Brands on Film: How Video Connects with Global Customers
The rise of video is one of the hottest topics in content marketing. Each set of eye-popping statistics about how much video people are watching tells us why. And it seems to underline how effective video is compared to other media. When Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn said in 2016 that she’d put money on Facebook ‘becoming all video over the next five years’, no one seemed to dare challenge her foresight. After all, Facebook’s own eye-popping stats speak for themselves. Between the second and third quarters of 2015, it claimed to have doubled its average number of video views from 4 billion to 8 billion.
With popularity comes competition. The days when ‘cat videos’ were the definition of shareable content are long gone. Today, video content not only exists in many formats, but the quality bar has got so high that it’s become a fully-fledged discipline.
At the premium end of the scale, we have brand films, from 3-second videos to long-form documentaries of an hour or more. Many see them as the new advertising. Certainly, they’re a powerful brand building tool, offering compelling and powerful content that people want to consume. As such, they’re transforming marketing communications.
Here are some pointers for how to get video right, drawing on examples from all over the world.
All brands have great stories – we just have to find the way to tell them. Videos are a rich form of communication that fit the bill perfectly, offering almost limitless possibilities (budget permitting). But we still need to find the heart of the brand story – the pulse. We need to identify what makes the brand tick and then build on that. A compelling story makes you laugh or cry, and deepens your association with a brand. But the brands that do it really well are the ones that find the truth, know their role in it and put together the stories that really move hearts and minds.
One of the great examples is JW Marriott Hotels. Like a lot of global brands, they’ve been exploring original content as a way to support, or even supplement, traditional advertising. The thinking is that getting the brand across through a story that consumers want to seek out is much more valuable than interrupting them with a 30-second spot. In 2015, the brand debuted a branded short film on YouTube, featuring Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. It was a sensation. The same year, a sequel, ‘Two Bellmen’, started production, and January 2017 saw the launch of ‘Two Bellmen Three’, which has so far gathered over 9 million views.
Entertain. Don’t interrupt.
Entertainment is why people watch beyond 6 seconds. For generations, advertisers have stuck to the combination of reach and frequency. Get the message out to enough people often enough, and it will stick. You’ll create awareness and make the sale. It was pretty foolproof in the past because there were limited ways to target the audience. All brands had to do was interrupt what the audience was watching or reading and get their attention. Clearly, interruptive advertising is still very much alive. But its days are numbered. Digital and social media have opened dialogue with the people, and the people have spoken. They can choose when, where and how they get their content. Increasingly, they don’t want their entertainment interrupted by advertising. So advertising itself has to become the entertainment.
At this year’s Cannes Festival of Creativity, the brand video ‘Beyond Money’, created by MRM/McCann Spain for Santander Bank, won the Entertainment Lions Grand Prix. The 17-minute film questions whether money is more important than experiences. It does it in a way that competes not just with other ads but with regular entertainment. Setting the bar so high earns the attention and buy-in of consumers, especially younger ones who might normally shun typical corporate banking ads.
Make form follow function.
Despite all the disruption to content marketing, one thing stays the same – no matter what brands do, it has to be relevant. A brand video needs to represent the brand’s DNA and, at the same time, engage with people. There’s a real balance here between art and commerce. We can’t simply think of a great story and find a way to attach our logo to it without any kind of fluidity and genuine feeling. We want consumers to think: ‘I understand this is “advertising”, but I’m cool with that, so you’ve got my attention.’
To me, Red Bull’s video marketing strategy is all about telling the brand story while keeping the consumer entertained. The engagement is so natural, you don’t feel there’s even a selling message there. ‘The Art of Flight’, produced back in 2011, was widely recognized as the best brand video ever produced, and has attracted more than 16 million views.
Remember no video is an island.
No one medium can build a brand. No matter how important they are to brand storytelling, videos need to work alongside other media. While there may be more ‘channels’ now, the irony is that audiences are harder to reach than ever. Multitasking is so normal that their attention is hardly ever undivided. While consuming video content, they’re interacting with it and sharing it on social channels. They can do it as they watch TV, feed the kids or stand at the bus stop. So it’s important to extend and contextualize the story in different formats or on other media, giving it the depth to be durable.
More social platforms offer marketers more formats to choose from and possibilities to adapt their video content. Every channel demands a different format and creative approach to reach a high level of engagement, and combining them achieves very well-rounded coverage. A 15-second targeted video can capture attention straight away on mobile. Alongside a longer-form video content telling the brand story in depth, it can create a magic combination.
Let consumers take control.
As technology advances, it becomes easier for people to take control of what they see and interact with. Not only that, but brands have started to realize that consumers are also content creators. So, with consumers in charge, the question now is how to pass control to them in a way that still keeps them close to the brand. With ever-more advanced smartphones putting sophisticated tools at consumers’ disposal, videos are one of the most popular forms of expression on social media. You can’t force consumers to share video content, but you can give them the opportunity.
These days, we’re not just watching more video, we’re becoming more discerning about it too. We expect videos to offer a more immersive experience, as with the 360-degree videos that let us move around and explore a certain space, and interact with responsive elements. The 360-degree video from Expedia, created by 180LA with Tourism Australia, lets viewers lead their own exploration of the dramatic land and seascapes of Australia. Since its debut on YouTube in June 2016, it’s notched up more than 3.5 million views.
The best stories are the ones that convey a universal truth – something of what it means to be a human being, regardless of culture. The winners at the Brand Film Festival 2017 give us some pointers about how videos go global, In da Hostel with 50 Cent for Hostelworld. It’s been seen 22.4 million times and generated 1.5 million social interactions. It drove 463 pieces of coverage in 23 markets, with a combined media circulation of 1.2 billion. Truly great stories do transcend culture. It’s just a matter of identifying the one that’s guaranteed to travel. So brands need to spend more time digging out the truth, and involve a team with a diverse cultural point of view from the start. If needs be, they should also plan for having the story tweaked for different cultures to maximize its effect, or adapted in different languages to make sure it resonates well.
The video revolution continues
The skill to tell a story using video is actually very different from those we used to use in marketing and advertising. The form of videos will carry on evolving, amid a thirst for grand ideas. Consumers want unique, spontaneous and immersive entertainment wherever they are. They don’t want to be restricted to a time or a place for their entertainment. They want multi-sensory experiences, beyond sight and sound. And they crave experiences that say something unique about them, and which they can share with their friends.
The future of videos is exciting. So bring it on.
If you want to know what kind of video content works for your brand in local markets, get in touch in touch for a chat.