We've just released a new video that presents the features and benefits of Wild Apricot software for associations, non-profits and other member-driven organizations. Please have a look:
We've been working on this for a few months, and I thought some folks might be interested in reading about our process in putting it together.
While we have a number of really good tutorial videos that give detailed information on many of our features, we wanted this to be something a little different. We felt we needed a short and sweet video to explain what Wild Apricot is, who it's for, and what its benefits are. Our idea would be to use this in a couple of different ways:
- As a 'word-of-mouth' piece. We spoke to a number of customers who have said they would recommend Wild Apricot to their friends and colleagues. One of their most common requests was for a video that could be forwarded to people that would give a 1-2 minute overview of the software in a simple and fun way.
- As an element for our homepage. Yes, we know, there's a LOT of text and links on the Wild Apricot homepage. And for some people that's great, they love reading it and diving into the many pages we have on the site that describe our features in detail. But we also know that a big reason many folks are looking for a system like Wild Apricot is to SAVE time, 'cus they already don't have much of it to spare! So, putting a short and friendly video right on the homepage was something we hoped would encourage people to sign up for a free trial.
Since this was going to be a video presenting product benefits (albeit in a fun way), we quickly realized that we were essentially making a commercial. So, rather than trying to hide from this fact, we thought we'd embrace it by making something that was a bit of a send-up of traditional direct-sales 'as seen on TV' type advertising. We had a lot of fun doing research for this on YouTube. Here are just a few of of our favorite products which address the many fears of the modern world:
- Kangaroo Keeper - for people who are afraid of losing things in their purse
- EZ Cracker - for people who are afraid of cracking an egg
- Air Cutter - for people who are afraid of paying stylists and therefore decide to cut their hair with a small vacuum cleaner
We could continue this list all day, there are dozens of these.
We drafted a script that aped the style of those ads a bit, but also presented the real benefits of Wild Apricot. To make it more fun, we wanted to include some of the great illustrations done by our creative director Denis Fokin (Artistic Apricot). Denis creates the templates for the Wild Apricot software and nearly all the visual elements you see on our websites, including our mascot Fuzzy the Apricot. Denis is also an amazing artist, and has done some terrific Apricot themed pictures that you see from time to time on our site.
We wanted to bring some of Denis' characters to life, so we worked with him to create illustrations that could be animated using Adobe Flash. To start, our marketing coordinator Lenna Titizian (Dancing Apricot) created storyboards and got visual references for all the key scenes in the video. Probably my favorite was her idea for the scary 'calendar monster' which Denis really brought to life. This is Lenna's very rough sketch with visual references:
Here's what Denis came up with for this scene:
We also decided that we would use a professional voice-over artist. We auditioned a number of male and female voices using a couple of different online services, and ended up finding a male voice we really liked using http://voice123.com/. We paid $500 for the job and the turnaround was great, I think we got back the final recording in less than a day once we choose our guy.
Once we had the visual elements and the voice, the animation was next. I have to give a HUGE amount of credit to Lenna for this. Doing Flash animation is nowhere near the top of her job description, but she handled it like a pro. She even learned a bunch of new ActionScript (the Flash programming language) to create certain actions and buttons we really wanted to have in the final version. We would have had to spend a lot of extra time and money hiring someone outside the team to put this together if Lenna hadn't been able to do it, so I want to thank her publicly for doing an awesome job.
The last touch was the music. In keeping with my title of Noisy Apricot, I happily took this job on myself. I used a single cello note lifted from a copyright-free music and sound effects CD to accent the "scary" challenges that associations have. For the upbeat section where we talk about all the ways Wild Apricot can help, I recorded three different short pieces that could be looped underneath the voice-over:
In the end the consensus pick was 'Funky,' which was my favorite from the start.
The Final Product
In the end, the video took a few more weeks than we hoped -- we were originally hoping to launch it in late September or early October -- but I think the end product turned out to be really great. Our sharable word-of-mouth version is now on YouTube as well as our Facebook page and Twitter channel, and we'd love for you to share it with your friends. As for the homepage version, it's there now too BUT there's chance you won't actually see it. We're initially running a Google Optimizer experiment that presents different versions of the homepage to different people, so we can measure if having the video on the home actually does help encourage people to sign up for a trial of the software. We certainly hope it will, but we aren't taking this for granted.
In all, it was a fun process putting this together, and we hope it will help more people learn about Wild Apricot.
Big thanks again to Denis and Lenna, and to everyone on the team who helped with their feedback and encouragement.