Ho ho ReelSEO! For this special Christmas post, I give my review of the video holiday cards I received. I share what I liked, and what I would like to see. Some of them make me a jolly "Granta Claus," and a few made me act like "Grant the Grinch." Read on and watch them yourself!
Why Do A Holiday Video Greeting Card?
This holiday season I saw quite a boost in the number of video-related companies actually doing holiday cards; and a few companies which don't have a video-centered business solution offering well wishes by video. If you're a reader of ReelSEO you likely already understand that video can offer a much more personal feeling than static graphics and text, and can make a better impression when you're willing to let your personality show through. (That is, as long as you have a decent personality!)
The 12 Video Cards of Christmas (Reviewed by Me!)
Here are my individual reviews of some of the video holiday cards I received. First I want to thank everyone that sent me a holiday card that I reviewed here. It's commendable that you took the time and effort to put your videos together, so I congratulate you all on that. Anything I share that may sound critical is just based on my own impression, and hopefully will be viewed constructively. I sound like a Grinch in some places, but again, your efforts are appreciated (and hey, it gave me something for the holiday to post!)
#1: Lynda.com – The Holiday Video Card that Wasn't
Lynda.com is a video-based training and tutorial service of lots of computer software programs, as well as marketing and project strategy training. I've been a subscriber of theirs off-and-on for the past few years and have recommended them to my colleagues and clients. Yet I was really disappointed in the holiday card they sent. Why? All it featured was a flat image of a bunch of snowflakes, linking to just their standard home page. No video, no pic of anything – not even of any of their staff! Talk about coming across as very impersonal. I mean, they're a company that's all about video tutorials, and they couldn't even do a Christmas video in their card? Well, it sure doesn't give me any reason to want to share it with others.
#2: Kaltura – Animated Sales Pitch
Kaltura is a popular open source video platform solution, whom I've done video interviews with in the past and have been at a few conferences together, plus I've done work personally with them. So it makes sense that I'd be on their holiday email list. The Kaltura video holiday card consisted of a fun animation, with a very enjoyable design in the e-mail and an attention getting "call-to-click" (to watch the video.) What disappointed me was the content; it had nothing to say about the holiday, didn't share anything personal, or offer any well wishes or thanks. It really came across to me as mostly a sales pitch. I really didn't learn anything new about the company, and it didn't inspire me to want to share it with anyone else. (Just being honest!)
#3: Visible Gains – Would You Guys Rather Be Somewhere Else?
Visible Gains is an interactive video marketing solutions provider out of Massachusetts. The original email featuring the holiday video was well done. It had the "call-to-watch" in a good place (although I would have highlighted that a brighter color to make it stand out from the rest of the text), and they showed their staff together in the thumbnail image. However the landing page featuring the Visibile Gains Holiday Video left me with a strange impression. I did like that they did show the 10 seconds as a warm up to their pre-holiday cheer, along with showing a guy on screen next to them with remote access, where they could do their cheer in sync. But they needed a much better freeze frame on the actual video featured on that page. The one that they used had staff members either looking away or down. Also, I don't like a video that ends with people walking away and one guy saying "Alright, we're done!" Like, doing the video was treated as an inconvenience by at least one person in there, and they were in a rush to get back to whatever they were doing. I see where they were going with the humor but...
#4: VideoAgency – A Little Bit Much Text
VideoAgency is an online video production company located overseas, who I did a video interview for some years back. The VideoAgency Holiday Video Card Email I received was actually really long. Along with their video, it was over 3 pages of scrolling and tons of links. Their video had some real nice creative production aspects, and although it seemed like a bunch of graphics put together, it did feature some of their videographers which does give it some warmth (though not in any actual video footage). Also, showcasing a 2nd video in the same email featuring your new office probably should have been saved for the landing page.
#5: Veeple – Owners Play Santa, Share Video Gifts
I'll give points to the two brothers and co-founders at the interactive video technology and solution provider, Veeple, for featuring themselves in their Veeple Holiday Video Card. They have a fun background, wear Christmas hats, and show off their holiday spirit. They make a creative use of their video technology of interactivity and in-video clickability, featuring call-to-action links where people can open up to 5 "gifts" (all related to Veeple's own video tutorials or services, save for one Santa GPS game). You could also play a game where opening each of the gifts would produce a secret letter, which you would put together and send to Veeple, in return for getting a free month of service (but only to the first 10 people who sent it in, who where already their customers.) Normally 3 and a half minutes would be too long for a holiday video, but by keeping the gifts coming throughout, I found it was successful with me on keeping my attention. I actually didn't really care for any of the gifts myself, but I would assume that actual Veeple customers may be inclined to.
#6: TurnHere – Simple Thank You's and Well Wishes
TurnHere is a local web video solutions provider I've known for years now. I enjoyed the TurnHere Holiday Video Card on several levels. It's email greeting is very simple and well-designed, and has excellent placement of it's "click-to-watch" call to action. The simple message in the email graphic of "Happy Holidays From All of Us" was all that's needed to get my attention. The actual video was an excellent, short "thank you and well wishes," showcasing members of their team from around the U.S. in various backdrops.
#7: Howcast – Holiday Video Tutorials Done Right
Lynda.com could have definitely learned a lot from the example of the video "how-to" website and platform, Howcast. Their email was very appropriate for the holidays and simple, just featuring a single video, How to Make a Gingerbread House. That takes you to an outstanding landing page, where the masthead graphic features their original video, but also a list of other related holiday how-to videos below it.
#8: CL Graphics – For Local, Traditional Rings True
I would be amiss to not include at least one local video holiday greeting in the bunch. This one is from a local graphics and print company, sent to me from one of the staff I know personally (nice guy). At first I was shaking my head a bit, since the thumbnail image featured in the email was really poor (obviously taken from a frame of the original YouTube video, which was too small and blurry). However that can be forgiven with the nice "Happy Holiday Video" graphic and short text announcement. The actual CL Graphics Holiday Video is a warm, traditional way of just having employees wave at the camcorder; and it works. It allows us to see the people behind the company (a behind the scenes look) that we may not normally get to see and what they do. It's actually rather simple with nice music, nice, graphics, and a fun movie credit feature at the end. It's also an excellent way to get staff at a local business to participate. All they need to do is wave, since sometimes a lot of staff aren't comfortable doing anything else on camera!
#9: Pixability – An Original Holiday Music Video
I am really impressed with what the folks at the video production and solutions provider Pixability were able to put together for their own Pixability Holiday Video Card. They first start off with an email thank you message, with an incentive to watch something that's original and entertaining – a music video featuring a musician and the Pixability staff. Their video is in tune with the holiday, helps you learn about the company, how they help others, and what they hope it will inspire others to do for 2011. Their landing page is outstanding in that it features multiple "gifts" (such as a free download of their business video guide), the actual lyrics of the song, and a free .mp3 download of the song you just watched in their video. Again, it's a great way to blend original music, company personality, "gifts," and tie it in with a New Year's Resolution that relates to the solutions the company provides. Very well crafted.
#10: Susan Bratton – Family Personality-Driven Marketing
I was recently on Susan Bratton's DishyMix podcast interview series, and was pleased to get an email holiday card with the fun email title of, "Bratton Holiday Video Will Make You Barf." Susan does what I like to refer to as personality-driven marketing, and so it makes excellent sense to showcase a video holiday card that would have to show anything business related. It's all a look into her family's travel's and adventures for the past year, featuring herself, her husband and her daughter. The opening image is great, showing them all donned in Christmas hats. The actual "video" appears to be something produced in iPhoto for the Mac, where you can just take photos and have them run as a montage along with the music selection. Now, she says in her email that the video is "mercifully short," but it actually runs over 3 ½ minutes long! What I would have done is cut it down to a minute, and offer a link to a landing page with the full-length version. But I do give her lots of credit for having the landing page featuring the YouTube video appear right on her own blog. It's an excellent way to get people to follow up with you during the holiday season and beyond.
#11: Pittsburgh Steelers – Amusing, Don't Quit Your Day Job!
Yeah, they didn't actually personally send me this, and I know it's all just corporate sports entertainment, but I grew up with watching this football team and still follow them. So you know I got a kick out of them putting together their own Pittsburgh Steelers Holiday Video Card. It's actually a real simple theme of getting players singing a holiday song, and switching cuts to different groups of players. It's also funny to see how some are into it a lot, some aren't, some can sing, some mumble, and they all have fun. (Plus it was also fun to watch the extra video of their quarterback pranking a rookie.)
#12: ReelSEO – Dancing Disco Fools
When I receive an email from ReelSEO publisher Mark Robertson that has in the title, "Merry Christmas, Bitches!," I know he's up to no good. Still, it's a good reminder that you don't have to create a holiday video card from scratch. You can always use the video services out there, and put your own images into a holiday theme, and send it out to friends, family, and victims ;) See for yourself what he came up with from JibJab's Holiday Video eCards, choosing the holiday disco theme. (I would also like to mention that those months of dancing and choreography lessons paid off, and I've gotten an audition for\ next season's Dancing With The Stars.)
Holiday Video Card Tips for 2011 (and Beyond)
- Use a good image in your email of your video. You don't have to use a freeze frame. You can always have a separate photo or other image, and include it in a graphic with a play button and a video player.
- Make the email image match the image in your video landing page.
- Try to keep the original video short. I recommend one minute, but you can still have a link to a longer-format for the people who really like it.
- Keep the email simple. Don't use it as an opportunity to do a large amount of links and content. You can always have that on your landing page or follow-up page to the landing page video.
- Don't go overboard with self-promotion.
- Remember to share thanks and well wishes. And really, that's all you need!
- Holiday "gifts" add a nice extra touch – just don't make people have to work for them!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers and supporters! Ho ho ho, from ReelSEO!