Branded videos have proven effective for a variety of products and services in a variety of markets. The big issue, however, is how to create a branded video that will be effective for your product or service in your market. As you’ve already learned or suspected, there is no single formula that works in all instances. However, if you read through the ten tips below, you’ll learn how to set reasonable goals and expectations, and what it takes to produce and distribute a highly-successful branded video.
Know that Going Viral Isn’t the Only Road to Success
The current high water mark in low-budget high-traffic branded video success is the Dollar Shave Club’s first video from 2012. However, rather than being an ideal that all companies can achieve, the Dollar Shave Club video was the “perfect storm” of branded videos, according to David Murdico, creative director and managing partner at L.A.-based SuperCool Creative. “You have a disposable, consumer product that men use every day, a simple and easily explainable value proposition, a CEO with comedy training, and friends with production experience. Unless your circumstances are very similar, you shouldn’t expect similar results,” he says.
While lofty aspirations are great, it’s best to realistically look at your product or service, target market, and even your CEO, and try to come up with meaningful and achievable goals.
Start With a Realistic Goal
When formulating your goals, the first decision is whether you want the video to raise brand awareness, like the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, or to sell product (Dollar Shave Club)? Obviously, both approaches can be fabulously effective, you just need to decide up front which direction you’re going.
Beyond this, the next consideration should be the value you hope the video will deliver to the customer. “Value can include information, or making viewers laugh or feeling a strong emotion, “ says Ken Gumbs, from Chicago-based production house Fresh Giants. “Just remember that once you try to create entertainment, you’re competing with movies and TV shows for the same eyeballs. The creative and production quality bars are definitely a lot higher.”
Know What You Want, But Be Flexible
Whether you produce your own video, or rely on an outside production company, you should have a pretty strong idea of what you want before you get started. For example, when they walk in the door, most of Murdico’s customers have three or four existing videos that they want their video to emulate in some form or fashion. This simplifies the creative process by providing concrete examples of what customers want or don’t want.
That said, don’t be married to your initial concept. The role of the creative agency is to come up with fresh takes on how to achieve the customer’s goal. “After hearing what the customer is trying to accomplish we create three to five concepts supported by a mood board, or rough storyboard, to explain what we’re thinking,” Murdico explains. “Most brand professionals stay true to their initial concepts, which makes sense, because they’re experienced and know what they’re trying to accomplish. Clients without that brand or production experience are usually better off choosing one of our concepts.”
Know that B2B is Different From B2C
In Mashable’s Most-Shared Ads of 2013, 19 of the 20 ads are B2C (business to consumer), with the sole exception of the Jean-Claude Van Damme Epic Split Volvo ad, which targets buyers of tractor trailers. There’s a clear reason for this.
“The web is great for wide targeting, but B2B [business to business] companies typically have far fewer prospects than B2C companies, and usually you can reach them more effectively using other mediums,” says Josh Warner, president of video seeding company Feed Company. This isn’t to say that you can’t produce humorous or otherwise compelling B2B branded videos (for example, this IBM video Murdico created). However, when producing B2B branded videos, your expectations regarding potential viewer count and the ability to go viral just need to be adjusted downwards.
Find Viewers, Then Produce the Video
If you want to produce a video that resonates with target viewers, Gumbs recommends finding a problem they’re experiencing, or a particular area of active interest, and then producing a video that addresses it. For example, visit blogs frequented by your target viewers and find the content they’re engaged with, whether via comments, views, tweets, likes, or other social engagement. Then create a video that will address those problems, concerns, or interests.
Don’t Sweat It — There Are Few Universal Rules
Some pundits say you should always minimize mentions of your brand, but the Dollar Shave Club and PooPouri brand videos do that early and often. Some experts recommend keeping videos under a minute long, but the Grand Theft Auto V: Official Gameplay Video (over 30 million views) is 4 minutes and 50 seconds, while the Dove Sketches ad (over 62 million views) is 3 minutes 1 second. The average length of Mashable’s Top 20 branded video ads for 2013 was 2:24.
Regarding branding, Murdico notes that “Audiences have gotten really smart; you don’t want to trick them, you don’t want to take them for a ride, and you don’t want them to feel like your video is an ad, unless of course, it is, like the Dollar Shave Club.” Regarding time, “As a rule, shorter is better, and 1 to 2 minutes is optimal, but if the story is really effective, you can go as long as it takes to tell the story.” Gumb recommends keeping branded videos used as pre-rolls to under 15 seconds, but feels that they can go as long as they keep providing value to the viewer.
While it’s simple to identify rules that apply to some types of videos — for example, heavy branding early on would likely have diminished the strong impact of the Dove Sketches video — there are few, if any, universal rules that apply to all videos. Have a strong vision of what you’re hoping to accomplish, and to stay true to that. If you don’t have the experience to trust your creative vision, get help.
Remember, It’s About the Customer
Humorous advertisements aside, like those for PooPourri and Dollar Shave Club, most branded videos focus on the customer and don’t trumpet product features. One great example is the series of customer-focused advertisements that IBM produced for The 2014 Masters. According to Jesse Dylan, who produced many of the advertisements, “Normally, when you do a commercial, there’s a very set structure to how they are made. Here we really had to listen to the clients to get an intrinsic understanding of where the client of IBM was coming from. And then we had to make interesting, compelling commercials that came out of those underlying interviews.” In other words, it wasn’t about producing a video that IBM wanted, it was telling the true story of how IBM helped the customer.
Particularly in a B2B setting, if you want viewers to share your video, you’re almost always better off showing how your product helped a customer than trumpeting its features and benefits. But even for B2C branded videos, most succeed because they focus on the customer, not the product itself.
Have Experience On-Hand
A successful video needs to be well-produced. This means you have to respect the process and the skills of the personnel involved. Before producing a video, Murdico follows a set process that includes creating the mood boards discussed above, finalizing a script, often (but not always) creating a storyboard, then going through a casting call and location scouting to identify the ideal actors and locations. His shoots always involve an experienced DP (director of photography) along with lighting and sound personnel, with him as director.
The less experience you have, the more you need to bring in professional resources to ensure the production quality you’ll need for your video to succeed.
Price Out the Pros
Working in L.A., most of Murdico’s large-brand productions range in price from $25,000 to $150,000, although for startups and smaller businesses that require less polish he can produce a branded video for as low as $10,000. In Chicago, Gumb’s price for simple, short productions can often be $5,000 or less. Even if you decide to produce in-house, price the cost of professional services. They may be cheaper than you think.
Buy Some Eyeballs to Go Viral
When production and editing is complete, marketing has just begun. Few super-successful brand videos have completely organic views, says the Feed Company’s Warner. Most used a video seeding company, such as the Feed Company, to prime the pump. Warner likens it to the promotional money spent launching a movie. “Even if you have the best movie ever made, if you don’t have a marketing budget to create a buzz, it’s never going to realize its full potential.”
There are two levels of paid views: pure numbers and actual qualified prospects. Both are important, says Murdico, whose company also offers blog and publication outreach and social media strategy and management. The pure numbers are simply window dressing necessary to make the video feel interesting; “Few people want to eat in an empty restaurant, and potential viewers are more likely to watch a video if it has a few thousand views.” For these types of views, companies like Virool can provide viewers with plans starting at $10.
The second level of seeding reaches well-qualified prospects who can meaningfully share the video with other well-qualified prospects, or actually buy the product being advertised. While services like Virool can help you reach these viewers, as well, expect to spend more for this level of targeting.
Beyond this, video seeding companies rely on paid placements, as well as earned media strategies such as pitching bloggers, outreaching to key influencers, leveraging potential celebrity tie-ins, and other creative marketing and social engagement strategies.
“There are thousands of videos uploaded each day,” Warner says. “To get the video seen, you need a strategic seeding plan that includes both paid views and a range of other creative marketing outreach.”