September 27, 2011
Web videos have many purposes: they display, present, inform, educate, enlighten, and entertain; they also persuade, motivate, and sell.
Marketing videos can serve any one of these purposes, or they can serve all of them. What is important is the audience remembers the message and the company that delivers it. Without penetrating the audience’s consciousness and making an indelible impression, the resources invested are wasted. Of course the lasting impression you impart must serve your branding and sales objectives.
Creating effective marketing videos entails a lot of creative skills in order to take a self-serving business message and make it not just palatable but memorable. To begin, you need a concept, script, performers, and technical expertise in video, editing, and sound design; as well as the psychological insight to understand, and the creative ability to manipulate, emotional reactions while emphasizing key points.
Knowing how to implement those kinds of subliminal mnemonic memory triggers is essential; after all, if your audience doesn’t remember your message you’ve wasted their time and yours.
Defining The Message
Defining your marketing message seems like a simple task but in reality it’s one of the hardest questions for entrepreneurs to answer in a clear concise manner: the core ingredient needed to build an effective video marketing campaign.
We all take pride in our businesses, that’s only natural; and we all love to tell people we are the best or the cheapest, or that we offer the most features, but as nice as all of that sounds, these are not credible concepts to build a campaign around.
In order to define your core message you must go deeper into the psychological impact your product or service provides. The Maslowian advantage you present is what creates the motivation to purchase; all the other benefits are merely justification for an emotionally based decision.
Developing the Campaign Concept
Once you understand what you’re really selling, it’s time to develop a presentation concept. The best ideas are the ones that can sustain a campaign so that each new variation builds on the preceding ones.
TD Canada Trust for example, uses two old crotchety seniors reminiscent of the two Muppet balcony curmudgeons to deliver the bank’s message. The features presented are mostly irrelevant, as any that turnout to be successful will quickly be copied by the competition. The key to the success and longevity of the campaign is the two pensioners who humanize an otherwise sterile corporate monolith that people have trouble relating to.
Using Multimedia To Communicate
When you meet someone for the first time, you want to make a good impression. You wouldn’t show-up for a meeting with a new client wearing the same clothes you used to wash your car. Of course you’d put on decent clothes and make yourself presentable; it’s natural to want to be viewed favorably. But here comes the problem, just because you want to be viewed favorably and you do what you think is appropriate, doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. It’s the subliminal details and subtleties of a presentation that make a difference between success and failure.
The Web’s natural remoteness makes it even harder to connect with an audience, which in turn, makes it harder to persuade that audience to respond to your message. It doesn’t take much to turn people off. The wrong tie, a bad haircut, a dress that doesn’t fit, or even a distracting ‘tchotchke’ in the background can send your audience to the competition.
On the Web, people are sitting a foot away from the screen staring intently at the images you’re presenting, and they better be communicating the right message both directly and indirectly.
Mnemonic Memory Triggers
When it comes to Web video, every presentation element is magnified, and if you don’t know how to control each and every mnemonic memory trigger, the result will be instantly forgettable at best and disastrous at worst.
1. Colorful Focused Scripts
You need a script! There aren’t too many people who can just ‘wing-it.’ Even the best so-called ad-libs are usually well scripted in advance. Your script is the heart of your message and most business videos fail before they even start because the script lacks character, focus, and style. Even the best actor can’t do much with a lame script and the results can be even worse when you combine a bad script with the company president’s poor delivery.
Even a great script will fail if the performance is subpar. To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock, ‘A good script is how people speak, with the boring parts taken out.’ In other words, it’s how people would like to speak, but don’t.
The script should focus on the one main point you want your audience to remember because that is all they’re going to remember anyway. Too many ideas all at once only confuse the viewer. If you have to make more points, make more videos. Once your audience is hooked they’ll want to hear more.
Colorful language, the clever use of metaphor, and convincing performance combine to paint a memorable mental picture for your audience.
2. Fast Pace Editing
Directors tend to get all the credit when it comes to movies, television shows, and commercials, but the person who is intently responsible for delivering what you see and the story it tells is the editor.
Let’s take a seemingly simple talking head format on a white background with an actor delivering a company message. A simple enough scenario, but how many times should the scene be shot? Even if your actor nails the script on the first take, which is unlikely, you should shoot several more backup clips because once you get into the editing suite, all kinds of issues can crop-up.
But that alone isn’t good enough if you want to hold your audience’s attention. We shoot the same scene from three or four different positions or focal lengths so we can cut them together creating a visually interesting presentation. That means the editor has to go through a lot of raw footage to find the best takes.
Quite often you find the best visual take isn’t the same as the best audio take which means the audio from one clip has to be matched to the video of another putting a premium on the ability of the performer to deliver consistent pacing, and the skill of the editor and sound engineer to put it all together. So if you thought Web video was just a case of pointing a camera, you’d be wrong.
3. Multiple Characters
Clients are always worried about an audience’s attention span but the issue isn’t attention span as much as it is creating intrigue and interest. A video has to connect to an audience and peak their curiosity in order to hold their attention. If your video is boring, confusing, and bereft of any meaningful message or hook, you’ll lose them.
Sometimes you’ll notice commercials with an actor walking quickly through a scene talking all the while like he or she is in a hurry to find the closest washroom; it’s an attempt to inject some excitement or action into the scene but in fact it’s a poor substitute for a bad concept and a dull script. And worse still, it’s an expensive technique that generally requires a long dolly shot that can eat-up a lot of budget time and money.
We’ve already talked about using different clips from different angles to maintain pace and interest but another way is to use multiple actors, with each one setting up the pitch for the next, or each one finishing the last one’s sentence. This technique in the hands of a good editor can even make a static or mundane presentation work.
4. Clever Motion Graphics
Motion graphics are another way to help people remember your key points, but like everything else, the devil is in the details. If you turn your video into a glorified PowerPoint presentation you can be sure you’ll lose your audience.
The clever use of motion graphics helps bring your points to life by instilling imagination and creativity into your presentation. In the same way your script uses colorful language and metaphor to be memorable, so too your motion and static graphics must employ visual metaphor to be effective.
5. Multi-Layered Sound Design
Sound design is another area that is often ignored in corporate videos. Poor quality audio like severe room tone is not only a distraction it’s an irritant. On the positive side the right music and sound mnemonics can be as powerful as motion graphics. Music is used to create mood and atmosphere putting the audience in the right frame-of-mind to receive your message, and sound effects help embed the message in the audience’s memory.
Good sound design is one of those features that when done correctly goes unnoticed but nevertheless has a powerful psychological effect on the audience. It’s the sound design that tells the audience what’s important and what’s not. And it’s the sound design that provides the emotional and psychological subtext that actually pushes the audience to act on your call to action.
6. Color Code
The proper use of color is also very important. Most high profile brands are associated with a color or color palette. Kodak is yellow while their competition Fuji is green. Activia yogurt uses their signature green to great affect in their packaging as well as in their TV commercials and print advertisements.
The consistent use of color is an inexpensive way to help distinguish your brand from all your competitors. In short, when it comes to video, everything matters, from the ambient background music score to the color of the dress or tie your presenter wears.
A Final Word
There is a lot of misunderstanding about what makes a commercial message persuasive and effective. The success of any video campaign must be measured by its ability to deliver the right message in a meaningful memorable manner; it’s not just about hits or even sales, it’s about exciting your audience about what you do. Like the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Your audience maybe watching but are they responding?
If your video campaign excites the imagination, and you deliver the promise of your message, you will make the sales; otherwise you’re just blowing smoke and people will head for the hills. If you’d like to see an example of a video campaign that uses all of these elements, go here.
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit www.mrpwebmedia.com, www.136words.com, and www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (905) 764-1246.