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How to capitalize on a viral video

September 21, 2016 12:53 PM
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Reacting quickly to what’s relevant on the web can drive big online and offline sales gains.

Brendan Sullivan, vice president of direct to consumer for apparel group VF Corp., says his team caught “lightning in a bottle” in the form of a viral video produced by two teenagers earlier this year. In the video, a teen films his friend Daniel wearing a pair of white shoes made by VF Corp.’s Vans brand, he told attendees Wednesday at the Women’s Wear Daily Digital Forum in New York.

The video, which Sullivan says VF Corp. had nothing to do with producing, took off on YouTube and social media. The “Damn Daniel” video, as it is known, has garnered tens of millions of views across several YouTube channels, including “The Ellen Show.”

“One day [a teen] said something that was pertinent and had a tremendous impact for Vans,” Sullivan told attendees. “He said ‘Damn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans.’”

As the video began growing in popularity, Vans set up a landing page promoting white Vans on its homepage.

“When you got to the landing page, you saw the white product,” he says. “The thing that resonated with me is the brand knows how to react.” Sullivan wouldn’t specify how much online sales of the shoes grew as a result of the video’s popularity, saying only that sales were up “a lot.”

VF Corp. vice president Karl Salzburger told analysts on VF Corp.’s second quarter 2016 earnings call in April that the white Vans featured in the Damn Daniel video had a 100% sell-through rate, meaning every pair that shipped was sold.

Vans has a team of employees ready to react quickly in the event that lightning strikes again with a video that takes off in the way the Damn Daniel did, Sullivan says. The brand’s ability to react so quickly stems from its leadership structure within each brand. “The majority of our brands, the direct-to-consumer leader has responsibility for e-commerce and stores,” he says. “We don’t have separate silos. When something like that happens, it’s generally great to have that be all in one silo.”

VF Corp., No. 92 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, owns and operates 16 e-commerce sites, which account for 27% of the company’s overall revenue. Ten of its apparel brands also have a bricks-and-mortar presence.

VF isn’t the first omnichannel retailer to have a viral video lead to a spike in product sales—Kohl’s Corp. (No. 19) is a recent and prominent example when the “Chewbacca Mom” Facebook Live video went viral in May. A Texas woman bought a mask of “Star Wars” character Chewbacca at her local Kohl’s and filmed herself while wearing it in her car in the store parking lot, laughing hysterically. Within days, the video had more than 140 million views on Facebook and Kohl’s sold out of the mask almost immediately online.

 

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