Video That Works in a Digital World

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Video That Works in a Digital World "November 10, 2015
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Comparing Notes with a Digital Expert.
By Hal Schild, Senior Vice President of Creative Services, PCI.

Video is enjoying a resurgence, thanks to content marketing, and faster Internet speeds. Some things that made good video on tape or DVD also make good video for delivery via digital and mobile platforms – but some may not.

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist who specializes in digital. We enjoyed her ClickZ article, Why Brands Need Video, and interviewed her to explore how her perceptions jive with our experience as marketers and producers of high-quality video content.

Q: What is particularly important for video delivered via new/digital mediums, like websites, mobile sites, or apps?

Wegert: Videos are most effective when they tell a story. Brand storytelling is a critical part of any content marketing strategy, and that’s especially true when using online video. Branded videos needn’t all be 13-minute films starring Hollywood celebrities. Businesses just need to get to the heart of what makes their product/service/employees/customers special and relay it to consumers in an engaging way.

PCI: Storytelling is indeed a critical linchpin. Great authentic storytelling is one of the only ways for brands to reach audiences. It’s also essential to have a point of view. It’s hard to create content from a vague position, and many brands struggle when they don’t have a defined point of view.

We agree that a brand video needs to get to the heart and special qualities of a brand, but that’s not easy. It’s simple these days to make a video, but it’s not so simple to tell a story in a way that will capture and hold viewers’ attention.

Beyond powerful storytelling, digital video affords the ability to provide context and additional information. By embedding video in a product or corporate website, or a targeted microsite, an organization can provide an expanded and richer overall experience, and let viewers explore further as they desire.

Visual quality is also particularly important for mobile dissemination. Poor lighting and busy backgrounds that would be distracting on a larger screen can be disastrous for mobile.

What are the biggest mistakes you see made in producing video for digital delivery?

Wegert: For the most part, brands are putting too much time and energy in the length of their videos, thinking that consumers want substance. In fact, short social videos like those created for Instagram (which caps length at 15 seconds) and Vine (which limits videos to 6 seconds) are more likely to be viewed and shared. There’s a place for long-form content, but if a brand is short on resources a long video can drain them fast. Research shows that even tutorials are best kept to about a minute and a half.

PCI: Often, we encounter clients who want to create a video “for everyone” – without a clear audience focus, story, or objective. That plays into trying to pack too much content into a single video. A client would often benefit from creating a series of short, targeted videos, for a similar price point as a single “general” video.

Great productions are fueled by passion – not necessarily by huge budgets. While large brand investments can certainly help propel great production, it’s not a formula for success. Excellent producers and talented creators are ultimately what makes video worthwhile and shareable – and online viewers can easily distinguish those qualities.

Wegert: I’d argue that, above all else, the differentiator between good and bad branded content is authenticity. It’s painfully obvious when a brand is relying on a message that’s feigned or forced… consumers know immediately when a brand video captures an actual customer or product-related event. Marketers must now contend with an incredibly savvy and discriminating audience. The only way to connect with them and build loyalty is by delivering a message that’s honest and easy for consumers to relate to.

PCI: And we’d add to that equation both creativity and genuine value for the user. Creativity delivers novelty, freshness, or aesthetic appeal that captures attention, and draws viewers in. Value can take the form of educational value, entertainment value, inspiration, or actionable information. But there has to be something of personal significance or of direct use to the viewer to help make the piece memorable and distinctive.

What mistakes might someone used to producing video for traditional delivery (commercial broadcast/DVD) make in producing video for digital delivery?

Wegert: Again, length is an important consideration, but so is tone. Consumers respond best to content that’s funny, engaging, and unique. Their interest in this kind of content is a reflection of where and how they spend their time online. Unlike video delivered through traditional means, online videos are very likely not the content consumers come online to see. Even on a site like Facebook or YouTube they’re flitting from one piece of content to the next, so if a brand hopes to capture their attention it must create an enticing mood and a story that consumers will feel is not just worth watching but worth sharing, too.

PCI: We also see, particularly for smaller organizations with constrained marketing budgets, a lack of appreciation for production value. Many people don’t realize that so much of what looks spontaneous and “artless” in digital media is actually meticulously planned and crafted. Lack of strategy, poor scripting, inadequate lighting, bad sound quality, and/or amateur editing can result in video that detracts from the viewing experience and the brand – even if the concept is fresh or compelling, and the story idea good.

Another mistake is the assumption that if you just post a video, or alert clients via email, it’s sufficient promotion – the old “build it and they’ll come” fallacy. Developing a solid dissemination and promotion plan goes hand in hand with developing a standout production. And this also ties back to having a clear audience target, so that you can effectively promote to and reach those viewers.

Why should digital marketers expend the time or money it takes to create good/standout video for digital applications?

Wegert: Increasingly, consumers expect stellar video content from brands. The marketing tide is turning and traditional ads are being replaced with branded content, particularly in the form of brand videos. Producing online videos can be a cost-effective way to attract and sustain an audience online, especially on social networks. Given that online videos can be repurposed for use across digital and mobile platforms, it’s a worthwhile investment for businesses of all kinds.

PCI: And truly good digital first video content has an unparalleled capacity to capture attention, emotionally engage audiences, and create brand loyalists – because it synthesizes the power and impact of music, messaging, and visual art. At its best, video can forge both a powerful first impression and a sense of emotional affinity in ways that no other medium can. That’s something that can actually be enhanced through digital media – because the viewer is literally and often psychologically closer and more personally engaged with digital content than with something viewed on a big screen across the room.

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