Also known as "The Evil Boss" of Vat19, Jamie Salvatori spearheads one of the Internet's most curiously awesome ecommerce sites. He's not only given his brand a persona, but engages directly and hilariously with his target audience: those highly sought-after Millennials.

When Salvatori started his ecommerce gift store in 2006, he knew he wanted video to be its foundation. After all, he was pivoting his existing video production business into an ecommerce shop, so "video was the only thing I actually knew much about," he says, perhaps modestly.

However, that meant having to learn - the hard way - everything about running an ecommerce store. "While video is great for explaining the benefits of a product, the real trick is getting your audience to like you," he says. All other critical factors (such as price, shipping fees, delivery time, and so forth) being equal, Salvatori believes that most customers will purchase from the brand they like the most. Vat19 uses video to ensure that it's the most well liked brand out there.

Some of Vat19's top videos include "World's Largest Gummy Worm," which was the brand's first "viral" video of many:

Another early hit was "Das Beer Boot Music Video": Though not the brand's first music video, it may be Salvatori's favorite due to being memorable and quirky while creating a new character: Hans Gretel.

Yet another favorite is "Dude Decent," which was featured prominently on an episode of ESPN's SportsCenter. This video attracted a lot of mainstream media attention, which only helped Vat19 grow its brand presence. Also, the YouTubers responsible for the parody, Dude Perfect, got in touch with Vat19 to say how much they enjoyed the video, which was very satisfying for Salvatori.

As for those of you obsessed with complex ROI algorithms: prepare to be disappointed. Salvatori doesn't calculate the ROI on Vat19 videos "in any traditional marketing sense," he admits. "I think if you attempted to assign a dollar value to the ROI of each video, you would stifle your creativity." He does, however, look at the view counts and ratio of thumbs up to thumbs down in order to see how Vat19's YouTube audience responds to each video.

However, Salvatori think it would be thinking too short-term to analyze how many followers made purchases after having watched each video. "We've built a fairly large subscriber base on YouTube, and we recognize that most viewers are not going to buy every time we put out a new video." Vat19 puts out over 200 new videos each year, and realistically, their typical customer is only going to buy a handful of times per year. So, if Salvatori's team focused too narrowly on the ROI of each individual video, they might be missing the point of building a brand.

That's not to say Vat19 doesn't care how customers hear about them. In fact, the site consistently surveys its customers during the checkout process to learn how they heard about Vat19 - and YouTube is consistently the #1 answer.

At the same time, Salvatori knows that the world of digital video is changing pretty rapidly. "I am watching Facebook very carefully," he admits. "They seem confident that their news feed will be 100% video within five years, and I'm interested in the statistics of how many viewers watch videos without activating the sound. Audio is so crucial to the video art form! So, this phenomenon of audio-less "video" should be carefully watched and, selfishly, I hope it isn't here to stay. But if it is, we may all need to start studying silent films!"

While some things change, some things clearly stay the same. Salvatori believes new platforms may require brands to repackage their content slightly different ways, but the basics -- great concepts, writing, performances, and production value -- will continue to be invaluable to a brand's growth.

Salvatori's parting advice to other brands looking to build a powerful brand through video? "Have fun. And try different things."

While the story of Vat19 is very inspirational, it's always good to get a sense of what other winning brands are doing with video. Looking for a deeper dive? My team at Firebrand Group and I recently put together a comprehensive study of digital executives that predicts the future of video marketing and consumption. You can grab a copy here.

Published on: Oct 31, 2016
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