The Top 9 Videos From Brands This Year

Michael Brenner on Nov 21, 2013 in Content Marketing

Jean-Claude Van Damme youtube screengrabIt’s that time of year to start thinking about what have we done well, as an industry. And recognize the success of those brands who got it right. Who created content that didn’t just pitch their products. But touched their audience in some way.

I’m starting with a review of the best branded videos of the last 12 months. To find the best branded content, I reached out to some of my best content marketing friends for nominations.

Thanks to Amanda Maksymiw Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Tim Washer, Todd Wheatland, Joe Chernov, Rob Yoegel and Jesse Noyes for sending me their ideas on the top content of 2013.

They provided some amazing suggestions and mostly agreement (see below) on what was the best branded content of 2013. I did my own research and found that almost all of the best content this year was video (hmm, what does that mean?) So I created this list of the top 9 videos from brands this year. I hope you enjoy the videos!

Do you agree with these selections? Do you have a video to nominate that isn’t listed here? Add your comments below!

1. Metro Trains (Melbourne Australia): Dumb Ways To Die

Dumb Ways To Die is a hilarious public service announcement from Metro Trains of Melbourne Australia. It was produced to educate children on train safety and quickly became a social and viral sensation after it was released late last year. The video has racked up 65 Million pageviews on YouTube. It also received 5 Cannes Lion awards. Check out the website, iPhone app and mp3 for more fun.

2. Dove Real Beauty Sketches (57 Million Pageviews)

Dove launched the “Real Beauty Sketches” video in April of this year to show women to be “more grateful for their natural beauty” and that they are “more beautiful than they think they are.” Expect tears! Check out their full website.

3. Volvo Trucks: The Epic Split (31 Million pageviews and counting)

Everyone is talking about (and sharing) this new online commercial that shows 53-year old actor Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a split between two reversing Volvo trucks. Most of the comments I’ve seen are people questioning if the stunt was real. The Wall Street Journal ran this quote from Volvo’s PR manager: “The stunt is real and is performed in just one take. It’s a daring stunt but we had full control. There was never any real danger involved.” They report that Van Damme, used safety tethers on his feet that were attached to small, invisible shelves on the trucks’ side mirrors.

4. Chipotle’s The Scarecrow (7 Million Views)

I have to admit I don’t really get this one. But there was almost unanimous consent from the smart folks I asked on this being the best piece of content produced by a brand this year. I think everyone I asked is just way cooler and smarter than me!

I get that it’s got some weird Tim Burton-esque, Pixar-like animation. I get the message. Love the call-to-action to engage further with the game. I’m just not that entertained by it. I don’t feel particularly informed by it. But hey, it’s probably targeting much cooler hipsters and not me.  I gotta respect the effort.

5. Ram Trucks Superbowl Commercial: God Made A Farmer (16 Million Pageviews)

This video uses a popular monologue by Paul Harvey from a radio show in the 1980s. It really stuck with me because my Dad used to listen to Paul Harvey every day. And although he’s gone, these kinds of things make me feel like he’s still here. The video is a great example of how to use sounds, words and amazing images to connect with people in a deeply emotional way. I will probably never buy a Ram Truck but I love them for making this. (BTW – I’m a sucker for a great voice over – see Cisco Internet of Everything ad).

6. Intel: Look Inside. Jack Andraka (700K Pageviews)

“Where do breakthrough ideas begin? Maybe during 5th period Freshman Biology.” This video shows Jack Andraka winning $75,000 from Intel for his little science fair project. Jack is a 15-year-old kid who invented a new way to test for pancreatic cancer after his Uncle was diagnosed. He won the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, (named after Intel’s founder) at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Some runner-ups:

7. Re:GENERATION Trailer for the Re:GENERATION movie by Hyundai Veloster

8. GE “Science Fair” Vine Videos on Tumblr. These are really great and so easy to watch.

9. Ann Handley’s Best Political Ad Ever. At first, I was all like “oh I’m staying away from that whole politics thing” but this really is brilliant.

In case you are interested, my selection criteria was content produced by brands but that wasn’t necessarily about the brand directly. So et me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook  and Google+ or  Subscribe to the Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 26 comments
  • Tim Washer

    Thanks for this post, Brenner! Ram Trucks and Intel are my favorites. We can all find inspirational stories connected to our industry, and some can be produced well on an affordable budget– providing you don’t cast Van Damme

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Tim. And you’re welcome for the shout out to the Cisco ad 😉 Although a little more promotional than all these, still a great example of storytelling.

  • Carla Johnson

    It’s a great list, Michael. I think what’s really exciting is how these companies are pushing creativity and bringing truly original ideas to these messages. They’re doing a fabulous job of raising the bar so the same-old-same-old story won’t work anymore. And that’s excellent!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Carla. Which one is your favorite?

  • Dave Cutler

    Great list, Michael. IMHOm the Van Damme spot is the runaway winner. I’d also nominate this recent ad from Google India:

  • Tom Borgman

    Like Carla said…this kind of good schtuff should be required watching for CMOs/Brand Managers/Content Managers et al, all across the B2C&Bsphere. More than any “10 Steps to Create Content…article, blog or infographic, these examples can help unlock their brains (and their CEOs/presidents) on HOW to think about stories/content. How free-ing and limitless an approach!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Tom, I really enjoyed finding these examples of GREAT marketing. Sometimes I feel like all I do is bash our profession for creating so much crap. These are great examples of what we are capable of.

  • Patti Fletcher

    Hi Michael, great list! I wish we could nominate and vote. I love this one from Google and wish is was on the list:

  • Patti Fletcher

    oy. Looks like Dave Cutler beat me to the punch regarding the Google ad.

  • Deb

    Michael, terrific post. Love “The Epic Split” and “Dove Real Beauty,” but also have to add the Google Indian Commercial. These are examples of real storytelling…people and human thoughts beyond the brand. First the character in their environment and/or their thinking, then the conflict, and finally the change. Something that’s changed their way of life or thinking, or the people around them. It makes the connection.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Deb! So many people have mentioned it that I may have to revise the post!

  • Annie Craven

    Thanks for the post Michael, these are some of my favorite commercials! Every year my hometown public library shows the Cannes Lion award winners and it’s the best, there is some very creative minds out there.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Annie, What a great service from the public library. I wish mine did.

  • Gilbert Samuel

    Oh great, i guess I’m in Patti’s shoes, i was just about to say exactly the same time. I wish so too. Hope you’re doing great Michael.

  • Patrick Moore

    That Volvo video with Jean-Claude was one of the best marketing videos I have ever seen. I’ll make sure to check back on this site. Thanks!

  • John Anstey

    I love the Volvo Truck spot with Jean-Claude. There is another great Volvo Truck spot that features a hamster turning the steering wheel and maneuvering the giant truck out of a quarry. It’s worth a look.

    Here’s a link:

  • Randi Alterman

    Wow. What a kaleidoscope of videos.

    I connected with the Dove, Ram, and Intel videos so strongly. So moving. So human. In a digital age, we sometimes forget that it is the human story that connects us, compels us, changes us.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Randi. I really like the direction these kind of videos are taking. The Westjet Christmas video does this as well. When brands make videos that makes someone laugh or cry, that is the kind of marketing I want to be a part of.

  • Josiane Feigon

    Just stumbled upon this list, nicely done Michael! I’d missed the Van Damme splits video. He’s an interesting guy. Did you happen to catch his 2008 movie, JCVD? Really good performance in that one.

    Anyway I digress: content was certainly king in 2013 and video was its crown! I suspect this will only continue.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Josiane, I missed that movie but now will need to check it out. Thanks for helping me pick my weekend entertainment!

  • Doug Kessler

    Fantastic list. All worthy. Thanks for collecting them in one place with commentary.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Doug! I’m a huge fan of looking at OPC (other people’s content) and then trying my damnedest to emulate it.