Five Secrets for Online Video Success from an Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker
By David Collier, an EO San Francisco member
The two- to four-minute marketing video has become the marketing “must have” for B2B and B2C companies alike. Marketing directors everywhere feel the pressure to create a web video to stay contemporary. Many are asking: “How do we make our video go viral?”
While every marketer dreams of Blendtec-like success (the blender manufacturer’s “Will it blend?” series has generated approximately 188 million views on its YouTube channel), only a handful of companies see their videos go viral. Still, online video is a marketing tool that no business should ignore since 71% of Americans watch Internet videos (in January 2012 alone, the average online user watched 22.6 hours of video according to comScore).
Companies use video to do everything from launch a new product or brand, to explain a complex value proposition, raise VC funds or rally the troops at the annual meeting. With nearly 20 years of experience as a filmmaker and digital storyteller, I have identified five key elements of a successful company video:
- Select the Right Approach: Start by asking the following questions: Who is our target audience? How does our company address their pain points, fears or needs? What is the style and tone that will connect them to us?The good news is that practically every video is viewable online. We ask our clients to identify videos they think have the right look, feel and tone to speak to their audience. We also look at competitors’ videos and identify how we can do better. From there, we develop a unique concept and story that resonates with the client’s brand and overall goals.
- Solve a Problem: Understanding the audience and its challenges allows us to tell a story about how a particular product or service solves those challenges. One very successful approach is the customer story testimonial video. It’s more compelling to have your customers talk about how your company solved their problem than to tell the story yourself. Add compelling visuals, and it becomes a powerful peer-to-peer marketing tool.For example, to produce a customer story testimonial video for one of Adobe’s creative design software packages we featured a Hollywood effects company that needed to do something that had never been done before (at least not on a slim budget). The is a visual storytelling of how the company used Adobe’s software to solve its problem and—in true Hollywood fashion—save the day (winning big awards and securing its future along the way).
- Tell a Good Story, Engage the Audience: Powerful, emotionally impactful stories have a clear beginning, middle and end. To help clients tell their stories visually versus verbally, we ask them to think in terms of “chapters.” Then we try to capture footage to support these chapters, or scenes, and to have visual metaphors to support the story. To illustrate, we produced a video for a financial company seeking to depict ‘the sandwich generation.’With shooting limited to a few days, we needed the story to unfold in the moment and found a family whose twins were graduating from high school the same week that parents and a younger sibling were moving across country. We used footage of the couple pursuing their hobby of rowing on a local lake in the early morning as a supporting visual of the story of them moving gracefully into a new phase of life.
- Choose the Right Cast: Whether you are hiring actors or selecting interviewees within a company, choose people who are naturally charismatic and have a good on-camera presence. Corporate managers often tend toward “the more the merrier,” yet less is almost always more. It is more powerful to have two or three articulate people on camera than to use a shotgun-of-many approach. Depending on your audience, you might also choose interviewees from different departments within a company. For example, to promote a new product or service that helps a company run faster, smarter and more gracefully, we might interview the CEO for a 30,000-foot overview. Then, we might talk with a team manager and an employee about how it helps them meet their daily challenges and achieve their long-term goals.
- Set the Vibe: Great interviews are the stuff of which outstanding videos are woven. To draw out people’s best thoughts, it’s important to create the right “vibe” on the set. Someone without a lot of experience may get overwhelmed and freeze up when a cameraman yells “rolling” before each take. The key is having a dedicated director or interviewer to focus on the interviewee and help him or her relax and enjoy the process.The more that happens in the background by way of lighting, sound and technical production, the more natural the conversation and the better the interview. These days, our team travels as light as possible. We go out of our way to find beautiful, quiet places for our interviews and try to augment natural light whenever possible.
A corporate video doesn’t need to be the next YouTube sensation to succeed. But, it must tell a good story and be well-crafted to generate the desired results.
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker David Collier is a director, cinematographer and the founder of Studio B Films in Berkeley, California, USA. For examples of his work, visit http://www.studiobfilms.com.