6 Dos And Don’ts of Brand Videos
When I was a senior in college, I made a series of online videos with one of my best friends. We called the series “Real Life Sammies,” devising something that was half cooking show, half comedy-nonsense, in which we filmed ourselves (poorly) constructing an ideal sandwich to eat during specific experiences.
The post-break up sammie, for example, consisted of two microwaved chocolate chip cookies with Nutella, cookie butter, and rocky road ice cream stuffed in between. We wrote about thirty-five of these recipes and planned to film us making them all, but we stopped after only producing three videos. Disappointingly, the videos were only funny to us and about three of our friends. We had wanted to make videos for the sake of making videos, not because it was the best content format for our project. In hindsight, an Urban Outfitters-style coffee table book would have been more appropriate.
According to just about everything you read nowadays, video is king. Audiences often respond better to video than text, and as technology improves, producing video content is becoming easier and easier. However, before your brand embarks on videos just because you hope the format will generate the numbers you crave, keep these important guidelines in mind.
Do tell a unique story
Even the most dry informational content needs to live within an engaging narrative—if you want anyone to pay attention. Just like we preach about written content, telling a relatable story on camera will help your audience care about your product in a way that rote information just can’t. If the narrative naturally strikes an emotional chord, even better.
It’s also important to ask why your brand has to tell this story instead of your competitors. What makes it truthful and unique to you? If it’s something that anyone could talk about, it’s probably not worth your time.
Do center your videos on human characters
Numbers and abstract concepts are too nebulous to inspire shareable, watchable brand videos—leave those in the board room. Individual human stories, on the other hand, trigger our empathy and make us care.
When we hear a statistic about a disease affecting tens of thousands, for example, it’s hard to conceptualize the size of that story. But when we’re told the story of one patient—her personality traits, family members, hobbies, and values, it’s much easier for us to feel for that single character. Whether you’re telling a a story about strife or not, your branded video should focus on one character’s objective and her struggle to achieve it. When we’re invested empathetically with someone’s story, we’re more likely to watch as they find a solution.
Do try something outside of the box
As with written content, there are mountains of video viewable online—more footage than the average person could ever watch in a lifetime. Updates to social platforms and site algorithms prove that advertises and media companies now prioritize video over blog posts and banner ads, so the competition is stiff.
Take Kenzo’s “Kenzo World” fragrance spot, directed by Spike Jonze. The nearly four minute video features Margaret Qualley dancing and making wild faces as she shoots lasers from her finger tips and disrupts the structure of her universe. It is fabulously unlike any other perfume commercial out there, and I must have watched it six times the day it was released.
Though not everyone can afford to hire a director like Spike Jonze or film in such a grand location, brands can still find ways to infuse videos with their unique voice. Branded video creators must create content that cuts through the fray in order to secure strong ROI. Don’t be afraid to have fun and try things that may surprise your audience. For example, the bank CIBC, a Contently client, has become known for the talking penguins in their videos, and it’s working for them. If they’re memorable and align with your brand message, they’ll work in your favor.
Don’t show us talking heads
Featuring a human is great, but make sure this human is interesting and actually doing things in your video. Nothing will put an audience to sleep faster than a talking head (especially a talking head rambling on about technical jargon).
Paint a picture with your video, and take advantage of the fact that this is, after all, a visual medium. Ask yourself: Why do people need to see this? What makes it different than, say, a podcast? If the answer is nothing, then you either need to tell a different story in your video or find a way to make it more visually compelling.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to quality
Whether it’s thanks to poor sound quality, unfortunate pixellation, or a strange color tone, consumers can tell if a video is low-budget. Yes, video is expensive, but if you want the pay-off of a high-quality video, you’ll have to hire professionals. This may mean outsourcing to freelancers if you don’t have a team of videographers in house, but we promise the cost and time commitment are worth it.
Don’t assume that because it’s a video, it’s automatically entertaining
It’s important to remember that just because your content format is a video, that doesn’t mean people won’t click away. Too often, brands think that by creating a video, they’ve automatically made something interesting. But those of us who had to take a middle school health class know that video can all too easily be boring, or worse—uncomfortable. People generally give video two seconds before clicking away, especially on social platforms. If you don’t grab your audience within those two seconds, your video was just a giant waste of resources.
When creating video, you still have just as much responsibility to hook your audience with something they haven’t seen or heard before. Just make sure it’s something they want to be seeing. Two college-aged women making spicy egg and cheese sandwiches while wearing bike helmets for no reason is probably a pass.