After shining some light on Bonobos (and their viral April Fools video) as an example of best-in-class branding and content marketing in the pages of Fast Company last month, I wanted to learn more about how exactly they achieved such standings.

The answer, according to Bonobos vice president of marketing Craig Elbert, has had much to do with the role—and, subsequently, the expanded accessibility—of video.

Marketing 101: Driving Social Awareness and Brand Discovery

“The number of options for deploying video have exploded in the past couple of years,” says Elbert on the company’s motivation to embrace the medium as a marketing channel.

Subsequently, this explosion has paved the way for two primary objectives: using video as a medium to build social awareness  and brand affinity, and using video as an agent to support online customer research and discovery.

In the case of the former, social awareness, Elbert and Bonobos have discovered firsthand that “humor is rewarded with strong word of mouth.”

Their ultra-ultra-tight Girlfriend Jean April Fools stunt of 2013, for example, generated traffic on par with the results of their previous Cyber Monday (a herculean achievement in itself):

“Creating truly humorous, timely, and relevant content was definitely the key to success here,” explains Elbert. “That and showing a large man in tight, tight jeans.”

Transitioning from ill-fitting pants back to customer research and discovery, Bonobos also created a series of videos outlining the origin, features, and development mindset behind its core products—e.g., their Casual Shirts,Washed Chinos, and Weekday Warriors.

The goal of creating such video content, suggests Elbert, “is to help the consumer make a more informed decision while exploring Bonobos’ offering. With the active nature of video, it is easier to communicate energy—a key characteristic of our brand.”

He also stresses, however, the steep demands for quality that audiences place upon marketing content—videos, in particular:

“The primary hurdle you face with video is that it demands extended attention from the audience, so the bar on quality is definitely raised. Also, it is obviously more expensive to produce than a static ad or post.”

Capitalizing on Customer Inputs

A common barrier for companies just getting started in original content, by means of video or otherwise, is the challenge of generating continual ideas. Crafting a video advertising nonexistent too-tight jeans is a brilliant example of marketing, of course, but it likely took Bonobos months of planning and therefore represents something to aspire toward annually—not weekly or monthly.

Instead, Elbert and his team simultaneously drew upon a more renewable resource by tapping their own customer base as a source for topics and inspiration:

“Another successful video [Bonobos created] is a really simple one. In it, Bonobos employees explain how to pronounce the brand name. We often get this question, and so we started including the video in various customer-facing emails. Again, humor helped drive success—but also some practicality, as many customers weren’t sure they were pronouncing the name right.”

This is the same winning strategy that supports FAQ sections as SEO and branding goldmines. It’s certainly good strategy for brands to audit customer concerns—but it’s far better strategy to leverage these audits to plot and dictate content that organically answers these concerns.

Rarely is media so efficient and multifaceted. Whereas typical marketing campaigns have long focused on creating messaging that runs only for a short period of time before vanishing indefinitely, Bonobos has been calculated in creating videos that run without limited shelf lives.

Their name pronunciation video hit YouTube in June of 2012 and is still reaching customers daily—a return-on-investment that’s as close to perpetual motion as any marketer is going to get.

How Menswear Experts Engaged Video

I was also curious as to whether Bonobos produced their marketing videos in-house or chose to outsource talent via independent filmmakers and production gurus. Elbert confessed, in response, that it didn’t make sense to hire a full-time production team for video creation when their core source of income remains clothing.

Rather than investing in the hardware and HR resources required to produce videos independently, they instead used their budget to engage established content providers with a history of success. In this case, they partnered with the award-winning visual storytellers behind The Bindery in New York City.

Bonus: Check out the high-quality video content The Bindery created for Chobani’s Soho Cafe, Chase Ink (by way of The Paper Cottage), and Anthropologie (by way of Louisiana artist Rebecca Rebouche). Brilliant stuff, is it not?

Elbert’s recommendations when it comes to hiring a video provider?

“I think the advice here would just be to hire a production company like you’d hire an employee—make sure you share the same values and have a clear objective of what you’re trying to accomplish with video. Then work collaboratively with open feedback while trusting them; you hired them for a reason.”

Degrees of Admiration

Circling back to the Fast Design piece that saw Bonobos as a source of inspiration, I ended by asking Elbert about the brands (and branding content) he and his staff most admire:

“We admire the simplicity and consistency of Apple, but also see some great stuff from like-minded start-up brands. Harry’s put out a great video for National Shave Day, which we thought they nailed.”

I’m nodding my head in fervid agreement as I write this—as it appears the folks at Harry’s might have also discovered the high returns  achievable through humor:

Matt Siegel writes about design, leadership, branding, and pop culture for Video Blocks and Graphic Stock. Follow his coverage @MattSiegelMedia.

TD5