Season 1, Episode 27
Using Video to Drive Over $500 Million in Sales – with Theron Harmon
[00:00:07] Chris: Hi, everybody. Hopefully you’re coming to join us here in Boston on the 23rd. Glad to have you with us today. We’re with Theron Harmon of Harmon Brothers. So hope you enjoy listening to him talk about his broad, vast, and very famous history of video marketing. I’ve seen a lot of your videos. I got a lot of laughs out of them and it was great for positive brand presentation.
So been looking forward to this. Thank you.
[00:00:36] Theron: Thank you. So have I. You’re welcome.
[00:00:38] Chris: So Harmon Brothers.. Your clients have had, I’m going to say a billion and a half,
[00:00:42] Theron: At least
[00:00:43] Chris: ad views slash clicks. Yeah. Resulting in what? Five to 600 million in sales, we would say. You’ve been involved in this space for several years.
You’ve had a lot of famous campaigns. What we’re going to be talking about today is the kinds of questions, marketing questions that brands, especially Amazon brand should be asking themselves. How do they get their product best represented, best position in a marketplace, whether it’s Amazon or not.
So ad week calling you one of today’s weirdest creative teams, that’s one of the favorite lines. Yeah.
[00:01:14] Theron: We’ll take it as a compliment.
[00:01:16] Chris: You’ll own the weird, you said today. The weirdness is like, you’re willing to go where other people weren’t willing to go, perhaps. And you made a name for yourself now.
[00:01:24] Theron: Yeah. And what we discovered Chris is that humor kind of diffuses a lot of things. And we haven’t only done humor. We do things that are more matter of fact, but if we had an early innovation as brothers, cause we don’t, you know, we’re not the only ones that write. In fact usually it isn’t us, that’s writing.
We discovered that it is easier to help a comedian think like a marketer than to help a marketer have sort of the gifts of the comedian or have the skills the comedian has developed. And so we built a curriculum, actually, internally to train writers. And we would go into sketch comedy communities and, stand up shows and look for talent and then had some other business interests that in that kind of overlap.
And that interfaced us with a lot of those people. And so we built this bench of writers. That could get trained in marketing and built this, 40 or 50 page curriculum in and around helping people with comedic, or very good writing ability, become more able to understand sales architecture. And, and that’s I think one of our big competitive advantages is just kind of having that realization and realizing that that could diffuse discomfort and let us talk about things that would be less comfortable in a sort of mass media way to talk about it otherwise.
[00:02:49] Chris: I needed to meet you 20 years ago when I wasn’t able to make a living doing comedy writing. We could have, we imagine what we could have built together 20 years ago.
[00:02:59] Theron: That’s exactly right. Well, we hadn’t discovered it at that point either. So…
[00:03:03] Chris: Certain projects, certain brands probably attract you more than others. What is your process? How do you begin, let’s say the initial process? How does that begin?
[00:03:11] Theron: When choosing clients, really it goes into a couple of different buckets. If they’re looking at a major engagement, meaning a hero campaign, with a big portfolio of assets, big price tag type stuff. We’re really, really selective. We have them send us a dozen plus units. Sometimes a couple of dozen. We will spread that out across the team. We will go through periods of testing. We have to love it. We have to feel like it’s good quality. We have to feel like that we have some idea as to where it fits, how it’s differentiated and its product segment. What problem is it trying to solve? All of those kinds of things. And then on top of that, you have to like the people, the folks that we’re going to work with. Because those engagements will go six to 18 months and yeah. And, and the development and all those kinds of things and the consulting attached to it and so forth. And we have to have a creative director and preferably a creative director, plus maybe a writer or two, who’ve bought into the vision and say, I can be inspired by this.
[00:04:21] Chris: Okay. Right, they care about the product.
[00:04:22] Theron: They care about it that much, that it’s like, this really needs to be out there and it needs to be out there in a bigger way. So that’s, that’s the highly selective bucket. Most people actually that come to us, don’t either aren’t ready for that from a financial standpoint or or we’re, we’re not seeing it, maybe their product, like for instance we’ve tried marketing products that speaking of, kind of how we look at their positioning on Amazon that have a sub 4.3 star rating. And that is, that’s a hard, we found that that threshold is tough. Once you dip down below that, that you’re getting into the high threes, even anything above four, it could, can work. But once you dip below four in Amazon, it makes that our type of video work, that’s really trying to make the brand huge. It makes it very, very difficult. And, we’ve, we have, a couple of battle scars in and around that particular issue. Now the other bucket of clients are folks that maybe aren’t ready quite yet. Or they don’t have big budgets. They’re just getting off the ground. They’re this underdog business, right. That’s really trying to get out there and make their, make their mark. And we’ll accept for sure, those types of companies as clients, but we don’t sell them with a big, huge video package or a really long-term commitment. We go, we can speak to that budget. We can speak that’s right.
We can speak to that budget and, and they may not even be getting video from us. We may come in as like a strategic marketing advisor or a fractional CMO or something of that nature. We’ll come in and we could end up sourcing the video from, their favorite production company or somebody in our bench of relationships, or a solo freelance editor, that type of a thing, or even a competitor. Somebody, a company that we would consider more competitive by us and, and. Uh, honestly, we know that things are still in development, including the nature of how the product’s working. And so we’re much more willing to just have those conversations, going to take you where you’re at and work with you there. And that’s a fast growing part of our business. The folks that kind of graduate up into these big campaigns. It’s a single digit fraction of the folks that reach out to us. So yeah.
[00:06:47] Chris: So you brought up kind of scale their ability to scale, which leads me into my next question actually. We read that 80% of your customers double their revenue after their first ad, 60% 10 X, their revenue after their first ad. So you probably have a sit down discussion with them,
[00:07:03] Theron: To be fully qualifying about what we’re talking about there, those are those, those hero campaign where we totally vetted that and our competence level going in is so high that we, we just rarely miss it. It doesn’t, it doesn’t mean we’ve never missed, but it is, it’s a very, very small fraction of the clients that don’t get an ROI at that level, almost everyone does. And so, yeah. So the point is, is that this other grouping of clients that we’re working to help them grow and so forth, that’s more experimental. They need, the contracts are just month to month and it’s just, that type of more of a consult consultated relationship.
[00:07:45] Chris: some of the brands that we work with with what we do, which is so fundamentally different than what you do. We talk to brands all the time that are so shocked that they’ve doubled or tripled their revenue in the last 18 months on Amazon. Sometimes more, sometimes they tripled it. They thought it would take five years. So all of a sudden they have an ad budget. They have an ads budget, and they’re surprised by this, even though there’s been so many stories. I think in the old, old days, you had to go to like shark tank to hear stuff like this.
Now you’re more likely to hear about shark tank brands on Amazon, success story on Amazon and people who never have to shark tank, but have been successful on Amazon that show up in the story. Yeah. So they have an ad budget that takes them, they’ve already doubled or tripled their revenue in the first year or two, but then they have the budget to bring you in to double and triple it again, or quadruple or. That’s right. Those are the stories we’re used to hearing now. Yeah. So that must be exciting for you, for you to
[00:08:37] Theron: we’ve we’ve literally had an 8 and 9 figure impact on dozens of brands. And that when I say impact, that’s, that’s collectively with a lot of people. That’s not. So it’s, it’s, it’s never, it’s never one group.
It’s never one thing. There’s a lot of pieces that come together for those types of success stories to materialize. But I can just say we’ve been part of the story, we’ve shared the stories of dozens of companies at that eight and nine figure impact level. And then below that level, as far as like the six and seven bigger movements, there’s a, there’s a big bunch of those even a larger number of those. But typically, we’re kind of graduating them along that path, if that makes sense.
[00:09:23] Chris: It definitely does. Definitely does. What, first of all, I quoted you as being weird creative or creative weird. How would you define that since you said you would embrace the weird, how would you define like weird creative?
Even just generally, because that’s obviously part, I’ve talked to you a little bit now, and I think that’s part of your interest and your passion in this entire space of video marketing, right? Yeah. Just to be a little bit weird for you to like it right.
[00:09:50] Theron: We’re in an attention based economy. I mean, I’m not the first one you’ll have heard that from. And, and hooks are really, really important too. And kind of transporting people into another place or a story that they can fall in love with. That requires a bit of risk sometimes.
Meaning you, you have to be willing to And I, I can explain that process because I think any of your folks can learn from it. If you understand that process, you got a better chance of having some similar kinds of ideation around your own projects, your own products.
[00:10:22] Chris: So, right. So the Harmon Brothers method, is that what we’re talking about now?
[00:10:26] Theron: That’s that’s right. That’s right. So when we bring in a client and when we get ready to do high impact video content, so there’s testing video content, which is applicable to almost any client we can get into that later, if you’d like. And then there’s this more high end type stuff that we really focus on with big teams and big bucks. It’s all that kind of stuff. So there’s this vetting process, this filtering process that we talked about, and then we’ll internalize a really substantial sort of intake brain dump around everything that the client knows about their demographic, and the product and so on and so forth.
And that will get turned over to a creative director who leads a team of writers. And those writers they’ll, they’ll usually conduct a session or two with the client to ask questions. They do a lot of their own research. And that writing phase often can go four, six, even eight weeks. Eight weeks is an outlier, typically four to six weeks.
And, they are essentially concocting their own ideas, their own world, and a fully fleshed out script, as to, as to how you would tell this story. Whether it be shorter form, long form or, modularly and that we don’t allow the writers to cross polinate. Because what we, what we want is really, really fresh, unique things so that you get hit.
If you’re working on a hero campaign, you, you, you, you get hit with at least four highly unique scripts .
[00:12:05] Chris: You have them pitch them independently? Is that what you mean? Like the developed,
[00:12:08] Theron: well, they’ll develop them. So we’ll bring the client and their lead decision makers into a writing retreat. We’ll bring all the writers in.
We’ll bring them that lead writer, the creative director. So you’ve got 10 people there and, get a cabin or something for a couple of days in the canyons, up in here around us, in Utah Park City, Sundance the whole bit. Right. Yeah, it’s fun. But they’ll pitch these scripts that they’ve been working four to six weeks on, and it’s an amazing couple of hours, that all this work gets pitched and it’s fully fleshed out. The worlds are painted. There could be storyboards, all this kind of thing. And then the client and the creative director will work together to decide on a backbone for the hero level, tent-pole piece. And for the balance of the two day retreat, the writers will take the best of everything that was put together and they will build that kind of final sign off.
And then they’ll continue to build it and all the variants and all those support sorts of things all the way through production and post-production. But the point is, is that they come out of that retreat process saying, “this is amazing.” Everybody can feel the energy of it, that this can be real success.
And so that’s the process and we scale that down for lower budget things. We’ll still use multiple writers, two or three. We’ll use what we call a creative brain trust, which comes out of Pixar, Pixar, in Creativity Inc. That book there’s a, there’s a really strong model for this idea of a creative brain trust.
And it allows you to, check your ideas against other people who are skilled and trained, understanding what a great video looks like and how to construct it.
[00:13:55] Chris: Some people might have to just do this themselves, like without professional writers, they have to go through this creative process,
[00:14:02] Theron: but what’s else. Well, they should. And that’s the thing is, is that you can
[00:14:06] Chris: just look at the outline, not the, not the dialogue. Right.
[00:14:10] Theron: That’s exactly right. So the outlines, the dialogue, and, there are these services out there which do like comedic punch up. Where they’ll punch up what you do. And whether or not, if you’re not going to go the comedic route, that’s fine. Even just to have an outside writer come in and really flesh it out and give you some feedback. It’s worth the planning, the investment, and there’s a couple of reasons for this. One is you can get way more out of your shoot as far as like, segments.
Because, you know exactly, your shot list is planned to everything that you’ve got to capture for these different things that makes you way more cost efficient if you’re putting together a shoot, a production shoot. And, and then the other thing is, being entertaining is great, but we come from a place of sales first art second, but it’s a close second.
Right. Right. So sales first, you don’t want something because it’s funny or because it’s hooky or whatever to get in the way of actually doing the job of selling your product.
[00:15:13] Chris: Humor does help. First of all, it makes it memorable. I watched a handful of these today for the second or third time and they’re memorable. And so humor sell.
[00:15:25] Theron: All the, no, I agree. Yeah. I agree. I’m just saying, I’ve seen it get in the way. People remember the joke and not the product or they, or they get somehow thrown, thrown off of that psychological commitment to convert. Is somehow disrupted because of some sort of tangent in the storytelling.
[00:15:43] Chris: It’s just distracting.
[00:15:47] Theron: right. You can get to a place where you’re distracting and that is, that’s what you’re trying to avoid. Yeah. And I’d just say preparation, even for beginners, preparation really helps you avoid that. It really comes down to that early investment in planning the way your videos work. When people just shoot video on the fly cause they need something quick, typically it’s not the money best spent.
[00:16:13] Chris: Thanks again for joining me for today. Any final words you’d like to leave attendees with before either meeting them in Boston or hearing from them again, virtually on the 23rd?
[00:16:23] Theron: I’m excited to meet a lot of Amazon brands and to, and to learn from all of you as well.
[00:16:28] Chris: We’re looking forward to having you thanks so much for this Q and A today. I appreciate those thoughtful and comprehensive answers to these questions.
And I know you’ll have more questions ahead. So we look
forward to seeing you here, Boston.
[00:16:40] Theron: This is great. This is great. Thanks Chris.
Hosts & Guests
Season 1, Episode 31 Managing Expectations in Q4 on Amazon As we swiftly head into the deep end of Q4, we're all getting busier. And Amazon isn't exempt from that. But how should you manage things on your end, as Amazon response times get longer and longer? Leah and...
Season 1, Episode 30 Get Your Brand Omni-channel Ready with Kunal Chopra 2020 accelerated the adoption of online shopping by as much as 10 years, but successfully expanding into onmi-channel ecommerce takes a lot more than simply listing your products everywhere. In...