Online video is a major part of the interactive world and many say it’s the future of marketing. However, it wasn’t until recently that we’ve seen companies actively use it to reach audiences online. Toyota (apart from the recall woes faced earlier this year) and Levi’s have shown great leadership with their current campaigns. Inspired by Reel SEO’s tips for creating a web series, we believe these brands hit the nail on the head with content that centers on universal truths for the target audience, encouraging them to contribute, watch and share with others.

Toyota’s Sienna Family changed the way we viewed automobile advertising, especially after the now famous Swagger Wagon music video took the web by storm. Armed with (self-professed) A+ parenting skills, the family gave parents and minivan drivers the opportunity to chuckle at the well-known steps new parents take to meet varying family needs. Taking a step back from traditional car ads, Toyota developed a campaign around an engaging, sitcom-style series of online videos that don’t push warranties, pricing and the like.

Already, millions have gone out of their way to meet the family. As Spork Marketing Blog notes, unlike traditional TV advertising, “online video viewers have elected to watch your content – it’s not being forced upon them.” With nearly 3 million YouTube channel views and over 4 million views of Swagger Wagon alone, Toyota has achieved an online video marketing success.

The popular clothing brand grabbed Mindgruve’s attention with “Ready to Work” (an extension of their “Go Forth” campaign), which documents the new pioneers of Braddock, PA, through an 11-part online video series.

Unlike Toyota’s series of laughable family quirks, this series of online videos pull at the heart strings by tapping into the idea of hard work, a theme integral to America and Levi’s roots, while also highlighting a very real concept many have faced in light of economic highs and lows, starting over. These personal narratives will be carried through the entire series as it showcases the potential of Braddock residents, including Braddock’s Mayor who expresses his passion for the town with heartfelt tattoos.

Still early in the campaign, Levi’s made the right decision to captivate their audience by leveraging their Facebook Page and YouTube channel. The use of their social network makes the series easily accessible to those already interested and is sure to help spread the word about this resilient community and Levi’s brand.

Done correctly, online videos can be an engaging medium and possess the ability to enhance your marketing with repeated viewing, sharing and meaningful discussion. While there is no surefire way to guarantee a hit, choosing and executing on a theme universal to your audience is a good first step.