Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 | 7 min read
Picture this: You’re sitting at your office desk. You see something out of the corner of your eye. You turn to look out your window and are confronted by a floating, headless mannequin wearing a suit. Once you realize you’re not dreaming, what do you do? Wouldn’t you want to know where this thing came from? Would you maybe even buy the suit?
That’s what Brazilian retailer Camisaria Colombo was hoping when it used drones to pull off this marketing stunt. The clothing company’s target market—business executives—were cooped up in their offices on Black Friday. In order to let them know about the store’s special sales, the brand flew several “dronequins” donning their latest looks around Sao Paulo’s business district and right in front of their windows. Now that’s some targeted advertising.
As the marketing space—and online video, in particular—becomes more crowded, brands are looking for new ways to deliver exceptional content. And many are using drones to do it—whether by creating high-quality visuals, physically delivering products to customers, or just adding a “wow” factor to their campaigns.
For instance, Twitter and the Cannes Lions Festival teamed up to coin the “dronie” in 2014. Shirking the stagnant selfie, they flew drones around the film festival to capture voluntary footage of celebrities and attendees. The content was then uploaded to the official @Dronie Twitter and Vine accounts.
In the meantime, if you’re still here and not staring out your window in search of headless dronequins, let’s check out a few examples of brands that are making remarkable content with drones.
Pro mountain biker Danny Macaskill docks his boat at the edge of Scotland’s gorgeous Isle of Skye. “Blackbird,” a haunting tune by Celtic fusion artist Martyn Bennett plays in the background. Macaskill mounts his bike and prepares to conquer gravity and defy death along the infamous Cuillin Ridgeline.
So begins “The Ridge,” a mesmerizing short film by Red Bull and Cut Media. With over 43 million YouTube views, it’s one of the brand’s most impressive videos to date, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the use of drones.
When you’re trying to capture the ride of a biker, surfer, snowboarder, or skateboarder—as Red Bull is known to do—getting those money shots can be tough and even dangerous. By filming with drones, however, the brand can follow the action from above or right beside the athlete without missing a beat.
Red Bull also recently signed an exclusive deal with GoPro, which allows the companies to share content and establishes GoPro as the sole action camera provider for Red Bull. The camera manufacturer is known for producing its own viral sports videos and is expected to launch its first drone this year. As two of the most innovative brands in the content game, it should come as no surprise that Red Bull and GoPro are pioneering drone advertising, and marketers should continue to keep an eye on them.
In 2014, Coca-Cola partnered with Singapore Kindness Movement to launch “Happiness from the Skies,” a campaign designed to give back to the Singaporean migrant workers who were building the city’s high-rises. With a fleet of drones, Coke delivered cans of soda and handwritten “thank you” notes from the community to these workers in the sky.
The companies then documented their campaign in a heartwarming YouTube video.
“Construction workers, in particular, tend to be ‘invisible’ as they are working in areas that are not accessible to the average person,” said Eugene Cheong, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, the agency that worked on the project. “So in order to appreciate them, we first need to see them. This is what this video allows us to do.”
Coca-Cola’s “Happiness in the Skies” campaign succeeded on three major fronts: it used drone technology for that “wow” factor; it promoted a feel-good message of social responsibility; and it generated a shareable video that lives on after the campaign.
As one of the world’s leading technology companies, GE is expected to create state-of-the-art content. And the brand doesn’t disappoint. GE not only uses drones to inspect the power grid, but it also features the flying machines in its sci-fi commercials and marketing campaigns.
Most notably, GE launched its first #DroneWeek event on Periscope last summer. Through the livestreaming app, GE took viewers on a drone’s-eye-view tour of some of its top-secret facilities—from a jet engine testing site in the Appalachian Mountains to a locomotive manufacturing plant in Texas.
This year, the brand is bringing back #DroneWeek to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how it’s helping Rio de Janeiro prepare for the Olympics. By using drone technology, GE is finding ways to peel back the curtain on its own projects and engage audiences around topical events.
Brands can remove the legwork from buying and operating drones by tapping influencers to capture footage for them.
For example, travel brands are partnering with professional photographers on Instagram to promote their destinations. And over on YouTube, Panasonic teamed up with filmmaker Devin Graham for his insane Rope Swing Zipline video.
These influencers not only have the tools and techniques brands need to tell their unique stories; they also have built-in audiences to give their content greater reach.
Looking ahead, brands have some big plans for drones. Most notably, Amazon hopes to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. But the coast isn’t completely clear for companies to start launching their own aerial machines.
As Social Media Week reports, the FAA places certain restrictions on using drones for commercial purposes. For instance, marketers will have to hire someone with a FAA Section 333 waiver, and all drones are prohibited from flying above 400 feet.
Such regulations could prevent drones from becoming mainstream anytime soon. They’ll also make it tough for brands on a budget to explore the technology. Still, drones are much less expensive and easier to manage than, say, helicopters or cranes. And as the campaigns above demonstrate, experimenting with drones could prove worthwhile for your content strategy and help you get some stunning footage in the process.