So. I’m trying to sit down and have a normal, productive day of work.

And it’s really failing because I can’t get Brandon Sanderson’s latest announcement out of my head.

When I watched it, sent to me this morning, it was a #1 on trending.

At this point, it’s been out for about exactly a day, and it has 855,671 views.

If you’re a Sanderson fan and haven’t watched the video yet, do so and come back. Or don’t come back but do watch the video. I’m going to start spoiling it.

If you’re not one of his fans, then the content of this video won’t be expressly relevant, but what he does and accomplishes is VERY relevant and is applicable across domains.

I wanted to start working.

But I couldn’t because I’m hung up on fan-excitement, but ALSO the video marketing magic that Sanderson wields.

As a TL;DR for those who don’t know, Brandon Sanderson is a science-fiction/fantasy author. Like, THE science-fiction/fantasy author in this day and age. He finished the epic Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan passed away (many thanks for lining that up Jordan. Martin… *shakes head sadly*) and he has numerous magic/character/world rich books and series in his own right.

Also, he’s known for being a speed demon at writing.

Okay. Back on task.

What This Video Is

As far as video mechanics, this one is not too complicated. It’s nicely lit, with a sort-of dark look that fits well with what you *think* the theme of this video is about. He’s implying that’s he’s been lying to us.

It looks good. It works for this and yet it’s not super-produced like something you’d see with Eric Thayne of Cinema Mastery or Parker Walbeck of Full-time Filmmaker.

Then we’ve got a slow zoom which was probably accomplished using post-production video software.

And this leads up to a BIG reveal.

He’s written a secret book.

The video proceeds where we’ve got this continuous shot of him putting on his coat and directing us toward chalkboards of information like he’s doing a lecture at BYU.

It’s a one camera setup with a camera man monitoring, and post-production edited close-ups to highlight what he’s saying.


What This Video Did

What this video comes down to is announcing a Kickstarter for not one, not two, not even three but FOUR secret books that we’ll be able to get once a quarter over the next year.

The goal was $1,000,000 by March 31st.

I visited the Kickstarter.

Note that this gif is over a period of 20 seconds.

Yes. You’re seeing that correctly. In less than a day the Kickstarter has not only fully-funded, but fully-funded FIFTEEN TIMES OVER.

I sat watching the numbers increase as if I was looking at a mega-millions jackpot in a casino or something.

That is, after signing into Kickstarter and putting in my credit card information.


There’s a LOT going on here that I want to direct your attention toward.

Not only is he a genius in writing, but he and his team show that they clearly have marketing down.

This could have been successful if all he did was announce a post about his kickstarter on his website. Or if he’d sent an email blast. Or if he filmed himself saying “Hey guys, I’m launching a Kickstarter”.

But the way he did it was very deliberate to garner EXCITEMENT. And while we won’t ever know what the discrepancy would have been had he announced this in any other way, I’ll stretch my neck out and say that had he not made a video like this, we’d be seeing WILDLY less attention.

An announcement I’d receive in my email would have lead to me going, “oh cool!” visiting the kickstarter, mulling over if I’d want to pull the trigger on hundreds of dollars I wouldn’t see pay out until next year and then perhaps deciding to think about it for awhile.

An epic video that starts with a dramatic click-bait-esque feel that leads to the first of MANY secrets, that becomes movement in camera and dimension in props, that leads to one after another after another mic drop moments not only has me charging my credit card at not even half-way through the video, but has me posting it on social media AND writing a blog about it.

THAT is how to do content marketing.

That’s how you take an epic product and turn it into an epic story that breaks the internet and makes your business 15 million dollars in 23 hours.

This is everything working at its BEST. And I even said at the beginning, this video was very-well thought out, designed and scripted but it’s NOT overproduced. You could tell me this was filmed on a phone and I’d believe you. It doesn’t change the EFFECT it had however.

Very rarely do we see results like this. Because in this case, we have a confluence of perfected factors.

This is what we as business owners engaging in marketing aspire toward.

I’m not convinced Brandon Sanderson is human. So I’m not sure this is something any of us will achieve, but we can persist.

And if we line up enough of these factors, we too can achieve success.

The Factors

#1 He’s done the work to build the RAVING fans

Sanderson’s been doing what he does for many years. He’s written I don’t know how many books (especially when you now add in the 4 that we’ll get next year PLUS the kids book he’s not sure what to do with). He’s done many conventions, many public appearances, has a youtube channel, a website and a team. He’s put in time to garner interest and to woo fans.

I didn’t know who he was in 2011 when I travelled by myself for the first time and went to Jordancon. All I knew was he was the guy who was going to finish the Wheel of Time. And I was so grateful because without Jordan picking a successor, I never would have gotten to enjoy the series in its entirety. And there was a lot left to enjoy.

So I bought his books, got my picture with him, attended his panels and went about my business.

Those chubby cheeks.

Was I in for a shock. Even before he finished the Wheel of Time I was in love. He became one of my favorite authors next to Jordan (and Rowling) (and now Maas).

I’m just one fan. He’s captured the attention of many, many, many others.

That to this day, 11 years later, I’m still following him and giving him money.

#2 He’s not just good at what he does, he’s AMAZING

His marketing has been good. He makes public appearances. He does media. He promotes his books and blogs and all that.

But also his books are FREAKING. AWESOME.

He’s not just a “good” author or an “entertaining” author. He’s a master.

I don’t think I could pay hundreds of dollars for just anyone’s surprise work. Especially for books, I need to know what I’m in for. I need to have some idea that I’m going to enjoy the story before I shell out money.

Sanderson is one of the only authors I can confidently give my money to without knowing anything about what I’m getting because I know it won’t disappoint.

(Side note: I probably will NOT be purchasing the kids book, that is a whole ‘nother topic I won’t be getting into on this blog but you can ask me about it, were you so curious).

#3 The product is not just good, it’s EPIC

No, I didn’t accidentally do #2 twice.

His product, in this case, is his kickstarter campaign where he’s launching 4 books, one a quarter BUT ALSO. On the months we don’t receive a book, we have the option to receive a swag bag of themed Sanderson world coolness.

It’s not just that he’s launching a Kickstarter to share one book with us. This man has got a PLAN.

It’s detailed. It’s thorough. He’s entirely cultivated our experience.

It’s a choose your own adventure because for the rest of this month he’ll be releasing videos that will be giving hints at what the books are, for those who want to know, but the titles and social media posts will be without spoilers for those who want to be completely surprised.

#4 He chooses a video as the way to announce

I mentioned this above. The kickstarter could have gone over well as an email or a blog or basic video or something and because of #s 1-3 this whole campaign still could have worked.


He didn’t. He chose a video, and THIS video, and I’d be willing to bet my “Year of Sanderson” subscription that this way of releasing the news made this whole campaign as multi-fold successful as it was. I continue with the how below.

#5 He builds interest with the title and the first 60 seconds

There’s a hook.

It’s called “It’s Time to Come Clean”.

We have no idea what this video is about only that Sanderson seems to be feeling guilty about something and we are now curious what it is. Then the first 60 seconds he doesn’t reveal anything, just builds our curiosity with his works (and the dramatic slow-zoom of the camera, talked about below).

We’re curious. We’re watching. We’re becoming invested.

#6 He surprises us

At 60 seconds the camera abruptly jumps wide again as Sanderson slaps an entire secret manuscript on the table.

Oh my gosh. This guy is already a speedy gonzales with his writing AND he’s written another HUGE book in secret? What the heck is going on here?!?!

#7 He does the above two CONTINUOUSLY

It doesn’t end there. He talks about his experiences during COVID, we relate to his sense of burnout, we empathize and are amused…

and then he surprises us again.

Another book.

And another.


He’s launching a Kickstarter to share these with us following a plan.

And it doesn’t even just end there.

This will be a whole YEAR. The months we don’t get books we could get stuff.

Surprises EVERY MONTH for a year.

He didn’t just come right out and say all this. This isn’t some half-baked scheme. We are awed by how thorough and thought out this is. We are getting hot and emotional. We are primed to jump in and support him. I’m at minute 9, when I’m visiting the Kickstarter page and whipping out my credit card but there’s still 7 more minutes for him to ramp us up more and break down those wills greater than mine.

#8 His video is on brand

This is another element that’s adding to breadth of experience. He’s a master. I’ve said this. But in the past I’ve only attributed it to him as an author. (Read up on the cosmere if you’re curious). Now. I’m seeing him (and his team) as master marketers.

He’s in clothes that are on brand. (Note the nerd shirt)

He puts on the jacket which we’ve all seen him in at public appearances.

He’s a teacher, so he shows us, not just tells us the information with chalkboards.

#9 This video is edited as it should be

I’ve touched on this. This video is filmed and edited right. It hits the right beats. It could have been produced more but it doesn’t need to be. And produced less, we’d lose just a bit of that impact.

I LOVE the abrupt jump cut to wide of the camera when he slaps the manuscript down on the table. Could it have been a bit cleaner, sure, but it does the freaking job.

#10 He asks us to share the video, not just the content

He invites us to be a part of the excitement. He asks us straight out not to tell our friends, but to share this video.


Because we DO share this video. We’re excited that we’re going to get some of the positive glow-back on us when our friends goob out over this and WE were the ones that informed them. They get to experience the shock and awe straight out and we get to grin behind them because we’re already in on the secret.

Sanderson gets US to not only share ABOUT him, but to share his original, effective message without any distortion of it.

#11 There is social proof

Because of #s 1-10, what happens is we get social proof. The snowball starts rolling slowly and at some point it becomes an avalanche.

When I opened the Kickstarter and saw a goal of $1,000,000 but a funding of $15,000,000, I wanted to be a part of something so big.

Once a thing reaches, as Malcom Gladwell would say, “the tipping point”, the thing takes on a life of its own. And when so many people say a thing is good, those on the fence say, “well, if this many people like it, it MUST be good” and they join in. In the sciences, it’s a “positive feedback loop”. Someone joins in, then someone sees them joining in so they join in, and another sees two joining in so they join in until we’re all lemmings falling to our happy deaths whilest drinking the Sanderson Kool-Aid.

In marketing, we want this because if people are drinking our Kool-Aid and they’re sharing it with others, and our original fans are cultivating good social capital with their community for having shared us with them, everybody wins. We get more customers, we create more impact on the world, and the people we help have better experiences while we are able to assist more of them. And make more money, of course.

What now?

I’ve already written quite a long blog. I think perhaps it deserves another blog or two, maybe a video (series?), to go into how we can mix all these elements together to create our own delicious attention-grabbing marketing stew.

What we CAN do, is pick one of these elements, and focus on one part of the element, and start sprinkling that into our marketing efforts.

We’ve got to start where we are and if we think we’re just going to wake-up after our afternoon nap today and accomplish this level of success without the decades of work that went into it, we’re nutzo. Perhaps we’re already nutzo for having our own businesses.

But we can start where we are. We can pick one thing.

We can say, “What can I do to turn my fans into raving fans?” and start doing that one thing.

We can ask, “How can I title my next video so that people are intrigued enough to click on it?”

“How can I shift my marketing so that every piece looks part of a cohesive brand?”

“What IS my cohesive brand?”

“How can I surprise and delight my customers… with my offering? … with my social media?… with my blog? … with my video?… with my announcement?”

“How can I improve what I do to make it next-level awesome?”

“How can I ask people to share what I do in an authentic and meaningful way?”

And then we do that one thing.

And then we ask another question. And we do that thing.

And another question. And another thing.

This never ends, and maybe one day, if we’re lucky, we’ll be half the android that Brandon Sanderson is.

katie curtis of inspired video marketing in ann arbor michigan

Oh. Also I made a video.


Source link