The internet is changing very rapidly!
The proliferation of new communication channels and social networks, built on peer to peer endorsement and content sharing, has created as many challenges as it has opportunities for this generation of brand marketers.
Whilst the rewards are obvious – potential virality, consumer advocacy, industry influencer exposure, market research and real-time data – the challenges are nuanced and difficult to navigate.
In this article I want to explore how video marketers must now plan their content strategies across numerous channels and platforms, employing both long and short form video content to create a powerful brand presence.
The non-linear brand narrative
Before globalization and the internet revolution, brands tended to tell their stories through the one-way medium of a TV commercial, with accompanying print media employed in well-targeted publications and locations to reinforce this standalone narrative.
Gone are the days of marketing campaigns built around a single television commercial. Increasingly the TV ad is being seen as just one aspect of a wider online brand building campaign that seeks consumer engagement as much as it does brand exposure.
Take any big brand narrative today and you’ll find it exists in various forms and guises across a huge number of online and offline marketing channels whether bought, owned or earned media.
Much of this content actively encourages user engagement and participation, which in turn helps to steer the developing narrative. Although the billboard and print advertising tactics are still there, they now feed into an evolving non-linear brand narrative that is increasingly taking place online.
The new media consumer
Creating a single compelling and distinctive brand narrative across numerous platforms, to numerous audiences, is one of the greatest challenges that content marketers (video or otherwise) face in this diffuse and deconstructed digital marketplace. The non-linear approach to creating brand stories implies an understanding of the new media consumer and the decline of ‘interruption’ marketing.
The new media consumer no longer passively imbibes content in this way, but instead actively seeks it out. In other words, the digital revolution has bestowed a sense of agency upon consumers, giving them the ability to quickly shift from one piece of content to another, choosing to reject anything that comes their way with a simple finger tap or mouse click.
This has precipitated a huge shift from outbound to inbound methodologies and the development of diverse content strategies that appeal to consumers at every level of the marketing funnel and build brand identity over time.
I now want to explore how short form and long form content feed into a multi-channel non-linear narrative.
Short-form video content
The growth of mobile marketing, fuelled by the expansion of public Wi-Fi networks and increasingly fast and affordable 4G mobile internet, is driving the popularity of short-form video content, which tends to perform a lot better on mobile platforms.
A recent survey by Opera Mediaworks found that engagement levels were as much as 36% higher using video content of between just 6 to 8 seconds in length. Short-form content, therefore tends to be geared more towards building brand exposure and establishing identity, than it is about conveying meaningful information or driving sales.
This data is reflective of shifting consumer behaviors as mobile becomes an increasingly important touchpoint in the customer journey from awareness to purchase.
Let’s look at some common types of short-form video content.
Brand Film: Whether it ends up as a television commercial or is promoted solely online, your company’s brand film should form the backbone of your brand narrative, driving through your key message in the most compelling way possible. This is less about establishing what you are selling and more about how you want people to perceive your brand.
Product Advertising: Unlike brand films, product advertising tends to focus more directly on the product or service on offer, as opposed to your company and brand. These short ads will nonetheless form a vital part of your brand narrative, although the emphasis may be more on a call-to-action rather than brand building.
Caption: UK bank Nationwide’s lauded TV commercial shows off the power that a brand film can have in establishing a powerful and evocative brand narrative. The video was first shown in the UK at prime time and as a result achieved over 3m YouTube views.
Vine: Vine videos are extremely short in length and are the perfect complement to your high exposure brand ads. At just six seconds long a successful Vine requires some imagination to pull off, but get it right and these short visual vignettes can play perfectly into your overall brand narrative, playing off common characters, themes or humour (be wary of the in-joke though as these may fall flat with those who haven’t seen the source material). Also at six seconds, they are almost guaranteed to get watched in their entirety.
Caption: Magician Zach King has a huge following on Vine and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands like Coca-Cola looking to spread their brand narrative onto the platform.
Instagram: Instagram videos can be between 3 to 60 seconds, giving you a far broader canvas to work with. Like Vine, it’s important to understand the platform, which has quite an arty independent vibe, so overly commercial content just won’t fly here. Instagram is primarily geared towards photographs, so don’t focus solely on video here. The more varied and exciting your content, the more likely people are to follow you.
Display Ads: Display advertising is often a shortened and condensed version of a brand’s product advertising, but it can really play well into a non-linear brand narrative to create something entirely unique that plays off your main brand film or product ad, perhaps making use of a familiar character. Calls-to-action are essential here but so too is playing into the brand narrative in some way.
Long-form video content
Long-form videos aren’t necessarily feature film length, but they do face the challenge of holding the viewer’s attention. In this sense, they tend to be less about brand exposure and more about calls-to-action and building brand advocacy in target audiences.
Long-form content tends to be inbound and more likely to attract existing customers or those who are already social media followers or YouTube subscribers.
Despite the huge power of short-form content to drive engagement, there are huge advantages to incorporating long-form videos into your overarching brand narrative.
Indeed, FreeWheel’s 2015 Video Monetization Report saw a 43% increase in video ad views on long-form content year on year. As modern smart TVs continue to blur the lines between digital platforms like YouTube and Vimeo and traditional terrestrial and cable TV channels, this is likely to continue growing.
Let’s take a look at some effective long-form video content.
Product demos: Product demos kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking of course). The first is that they are the perfect way of showcasing your products to potential customers, especially if you can get them ranking well on specific keywords in a YouTube search. Secondly, they allow you to help build an active community amongst your existing customers, inspiring loyalty, brand advocacy and in many cases repeat business. Whilst it’s important to strip back some overly commercial and promotional elements, product demos should still carry your brand narrative through style, tone, personality and even animated brand characters.
How-to films: Unlike product demos, how-to films can focus on any given problem or task, whether or not it features your product. Again, this involves creating content that is stripped of ‘brand speak’ but is still unmistakably your brand personality, whether it be through the choice of presenter, color pallet or just clever scripting. Remember to be subtle as viewers will quickly switch off if they think your film is trying to sell them anything, however subtly.
Caption: Waitrose have a fantastic archive of cookery how-to content on their YouTube channel, which they’ve branded ‘Waitrose TV’.
Vlog: One of the best ways of breaking down the barrier between brand and consumer is to put a human face to your company, and vlogs (video blogs) are a brilliant way of doing this. Not only are they cheap to make but they are a brilliant way of creating regular content that puts a real human from your company in front of the camera. What you want to talk about in a vlog is entirely up to you, but once you start brainstorming ideas, the possibilities become endless. If it’s what your target audience is talking about then it pays for you to add your own commentary.
Company culture videos: Shooting footage within your company is a powerful brand building exercise. By getting employees to convey their enthusiasm and passion, you can begin to associate the somewhat abstract notion of brand personality to the very real personalities in front of the camera. Company culture is often seen as the secret to a lot of company’s success and building an image of your company as a hotbed of talented people who love what they do will do wonders for your image.
Behind the scenes footage: Behind the scenes footage will appeal to those who are not just interested in what you do but how you do it. As a video production company, we often take behind the scenes footage when shooting a film. Not only does this help people see our talented crew in action but it allows people to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the camera.
Caption: Inside Hubspot.
Presentation Film: Establishing your company and your people as experts in their field is a very powerful tool in creating an enduring and trustworthy brand image amongst your existing and potential customers. One way of doing this is through presentation. If your directors attend events to give talks, however big or small, then getting this on film is a no brainer. Building an image of expertise will always help bolster your brand narrative by creating confidence amongst your target audience in what you have to say.
Of course an enduring brand narrative isn’t just built through video. There is a ton of supporting content that you can create (often very easily and cheaply) to help support and promote your video presence online.
Establishing your social media presence will help, but regular blogging, guest blogging, influencer outreach and PR are also tried and tested methods for drawing attention to your brand.
Guest Author: Evelyn Timson is Managing Director at UK based video marketing company Aspect Film and Video and has worked with well known brands like Coca Cola, Samsung, Microsoft and the British Library and National Trust in the UK. You can connect with Aspect via Facebook or Twitter. To see a selection of their award winning work check out their YouTube Channel.