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How small brands can beat the big boys at online video

How small brands can beat the big boys at online video Mallory Russell

In March, there was one brand that unquestionably dominated the branded video universe: Wren.

Wren, a small Los Angeles-based apparel company, topped the iMedia Brands in Video chart for March with 93.3 million views. That's more than 57.5 million views than the runner-up brand on the March chart, Samsung.

Upon first seeing the Wren's "First Kiss," you might not even realize that it is a branded video. There's no pitch, no tagline, no obvious product even. In the video, 20 strangers are paired up and are asked to kiss for the first time on camera.

Melissa Coker, the founder and creative director of Wren, commissioned the video to showcase of her fall collection for Style.com's Video Fashion Week. Created by Tatia Pllieva, it is rumored that it was made for somewhere between $1,300 and $1,500.

While fashion brands like Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton have had success in branded video, none have approached the virality of "First Kiss."

Uploaded on March 10, the video had garnered more than 63.2 million views within a week. Now, less than a month later, the video has generated more than 100 million views. With that level of viewership, Wren's "First Kiss" joins a club of just 14 other branded video campaigns to reach the milestone. It is also the most viewed apparel or fashion branded video campaign of all time.

But it's not just Wren's viewership that has skyrocketed with the popularity of "First Kiss." According to reports, Wren has seen a major bump in sales from the video -- some have reported an increase of 11,000 percent. And Soko's "We Might Be Dead Tomorrow," the music featured in the video, is now No. 1 on the Billboard Streaming Songs Chart.

One of the major reasons that "First Kiss" has become such a cultural moment is that it is very easy for viewers to engage with. The level of engagement is evident in the amount of user-generated content that has been created around the campaign. More than 23 percent of the total views of "First Kiss" come from derivative content -- copies, mashups, responses, and spoofs.

Spoof content alone accounted for 65 percent of all derivative views (15 percent of the total campaign views). The most popular spoof was the Unsolicited Project's "First Gay Hug (A Homophobic Experiment)," which accumulated 3.9 million views. Jimmy Fallon's parody that stars puppies and kittens, "First Lick," generated a further 1 million views. In total, we've measured more than 135 spoofs and parodies of "First Kiss."

While the viralness of Wren's "First Kiss" might have surprised people, the success of a small brand like Wren is not unprecedented.

Some of the biggest hits in branded video don't come from the Samsungs, the Pepsi MAXs, or the Googles of the world. Instead, they come from small start-ups that use video as an effective and efficient way to drive awareness with a small budget.

The most-viewed branded video campaign of all time comes from one such small brand -- Blendtec. Its iconic "Will It Blend?" campaign has generated 243.3 million views.

Dollar Shave Club came out of nowhere and surprised viewers with "Our Blades Are F***ing Great." It's garnered 14.3 million views and helped Dollar Shave Club, a members-only service, amass more than 200,000 subscribers.

More recently, Poo-Pourri surprised viewers and sent them into fits of laughter with "Girls Don't Poop," a video that promotes the essential oil-based spray meant for use in the bathroom. It's garnered more than 27.3 million views.

So what do Wren, Blendtec, Dollar Shave Club, Poo-Pourri, and all the other small brands with huge viral hits have in common? And what can bigger, more established brands learn from their example?

Mallory Russell is the Director of Content for Visible Measures. Prior to joining Visible Measures, Mallory wrote for Advertising Age and Business Insider. She also spent a few years in the San Francisco ad business at DraftFCB and Goodby,...

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