Achieving “New Media Enlightenment” in Four Steps
Your path to understanding where video strategy is headed in the future should begin by asking, “How much do I understand about video strategy today?” We’ll get to the bit about charting the future of new media in a moment. But first, it’s important to understand the landscape of today.
As a commercial director/producer I can safely say that there are basically four categories that all brand/marketing videos fall into:
In deciding where a video falls on the spectrum, ask yourself these two simple questions: “What is the video about?” and “Whose needs are served?”
Let’s start with Product/Business or PB videos since this is the most commonly seen category. And the most common type of video in this category is… the commercial. Ubiquitous and nearly as old as the medium itself; PB videos primarily serve two functions, talk about features & benefits and close the deal. The category can also include CEO interviews, product launch videos and, believe it or not, tutorials.
When people say they “need a video,” this is the category they typically seek to fill first. It takes the most complicated part of your sales message, (i.e. why I should buy what you are selling) condenses it, and puts it on autopilot.
The problem with PB videos is that they typically only resonate with people who have a need for your product or service right now. This is a smaller (but important) component of your audience. The rest of the viewers who come in contact with your commercial won’t want anything to do with it. Plus, you risk alienating them if you are serving it to them too much, at the wrong time or both.
Next there is the Product/Consumer or PC category. While these can also be considered “commercials”, you tend to see a wider variety of content types in this category. The goal of a PC video is similar to PB videos; educate and persuade. But the education component comes not from the party line, but from the end users themselves.
Unboxing videos, testimonials and case studies are good examples of PC content. Since the focus is still on the product, PC content is a good option for startups or younger brands with little social proof who choose to highlight the impact of their product or service on their customers.
The benefit of a PC over a PB video is that even the commercials feel less, well, commercial. They both feature the product, but PC videos include someone who isn’t affiliated with the business. This however, can be a double edge sword. When it comes to distribution, the second you pay to serve these videos programmatically, you begin to undercut that perception, especially if that content is user generated. It’s a violation of the “authenticity rule” on YouTube.
NOTE: Internet natives are savvy content consumers; especially when it comes to video. They can sniff out a disingenuous performance like bloodhounds. This doesn’t mean they hate advertising, just advertising that doesn’t play by the rules they have created.
Unless you have a robust fan base or are willing to pay an influencer, PC videos loose a bit of credibility the second you pay to promote them. They need to be found and not delivered.
Of all the categories, this one is perceived as having the most utility, especially for brands focused on service. The most common type of BL video is the “culture reel”. While they function best as recruitment, retention or fund raising videos, they may also have some sales utility as well.
BL videos are dominated by documentary style storytelling, usually focused on the history, founders and/or culture of an organization. Their primary function is to reflect positively on the brand.
However, these videos aren’t for everyone. Firstly, the brand needs to have a genuinely compelling story to tell (bonus points if there is something visually interesting to film).
Secondly, it’s probably not the first/only video you should make. Don’t overestimate how interesting your company is to your customers. If they only watch one thing about you, it should highlight your solution to their problem and not your values (unless your values ARE the solution).
Finally, BL videos are frequently done poorly. The reason for this is simple, it’s hard for a production company to tell a client their story sucks. BL videos tend to be creatively driven by clients, involve lots of egos and are hard to get honest feedback on.
If you’ve ever heard the term “Branded Content” or “Branded Entertainment” then you’re familiar with this category. In fact, branded content is nearly as old as commercials themselves. Remember soap operas?
Yet Branded Content seems to be a source of mass confusion lately. So let’s start by defining it:
“Simply put, all video is content. For me, content is the deliberate creation of art; where the ultimate goal is to entertain and inform those that watch it. Branded Content is no different. The addition of the word “Branded” simply means that the cost of its creation and distribution has been underwritten by a brand as a gift to its fans, with the expectation of nothing in return.”
— Matt Helbig, Chief Creative Officer- The Mission Creative Studio
The surge in popularity of Branded Content represents a fundamental shift in understanding on a couple levels:
Firstly, brands are listening to consumers. And consumers decided that their attention is worth more than what it costs to interrupt them online.
NOTE: Whereas before when you bought advertising, you were primarily concerned with only two things, cost and reach (CPM). As analytics improved, that became cost and conversion (CPA). But as targeting has improved too, it’s created the expectation that marketing should be relevant. Today, the most impactful metric content marketers need to understand regarding video is engagement (Earned Media Value-EMV)
Secondly, there is no longer a scarcity of media. Over 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every second. Unless you are laser focused in targeted distribution, the majority of your resources should be focused on the majority of your audience, future customers.
NOTE: What’s the bounce rate on your website? Double (or triple) it and that’s the number of people who interact with your videos and have no intention of buying from you anytime soon. They are likely your customers of tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be starting the conversation now?
Sweep up the debris of decaying faith;
Sweep down the cobwebs of worn-out out beliefs,
And throw your soul wide open to the light of reason and of knowledge.
Be not afraid
To thrust aside half-truths and grasp the whole.
It’s simple; but you’ll need to take a couple giant leaps from “the way it’s always worked” to “the way it actually works now.”
The first leap is to understand that Brands (including yours) are now TV stations. Pioneers like Red Bull, BMW and Chipotle were early to the game and understood the opportunity to own their audience instead of renting them.
The second leap is to let go of fear. Realize that once you have committed the resources to build an audience, it’s much cheaper to serve them your ads. And when it’s less expensive, there is less pressure to convert ads into sales.
When there is less pressure you realize the third leap in understanding new media. Ads can become fewer, softer & less salesy because your audience is consuming more of your media. The old trope about customers needing to see something eight times before they believe it is mostly bullshit. But there is an undeniable truth that consistent interaction leads to brand familiarity.
The fourth & last fundamental change in understanding concerns scaling. Once you have experienced the power of owning your audience, you realize the way to move the needle is no longer more ads, but to build a larger audience. This realization represents the marketing version of enlightenment in the digital age.
This is why there is so much attention being paid to Branded Content now and in the future. For the average cost of producing and distributing a nationally televised 30 second spot, you can create an entire webseries.
Do you sell coolers like Yeti? Make a documentary series about the outdoors. Are your burritos all natural like Chipotle? Make some cartoon movies about the evil of processed food. Do you sell expensive cars to bored middle-aged men like BMW? Make short films with action stars who save the day and get the girl… you get the point.
Branded Content creates audience growth. And cultivating a large, engaged audience is what enables activation today. But that’s not to say that programmatic, influencer and other forms of marketing have been rendered obsolete…
“Content is king, distribution is queen, and she wears the pants,”
— Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy at BuzzFeed
So you’ve been to the church and seen the light, awesome. Now comes the part where it gets nerdy. If you want a million subscribers tomorrow and you have nine today, even the best new content needs some fuel to make it around an increasingly large internet.
In my next article, I’ll talk about distribution strategies for all types of content (including the branded kind). Also, if how I explain this stuff brought you some clarity and you suspect it’s helpful to others, go ahead and share it.