends, celebrating occasions, providing support, and gift giving. Make the spot memorable entertaining, and shareable.”

Sixty five content creators submitted videos and Western Union bought several. [My personal favorite is “The Audition” about an uncle who needs to send his niece money so she doesn’t miss her big shot at getting the lead in a musical. It involves cool animation, sardonic voice over, and a slingshot. It was purchased by Western Union, although not ultimately used. Check it out below. Scroll to the bottom of the article to watch the other videos Western Union bought from Poptent.]


“For us, crowdsourcing our videos solved a lot of our issues,” O’Brien says. “First, it made it easy for us to get videos made because all we had to do was write a brief and we were able to tap into an abundant network of filmmakers.”

But more important, the process gave Western Union an interesting perspective on its own brand.

“Crowdsourcing gave us access to an abundance of creative perspectives—and it was amazing how many of them were on-brand and relevant to our customer base,” O’Brien says. “Some of the filmmakers took the videos in a direction we might not have exactly intended, but all the videos were positive and compelling, and I can honestly say that every time we do this I always wish we had more budget to buy even more films.”

Of course, once a video is made, then it’s time to get people sharing it on social. O’Brien has found that, somewhat counter-intuitively, Facebook works far better than YouTube when it comes to social engagement. In some cases videos seeded on Facebook can have up to two and a half times the click-through rate as videos left to languish on YouTube. But in a way, it does make sense. Although YouTube is synonymous with video, it’s also all about search, while Facebook is all about organic discovery. When a friend shares something with you on Facebook, it’s there on your wall and you’ll probably watch—especially because someone you know recommended it. There’s little chance that you’ll head over to YouTube on your own and search for “Western Union commercial.”


But before it’s time to worry about sharing, you’ve got to make sure your video content is actually shareable. Poptent CMO Kurt Lohse has a few insights to share on that point:

Be real. “The best single tip I can share is that if you’re looking for better social engagement with your brand, learn how to create authentic stories from skilled creatives and social influencers that live and breathe in the social space,” Lohse says. “Learn to be a part of your collective customers’ stories and refrain from forcing them to be a part of your pre-scripted message.”

Strategize. “Have a plan to go long and produce regularly occurring content on a schedule you’re comfortable with and that fits your budget,” says Lohse, who notes that most social video content has a fairly short shelf life. “The social marketers who are seeing the best, most consistent results plan for regular content releases to maintain conversations and engagement past periodic seasonal marketing requirements.”

Create value. “The art of storytelling, or the desire to connect people with complex ideas and emotions through shared human experience, is perfectly suited to video because of all that video can convey in a relatively short period of time,” Lohse says. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is the value of a thousand moving pictures combined with beautiful cinematography, great acting, evocative music, and more?”

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