In 2015, Charlene Tassinari + Carly Potock founded YouTube’s first brand strategy team for small-to-medium businesses. Their insights-driven methodology was delivered to 500+ brands globally through client workshops and industry events, including Google’s annual CMO Academy, hosted in partnership with Columbia Business School. In 2018, they built first-of-kind video production solutions for YouTube’s customers. In 2020, Charlene and Carly founded Canvas+Co to help more brands succeed in a video-first world.
They’ll be bringing their 25+ years of marketing experience to the stage at the Social Media Strategies Summit.
SMSsummit: You both spent several years developing great products as part of the YouTube team before you started your own company this year. What was the impetus for branching off on your own?
Carly & Charlene: After working with many brands (both growing and established) at YouTube, we realized there was an increasing knowledge gap due to the constantly changing and growing social and video landscape.
While brands were hungry to participate, many times they just didn’t know where to start. For example, many brands – especially Direct-to-Consumer companies – had grown up on Facebook and Instagram and didn’t know how to adjust their creative and measurement strategies to work on other platforms. We also saw very traditional marketers who had been slow to adapt to the changing media landscape and were falling behind.
To add to these challenges – every platform was giving brands a list of 10-20 best practices for successful creative. And new platforms like TikTok were quickly growing in popularity. Brands were overwhelmed.
We saw an opportunity to simplify this space and equip brands with the toolkit to become a successful cross-platform video marketer. This is incredibly important because over 50% of a campaign’s success is driven by creative – and when it comes to your creative canvas, video wins every time.
SMSsummit: During your time at YouTube and beyond, you’ve trained over 500 brands globally on video creative best practices, which is incredible! What were some of the common misconceptions and/or challenges you saw among small-to-medium businesses trying to get their video strategy started?
Carly & Charlene: There’s a big misconception that video production is too expensive. Production timelines and the costs for video have decreased significantly. Brands can be so much more nimble – from using free tools (like YouTube’s Video Builder) to influencers to even their own employees to create content. There are also video production companies with innovative marketplace models that provide on-demand access to tens of thousands of video creators globally at much lower rates than a traditional creative agency.
There’s also a misconception that video needs to be of very high production value. Many times, authentic and UGC-style content tends to perform better than the beautifully shot, long-form video content that many brands believe they need. A recent Google study found that content that relates to your passions is 2X more important to viewers than production quality.
SMSsummit: You happened to branch out and leave your longtime jobs at Google to start your company about 2 weeks before San Francisco shut down due to the pandemic. Talk about timing! This obviously required a huge shift on your part as providing in-person training was planned to be a big part of your business. What are some of the key ways you’ve been able to adapt? Have there been any surprising positive outcomes in terms of new clients and the client strategy itself?
Carly & Charlene: Launching a new business 1 month before a global pandemic hit was never our intention. We had planned to spend 2020 on the road, doing live keynotes at industry events in order to grow our brand and business. When the world shut down, we had to adapt our new business strategy and rely more on our networks to help connect us to potential clients.
Additionally, the majority of our offerings were built on in-person experiences and workshops. We had to adapt to be 100% virtual, which also meant shortening the length of our sessions and adjusting the structure to be more attention-grabbing over Zoom.
While it’s been a challenging time, we keep saying it’s been a blessing in disguise. We’ve been able to spend more time focusing on our positioning and finding a clear differentiation in the crowded “agency/consulting” space.
And when working with clients, it’s been incredible to see their desire to brand build again. The pandemic and social unrest have required brands to think more about their values and how they’re helping the world rather than just selling you a product. We think it’s an incredible time to be a marketer!
SMSsummit: Building effective cross-platform video strategies requires the balance between art and science – something that’s integral to your work at Canvas+Co. For teams that you’ve worked with that may be more data-focused or creative-focused, how do you help their teams collaborate to find a balance between the two?
Carly & Charlene: We bring brand, performance, and creative teams together into working sessions that create a shared understanding of the video landscape and the brand challenge at hand. Teams leave with a shared language and vantage point to build on.
From there, we work with clients to bring their creative and media strategies closer together. Every brief should be inclusive of the media strategy and the creative strategy. You should never be thinking about platforms, targeting, formats, creative insights and messaging, and calls-to-action in siloes.
Finally, once creative is live, it’s important for these teams to come back together in order to adapt the creative and/or media-based on testing and learning. The great thing about digital video is that you can get answers very quickly by running an ad for only a few days.
SMSsummit: What is unique to video that enables it to capture attention unlike other forms of content?
Carly & Charlene: Marketers today are really in the attention business. You can’t achieve anything – like sell a product – unless you’ve first captured someone’s attention. And that’s really hard to do when a single person is scrolling through 300 feet of mobile content daily.
Video gives you more attention-grabbing tools than any other medium. You have sight, sound, and motion to play with. This toolkit is much more powerful than static imagery or text alone when you need to make someone stop what they are doing and give you their attention.
SMSsummit: Can you identify a brand that you think is doing great work with video and why?
Carly & Charlene: Olive & June, an LA-based nail salon, built a strong Instagram strategy during the pandemic. With nail salons around the country being shut down, they began promoting their
at-home manicure kit and posted weekly video tutorials to help people do their nails at home. They continued with the mani boot camp as stay-at-home orders lasted into the summer and have expanded their product offering to meet the on-going customer needs with things like seasonal nail colors. What we love about their approach is that they built a strong paid and organic strategy (their CEO is even the face of their paid ads) by leaning into real human insights and customer needs. Most importantly, they are bringing value and some fun to people’s lives in a time when we all need a little help!
e.l.f. Beauty is also a great brand to look to for inspiration. Their video strategy is exceptional because they embrace the unique user-mindset and creative constraints of the platforms that they choose to have a presence on. For example, TikTok requires a very unique creative approach that feels native to the feed. e.l.f. embraced this with their Eyes.Lips.Face. Hashtag Challenge, which was intended to drive greater awareness of their core brand positioning (e.l.f stands for every eye, lip, face). It was an instant success and the fastest-ever TikTok campaign to reach 1 billion views. e.l.f has continued to innovate and invest in TikTok since their first viral hit. e.l.f. also takes great care to ensure that every aspect of their campaigns is true to their brand’s purpose and values. Their platform, creative, messaging, and talent choices all reflect their belief that everyone should be empowered to express their truest selves and that brands should do right by people, the planet, and animals.
You can learn more about the Social Media Strategies Summit and Carly and Charlene’s session by visiting the event website.