Problem: Despite its prominence commercially, Blendtec had made little headway as a consumer blender, according to George Wright, the company's VP of marketing. When he joined the company in 2006, he wanted to get the word out about the company's blender for use in the home.
Solution: Mr. Wright found the answer when he discovered sawdust on the floor of Blendtec's office in the fall of 2006. He quickly learned that company founder Tom Dickson had been blending 2 x 4s to test the strength of the blenders. Mr. Wright grabbed $50, purchased some marbles, a rake, a McDonald's extra value meal, a rotisserie chicken and a 12-pack of coke.
He then enlisted Blendtec's existing video producer, Kels Goodman, and brought a camera into the lab where Mr. Dickson conducted his experiments. They turned the camera on and rolled as Mr. Dickson, in a white lab coat and goggles, proceeded to blend the various purchases.
The videos of those experiments (they all blended) became the first episodes for the "Will it Blend" Web video series. Mr. Wright posted the videos on YouTube, Revver and on the URL WillItBlend.com, with a link to that site from the Blendtec home page, starting in November 2006. All of the videos are filmed in HDV format on a JVC camera in the $8,000 range and they are edited on Final Cut Pro. Mr. Goodman does all the filming and editing.
The one-minute demonstrations of blending prowess quickly ticked up in popularity on YouTube. Some of the more popular episodes include the blending of an iPod, an iPhone and a rake handle. The popularity of the videos created enough buzz for Blendtec that Mr. Dickson was invited to appear on "The Tonight Show" to blend a rake handle. To date, Blendtec has produced about 55 episodes of the series and relies on only internal staffers to create the short videos. That includes a video producer, the company's Web master, Mr. Wright and Mr. Dickson. That crew will spend one afternoon a few times a month blending and shooting. The Web master works on the Web site most of the time. Mr. Goodman also scripts, directs, and produces training and marketing videos for the company. The segments are filmed and edited in the HDV digital format.
Evaluation: The "Will it Blend?" series is a runaway viral marketing success. The videos have been viewed more than 70 million times across WillItBlend.com, YouTube and Revver. The cost to produce the videos is negligible. The costs are fixed because the staffers are already in house. That means the only real expense involves is buying the goods to blend. In fact, the total external cost for the first five videos was about $50.
"Will it Blend?" also has become a revenue source for the company. Mr. Wright said the videos generate “tens of thousands of dollars” in ads on Revver, which shares ad revenue with producers. In addition, other companies have asked Blendtec to co-produce "Will it Blend" ads for them. A radio station in Albuquerque hired Blendtec to produce a video demonstrating the blender's ability to puree CDs, Mr. Wright said.
The privately-held company's revenues are dominated by commercial sales, but overall sales have risen by 20 to 30 percent since the "Will it Blend?" series premiered. Part of that increase is accounted for by retail consumers that Blendtec was targeting with its Web video. Specifically, in-store sales in warehouse stores have multiplied by 10 times and Web orders for home blenders have multiplied by six.
"We are also finding there are kids dragging their parents over and saying, ‘This is the blender you need to buy. I saw it on the Internet. This is the one that does iPhone and rakes," Mr. Wright said. He said Blendtec will continue to roll out new videos, but will slow the pace because it has already produced so many and will aim to tie the videos to topical events.