These are – to be sure – unprecedented times. Our current health-related crisis has affected many of our friends and families, and has sent a shockwave through the US and global economies. We at Ashworth Creative wish everyone health and safety during this trying period. No one can say for sure what will happen in the next week, month or year, but we remain positive that we shall overcome this challenge, as we have in the past.
Lately, our team at Ashworth Creative has reflected on an interesting question: what is the role of marketing during this current health-related crisis? At the heart of our work is a commitment to well-crafted messaging, whether it is the creation of a narrative or choosing the right vehicle to deliver it. And for good reason. Effective content can propel a company during ordinary times, and sustain it through extraordinary periods. Today, there is no better vehicle than video.
Below, we’ll discuss some approaches to help you create unique videos, which stand out against competitors’ content and clarify your message. We’ll also review what factors make videos engaging and provide some thoughts on how you can:
- Maximize your reach via social media
- Plan for strategic placement
- And utilize both topical and evergreen content
Marketing Videos Today and Tomorrow
A survey by Wyzowl, a platform for explainer content, found use of videos by businesses for marketing purposes rose to nearly 90% 2020 from 63% in 2017. Now more than ever, video content is an important medium for marketers, with 83% of survey respondents reporting that video offers them a good ROI, and nearly all respondents saying they plan to use video in the coming year. We should note, these responses were collected before COVID-19 had its greatest impact on the US.
Streaming and social media platforms are seeing a spike in visitors, most experts say, although it is tricky to locate solid data to support this. Most evidence is anecdotal, and we need only to look at our own feeds to see an uptick of content, spurred in no small part by social distancing and a growing desire to connect with one another. On top of this, our national and local governments send daily updates, and a share of these affect local businesses and our access to them. Companies can be proactive and share their own messages, which your audience is likely to find useful and appreciate.
Here’s the challenge: the wide use of video by so many businesses can make it difficult for yours to stand out and get discovered. Ninety percent of Wyzowl survey respondents felt that the level of competition and noise in video marketing has increased in the past year. That’s why ideation is a crucial step of any video creation process.
Telling your story through video
Great, effective videos tell stories. A well-crafted narrative not only demonstrates the value and benefit of a product or service, but aims to create an emotional connection with the viewer. This was our goal when we produced a commercial for our client, Harney and Sons Fine Teas.
Harney’s goal was to create a holiday-themed commercial that showcased their seasonal gifts in an engaging way. We at Ashworth Creative started with a great idea: casting Harney employees as elves. The one-minute video takes the viewer through the factory, featuring Harney’s “elves” doing their jobs of making and packing tea, and follows the wrapped packages to their destination, the customer’s doorstep.
“You can bore people in ten seconds,” says Phillippa Ewing, Ashworth Creative’s Lead Marketing Strategist. “People lose interest in a short space of time, so it’s very important that you start with an effective, lively, and engaging idea for what you want the video to communicate.”
“The first Harney video was enormously popular,” Ewing says. “It got over one million views on Facebook and more on YouTube. It was a great way of showcasing the company and helped people see it in a different way. People wanted to share the video because it was funny and a bit out of the ordinary.”
Harney’s elf-themed holiday commercial was so popular that they ordered a second holiday commercial the following year. This one was a twist on the mythology of Santa Claus, for whom people leave cookies and milk while he visits homes. He gets mighty cold out there on his sled and wants hot tea, of course! This spot also gained hundreds of shares on Facebook and almost one-million views.
In both cases, Harney’s holiday videos started with very clear ideas and incorporated elements of humor and originality. If done well, humor can be an incredibly effective strategy, particularly when it comes to social viewing and sharing.
A survey of over 1,200 consumers by Sprout Social found that 71% of respondents look for humor when watching social videos, and nearly 60% want a good story, while 51% are looking for inspiration. If you hit these three elements, chances are your video will be successful (and very shareable).
“You can never entirely predict what’s going to take off on social media,” Ewing says, “But a video that’s founded on a good idea is something that people will be likely to share.”
What makes a video engaging?
According to the Sprout Social survey, consumers are more likely to engage with videos on social media if they hit certain technical and emotional elements, as shown in the following graphic:
When brainstorming video ideas, consider all the above elements: consumable length, captions and descriptions, ad vs. organic feel, humor, story, and inspirational messaging. While you may not be able to hit every element, keeping them in mind can help you clarify your ideas and focus on the ones that are more likely to resonate with your audience.
[Box quote] Pro tip: “Consumable length” roughly translates to 1-2 minutes of watch time.
Topical Versus Evergreen Videos
Context matters when creating and sharing video, and your content should be relevant to viewers. Using a combination of seasonal or event-driven videos (e.g., the Harney holiday commercials) with more timeless or evergreen videos can help your business reach more people and have a wider impact.
“In addition to the Christmas videos, we created a Mother’s Day commercial for Harney. It was very well-received, but after Mother’s Day, it was over,” Ewing explains. “So, although being timely and topical are good things, companies need to make sure that they also create other videos that are timeless or evergreen.”
Both topical and timeless videos should be created with context in mind, because this directly impacts social sharing and can help you get the most out of the investment you make in creating video.
Entertain, Delight and Inform
Ashworth Creative produces a lot of mini documentaries that help our clients tell a story about their business or address a specific issue. These can be evergreen, such as a video that provides an overview of a technology or business practices, is event-driven or provides important background information, which was our goal when we created this video about how clean water is produced from the Hudson River:
Videos created to address a specific issue can help mitigate potential backlash from consumers or community members.
Another explainer video we made was for the City of Poughkeepsie, which had plans to cut down fifty ash trees that had been infested by the emerald ash borer, a type of beetle that lays its eggs in ash trees. The ash borer’s larvae eat the inner bark of trees and disrupts their ability to transport water and nutrients. An infested tree can die within 1-2 years. This invasive insect has killed hundreds of millions of trees in North America since it was first discovered in 2002.
“We worked on a campaign in Poughkeepsie,” Ewing says, “to inform the community about why the city needed to cut down these fifty ash trees. The video explained why the city was removing the trees and included animations and drone footage that helped explain where the trees were being damaged and why this was a danger to the community.”
In addition to the video, we worked with the city to create cards that were tied to each tree that explained why the trees needed to come down. The campaign was very effective, and the City of Poughkeepsie received zero complaints.
Sharing helps leverage your video investment
Getting your staff more engaged in distribution and sharing of your videos on social media is an important way to leverage the investment you’ve made in video creation and marketing. When employees are involved in social sharing, it has the potential to greatly boost the reach and engagement of your videos and other content.
People are 16x more likely to read a social media post from a friend than from a brand, according to one study. Additionally, a much higher percentage of people (36%) are likely to ignore a brand’s post versus a post from a friend (20%).
“If you post a video,” Ewing explains, “in addition to backing it with some boosts, it’s very important that you encourage your employees to share it. The worst thing you can do is make a good, compelling video and expect things to happen without promoting it. You can’t expect things to happen—you have to make them happen.”