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Tell Me a Story Part I: Restating the Case for Video

danledman_med Dan Ledman, Creative Director, ResourceSTUDIO Aug. 15, 2012

In April, Resource CEO Kelly Mooney wrote about The Rise of the Visual Web  and pointed to the rapid adoption of Instagram and Pinterest as an indicator of consumers’ increasing penchant for engaging with visual content. Whether you personally embrace this momentum shift to visual modes of communication or lament it as an indicator of our culture’s declining desire to read and write, the overwhelming consensus of marketers acknowledges that brands must tap into and leverage this trend to stay relevant in consumers’ lives and minds moving forward.

Parallel, but possibly less obvious, to this rise in visual culture and communication, has been an increased awareness in the value of story in the human experience. Experts from literature, psychology, and marketing, among other disciplines, continue to research and uncover evidence supporting the notion that individuals use narratives to interpret life and engage with the world around them. In his book, A Whole New Mind, noted author Daniel Pink states, “We share our stories. We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves.” And Dan McAdams, Professor & Department Chair of Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University, suggests that story is essential to any individual’s sense of identity—“If you want to know me, then you must know my story, for my story defines who I am.”

I would argue that no form of messaging taps into these two consumer desires—for visual content and compelling narratives—more effectively than video. The sheer diversity of media that can be juxtaposed to form a single video, from live action footage, to photography, animation, motion graphics, typography, voiceover, music, sound effects, and more, empowers video with the capacity to communicate an unmatched range of messages, stories, and emotions to consumers.

Even more exciting, statistics indicate consumers love video, too. A comScore study conducted this spring found that 181 million U.S. Internet users watched nearly 37 billion online content videos—in the month of April alone. That’s an average of just under 22 hours of video per user in one month, and 84.5% of all U.S. Internet users viewed some amount of online video. Those are big numbers.

However, if you’ve spent much time watching videos online, and the preceding statistics suggest that you have, you know that the majority of online video clips aren’t exactly what most people would label “quality content” or “meaningful stories.” So, in a content landscape littered with cat videos and cringe-inducing skateboarding fail compilations, how do brands break through to earn the biggest share possible of the video consumption pie?

Increasingly, smart brands are harnessing the potential of video-based storytelling, and they are using it to communicate diverse messages—videos that entertain and inspire consumers, demonstrate products or services, increase brand loyalty, drive commerce, and more. By way of a quick parting example, I’ll point to Nike’s recently launched global “Find Your Greatness” campaign and specifically the most recent addition to their YouTube channel—“Nike+ Presents: Bobby’s Personal Best”. The visibility and impact of the overarching campaign spot has already been noted many times online; however, “Bobby’s Personal Best” takes the main spot’s emphasis on the universal, shared desire for greatness and views it through the lens of an individual. By documenting the athletic achievements of a single person on a single day and combining this footage with ongoing graphical references to the Nike+ Fuelband program and product, this video simultaneously builds brand affinity and drives commerce. At the end of the video, I found myself wondering how much I could achieve in a single day, and how many Nike+ points I would accrue—which is exactly the point. In less than two days, the video has accumulated over 400,000 views on YouTube alone, and in the past two weeks, the entire campaign has totaled over 8 million views.

In coming posts, I’ll deep-dive more specifically into some examples of brands that are using video content in diverse and interesting ways that drive engagement and commerce. What is your favorite brand-related online video? Do you find that online video content generally improves your impression of a brand?

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