Video Won’t Save You – Ideas Will

By July 21, 2017Blog

This piece featured in the Content Marketing Association‘s (CMA) Video Engagement Industry Report…

 This is a piece I wrote for the Content Marketing Association‘s (CMA) Video Engagement Industry Report…

We’re experiencing an ever-accelerating cultural sandstorm, with every grain fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces. Television has morphed and adapted to seismic cultural changes since its birth and now 90 years on, video is touted as the new ‘King’ of content, guided by the gravitational pull of ‘Tech’ and its ability to increase download and streaming speeds exponentially, faster than you can say ‘up Periscope’.

Once we could watch in HD without the wheel of death buffering its interruptant ways into our lives, it was obvious – video must be the next big thing… because, well… WE CAN. It doesn’t though – however stronger, faster, harder we can get it… mean WE SHOULD.

While it gets more difficult to reach people aware they are being sold to and traditional marketing funnels become less effective, video is presented as the ‘must-have’ tool, the trojan horse that can turn the tide of misfortune for businesses across the board.

So how does video content specifically succeed in an ever more cluttered web environment?

Video is great for communicating complex messages, simply and in the shortest timeframe. It would be easy as the co-founder of a creative motion agency to say that everyone should have video constantly in their lives… but one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

The question remains, when should businesses turn to video content for their next campaign or marketing activity as video itself becomes another casualty of a cluttered web.. and how?

Whether you’re a brand, a business or an individual, video is not an easy medium to harness and a regular online video presence is not always as essential as alternative forms of social marketing.

The Importance of Strategy

In September 2015, Ascend2 surveyed an international group of B2B marketing professionals about their use of video. More than 4 out of 10 were using video to increase brand awareness and online engagement, improve customer education and lead generation. 1 in 3 also hoped to use video to boost conversion rates, but according to the survey, it wasn’t clear exactly how successful video was at each of them – with almost 50% saying the lack of an effective strategy for video marketing was the biggest obstacle to their success.

Whether or not video is an essential part of a company’s marketing activity is dependent on what needs to be communicated, through which platforms and to which specific target audience.

One industry which has recently experienced a dramatic shift is consumer publishing. Publishers are waking up to the importance of reimagining editorial content for other platforms, making it more accessible to an audience who intuitively grab what they need from mobile devices.

It’s not enough to simply repeat editorial content for an online mobile audience – customers want added value, not the same content with a shiny spinning logo. Now ‘new-kid’ publishing brands are turning on the tap for more mobile friendly digestible content, and some, such as women’s online platform The Pool, established video content as a main focus from the outset.

Within a year, firmly planted itself in a largely unserviced niche of the web marked ‘smart women’, using well-crafted multi-platform content to keep it there. The Pool co-founder and former Red magazine Editor Sam Baker points out,

“Video is an ever more crucial part of our content strategy – both for branded and non-branded content. We produce two cuts of every video we make so it always fits into responsive moments in our user’s day: a short 3-8 minute cut that we put out mid-week, while saving the long cut for the weekend. The thing that’s most compelling about video is the dwell time. Get it right, and you have your users’ captive attention for 30 or more minutes.”


The Pool’s mix of original features, videos, podcasts and events, pushes them to front of the queue for brand partnership possibilities. They are both a fledgling brand and a brand facilitator, forming partnerships with industry behemoths like Estée Lauder and Microsoft, who understand the advantage of authentic audience relationships. Video gets the message across seamlessly.

Communicating Core Values

If however, a brand or company who isn’t positioning themselves as a platform for content (eg. B2B businesses) looks at video for answers, they should consider a few things before racing down the road to the small screen.

Paying attention to the prospective audience or customer is essential. How businesses behave and respond online is a key factor to how they are perceived by the wider public. The content must effectively communicate their own values and behaviour.

Successful video content can be created with little or no-budget provided the ideas resonate

In 2012, baby brand Huggies were bitten by a bloggers’ backlash which forced them to pay attention to a key audience demographic after they ran a ‘Dad Test’ campaign. It suggested that fathers were essentially a bit rubbish at childcare. The result was detrimental for Huggies who pulled their campaign from the web. Video can hurt as well as heal.

A more powerful long-term legacy example of ‘how-not-to-do-video’ was the Hyundai ‘Pipe Job’ online ad which depicted a man’s suicide attempt via carbon monoxide poisoning with one of its cars – which fails due to the vehicle’s clean emissions. Needless to say, the sensitive nature of suicide is not something you sell cars with and this major oversight spiralled into its own case study on how to create a PR crisis, offending many along the way.

So how does video content specifically succeed in an ever more cluttered web environment? The most common obstacles to success are sighted as being: lack of an effective strategy; inadequate video budget; lack of compelling content; and not enough production resource.

Most of these issues are solved given a bit of research, planning and consideration, but the issue of inflated budgets can be misleading. Successful video content can be created with little or no-budget provided the ideas resonate. This is where solutions like animation can help – telling stories which can talk to a universal audience without them needing to identify with a specific culture or demographic. Within the genre of animation, anything is possible.

One of the biggest viral successes in history was the infamous safety campaign video for Melbourne’s Metro Trains which featured a cleverly written song called ‘Dumb Ways To Die’, together with an animated video featuring characters meeting their end by comically unpleasant means.

“Every business is a media company”

Within a week it gained over 20m views and was featured on Australia’s major news channels. Through support from other online activity it reached the sort of viral status most marketers can only dream of. Through a carefully planned strategy, it became the most shared public service campaign ever and the Metro saw a 21% reduction in accidents the following year. The video spawned a game, a book and was reimagined into other forms of content which still keep on giving. The current view count on YouTube is over 127m.


The entrepreneurial tornado Gary Vaynerchuk considers that “every business is a media company”, suggesting “the cost of creating media and the distribution of that media is zero”, meaning if companies are to stay the distance they should be creating multi-platform content themselves, acknowledging how the ownership of that content empowers them to their audience.

Brands who use video brilliantly such as Red Bull, Vice, Buzzfeed, Jamie Oliver, and John Lewis all know what their audience wants and needs, not what the brands want to give them. They create a video content consistency which reflects and communicates their own brand behaviour.

‘Branded content’ is morphing into more organic forms such as NikeWomen’s 8-part Margot Vs Lily series which launched in January 2016. Its sitcom format immediately pulled in millions of views and it illustrates the power of owned-media content – in this case for a female audience who identify with Nike’s brand values. Creative Review commented “Nike assumes that we are happy to take our online content with a heavy dose of commercialism… it will be proof perhaps that so long as the stories are good, we don’t mind how branded our content is.”

2016 is firing up to be a game changer with social and vertical video hitting the mainstream and mass Virtual Reality finally becoming less virtual. The creative sparks happen when there is less to lose, but what’s stopping brands embracing the new and dancing with it. Red Bull does it, Virgin does it and it works. Embrace the crazy, the new, the iconic. After all, what brand doesn’t want to be seen as innovative?

Video can be explosive… it can change the landscape and be the boost to send a business skyward, but with great power comes great responsibility and video should always be ‘Handled With Care’.

For insights into how to use video to connect with an audience, you can download the CMA’s Video Engagement Industry Report

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