How Purple Went Viral, and How You Can, Too
Alpine—This fairy tale came true. With more than 70 million views, a video showing Goldilocks testing out mattresses went viral, and in the process launched a brand for Purple, a comfort company that started their product line with mattresses. The benefits of a viral video go beyond establishing a brand—the company has seen massive growth in only its first year of business.
“It’s been a crazy growth, and we don’t really know how much we can sell, because of that problem of not being able to make as much as we’d like to,” said Dan Bischoff, communications, public relations and content marketing professional for Purple. “We’ve invested in new machines and we’re hoping that by this fall we’ll be able to increase it by multiples.”
Tony and Terry Pearce, the founders of Purple, a have invented and licensed products to companies like Nike and Dr. Scholls. The brothers have been granted 38 patents, and have 16 patents and patents pending for the Purple product line, the core of which is their hyper-elastic polymer mattress, a material that differentiates them from the memory foam and latex competitors. They invented the product, the machines that make it, and they sell it via e-commerce—a development in the mattress industry that they say has revolutionized the way things are done.
“When you sell over e-commerce, you sell for less because you’re not paying a mark-up for marketing costs, retail costs or having a building that you use for retail,” said Bischoff. “So it’s a $5,000 mattress that you buy for $1,000.”
Funded by the previous success of the Pearce brothers, Purple also ran a Kickstarter campaign last October, raising $175,000 for mattress pre-orders. It was their first foray into using video and the digital landscape to sell their product. The next video wouldn’t be about pre-selling, but about introducing the world to their brand and their product.
“The founders kind of rolled the dice and gambled on that video, but at the same time we didn’t spend as much on our Kickstarter video at the beginning, and it had a really good response,” said Bischoff. “So I think there was some validation in that video is going to work. Nothing could have launched the brand like that did.”
Since January, Purple has grown from 30 employees to 340. They’re adding 574,000-square-foot manufacturing building in addition to the 90,000-square-foot space they started in. Purple has five upcoming product launches, and just raised over two-million dollars for their pillow on Kickstarter.
The benefits of a viral video are clear, and for those looking to replicate Purple’s success, here is some advice.
Spend the Money
The bottom line is that professional video production is not cheap. Even the simplest of ideas probably requires far more equipment and work than you would think.
“Don’t skimp on it. Some people want to spend as little money as they can for something like this. You can get away with that some. Not all our videos are that expensive, but we have that big foundational one that we went all out for,” said Bischoff. “That video with Goldilocks is not cheap. I think it was hundreds of thousands of dollars to put together, but it paid off in multiples with the success we’ve had.”
Choose the Right Collaborators
Getting the right people behind the camera is important. They bring expertise, the proper equipment, and that ability to get the most out of your limited resources.
“The Harmon Brothers were the agency we used for that video. They’ve done well in the past. They’ve done Squatty Potty, they’ve done Orabrush and Poo Pourri,” said Bischoff. “They’ve got a track record with this.”
Getting the right people in front of the camera is just as important. We’ve all seen those locally produced commercials with a very stiff business owner dryly trying to sell you something, (usually a car.)
“We had Mallory Everton from Studio C. Studio C is a BYU improv show, sort of like Saturday Night Live. We auditioned a lot of people for that role and Mallory from there [Studio C] was great. She’s awesome in that video. She has a personality that’s different and unique, people love her when they watch that video” said Bischoff. “She’s got a following too. She’s an influential person, and that helped quite a bit too with the initial sharing of the video. People who watch Studio C love it because she was in it. A lot of the great lines in it are her just kind of improvising. Having the right person there is key to a good video.”
Get Their Attention Immediately
A good video will be structured like a sales presentation; engage the audience with the problem and the solution in the opening moments of the video.
“You have to address the problem immediately, because you have just a few seconds at the beginning of a video where that viewer makes a decision, ‘is this worth my time?’ before they scroll down the Facebook feed, or whatever it is. And if you don’t capture them in those first seconds, then they’re gone,” said Bischoff. “We’ve done tests on some videos, where we’ve done an intro with our logo on it, and the response rate is terrible. If you take out that logo and go right to the issue, it’s significantly better. Go right into the problem, right into the solution.”
Show and Not Just Tell
How you communicate your message is as important as what you’re communicating. One of the unique assets of video is its ability to visually communicate something, which is powerful.
“The Goldilocks video is a demonstration that works really well. It’s not just telling the benefits but it’s also showing how it works with the eggs and everything. It’s powerful,” said Bischoff. “Not every product is going to have that sort of demonstration ability, but there are other things you can do to showcase that without just saying how great your product is.”
Entertainment and Substance
Keep it entertaining. While it’s important to acknowledge that humor won’t fit every scenario, it’s a powerful marketing tool. Humor is entertaining and disarming. No matter what tone you have, it’s important to remember that entertainment is the delivery method, not just what’s being delivered.
“We took a light approach. We’re humorous. It’s kind of typically a boring industry, and we made it fun. If you do a video and you base it just on humor without any substance to it, then you’re going to fail,” said Bischoff. “Different brands can get away with different things.”
You’ve made a video and now people need to see it. You’ll need to put some money into promoting the video.
“Today you can’t depend on just organic views with these videos, we put a lot of advertising dollars toward these videos too. We do it smart and we track the return on investment,” said Bischoff. “Almost everything we’ve done has been digital marketing. Facebook is probably the foundation of what we’re doing. It’s tens of millions of dollars we’ve made through Facebook alone.”
Knowing what’s going to catch on and what’s going to work isn’t an exact science. Even the best in the world don’t always get it right. In reality, a lot of going viral is out of your control; there are simply too many variables. You can maximize your chances with the advice above, but it’s not guarantee.
“With this stuff you swing for the fences, sometimes you’re going strike out, sometimes you’re going to win. You’ve got to be patient. Not every video you’re going to make is going to be a hit. I think we got lucky,” said Bischoff. “We worked hard on the script, worked hard on developing the product. Worked hard on advertising and promoting that video. We did a lot to make that thing work. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of resources, and it worked that time.”
Purple’s videos, in 10 months, have had 150,000,000 total views across Facebook and YouTube. The $175,000 they raised in their initial Kickstarter campaign has been surpassed in a day. Purple’s rise to success is like a fairy tale; making royalty seemingly overnight after a decade of hard work, and the magic of a viral video.
“The thing about video right now is, video sells. If you look at the way, Facebook has its own algorithm, it wants to give people what it thinks they want to see. So they give a lot of priority to video. And it’s just part of the experience on social media right now, especially with people watching video,” said Bischoff. “They can see pretty quickly what they want, and show the product in a way that no other medium does right now.”