I was very interested to read AMI’s recent report “Marketing with video: the state of video production in Australia” (Dec 2017). The survey was answered by 182 members across sectors important to my business such as technology, financial services and health care which, from previous research, are known to be some of the sectors using video the most.
The report proclaims that “Video content is taking the world by storm… It’s evident that video increases engagement with audiences… Businesses are shifting their marketing strategy to incorporate more video content”. It then concludes that marketers increasingly want high-quality video but they don’t want to pay for it. Well knock me down with a feather.
The survey results were encouraging yet there still seems to be striking gaps in some marketers’ understanding of how to use the medium for the greatest impact and return. Many seem to be too willing to serve their prospects a steady stream of filet-o-fishes and small fries when those same clients usually dine on sushi and champagne.
It’s true that production costs have declined markedly over the last 10-15 years with the advent of PCs, storage and non-linear editing software. Today you can produce for $10k what it might have cost $50k to produce in the 80s & 90s. Yet production still takes time, a broad range of skills, high tech equipment and efficient processes to create the wow factor marketers say they want.
In my experience, more savvy marketers understand this and are increasingly willing to make the proper investment to drive the impact they need, rather than spreading budgets too thinly and merely ticking a box.
I admit that my commercial interest in producing video for corporate clients partly drives my enthusiasm, but it’s also an all-consuming passion and tied into my very life purpose.
1. There is considerable demand for video with organisations “prioritising quality and reliability from production companies”. Check. I’ve always believed that quality would win out over low budget productions we have seen proliferating wildly in the B2B marketing space. Bring it on.
2. The majority of respondents said that their organisations produce less than five videos per month. Wow, that’s a lot! At that volume, even one per month, production values must be rather low and I would argue less effective at seizing & holding attention, building credibility and persuading target audiences of a particular value proposition. Most companies I work with publish 3 or 4 high-quality productions per year. Each production may have several different versions of the main story, tailored for different viewing contexts. Click here for an example featuring Johnson and Johnson Medical working with Macquarie University.
3. More than half of the respondents identified the average cost of each video as being less than $5k and even those using professional production companies usually spending less than $10k. No surprises here. High-quality video can be more expensive, so I often advise my clients to do fewer things but do them better, an approach I put into practice in my roles as a senior marketer at Microsoft and Canon in Australia, Singapore and the US. My company now typically charges $10 to 20k for a 3 to 5 minute piece. We can also provide low-cost options, but once clients understand the drawbacks of skimping, they often upsell themselves.
4. A large majority are using video primarily for brand awareness and credibility. Of course! – the reason I got into this game was the high credibility of customer testimonials to validate vendors’ claims about their brand, products and services. It’s a much subtler but more powerful technique than old school direct selling techniques, providing compelling information and value to the viewer. As they say, your best customers can be your best sales people. And these days people want to hear from the seller directly, not a professional presenter or voiceover artist.
5. The Most successful video length is one minute and mostly distributed through business websites and on YouTube. I’m not so sure about the conclusion that one minute is most effective. While it’s true that attention spans are shortening and that a 30 to 90 second video can be just perfect for a specific purpose, the report also says marketers are confused about how to measure the effectiveness of video -so I’m not sure how they can conclude one minute is the most effective. Effective at what? My definition of effective is how well it grabs and holds attention, how well it persuades the audience through an interesting story told by interesting and credible characters.
Further, the report’s breakdown of “effective” video durations shows that 48% of videos were longer than two minutes, and 20% were longer than three minutes, so it seems a bit simplistic to reach the conclusion that one minute is the most effective. One minute of what? Advertising? Or content? That’s a subject I shall return to.
6. The last key finding was that due to the high availability of video content, viewers are demanding higher quality production and wow factor. Check! Happy with that.
The report goes on to talk about shifting customer behaviour and shrinking attention spans in particular. The authors argue that this has led to a surge in the popularity of video as the way brands are communicating directly with audiences.
Well, that’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned. But lets examine the meaning of the term “content” for a moment. What is it? I offer two primary observations;
1. Subject matter vs the medium. The story of Roger Federer’s 20th grand slam, as subject matter, can be carried by several different mediums – the written word, video, radio, pictures etc. So “content” is the story itself. Go Roger!
2. The term is also used by marketers to differentiate standard product or brand marketing (advertising) vs interesting stories which relate to the brand or product in some way, eg Redbull TV. The former can be merely intrusive noise you want to skip, unless you’re in active buying cycle, the latter is something you actually want to watch.
Back in the heyday of television, we were hostages to (unwanted) advertising… But no longer! I confess that like the majority of marketers surveyed in the report, I am generally not persuaded by traditional advertising. I’m skeptical of its claims and it’s outlawed from my house, my car and my smart phone. If, however, ads are engaging, highly targeted to my interests, I may be willing to watch.
Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, argues that today’s mobile Internet experience is driven by the traditional business model of advertising, with terrible consequences for our quality of life at work and at home. According to Harris, we’re unwitting victims of the new “attention economy”, wasting precious time reacting to algorithms designed merely to extend ”time on site”, at the expense of our own interests. In a recent Ted talk he defines the concept of ”time well spent” and argues that our experience of the Internet should be driven by our own values and interests, not that of advertisers. He imagines a world where software is designed to do just that.
And in such a world, in my view, high-quality video content will be even more compelling, aiming squarely at viewer interests. So how does high-quality video content work in today’s world of websites, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google & Twitter? Have a look at Redbull TV, possibly the worlds leading content and media platform. It’s more than just sport sponsorship, the company focuses on characters and missions and tells amazing stories about incredible athletes with high stakes and spectacular visuals. Even the ads are exciting and relevant to the subject matter at hand, whether on your TV, tablet or phone.
In conclusion, we have now completely moved into the world of “On Demand” viewing. In this context, marketers should find, craft and publish interesting stories that target viewers actually want to watch, weaving their value proposition in and providing value to prospects. They also should avoid the temptation to skimp! This fun little video drives home the point, showing the results of an artist drawing Spiderman first in 10 minutes, then in 1 minute, and finally in only 10 seconds.
Click here for some valuable information about storytelling from one of the world’s great storytellers, Robert McKee. Great stories are everywhere, in every customer’s business. Marketers just have to (1) find them and (2) bring them to life.
We can help!
February 5, 2018