PubCon Keynote: George Wright of Blendtec

Day two keynote. I have orange juice, not coffee. I may come to regret this decision later but for right now, I’m going with it. The wireless is incredibly bad, and yet, still miles better than the in-room wireless at Treasure Island. There’s a blender on the stage in front of me but no people yet. Some guy is taking a picture of the blender. This is what we’ve come to.

Oh yay, Brett’s here. I can stop babbling. He says the Wi-Fi upstairs will be better than yesterday. Which was still better than Treasure Island’s.

George bounds up on stage to jaunty music. He’s got a blender and a rake and apparently a talent for confusing the airlines. “I’ve got a blender and a rake and I’m going to blend the rake… But isn’t that dangerous?”


He started with Blendtec two or three years ago. It was a small company with a good product but no brand awareness. Very few people had heard of them. We’re going to be watching lots of videos.

We’re starting, of course, with the iPhone blending video.

The blended iPhone was put up one eBay and someone bought it for $1000. They donated that to a local children’s hospital. The winner of the auction did some research and donated more after that. Wow.

Blendtec began in Utah. They have lots of popular commercial products. They also made a home product, which is the one that he has here today.

Great products + weak branding = weak sales

They didn’t have money for a brand campaign ($50), so they had to do something cheap. He went into the demo room and discovered a pile of sawdust on the floor. “Don’t worry, Tom’s just testing the blenders,” someone said. He’d blended two by fours to test the blender. Everyone else just accepted it but George saw potential.

Video extreme blending was a common practice in the company, but it was unknown to the rest of the world. So, they decided to distribute the videos on the Web.

He spent his budget on a domain name, a lab coat, a six-pack of coke and some things to blend. Marbles, a rotisserie chicken, a rake, a McDonald’s value meal.

They’ve managed to blend almost everything that they’ve attempted. The only thing that didn’t work was…

Chuck Norris. [Badum cha!]

They sent the blender and the video to Chuck Norris but didn’t get any response at the time. A month ago, they got a call from their Dallas office saying that Chuck Norris was on the radio talking about “his” blender commercial. George calls Chuck an A-List celebrity. Let’s not get crazy.

What really matters for viral video:

  1. It has to be entertaining or worth watching. It doesn’t have to be funny. It could be inspirational or thought-provoking. Mostly, it has to be worth passing along.
  2. It has to tie-in to the corporate objective. It’s not enough just to [censored for animal abuse]. You have to make it tie-in to the corporate objective. They used to try to explain the technical aspects of why the blender was great. Now they can just blend 50 marbles and it’s much more convincing.
  3. It’s okay for it to be sponsored by the manufacturer. Don’t try to sneak around and give people a reason to believe it’s slippery or non-authentic. It’s okay to sponsor your own stuff as long as it’s entertaining (see rule 1).
  4. It has to be based on real people. Don’t force your employees to be someone they’re not. Tom from Blendtec is just being himself. It’s easy to reproduce.
  5. It has to be interactive.
    • Comments: Negative comments are chances for debate.
    • Suggestions of what to blend next: Initially the suggestions all went to his BlackBerry. It pretty much broke his phone. Heh. When they blended the iPhone, the people who had suggested it became brand ambassadors because it was their idea.

The risks of viral video:

  • Surrender control of the message upon distribution: You have to be honest and accurate. You don’t have control once it’s gone. They once said that ceramic magnets were neodymium magnets and got in trouble for it.
  • Public scrutiny of content: It’s free to put content on the Web but it’s also free to put content on the Web that combats it.
  • Distribution is global: You cannot limit geographic location. It’s the World Wide Web for a reason.

The numbers:

  • 65 million YouTube views
  • 120 million views
  • 200 million + subscribers

Blendtec saw a 700 percent increase in retail sales. Not bad for a $50 campaign!

With commercial sales you should pull through impact. “How do I know that your blender is going to make it through the abuse our employees are going to put it through?” If the retail product can do it, the commercial product can.

Media coverage:

National TV

  • The Big Idea
  • Today Show
  • iVillage Live
  • Tonight Show
  • Food Network
  • History Channel
  • Discovery Channel

The Food Network had actually turned them down before the Will It Blend campaign. Afterward, the network called and asked for a blender to include in their content.

[Now we’re watching a clip from The Big Idea.]

Local TV Coverage

  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Online blogs and sites
    • WSJ
    • Engadget
    • AdAge
    • Blendtec even got a mention in Congress!

Success breeds success.

[Now we’re watching a clip from OTM in which there is an argument over whether or not the Will It Blend videos are worth it.]

The old school thinking was, “Why not just take out an ad in the local paper? Isn’t this a lot of work?”

However, a single page ad in a newspaper can be $83,000 and it has a limited reach.

New school thinking understands, “Now the audience knows that all blenders aren’t the same. All this publicity came from a $50 viral campaign so the sky’s the limit.”


You did an ad for Nike. Wasn’t that paid content?

Yes, they did. Nike called and said, “Can we do this together?” George said, “Sure, if you pay me.” Blendtec has done it with several companies, in fact. Will It Blend actually generates revenue. It’s a marketing campaign that generates revenue.

How do you make it take off?

First, if it’s awesome, it will take off. Second, leverage your assets. All your employees have address books. Send it to those contacts and say, “If it’s awesome and you want to share it, please do.” Then, do the same to your customers.

What kind of bonus did you get?

George got a free blender! How do you reward runaway performance like that? It’s hard. He had a lot of fun.

How do your Web sales do?

They’ve done well. But the idea was not to drive sales — it was to build a brand. Building a brand is sustainable. Promotions are not.

Was the 700 percent growth from the launch of the campaign? With what frequency did you launch the videos?

George says it started two years ago and they started out very vigorously. They’ve backed way off because they want to make sure the quality is high because unsubscribing is one click away.

Brett wants to know if he’s going to blend something. Hee!

Of course!

[Um, I’m going to hide under the table now, okay?]

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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