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FutureNow Article
Thursday, Jun. 12, 2008

iPhone 3G Shows How to Use Online Video to Sell Products

By Holly Buchanan
June 12th, 2008

iphone 3g enterprise videoThere are a lot of innovative ways to use video to sell products online. After sharing a few examples I recently found with colleagues, we agreed that the video for the new Apple iPhone 3G was one of the most persuasive uses of rich media on a website we’d ever seen.

But before we discuss how the iPhone team does it, I’d like to show you a few other examples that illustrate some of the dos and don’ts — mostly “dos” — for using online video as part of your overall Web strategy.

Ebags.com – Ebags features videos of some of their handbag designers by giving the designers their own category page with which to showcase their own products. Here’s an example from the Antoinette Lee Designs. When you click on the video, you’ll see Antoinette talks about her background and her inspiration — very cool. It’s refreshing to get a sense of who’s designing the handbag. It creates a more personal connection with the designer and her product. Again, a fabulous use of video.

4Q – Avinash Kaushik and iPerceptions have teamed up to develop a free online customer survey product called 4Q. The landing page links to this YouTube video where Avinash actually walks you through setting up a 4Q survey on your site. I like this video for a lot of reasons. I like Avinash’s delivery (“You just finished step one. Give yourself a hug!”), and you can actually go through the whole process, screen-by-screen, from the sign-up page through putting the code on your site. So often with software, we see a screen (think sign-up process page) and have no idea what’s coming next. This step-by-step approach helps people mentally go through the process before they even sign up — a brilliant way to remove barriers and inspire confidence in the product.

Microsoft Dynamics – I know they’re an easy target, but this micro-site for Microsoft Dynamics, a business management software product, has a lot of dos and don’ts in one place. Click on the actors to launch the videos and you’ll see what I mean. While I like the direction Microsoft is going, I think they hurt themselves with the execution. Similar to the 4Q video, Microsoft shows actual screenshots, so you can get a sense of what it would feel like to use their software. But unlike 4Q, they only show the interface briefly, so it’s not as thorough. Microsoft also customized each video to attract different people within a company who might potentially use the software. From the “typical IT Manager,” to the “typical Marketing Manager,” to the “typical Finance Manager,” each video targets specific things that each of these people segments care about.

But Microsoft’s videos aren’t as effective as they could be. They don’t feel authentic. These are obviously actors, using hokey language like, “I’m your typical Sales Manager.” What’s up with that? Because these people feel so plastic, their message doesn’t resonate with me the same way a more authentic delivery would. Which brings me to my final example…

Apple iPhone 3G – Ah, yes, the iPhone. Leave it to Apple to be ready with a great online experience to explain everything you need to know about the new iPhone on the very day it’s announced. With the next generation iPhone 2.0 operating system, Apple is making a very bold move. They’re positioning the device as the must-have business solution for any type of industry — even the Army! On the iPhone enterprise page, Apple links to a video that proves in no uncertain terms that top companies are relying on the iPhone for their most important work.

I really like this video for three reasons:

  • The video features top companies using the iPhone. There is instant credibility. (“If it’s good enough for Disney and The Army, it’s good enough for me.”)
  • In the IT industry, the top sources of information are peers and colleagues. Rather than having sales people (or actors) talking about the iPhone’s features, we see actual IT people talking in their language about why they like the iPhone and its specific capabilities.
  • The video shows the phone in use, so you can picture yourself connecting through your VPN or using it for other applications. Or just holding it.

What’s your company doing with video to help sell products online? If you’ve found other ways that are new and effective, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

. .

About the Author: Holly Buchanan is a “typical Persuasion Architect” at FutureNow, Inc. She’s co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth and an expert in planning online persuasion scenarios.

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Comments (17)

  1. You’re right the video is done well but, it is done well regardless of being online. It is an ad. It has a purpose: Get Corporate thinking “iphones work for corporates,” and it serves it well.

    The primary difference between TV ads & online video is delivery. for tv ads, delivery is relatively straightforward.

    Video ads may need to have delivery built in to the video itself (eg. will it blend) or have a more purpose specific goal (appear on product page of an ecommerce, communicate to fans/press/etc actively seeking info) relating to the context of where it appears.

    I think context is the new key concept for online videos that we didn’t see so much with tv. A tv ad is usually just on tv, so it gets watched (like Seinfeld’s nothing show). Online videos get watched in context.

    Apple has the (hard earned) luxury of directing at info seekers looking for ‘more info.’

  2. Not only can videos better sell your product, but they can also be used for customer support. For example we have about 8 or so animated videos, of which about 2-3 often get referenced for support. It’s not that it can’t be described it’s just that it’s much easier to express in video format (and it’s more consistent)!

    If you think about it some more, it will also reduce your support costs. Some people just have a more difficult time understanding computers than others. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s life.

    For example, when someone buys a copy of our software they have to enter in a license code to activate it. We strongly recommend that the license code by copy/pasted because of potential data entry errors. Although this is a simple task for many people, it’s also a very complex task for others. And trying to describe how to copy and paste a license code into a software application to people who don’t understand how to copy and paste is difficult. An animated video in this case makes all the difference.

    Of course this examples is very support oriented, but it can just as easily be done for the user manual, the “what’s new” page, etc. Actually we’ve been using video very effectively for our “What’s new” page: http://www.landlordmax.com/releaseNotes.html In some cases a good example can really help amplify the value of a new feature.

  3. Stephane,

    Great point about video as a customer support tool. Very powerful. And I love that you recognize some people don’t know how to copy and paste. Those of us in the industry sometimes forget how basic we need to make our instructions. Good reminder.

    And yes, I like your use of video to show new features. One thing I might point out, if I may, is to make it more obvious the screenshots are clickable as videos. I had to search around for a while before I noticed the instructions above the fold that said they are clickable. I know you have the controls right there under the screenshot, but I thought it was a part of the screenshot itself.

    For less observant visitors like myself :) it would be nice to have a “click the image to see the video” explanation right by the screenshot. There’s really good content there answering your visitors questions, and I want to make sure people are viewing it.

    Great stuff!

  4. I have founded asia-xl 4 years ago to create exactly these but then different. We don’t use video we use flash and we don’t use live people (to expensive) but we do use stock-photos of people. Animation is a very powerful and almost universal language to explain products, create a mood around a product or a service. The end product is used on internet but also for off-line sales presentations, trade-shows and the like. The key is that you control the message in the market. With flash we are also able to combine digital catalogues with animation, this as an advantage over PDF. Since the iPhone doesn’t support flash this moment we convert to MP4 for that platform which works very well. The great thing is that people watching an animation on a cool product like the iPhone or iPod Touch are as positive involved in the sales as if they would hold a sample. This because the “coolness” off the iPhone radiates on the actual product. We welcome your comments on our portfolio and we would be more then happy to add you to our client list.

  5. I could not understand what I was supposed to do on the ebags page. There was no video except at the bottom of the page it had ‘additional videos’ and all I could see was a black screen with audio. Testing is key.

    4Q was great, I actually signed up after watching 3/4 of the video. I did not plan to sign up before starting, the video persuaded me that I needed 4Q in a very comfortable and friendly way.

    The Microsoft Dynamics videos are a great concept, but were so poorly executed. Take a tip from Apple Microsoft! Try to spend some time experimenting with video quality, and pay less on actors and maybe more on creative writing and video production.

    Apple iPhone 3G – Excellent, makes me wish I did not renew my Verizon Wireless contract. I want it!

    At my company, we have experimented a bit with video. We are a modular building manufacturer, so our target audience is architects, contractors, developers, government and education people. We did a time lapse of a building being installed, and also a sideshow of a project in progress. This post has been very inspiring on the possibilities I have with video and using it to build trust and appeal to the needs of the viewer.

  6. Hello Holly, great insights again!! This can be a good start point for us getting out a good video ads for the LA YIN products (store.la-yin.com). Do you have any special tips if the ads’ target audience are women?

  7. When you have a product like the iPhone 3G that is packed with so many features, it’s much easier to “show” rather than “tell”. Imagine having to read a 500 word brochure itemizing all of the phone’s features and specific functions – that is essentially what the video accomplishes in just a couple of minutes.

    For some of the same reasons, we decided to produce and post on our website a two-minute video of our organization’s member benefits at http://www.americasbestcompanies.com. The animated video has made it much easier for us to cover everything we do for our small business members – not to mention it’s quite entertaining to watch.

    Great topic!

  8. The update will be free to those who purchased it before (I have yet to find an iPhone App that does not give out free updates). It will also launch at a lower price fir new users of Byline for version 2.0 (I am keeping the new price a secret in order not to ruin the surprise for the developer)

  9. I’ve also realized that a lot of companies are now targeting YouTube for product advertising. It seems that nowadays you can reach more potential buyers with a fraction of the budget if you take advantage of social networking and entertainment sites.

    I prefer to watch videos over reading text.. and kids all over the nation spend hours every week just watching youtube videos!

    -Jason

  10. I think as usual, Apple leads the way with their release presence. They are extraordinarily good at ensuring the release of a product happens well. By releasing this video, especially how well it is done, brings a sense of confidence to the consumer. When you hear the trigger words that Apple placed in there very much on purpose (army, secret service, security, etc), most people are definitly going to think it is good enough for them if it is good enough for the service or the army.

    And if I’m not mistaken, isn’t that President Roslin at ~1:40 and again at ~2:40?

  11. Excellent demonstration, unfortunately, a majority of companies don’t understand the value of video. The fact that video is so underused by small-medium sized businesses opens up a mountain of potential for those that get in early.

  12. i think the iphone is amazing i just wish it were easier to get a iPhone Bad Credit

  13. I agree video is very underused but hopefully with the new products we’ve been seeing lately, this will change. I mean just look at the Flip video camera and how easy it is to edit HD content now. It’s amazing.

    Now using the iVideo Camera app, you can even record video from your phone from anywhere and easily upload it to various social networks.

  14. Some great examples here of how online videos can be used to sell products. With all the success of viral marketing it can be difficult for a company to catch the eye of the consumers, especially if the first 5-10 seconds do not grab their attention.

    My favorite from the three is definitely the Microsoft one. I really like the personal touch and although a little cheesy, the video loads well and gives you all the information you want.

  15. i agree with you guys, the innovations at apple sells the dream that if you dont have their product you are missing a lot.

  16. potential data entry errors. Although this success of viral marketing it can code by copy/pasted because of be difficult for that Apple placed in there very much simple task for many people, it’s also a very complex a company to is a hear the trigger words

  17. [...] le souligne Holly Buchanan, dans son article intitulé “iPhone 3G Shows How to Use Online Video to Sell Products“, Apple est passé maître dans l’art des vidéos promotionnelles sur le [...]

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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