Home improvement store Lowe’s is using the social networking platform Vine to create a viral video success. Is six seconds enough time to tell a story with online video? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. But Vine isn’t the only social networking tool in the Lowe’s toolbox.
The Lowe’s campaign is called Fix in Six, and it combines truly helpful home tips that can be related in six seconds with playful stop-motion animation that’s perfect for Vine. Lowe’s Fix in Six tips include using a rubber band to turn a stripped screw and using plumber’s tape to mark out where pictures will be hanged before pounding any nails.
The person behind this campaign, and all of Lowe’s social networking efforts, is Brad Walters, director of social media and emerging platforms for the company. When Vine launched, he saw other companies experiment with it, but wasn’t impressed with what they were doing. They might shoot a quick view of their office, perhaps, or six seconds of people walking by outside.
“We started looking at this saying, ‘We want to get involved here.’ We think — we believe that we’re storytellers inside of social — that we need to tell a compelling story that is going to provide some level of value or some value of engagement or entertainment or inspiration,” Walters says. “We looked at Vine and said, ‘How do we participate in this space, but make sure that it’s meaningful and make sure that anybody who follows us or anybody who happens to consume the content we put out there are getting something out of it?’”
The answer was to experiment with content that Lowe’s already knew worked, and that could be told in a six-second looping video. Prior to working with Vine, Lowe’s ran a campaign on Facebook called Shareable Solutions, which offered illustrated “life hacks” — solutions that gave people an a-ha moment. These tips drew a strong response on Facebook, and Walters’ team believed they would do just as well on Vine.
With the idea decided, Lowe’s needed a look. Rather than creating simple videos in-house, Walters chose to work with someone already turning out strong Vine videos. BBDO, the advertising agency Lowe’s uses, scouted out Meagan Cignoli, an animator and former fashion photographer known for her stop-motion work. Walters was happy to leave the look of the videos to Cignoli, who brought a playful creativity to the project. Most videos were shot at a studio in BBDO’s New York City office, although some were shot on location.
The Fix in Six campaign got a strong reaction from the start.
“The response to those first five or six Vines we produced was just really overwhelming,” Walters says. “People were like, ‘This is so awesome. This is so great. I’m watching it over and over,’ and we felt like, wow, if we’re going to get this kind of response, what happens if we start to really scale it up? And so we took that approach, and we’re still working on it today.”
Social Video: Never Stop Improving
Some Lowe’s Vines are more complex than others. While the stripped screwdriver meets rubber band video was sparse, a video about keeping rodents and squirrels out of the garden involved a puppet squirrel, clouds, and props on a miniature set. And that doesn’t include all the time spent between Lowe’s and Cignoli creating and developing the ideas. That sounds like a lot of work for six seconds of video.
“It is, it is,” Walters says. “We feel like it’s worth it. There’s a lot of complexity that goes into shooting these things even though you’re using a camera built into an iPhone. It’s still pretty complex to complete them, but I think if you could have differentiating content out there that helps your customer — inspires or empowers your customer — it gives them a level of confidence that they can complete a project or it gives them a level of confidence in you as a brand. You are providing them something of value, and they’re like, ‘Man, every time I turn around Lowe’s is always there to help me understand how to do something or give me the knowledge to do something that I didn’t even know existed.’ It’s worth that effort because we’ve got to make sure that we are focusing on our customer and putting them first in our efforts.”
As of this writing, there have been over 50 videos in the Fix in Six campaign. Once the last one posted in January — on creating a ribbon organizer with a coat hanger — Walters decided to give the campaign a breather.
“I think the idea of Fix in Six is certainly something that’s not going to go away, at least not in the immediate future, but I think there’s an opportunity for an evolution to make sure it stays relevant and make sure that people are seeing what’s capable of it,” Walters says. “We could stay on the past and never change it, but I think it could get stagnant pretty quick, so we want to make sure that it’s staying top-of-mind for folks.”
When the campaign starts up again — and Walters won’t say when that will be — look for it to have a broader variety of tips from a wider range of sources.
This Vine campaign isn’t the first time Lowe’s has created online video. The company runs a YouTube channel with nearly 40 million subscribers where it posts longer content. Walters says the combination gives his company a two-pronged approach, posting longer videos on YouTube and quick hits on Vine. While both areas deal with home improvement, Walters knew it was important to give each area its own identity, just as it was important to give the Vine videos a separate identity from the Facebook campaign that inspired them.
“We felt like Vine could be a place where it would make it very easy to share that content because it was short. It got to the point, and it had some level of entertainment that would keep you focused on it,” Walters says.
The Right Tool for the Job
While Lowe’s has been tracking the performance of its Vine videos — noting how many subscribers the account has, and how many times Vines have been shared — the company is most interested in scaling the videos and getting them in front of as many customers as possible. That’s why Lowe’s runs them as pre-roll ads for other online videos, bundling a few Vine videos together and inserting a bumper on either end. The campaign is less about ROI, Walters says, than it is about making sure that customers and potential customers see the videos, know that Lowe’s is offering them value, and remain engaged with the brand.
Walters put his advertising background to work when he joined Lowe’s three years ago and began building the company’s social media presence. Before he was hired, Lowe’s didn’t put much effort into social media. Its Twitter account, for example, wasn’t very active and had few followers. Walters built a six-person social media team that gets help from about a dozen employees in the customer care department. Together, they create new content and engage in customer conversations on a variety of platforms.
Besides YouTube, Vine, Twitter, and Facebook, Lowe’s is also active on Pinterest and Instagram. Each has its own approach. Every social effort needs to stay authentic to that network, Walters says. For example, the idea on Pinterest is to drive inspiration with high-impact imagery. The content is diverse, representing a variety of projects. With Facebook Lowe’s is able to do several different things, but focuses on maintaining an engaged dialogue with customers. Every Facebook comment gets answer. “No post is left is left behind on Facebook,” his team likes to say. On Twitter, they craft short comments that offer tips or spread the word about special offers. Walters wants to create tweets that are bite-sized and relevant; they should offer value and stand out from the huge wave of content constantly posted to Twitter.
“Word-of-mouth is something that’s been around for a long time, but negative word-of-mouth spreads further and farther than positive sometimes,” Walters says. “We put a lot of effort to make sure that our customers are tended to and that they are having a positive experience with Lowe’s, so that they continue to shop our stores and continue to tell their friends and family to do the same.”
With that kind of creativity and commitment, Lowe’s is putting all of its social media tools to good use.
This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “Lowe’s and Vine Build Social Video Success.”