It only takes one good or bad customer review on social media to go viral for a company stock to go up or down -- or in this case, for a product to sell out right in time for the holidays. Walmart stores and singer Patti LaBelle are doing the happy dance right now after social media blew up with YouTuber James Wright Chanel's over the top entertaining customer review of Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies.
The Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pies that are being sold exclusively at Walmart stores have been available since September of 2015 but only began flying off the shelves once James Wright Chanel -- a Patti LaBelle fan and amazing singer in his own right -- posted an over-the-top homage to Patti and her pies.
At last count, James' video has been viewed over 3 million times, and Walmarts are now sold out of the sweet potato pies. The chances of us tasting those sweet potato pies in time for the holidays may be out of the question.
The minute I saw James' “Patti Pies” YouTube video, I knew it was going to be a hit. I watched it at least four times, laughed, then shared it via email, social media and even made bets with fellow television producers on which show was going to book James Wright Chanel first.
Since the release of the video, Patti LaBelle and James Wright Chanel have been making the national television and radio show rounds, which just adds to the marketing hype. It is every brand's marketing dream to get positive social-media buzz about their product to millions in record time. While it is not easy to get a video to go viral, the Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies YouTube customer review is the latest to do it successfully.
Here is my take on why the video went viral. And if you are a brand interested in having your customers do a YouTube review, here are four things to consider first:
1. Timing is everything.
I've always said -- timing is everything, especially in television and social media. A brand should know the best time to present or ask customers to review a product. It's the holidays, so whether it is a pumpkin or sweet potato pies, people are thinking about foods and desserts.
James Wright, like myself, is a fan of sweet potato pies, and if you are not a baker and want something quick, easy and cheap, then you are going to buy it. The pie price, $3.48, was so reasonable, James even bought a few for his friends.
2. Be open to the spokesperson.
When it comes to YouTube reviews, brands have little control. So you need be open to the face or voice reviewing your product. Traditional Hollywood beauty is not want you will always get. It turns out that a person being believable, passionate and likable is enough. In this case, James Wright Chanel was the right person and the real deal. Walmart and Patti LaBelle didn't choose him -- he chose them.
Again, here's the awesome power of social media. James, a singer and entertainer, grew up listening to Patti LaBelle and brought an authenticity to his review. While the pie review was for everyone, James hit a special note with Patti LaBelle fans when he broke into song singing verses from some of Patti's classic hits, topping the review off with LaBelle's famous wing flapping move at the end of the video.
3. Be prepared for a live review.
Sometimes a live performance over a taped one is better. When an event is live, you never know what is going to happen -- that's the good and bad news. But that is what makes fun. If you are willing to take the risk, then ask your customers to review your product live on YouTube. The audience is with James live as he opens -- after a little struggle and hilarious commentary -- the pie box and finally gets to taste Patti's pie.
By the ways, he eats it straight out of the box, where directions suggest you warm it up. After showing the full pie, he takes one bite waits a minute and takes another bite before he gives the over-the-top musical review. The few passing seconds are filled with anticipation.
4. Use social media.
Yes, brands -- it's okay to tell your customers to tag, tweet and push your product out in their YouTube video. If it's a good review, then who knows it could go viral. When James finally speaks again, he is asking his audience for a social media call to action. "If anyone knows Patti LaBelle please tag her on this video." I guess someone did. James even went on to hold up the box up and told his audience to go to Walmart and buy some "Patti Pies."
Walmart could not have planned or paid for better marketing this holiday season. Some reports claim that the super chain had $2 million in Patti LaBelle pie sales during the weekend the video was released. Now that is a lot of pies.
As I said, the pies have sold out at Walmart, and I haven't had a chance to taste one and judge for myself. But as soon as they are back on the shelves, I'll be in line waiting -- because I do love a good customer review.