Videos with heart

We are not just a nation, but a planet, of video addicts. Almost one quarter of the entire global population is expected to watch video content over a mobile phone this year while technology company Cisco predicts that, within three years, more than one million minutes of video content will cross the network.

It is no wonder that corporates are jumping on the video bandwagon and producing films that they hope will engage their multiple stakeholder audiences. They are experimenting with animations, live broadcasts from events, staid CEO interviews and dramatic stylised films as they seek to capture attention.

But new communications channels always prompt the same question: how do you measure its power? And what does success look like?

Toby Low, managing director at MerchantCantos, defines success in video as ‘changing people’s behaviours in the way you want them to change’.

He adds: ‘Some people would see success looking like the number of views, but I would argue that that is an unrealistic measure of success. It’s changing people’s minds or reinforcing a view that you want to reinforce. It’s difficult to measure but if you can change people’s behaviours and change the way people feel then you’ve done a good job.’

Marc Cave, founder of agency Green Cave People, agrees. ‘In summary, I’d say don’t make a video. Make an impact. I believe in goose bumps. I believe in laughter. I believe in using all the human emotions to get my audience involved. Without emotion, we might be making a corporate film or social video campaign. But we won’t be making an impact.

‘Anyway, why invest all your time and effort in a film that gets 73 views and five Likes? It doesn’t cost any more to make a good film than a bad one but, as my old boss [advertising pioneer] Sir Frank Lowe used to say, eventually it becomes priceless.

‘Because if your film is emotive, it will change the way your audience feels towards your business. Only then can you hope to change their behaviours: buying the shares, accepting the job offer, increasing productivity, speaking and writing well of you.’

Fortunately, conveying emotion is something that videos are uniquely good at. ‘The thing that video does very well, which other communications mediums don’t do, is move the heart as well as the head,’ says Low. ‘It’s probably not as good as getting around complicated facts and figures, but it’s very, very good at moving people’s emotions and showing them how things should be done.’

Pete Stevenson, executive director of The Edge Picture Company, believes that the best barometer of success is a film that both triggers an emotional effect on its intended audience and has a measurable impact on their attitudes and behaviours.

He adds: ‘The right short film that inspires and emotionally engages its audience is essential for the launch of any successful campaign. It crystalises key messages into something tangible and works as a catalyst for all the other campaign elements. The core idea in the film and much of the content can be repurposed in different ways across different media.’

A good video can be cut and repurposed to fit other channels, and what works on one channel may not work on another. James Ridley, account director, corporate content at Spectrecom, says the ideal length on Twitter is between 15 and 20 seconds, Facebook videos should be less than 60 seconds while videos between one- and two-minutes work best on LinkedIn. Care should also be given to the medium on which the video will be viewed.

A five-minute conference film is not an Instagram Stories video for the commute home. The best videos, according to Cave, have ‘a true respect for the audience… who are the masters in this relationship’.

He follows four rules to draw in an audience. First, be reductionist and cut out waffle and jargon. Focus the film on what is in it for the audience; in other words, why the company does what it does. ‘That’s where the goose bumps are,’ he explains.’ You can tell them the ‘what’ on the website or in a brochure.’

Second, it is vital to have a creative idea. People watch stories. If a video is designed to convey a series of key messages, it must have a narrative thread to cohere them into a story. ‘That’s why corporate communications agencies and dare I say it, even most corporate video production companies don’t tend to make great films,’ he confides. ‘It’s too often about what the client wants to say, not what the audience wants to hear.’

Third, it is necessary to hire craftspeople not journeymen. Lighting, framing, location, and editing will all contribute towards the brand experience. But equally a powerful film can be let down by library muzak. ‘Sound is 50 per cent of ‘audio-visual’,’ he says. ‘Lastly, really craft the edit — not just the picture but the sound design — to surprise and to emphasise.

‘Arguably, the finest ever piece of film making The Godfather nearly failed to see the light of day. Millions of dollars of acting and directing talent got buried in an awful, incomprehensible edit. It was only when the producer Robert Evans called in a new editor to start again, that the gem began to sparkle,’ he says.

‘Even on a two-minute corporate documentary, the edit is as much part of the creative process as everything else. Give it some real love!’

‘The story arc of most films means that you deliver the punch line at the end,’ says Phil Blundell, executive director at The Edge Picture Company. ‘If you can’t hold most people’s attention until then, your film is too long or isn’t good enough! Fail to grab the viewer’s attention in the first few seconds and you risk losing them. Look to hook them in from the off. Keep it short and resist the temptation to cram in all those tick box corporate messages.’

‘With social content, we’re finding that durations have really come down, attention spans are a lot less, and a lot of people are looking for more bitesize content,’ says Max Woodworth, head of film at We Are Vista. ‘Where we might have made a three-minute film before, it now might be series of ten second gifs, or 30-second films where we focus on a particular message. You must really excite people straight away with that social media audience. At an event, you have more of a captive audience, and you can delve more into the story.’

Of course, these stories have to translate into a return on investment. ‘Especially within the corporate sector, video-content needs to achieve return on- investment and drive leads down a sales funnel,’ explains Spectrecom’s Ridley. ‘To ensure we can do that, we need to look at creating three types of video content. Often people have different names for these, but I tend to go by Hero, Hub and Help.

‘Hero content is our brand awareness. It’s eye-catching and attention grabbing and will initially engage your prospects to the top of the funnel, turning them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Hub content will educate those now familiar with your brand.

‘This video-content will highlight some of your services, explaining how you will help solve problems previously presented. This content will drive the MQLs down the funnel, turning them into sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Help content will then help sales teams convert those SQLs.’

All those acronyms might sound complex but, at their heart, they recognise that there are different stages for engaging potential customers, from raising brand awareness to reminding customers of how you can help them, and being present (at the top of their Google search) when they need you.

‘Telling stories is powerful but we need to take it back to the reason we tell a story – because people have that emotional connection and want to know more. Less is more. Enticing and intriguing an audience helps them to learn more about that brand,’ says Woodworth.

He adds that video can also be good for escapism – giving the audience a different perspective. ‘It’s still storytelling,’ he says. ‘It drives emotion better than any other communications, in my opinion. It appeals to all the senses. You can really connect with people. It’s a media that everyone is used to consuming.’

‘It’s a funny thing,’ says Cave. ‘Consumer brand markets have become brutal. No amount of TV advertising will work if the price and the customer experience isn’t right. Consumers have become unforgiving tyrants. Conversely, stock markets continue to be driven by sentiment.

‘Corporate brands are increasing in their value as an indicator of ethics, purpose and vision. And moving images are the most powerful way of making that branding tangible and meaningful. Anything that can be moving images, will be. This is all about the supposedly ‘soft’ emotional stuff, which more and more, is translating to hard commercial value.’