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doghouse.jpgBy B.L. Ochman Companies large and small, including clients of mine, are running video contests and incorporating social media into their marketing to see if this dog can hunt. Some are clever, some funny, and some are downright peculiar.
And now the big question is, with so many video contests, how will they all attract participants? Good, old-fashioned cross-media marketing integration, networking, and smarts are needed. Not all contests have them. We seem to be back to the bad old “build it and they will come days” of early websites.

Lightly branding is one thing, but mis-leading or muddled branding is quite another. The creators of several of these contests don’t seem to get that branding needs to have a unified message across all platforms.
Dear marketers: It’s OK to include a branding, or, gasp, sales message in social media as long as you aren’t heavy-handed. The realistic among us know that companies don’t do these contests just for fun. They are trying to connect with customers and get some viral and link love going. Be open about your intentions. And for god’s sake, make these contests fun.
Here’s the bottom line: people are eager to have their creative work seen, and the right video contest can be an excellent vehicle for brand building. But using trendy tools for the sake of being trendy makes little sense.
Here are a few current examples:
The Bazooka Joe Contest, from Bazooka Bubble Gum, which asks participants to make a video using a hip hop Bazooka song as a soundtrack, is a very cute idea. They forgot one little thing: a link to the entries. Doh.
World Teacher’s Day Video Contest
Apparently, people will work really, really hard to win an iPod. Like several others, this contest offers the first people to enter an iPod as an incentive. This contest by SMART Technologies makes sense because it will perform the public service of helping teachers learn from eachother.

“Educators have been requested to submit videos that demonstrate how SMART Board interactive whiteboards are improving student learning outcomes. Seventy-five winners, selected from five global regions, will be eligible to win iPods, SMART Board interactive whiteboards and the grand prize, an all-inclusive trip to the BETT 2007 education technology trade show in London, England. The grand-prize winning video will be posted on SMART’s website.”

Get Out of the Dog House is the theme of a MySpace-based video contest for Gourmet Station. Turns out, despite the totally dog-themed page, Gourmet Station is not an upscale dog food. It’s prepared gourmet dinners for humans, delivered to your door.
The contest creators managed to create a multi-level MySpace page, although MySpace’s primitive navigation doesn’t make for good usability. Now they need to make clear what their client sells.
Western Wind Energy’s Wind Blows Viral Video Contest offers $10,000 for the creation of the best video about wind power for this developer and promoter of wind energy generation projects. They’ve put up an admittedly cheesy initial video as an example and are getting some interesting entries. Western Wind is apparently going for name recognition, but it’s hard to see how this contest, even though it’s fun, will reach their target audience of investors, legislators and media.
And guys: users will decide whether the videos will go viral. I can see them convincing management to do the contest: “The videos will all go viral. We’ll even put it in the name.”
This one’s big fun and it plays on a the perennially popular brand of William Shatner. He’s old, and he’s chubby. But he’s still Captain Kirk to lots of Trekkies, and, apparently, he always will be, no matter how cheesy some of his promotions have been.
William Shatner Sci-Fi Spokesperson Competition, seeks a someone to make a 90-second video proving that they are the biggest sci-fi fan and therefore eligible to promote the Shatner DVD Club