Why most marketing videos fail. (Unscripted advice on the missing ingredient)

Online video is the new TV. These days you can delve deep into any subject under the sun just by browsing YouTube. Seriously. The volume of titles is staggering… 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Five billion videos are viewed every day, and a high percentage of them are categorized as marketing videos.

tips on how to make better marketing videosBut only a small fraction are meeting the marketing objectives of the companies that post them.

Here are some of the common problems with DIY marketing videos :

Most are nothing more than crummy powerpoint presentations, transferred to a different medium. (BOR-ING!) They completely miss the fundamental benefit of using video… It’s supposed to be a visual medium. It’s show and tell. Not just tell.

What you usually see online is just a “talking head,” where the only visual is a face sitting in front of a laptop camera or a cell phone. It’s what they’d refer to in politics as “bad optics.”

Marketing videos like that don’t demonstrate anything. They don’t capture the dramatic, emotional hook of the product or service. They’re not the least bit visually appealing. And they certainly wouldn’t qualify as “great content.”

Then there’s the gadget trap… The idea that a GoPro or a drone are the only tools you need to produce an effective marketing video.

online marketing video script advice from BNBrandingNew camera technology makes it easier than ever to demonstrate your product and capture the action — in dramatic fashion.

I saw a guy playing ping pong the other day with a Go Pro mounted on his head. Stand in a lift line at your local ski area and you’ll notice that every other helmet is mounted with a camera. Visit the most popular tourist attraction in your area, and you’ll see a huge percentage of people capturing it on video. Just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean it should find its way into your marketing video. Sure, GoPro footage can look cool. But before you decide on the latest, greatest cameras to employ, make sure you have the messaging figured out.

So here are some tips if you’re thinking of producing marketing videos:

First of all, don’t jump the gun. Before you spend a dime shooting fancy drone footage, determine whether or not video is the right medium for the message. Just because you can to do a marketing video yourself doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s say you’re launching a new service… often those are tough to show. You can talk about it, explain it, and do your pitch, but there may not be anything to demonstrate on camera. You may not need video. Here’s a good test… If you can walk away from the video screen and just listen to the audio without missing the point of the show, you know it’s not a good use of the video medium. It could have been a podcast.

A new product, on the other hand, can be held, touched, and demonstrated quite effectively on camera. So quit talking about it, and show it in action. Rather than rambling on about the features of the product, show the outcome of using it… the happy ending that comes from your products.

If you decide that video is, in fact, going to be a fundamental component of your marketing efforts, then here’s what you need:

High-quality video footage that’s differentiated from your competitors.

You have to show something that no one else is showing. You need a visual idea that you can own.

A good scriptwriter will provide that idea… a creative concept that becomes the central theme of the show. Drone footage is not a concept. A talking head is not a concept.

Eons ago, before the advent of YouTube, I worked on long format corporate videos for big brands. We were constantly looking for ideas that did NOT involve a corporate talking head. Because they’re boring, with a capital B. And when we absolutely had to use a spokesperson, we made darn sure that person was attractive, well spoken and downright great in front of the camera.

Because I have news for you… unless you’re a supermodel, or the world’s sexiest man, people aren’t going to tune in just to see your face. They might be interested in what you have to say, but they don’t care about seeing your face in lousy light, all distorted and unappealing. Like Shrek.

Unless your brand hinges entirely on the stunning talent and personality of your leader, dump the straight, talking-head approach. If you insist on talking at the camera, cut away frequently and show something, anything, but your face. Study how the great documentary filmmakers do it… it’s visual storytelling, not just audio.

A compelling story. As the old saying goes, “Facts tell, stories sell.”

The only way to get a story into your marketing video is to write the script first. Shoot video second. Better yet, write the script AND do storyboards before you start shooting. What most people don’t understand is, you need a script even if there’s no narration or voice over. The script IS the story. So you need a well-written script that follows your brand narrative.

The script is the missing ingredient in most marketing videos, but from a communication standpoint, it’s the single most important component. The script tells the cameraman what to shoot. It guides the editing process. It informs the decision on music. It’s the blueprint for success.

For instance, if you’re selling a new bike write a script that focuses on the sheer joy and freedom of riding. (Think film short, not sales pitch.) If you’re introducing a new type of sprinkler system, forget about the technical product features and focus on families enjoying the lush, green grass.

The fact is, lousy videos can fail just as easily as any other marketing tool. So before you jump on the video bandwagon, take time to hone your message, and develop a story that’s worth telling. In tips for better marketing videos on the brand insight blogscript form.

Small HD cameras and simple video editing software have made video production easy. Anyone can be a video producer, so small business owners and marketing coordinators are jumping on the bandwagon.

Don’t expect to just go out and get some HD footage and edit it into something brilliant. It seldom works that way. First you have to nail your messaging. Spell out the story. Then shoot the script. Then do great editing. Then add music. It’s a painstaking process that involves thousands of little details, sound decision-making and great creative judgement.

Remember…. consumers have high expectations for video. We’re accustomed to seeing Hollywood quality stuff with high production values. So be very careful if you’re going to cut corners. Does that hand-held footage really belong in your high-end car dealership or jewelry store?

Let’s be clear… online videos can be a game-changer for many businesses. Do it right, and get one that goes viral, and you might find yourself filling more orders than you ever dreamed of. But video is not the be-all, end-all of any marketing effort. It’s just one part of the mix. It pays to get that one part right.

For video examples of successful marketing videos, check out this post on Hubspot.

For more on this subject on the Brand Insight Blog, try this post.

For a great script that’ll produce results, call me at BNBranding. We can pull all the resources together that you need to produce a successful video.

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Leave a Reply 6 comments

Paige C. Willey Reply

Great thoughts here. If you make a video that just has a talking head, it might as well be a documentary. You should communicate with visual elements, not just auditory ones.

asher Reply

Thanks for the input! Very interesting. Can you recommend some simple easy to use video editing software for a training product I’m creating? I need to insert some slides as I speak…
thanks!

Asher

Steve Schwartz Reply

Great points! Just like you said, I always tell my clients is that a video should tell a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That end should be a “call to action”. Marketing video doesn’t pay off (in terms of dollars) until the viewer takes some sort of action based on the video.

Steve "@PodcastSteve" Lubetkin Reply

We always urge clients to think visually for a video. We don’t like green screens, we think it looks fake and part of the reason you do videos is to build trust with prospective clients. Inauthentic backgrounds or trickery undermines that. We also dislike the very popular “words on a screen” videos that have no images whatsoever, just flash a bunch of facts at you. Please, just give me the white paper, I can read! Video should do exactly what others here have said, “Tell me a story.” that is the formula prescribed by Don Hewitt more than 40 years ago for “60 Minutes,” and it is no less relevant today for marketing videos. And also, try not to sell so hard. It shouldn’t be a commercial! People don’t watch them on tv, if it feels like a commercial, they won’t watch it on the web either. Tell stories, be like a news crew, cover your company. That’s it.

Stjepan Alaupovic Reply

Very clear and concise article!

Hey Asher, if you’re looking for something easy, then I’d suggest iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

Rob Reply

I completely agree – the majority of brands aren’t using video to its full potential. From a brand strategy (http://www.milesdesign.com/about/brand-strategy) point of view, using video needs to be done in a strategic way. Does your brand offer a product of service that requires video to help explain and introduce the topics?

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