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On February 14, 2005 YouTube was born. As it turns the big 1-0, YouTube is the 3rd most visited website with at least 2,777,777 videos being viewed a minute according to YouTube Downloader. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve personally spent an estimated 72 hours watching cat videos alone.

Since YouTube took off in early 2000’s, hundreds (thousands?) of consumer packaged goods companies have found success in reaching their target audiences through YouTube videos. Some videos engaged consumers with elements of surprise, while others used humor to get their message across. Some featured high production budgets and celebrities, while others were shot with a small budget.

In no particular order, below are 10 of our social media team’s favorite CPG YouTube videos from the last 10 years.

Dove Beauty Evolution (2006)

Dove Evolution

In 2004, Dove launched its “Campaign for Real Beauty” with ads featuring real women, NOT rail-thin models. In 2006, just one year after YouTube was born Dove released its “Evolution” video on YouTube showing the “sleight of hand” used to transform a woman into an impossibly good looking “specimen”– and how “faked” the final image was.  The video, which was posted by the short film’s director, has received 17M+ views to date.

What Worked: This emotional campaign encouraged women to embrace their real beauty, reminding them that the magazine images they may find themselves aspiring to are a sham – a marketing contrivance. The video was popular because it profoundly connected with its audience.

Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)

Advertising Campaign

Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Response Ad

Re: Rose | Old Spice

Facing tough competition in a crowded category, Old Spice created a breakthrough campaign that encouraged its target to “Smell Like A Man.” Old Spice launched its TV campaign around the Super Bowl, without actually partnering with the big game. The spot garnered widespread PR coverage, so in the summer of 2010 the brand plotted a “response” to the initial effort.  In a two and a half day event, Old Spice recorded 186 personalized YouTube messages, responding directly to fans who commented about the campaign on social sites. Cited as one of the first campaigns to use real-time marketing, the videos generated 65M views.

What Worked: The brand knew that 60% of women actually purchased body wash for the men in their lives, so they created an attention-grapping campaign that targeted both men and women. The response videos created a one-on-one conversation between the brand and its target consumers.

Tipp – A Hunter Shoots A Bear

NSFW. A hunter shoots a bear!

You may have never heard of the Tripp-Ex Whiteout brand, but in 2010 they created an interactive story using a series of YouTube videos. At the end of the first video, a hunter sees a bear and consumers are given a choice: should the hunter shoot the bear or not? The hunter uses a Tipp-Ex Mini Whiteout to change the story and allows consumers to write their own. The first video has been viewed 21M times.

What Worked: This choose-your-own adventure video was on strategy for Tripp-Ex – a brand that allows consumers to change their own story when writing.

Pepsi Max

Jeff Gordon: Test Drive | Pepsi Max

To increase fan awareness during NASCAR season, Pepsi sent driver Jeff Gordon in disguise to test drive a car. The result of the prank created one crazy ride for the car salesman. The video generated 30M views in just three days and received a large amount of national publicity.

What Worked: Pepsi Max markets itself as a “zero-calorie cola in disguise,” so having Jeff Gordon go undercover and “disguise” his driving skills was right on strategy.

evian Baby & Me

evian baby&me

As part of its “Live Young” campaign, evian generated brand love worldwide with its “Baby & Me” video. Building on previous success on YouTube with its “Rollerskating Babies” video, the “Baby & Me” video featured shows people dancing with a baby version of themselves. To create additional consumer engagement, Evian also released an app that allowed consumers to transform themselves into their baby version.

To date, the video has more than 100M views – 20M of which were generated in the first two days of its release.

What Worked: Puppies and babies often grab the attention of consumers and the evian video was no exception.

Red Bull – The Athlete Machine

The Athlete Machine - Red Bull Kluge

We could name several videos from Red Bull, but, aside from the obvious Supersonic Freefall video, the stunt that stood out to us was the 2012 “Athlete Machine”. The ultimate chain reaction or Rube Goldberg machine-like video features numerous athletes that are sponsored by Red Bull. To date, The Athlete Machine has been viewed over 22M times.

What Worked: This is an example of extreme creativity to showcase Red Bull’s extreme athletes. The video keeps users engaged – wondering what will happen next!

DollarShaveClub.com – Our Blades are F***ing Great

DollarShaveClub.com - Our Blades Are F***ing Great

With a budget of $4,500 to create this video, Dollar Shave Club utilized the CEO’s experience with an improv troop to grab consumer attention with comedy. The video’s popularity was fueled by social media shares and after its release the video resulted in 12,000 new members in the first 48 hours alone.  To date, the video has been watched more than 18M times.

What Worked: The brands attempt at being funny worked. The jokes were on-brand and the call to action was clear. Best of all, this product was answering a real consumer need – providing men everywhere affordable f***ing razor blades!

Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

Coca-Cola extended its happiness campaign to college students by placing a vending machine on a campus; however, it was not an ordinary vending machine. The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine dispensed numerous amounts of Coca-Cola, pizza, balloons and a footlong sub. The video was posted to the brand’s Facebook page and did not receive paid support. It generated more than 4M views from people sharing the video through Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.

What Worked: The video captured the element of surprise! Consumers involved in the experience or watching weren’t sure what would happen next.

Smirnoff Tea Partay

Tea Partay

To launch Smirnoff Raw Tea line, the brand created a rap parody with preppy New England stars.  While overly branded videos can tend to flop, Smirnoff found a clever way to keep its brand front and center of this 2006 video without annoying the viewers. A version of the video has 6.5M views.

What Worked: The rap-style video helped to market Smirnoff to a younger target.

K-Mart Ship My Pants

Ship My Pants

Okay, so this one is from a retailer, but a retailer that sells CPG products! K-mart’s revenue was on a strong decline so it decided to go after consumers with over-the-top humor to announce that the retailer will ship items that are not available in store. The online video, which has been viewed more than 21M times, went on to become a television ad.

What Worked: Potty-mouth humor and puns got people talking about this ad and got the message across. Some were disgusted and some noticed K-mart for the first time in years. Regardless of your thoughts on the spot, it got people talking!

Based on what worked for these videos, here are five key takeaways for CPG companies considering digital videos:

  1. Build an emotional connection between your brand and consumers.
  2. Humor, when done right, works. Hint: actually be funny.
  3. You don’t always need a big production budget or ad buy to make your video “go viral.” But it doesn’t hurt.
  4. K.I.S.S. – in this case, keep it short, stupid. Virtually none of our favorite videos above run over two minutes.
  5. Have a Big Idea! Your video should be part of a larger campaign –  one tactic in the mix, and not your whole campaign.
Brandi Smith
Brandi Smith
Senior Social-Digital Strategist

A strategic communications professional with 10+ years of experience, Brandi has managed a plethora of award-winning public relations and social media campaigns on behalf of CPG brands. With an emphasis on consumer lifestyle, food, beverage and fashion clients, Brandi specializes in leading the integrated planning and execution of brand management strategies designed to generate both consumer awareness and engagement. Throughout her career, Brandi has served clients such as Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Jim Beam and White Wave Foods while employed at Ketchum.

After living in Chicago for a number of years, Brandi returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations with a second concentration in Sport Management from West Virginia University.