When You Can’t Bring Your Customer To Your Product, Bring Your Product To Your Customer

Live video is an increasingly popular tool for connecting with customers.

By Shauna Farnell September 23, 2016

No matter the event, project or product you’re trying to promote, nothing gets potential customers amped like an unfiltered, unedited, authentic live stream. The rawness of reality, as it turns out, is alluring. Outdoor brands across the globe are incorporating live streams into their marketing and outreach, and, thanks to myriad digital and social media streaming tools, the options abound.

For Flagship Events and Broad Consumer Audiences

Monica Roeder wasn’t totally sure what she was getting into when she signed up for the Long Island Tough Mudder competition this past summer. She knew she’d be scaling walls and racing through electric-shock obstacles, but she was a little panicked as to how it would actually play out. But then Monica watched live online as a preceding Tough Mudder race unfolded, and it all became very clear and exciting.

“The live stream can get your adrenaline running,” Roeder says. “Sitting there watching it could definitely be what motivates you to do it.”

Tough Mudder teamed up with Livestream—an online video platform—last April for its first ever live broadcast of a competition. The brand’s inaugural live stream from Los Angeles drew about 2 million viewers and more than 30,000 interactions, reaching close to 8 million viewers on Facebook.

Livestream is an ideal tool for sporting events (IronMan, X Games) as well as award shows and conferences (TED Talks, Country Music Awards), which aim to embed two-plus-hour streams of live events on their websites and social channels and want to reach broad audiences.

For Niche Events and Audiences

Brandlive is another video platform that offers a similar streaming service but rather than long, flagship events with broad appeal, the company is more focused on industry-specific live training, demonstrations and webinars, such as those recorded at Outdoor University and Rendezvous.

Brandlive was born as a spinoff of Cascade Web development in 2010 when Nordica approached the company to help launch its skis, hoping to educate vendors without sending reps across the globe for in-person training. Audiences access the live broadcasts on a password-protected webpage within Brandlive’s platform.

“It was a platform that combined live video, visitor interaction and product information, which are still the main components of Brandlive,” says Tony Pullen, VP of Sales for the company. “The one thing that sets us apart is taking a product to market. A live video saves money and increases knowledge transfer. You don’t have to play the game of telephone that you normally would. With live video, you’re able to [put] a product developer on camera so everyone [gets] the same message.”

Not only have companies like GoPro, New Balance and Marmot used Brandlive to educate their outside sales teams, but numerous companies including Nike, Sierra Designs and Kiui have also fused Brandlive streams with social media tools to launch products to consumers. Brandlive allows clients to embed the live video on their websites, stream on Facebook Live and use Snapchat Live Stories and Twitter’s Periscope as promotional tools. This sounds like a lot of platforms, but it’s important to use all available channels.

When Nike launched its Air Jordan 31 shoe in July of 2016, the live stream drew an audience of 38,000, more than half of which watched from the Brandlive page and the rest from the Air Jordan homepage and Facebook Live, according to Pullen.

Sierra Designs broadcasts live product-launch videos of its new tents and sleeping bags. Mountaineer Andrew Skurka talks about how and why he uses the particular products. Kuiu, a brand specializing in hunting-related gear and outerwear that isn’t sold in retail stores, relies on its direct-to-consumer live streams to introduce products to customers. The launches feature company founder Jason Hairston and are broadcast on Brandlive and Facebook. The streams are then archived on Kuiu’s YouTube channel.

“Recently he did a partnership with Scarpa. He was selling boots on pre-order and within 38 minutes of the stream, he sold 250 pairs,” Pullen says. “Live stream allows you to actually ask a question to the owner of Kuiu and he can answer directly. Produced video offers no interaction. We’ve gathered research from other companies, and the average view time for a Brandlive event is 21 minutes per viewer, whereas the average view time for YouTube is a minute and a half. Any marketer would rather have 10 people watch 20 minutes of live video they can interact with than have 100 people watch one minute of produced video.”

For As Little as $0

Pullen believes that Facebook will start charging for use of Facebook Live platform, though it’s free for now. Outdoor companies are discovering its value as a tool for connecting with consumers in the most authentic of ways. Rachel Jo Silver, former representative of Birchbox, an online beauty products retailer that has become an online sensation thanks to simple live video streams, points out that compared to Periscope or older video streaming social media tools like Meerkat, Facebook Live is a better platform because of its ability to target content to specific demographics and because individuals on Facebook have to use their own names and one account. On other social media platforms, anyone can create multiple accounts and remain relatively anonymous while watching and interacting with a live broadcast. In that respect, brands can’t capture reliable lead data.

“We have started with Facebook Live for events and ride stuff with athletes,” says Mike Lewis of Zeal Optics. We’re trying to get people both information they can use and a more behind-the-scenes look at what we do,” says Mike Lewis of Zeal Optics, which first used Facebook Live to stream its Industry Night event in July. By the second broadcast in August, Lewis estimates the live audience grew four-fold.

The Tech

Live streaming productions range from a series of high tech cameras (in the case of a Ted Talk or Tough Mudder) to a simple mobile phone camera. In addition to streaming its Industry Nights on Facebook Live via a single iPhone, Zeal has begun posting live streams of winter athletes training at Woodward. The brand also has plenty of produced video of athletes nailing (and nose-diving) tricks, all set to music. While these are inspiring and entertaining, the live stream footage offers viewers something more human, not to mention the ability to interact…which according to viewer data, is more appealing.

“If you screw up, that’s it. It’s all there. That’s the beauty of it,” Lewis says. “It lets people viewing feel like they’re part of your family. It’s about building a community around your brand, giving them that insider access. As far as viewers for live vs. produced video, they are 500 percent higher. We get 1,500 to 2,000 views for video and these [live streams]are pulling 8,000 to 10,000.”