Spotlight: Visit California’s Epic 2014 Digital Marketing Campaign

07July13 219 February 28th marked the day that California took over YouTube with a whirlwind 24-hour blitz digital advertising campaign. Visit California partnered with digital ad agency Dream 365 to create the 24 video, $3.7 million “Dream Big” campaign.  Every hour a new video was released showcasing the “cool, quirky, inspiring, adventurous” aspects of California lifestyle through telling the stories of 24 unique Californians who have succeeded in dreaming big.They released a video every hour starting at midnight EST, and so far the campaign has been successful in garnering around 150,000 YouTube videos and (I’d guess) a substantial amount of website traffic as well.

The campaign was powerful, exciting, and helped set the stage for what’s to come in the realm of digital marketing in 2014. Most notably it showed that you don’t have to buy a thousand billboards or project your brand name into the night sky with a floodlight to be heard. Rather, if you take advantage of social media by developing relevant and shareable content then your message will circulate itself.

2014 is all about the video: Videos are a unique and powerful medium in the sense that there are many different aspects that can be manipulated (image, color, music, voice, material) in order to incite a specific viewer reaction and influence how they will feel. They allow a lot of control and don’t leave as much room for interpretation as a print or image ad.

Storytelling: Storytelling seems to be one of those fun buzzwords that no one really knows the meaning of. Basically, this campaign told the story of 24 Californians who embody the spirit of the “brand.” It never once told anyone how awesome California is itself but instead let other people do the talking. All of the people in the videos have done amazing things, and although the “brand” itself never did any of those things, it still somehow gets credit for it by having the viewer associate these individuals’ successes to the brand itself. Essentially the key to storytelling is to shine a light on someone else to shine a light on yourself.

Connecting through brands or demographics: The campaign made itself relevant to almost all demographics by partnering with other well-known “brands.” By featuring videos of Disney, Band of Horses, and Rob Lowe (yes, celebrities can be considered brands), Visit California positioned itself side by side to with these entities to lend itself the credibility and respect that all of these brands have earned.

Beyond the brands that the videos explicitly mentioned, the campaign also identified with a variety of different subsections of society like skateboarders, surfers, skiers, nature enthusiasts, etc. through the content of the videos.

The lesson to be learned here is that a brand doesn’t have to choose to be one thing. A brand is not an inanimate object…it can be a persona, a lifestyle. It can be serious but also funny, smart but also relaxed. A brand can use a digital marketing campaign to piece together a holistic brand image through carefully chosen content that is pushed onto specific platforms at specific times.

There’s nothing like anticipation to cause website traffic: The campaign was effective in generating web traffic because during those 24 hours it was 100% live. People were thinking about the next video, they were curious, and they were engaged. Unlike a print advertisement that’s over before you’ve even laid eyes on it and whose relics can be admired and then abandoned, the live element makes it interactive. Viewers participate by checking back every few hours to see the next video, and in the interim check out the Visit California website.

The digital marketing landscape is no longer a competition to see who has the most money (although a $3.7 budget for 24 videos doesn’t hurt). It’s now a competition to out-cool your competitors. If your content is captivating and your company is forward-thinking then the public will take care of publicity for you.

The campaign can be viewed here: