Marketing with Video and Rich Media Blog

Apple marketing video vs. Samsung – the challenges of market leadership.

Market leadership is fleeting…

Apple sells a premium product in the smart phone category that commands a high margin. Samsung doesn’t… yet.  In order to maintain its leadership position Apple has to continue to innovate and it has to continue to reinforce it’s brand leadership with premium quality promotions. So far, so good.

If you want to be a market leader then everything you do has to be best-in-class.  Consider two recent promotions by Apple and Samsung:

In one, Apple delivers a high quality, authentic and emotive film that supports Apple’s leadership position. This holiday season promotion delivers a strong visual narrative, a clever twist in the story and a nice emotional tug at the end. Understated and beautifully made, it’s everything you’d expect from a market leader:

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…and then there’s Samsung’s newest video. It’s difficult to tell whether Samsung was actually going for ‘campy awkward’ or they simply have no idea what good is. Or, perhaps they do, and they actually understand their audience much better than we think.


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I don’t believe Samsung is clever enough for this degree of awkwardness (I’d give it a ’9.3′) to be intentional. (I also don’t believe Coke’s ‘New Coke’ calamity a few decades back was intentional either…) This is likely just one of Samsung’s many independent business units not being sophisticated enough to understand what great (or even good) is.

Will this hurt Samsung – not likely. The advantage of not being the leader is that your mistakes are quickly forgotten. Apple, on the other hand, has a very narrow margin for error. We’re all just waiting for them to slip up, then we attack. We love and hate our leaders in equal measure.

So while Apple continues its run as the world’s Über-cool brand, Samsung is starting to make a run – but they still have a long way to go.

 

Takeaway:  If you want to be the market leader you have to act like one.

 

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A wonderful example of effective corporate storytelling

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This marketing video by Google has everything going for it: It’s beautifully filmed, it’s an inspiring and powerful bit of storytelling and it even contains a subtle but important underling message – that the human spirit transcends artificial political and cultural barriers.

In 1947, Britain partitioned India into two independent and sovereign countries – India and Pakistan. Between 10 and 20 million people were uprooted to be on the ‘right’ side of the new border and at least a million people died in the process. Since then, tension and conflict between the two countries has been constant.

Enter Google with their mission to make all of the world’s information available to everyone.

Sure, Google has a huge leg up on just about every other company on the planet: A virtually unlimited promotional budget that provides them the opportunity to hire the world’s smartest marketers AND a product that, by it’s very nature, lends itself to almost any narrative you can imagine, but those advantages are still no guarantee of success. (Just ask the folks at Microsoft.)

In just over three minutes Google delivers a beautiful corporate video that tells the story of two men divided by the partition and how their grandchildren use Google to help reunite them. The editing is wonderful, the cinematography simply stunning and the story itself packs a powerful emotional punch as the two men reunite in the last few frames of the video.

Already closing in on 10 million views and gaining a great deal of media attention Google has hit a home run with this latest promo.

This video is a brilliant example of great corporate storytelling. If Google continues to develop promotional marketing tools at this level they may just succeed in achieving both their altruistic goals and their business objectives.

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The five golden rules of corporate video production

1. Define (and then refine) your audience first.
Marketing is about positioning and communicating your unique value to a very specific audience. Your product or service won’t appeal to everyone. In fact it probably won’t appeal to that many people at all. You have to ensure that you craft a message that is tailored to the specific concerns of a very well defined audience.  That sounds risky because if you narrow the focus of your message you have to leave stuff out. The only thing riskier than that is leaving everything in.
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Example: One Market Media completed a video project for Queens University to promote their International Study Centre in England. We spent a great deal of time working with the client to define the audience and then we further refined the key messages by creating two separate videos: 1. (Bader International Study Centre) which was targeted at parents and included program information supplied by the professors at the Centre and 2. (A Day in the Life at The Bader International Study Centre) which was aimed at students and included perspectives of two students at attending the college.
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2. Tell a great story that makes an emotional connection.
Our conscious mind would like us to believe that we make rational decisions. Our sub-conscious mind knows better. Virtually all purchase decisions are emotional decisions. Your lubricant may be 23% more viscous than your competitors, but the fact that the local fire-department uses it is going to be the idea that people relate to and remember. Most corporate video productions today are recitations of facts, features and benefits. Most viewers never get to the end of these videos. If you want your viewer to watch and remember your message then you have to connect with them on an emotional level.
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Example: Jamie Leal is a public speaker, a business coach and an entrepreneur. He’s also a great storyteller. He approached us to develop a promotional video that would help establish him in the North American market. After a brief meeting with Jamie it was clear that his success didn’t stem just from what he does. Jamie’s success has been achieved largely because of who he is. After that epiphany the structure of the video was rather simple – turn on the camera and let Jamie tell his story. No hype, no clever positioning, no features and benefits, just Jamie… being Jamie.
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3. Show me, don’t tell me. Video is by far the fastest growing marketing tactic in use today because it informs and persuades better than any other media type. Video is a visceral experience that engages the audience both visually and orally. Why just explain how your product works when you can actually show people using and benefiting from that product? Video is gaining popularity because it is the best means of conveying a great deal of information quickly to an attention-deficit plagued audience.  Video is particularly effective when you need to showcase the more intangible benefits of a product. Imagine trying to promote a perfume solely on the merits of that particular fragrance. You couldn’t. You sell perfume by creating imagery that suggests the “promise” of that perfume.
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Example: There is no sale more aspirational today than luxury real estate. We develop promotional videos for multi-million dollar properties. When you’re selling luxury homes you’re selling more than just features and an address, you’re selling a lifestyle. To showcase that lifestyle you need to include people and you need to tell a story. Video complements (not replaces) traditional real estate marketing tools by showcasing a lifestyle (and not just the features) associated with that home.
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4. Your customer is the focus, not you.  
Your customer wants to know how you can solve their problems – that’s what matters to them. They really don’t care much about your history or your processes. And yet the vast majority of corporate videos today are still not written from the client’s perspective. Most businesses continue to create videos that talk about themselves. You should be putting yourself in the shoes of your customer. What do they care about? What are their problems? Then position your company as the obvious and unique solution to those specific problems. Give the people watching your video something they can relate to, something that let’s them see themselves in your video.
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Example: We developed a promotional video for a local Real Estate agency that specifically spoke to the question of ” How do you chose a real estate company?’ We told the story (a story that includes an end… a beginning a middle and an end”) from the perspective of a potential client.
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5. Share what you believe, not just what you do.
Fourteen years ago the Cluetrain Manifesto told us that ‘markets are conversations’ and explained how the internet is fundamentally changing how people interact with businesses. {Coincidentally, this is the same time that Seth Godin came out with his marketing opus ‘Permission Marketing”.} Today, a high level of transparency is expected in business. This is new for most companies.  Getting people’s attention is just the first step. Somewhere along the buying cycle you’re likely going to have to give up a bit more of yourself than you’d like. What do you believe? What are your core values? Why should I care about you when I have a huge number of undifferentiated options in front of me? This never really used to matter. Today it does.
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Example: We developed a promotional video for an organization trying to affect fundamental change to our way of thinking and acting. Their goal is ambitious  - to try to slow down our growing consumption of fossil fuels. Beliefs drive all behavior. Sharing our beliefs is the best way to reach out to, and work with like minded individuals.
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Are there other ‘rules’ you should consider (golden or otherwise?)

‘Include a call to action in your video’; ‘Make sure you employ smart SEO practices in naming, placing and promoting your video’; and ‘Distribution is everything’ are all smart tactics to ensure that your video gets seen by it’s intended audience.  Have I missed one?

Wabi Sabi and the Future of Corporate Video

All businesses now operate within the attention economy. That means there is more pressure to be relevant, more pressure to be authentic and more pressure to connect with your audience than ever before.

Back in the fifties and sixties – the Mad Men era, print, radio and television ads told us what to think and how to act. We were shown how to get our whites whiter and we were told how we could all achieve domestic bliss. And for a time, we all played along.

Since that time however, things have changed. A lot. Our collective skepticism (BS meter) is now at an all-time high. Today we’re all looking for simple truths – things that we can relate to on a human level… Wabi Sabi.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that has many different interpretations and meanings but centers around the ideas of the natural beauty of imperfection and simplicity.

Imagine being brave enough to show that you have a few chinks in the armor, that you’re not a perfect person or company. Sounds risky doesn’t it. It sounds like everything we’ve been fighting against our whole marketing lives. Presenting the real story, the one with human flaws in it gives the viewer something they can actually connect with. Through our imperfections we deliver the subtle message that we’re showing ourselves as we really are… and this commitment to transparency is being rewarded with trust.

This first video was produced by the production house Variable as part of a positive awareness campaign by Pfizer on aging. It’s beautifully shot and tells a story that viewers of all ages can relate to. It’s simple, it’s positive and it turns our single biggest genetic flaw (we age…) into something a little less scary.

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A simple idea and a clear message – that’s what works today. Unilever has made Wabi Sabi one of the central themes of their leading personal care brand. Dove has had success with two different video campaigns that employ the Wabi Sabi aesthetic: The first was their Dove Evolution video that garnered a great deal of press and attention after challenging the true meaning of beauty and their more recent video series Dove Beauty sketches that challenged woman to describe themselves to a sketch artist.

Embracing the beauty of imperfection and the simplicity of a single powerful idea – two very important forces that cut through the distorted reality of the majority today’s marketing campaigns.

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In the spirit of Wabi Sabi, it’s important to realize that no one can live up to the ideals of perfection that we continue to project in to our marketing campaigns. Instead, let’s celebrate our differences in a way that benefits everyone.

Road Trip to Newfoundland

 

We finally got around to putting some footage together to highlight a One Market Media road trip to Newfoundland. We (myself, Sam Fox and another friend) made our way to ‘Heart’s Content” and were inspired by the serenity, the beauty and the otherworld-ness of the little sea-side town. What else would you expect from a place named Heart’s Content. It even inspired us to pen some prose to accompany the footage we shot. Enjoy.

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Journey To Heart’s Content from One Market Media on Vimeo.

Views don’t matter for your business video? Here’s what does:

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A brief history of ‘viewing’ metrics:

The Internet {The Good}. Back in the early days of the interwebs when we all began building websites the key metric at that time was ‘hits’ – which was determined by the number of calls to the server for anything on the page. So if you had 10 separate graphics on a page your website would measure 10 ‘hits’. True, that was a rather useless metric but it did give the lads in IT something to report. “Page views” came next. Although more useful, page views still didn’t tell you anything about individual behavior. Then as we began to track users with cookies (both short term session-based and long term persistent cookies) we started to measure both visits and visitors to a page. Over the last few years web metrics have evolved substantially to where we are now tracking user engagement and business conversions.  (Go Internet!)

Broadcast Television {The Bad}  So while internet metrics have evolved quickly beyond just measuring ‘views’, traditional broadcast television remains largely stuck in the 1950′s measuring… views. Nielsen share ratings continue to be the gold standard in broadcast television audience measurement.  Nielsen still relies on  (as they have for over half a century) user diaries in it’s share measurements and they’ve added meters connected to both televisions and people to provide more accurate data.  While criticisms of Nielsen ratings abound it seems likely that network television (the folks that make you watch shows on their schedule, not yours…) will continue, at least for a while, to sell airtime to brands more than happy to promote their stuff to the idle masses.

Business Video {The Ugly}  That brings us to business video. Up until very recently the measurement of business video hadn’t evolved much beyond the same 1950′s tools of broadcast television – ‘views.’  While broadcast views are subject to considerable error, brands still find value in the overall Nielsen system and are willing to pay premium rates (CPM’s) based on these measured audiences. The web is a different animal all together. There are just too many different methods today to scam or misrepresent views online: Paid click-farms, auto-loading video players, view bots… this list is endless.  At best, views are an indication of activity – that’s it, and that activity, in and of itself, has no intrinsic value.  (“So Biff, how’d your big sale go this weekend?” “Oh, we had lot’s of activity!”) If you can’t further define or understand what that activity means, what’s the point? When someone tells you that their video received ‘X’ number of views here are some questions to ask them:

1. Can you verify if any of  those views were humans?
2. Is that number good or bad? (I.e. is 1,200 hits a lot? Is 120,000 hits enough?)
3. Can you verify if those viewers live in your geographic target area?
4. Do you know who any of those viewers are or anything about them?
5. Do you know how long they watched your video?
6. Do you know how many of them felt about your video?

Like page-views on your website, video views are an indication of activity but nothing else. You can infer anything you’d like about what that activity could mean but you’d likely be wrong. Numbers without context provide little value. Would you rather have 10 qualified potential customers interested in what you sell watch your video or 1,000 random internet views of that same video?

So if views don’t matter as a useful metric of the effectiveness of your business video, what does? Here are a number of business video metrics that you should consider:

1. Watch time. If people are watching your video, either all or most of the way through then you can have some confidence that your message is being heard.

2. Social Engagement. Are people sharing your video, commenting on it in forums or on YouTube? Are they tweeting about it or liking it in Facebook? Are they using the embed feature in your player and sharing it somewhere else? These are all indications that your video is generating interest.

3. Conversion or click-thru rate. Do you ask the viewer to do something explicitly at the end of the video. (Sign up for an appointment, download a form or guide, watch another video, buy your product, etc.)

4. View Through Rate. This is a measure of how many people saw your video and chose to watch it. This is important to measure because it can be a good indication of the effectiveness of how you promote the video (i.e. through title, thumbnail video, prominence on the page, video player, supporting content, etc.)

The  exception where any type of random view might actually matter is if you are running a broad awareness campaign to a relatively undifferentiated consumer audience  (i.e. a viral movie promotion.) In this case the absolute view numbers (assuming they are human and not machine) would have some value and might be a good measure of your campaign’s success. As businesses continue to leverage the power of video it’s important to be able to accurately measure the effectiveness of those efforts.

The next time someone tells you their video has already received 160,000 views your response should be a moment of thoughtful consideration followed by, “Ya, so what?”

 

How long should my corporate web video be? (Statistics, trends, and tips.)

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How long should my corporate video be?

It should definitely be shorter – attention spans are getting shorter and viewers want to quickly move on to the next shiny object.

It should definitely be longer – content marketing is the future of video. No one wants to be sold – they want to be informed, helped and inspired by your video.

It… depends.

Asking how long your corporate video should be is a bit like asking if you should use animation in your video, or whether you should employ a cross-dissolve, j-cut, or dipsidoodle (I made this last one up) as a transition between shots. There is no ‘right’ answer and anyone who volunteers an answer to this question without first asking for context is likely misleading you. Some examples of contextual information required to answer this question:

- What is the purpose of your video? (The answer to this question should be crystal clear.)
- Who is your audience? (“Everyone” is the wrong answer.)
- What is your relationship with the intended audience? (This question is critical as it determines how interested your audience will be in anything you have to say.)
- What is the intended delivery path for the video? (If no one has given this much thought then you’re already in trouble.)
- What measurable outcome are you looking to achieve? (This should be self-evident. Often it’s not.)
- What do you want to say and show in the video? (What is the key message you need to deliver?)
- What style and format of video should I use?

There are many different types and uses of corporate video. Knowing what type of video you are producing and answering all of the above questions will help to determine the proper length for the intended corporate video. Telling your client that two minutes is the ‘correct length’ is like telling them that being funny is the right approach to take with their next corporate video.

 

Recent Trends in Corporate Video

 

There are two opposing trends in corporate video today:

1. Corporate videos are, on average, becoming shorter.
If you consider business videos in the aggregate (especially when you take into account the growing number of web-based ads) then the average viewing time for all corporate videos is definitely shrinking. “About 3 minutes” used to be common guidance for a Corporate Overview video three or four few years ago. Then in the last few years ” a couple of minutes” became the standard. Today ‘somewhere between 60 seconds and 120 seconds” is the general guidance for Corporate Overview videos. Most other types of business videos are experiencing this same dynamic. There are many reasons for this change:

- Attention spans are shrinking. This trend will accelerate as we continue to multitask and we continue to experience even more information competing for our attention. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this claim and there have been some studies done to measure this change in online behaviour.

- Mobile video viewing is accelerating. More people are watching video on a mobile device every day and short form video is a necessity for most mobile uses and applications. Some even claim mobile is poised to become video’s first screen.

- Very Short form video is gaining prominence. The growth in popularity of this new format of video is going to have an effect on all business video. Some new very short form video platforms: Vine (6 second videos), Instagram (15 second videos), Tout (15 second videos), Mixbit (16 second videos – because ’15′ clearly wasn’t enough…). Add to this the growth in 15 and 30 second pre, mid and post-roll online advertising opportunities and it’s easy to see how shorter videos will continue to increase in popularity (and influence viewing behaviours.)

- Video length can be a deterrent. Most users glance at the length of a video prior to viewing. If the video is perceived as being too much of an investment of their time they will simply move on.

- Viewership drops off quickly online. All video hosting services have conducted research that shows a dramatic drop-off in viewership over time for all videos. Very few corporate videos are completed and more than half are abandoned before the viewer gets half-way through.

- YouTube has changed it’s algorithm to emphasize time-watched. This is significant because the number of views (as measured by clicks)  isn’t nearly as important a metric as it used to be. Percentage completion of a video is a much better indicator of the value of a video. (It’s that much harder to game these results as well.) So the challenge is that the longer your video is, the less likely you are to have viewers watch your video all the way through.

So in summary, shorter is better. Unless of course, it’s longer – which as you will see below, might be even better.

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2. Some video types are becoming longer.
 
The vast majority of corporate videos created today are promotional videos – basically you talking about you.  The problem with most of these videos is that nobody really cares about you, or your product, or your building(s), or your people, or your methodology, or hobbies, or habits, or…  What people do care about is their own problems. This is where Content Marketing is gaining a lot of traction. Content Marketing isn’t about selling, it’s about providing valuable information to your customers and prospects and associating your brand with that content. The purpose of content marketing is to establish a relationship of trust over time with your prospects and clients. Providing your viewer with content that they are interested in is a great first step in establishing that trust. Longer form content is well suited to this type of promotion. How-to’s, tips and tricks, industry updates, research… anything that provides value and helps the viewer in some way is what works with content marketing.

‘Yes, but Television commercials are pure promotion and they still work very well today,’ you might add. ‘Yep they sure do,’ I might respond, because most people are still too lazy to change the channel. Online it’s a very different story. Most online viewers have their index finger perched precariously over their mouse just itching to click away at the slightest hint of self-indulgent dribble. So while shorter is better, shorter isn’t always best. Relevant trumps shorter. (‘Short and relevant’ is a pretty powerful combination.)

 

Other longer form video include:
- Content associated with a subscription or opt-in service – something that someone has explicitly signed up to view. If people know you and already trust you then they will have more time for whatever it is you have to say.
- Infotainment or branded/sponsored entertainment. It’s very difficult to make anything your company does entertaining (unless you are Victoria’s Secret or the NFL) so one option is to have someone else develop entertaining content that you can sponsor or you might also consider developing  infotainment content around your product. Infomercials still work very well today.
- Great video. If your content is compelling, or inspiring, or thought provoking,  people will watch it, regardless of it’s length.

 

Guidance:

The following are average lengths for different types of business videos today:

Corporate Overview Videos  - 1 to 2 minutes.

Online Promotional Ads – 15 and 30 seconds

Broadcast Promotional Ads - 15, 30 and 60 seconds

Product or Service Promotions – 60 to 90 seconds.

Customer testimonials –  1 to 2 minutes

Recruiting Videos – 1 to 3 minutes

Content Marketing – 1 to 5 minutes (or longer)

Very Short Form Video – 6, 15 or 16 seconds

Viral Videos – 60 to 90 seconds.

Video Case Studies - 2 to 4 minutes.

Crowd-Funding Videos – 90 seconds to 2 minutes.

Training Videos - 2 to 30 minutes.

Product or Service Demos (not Promos… Demo’s) - 90 seonds to 3 minutes

Product Reviews – 1 to 3 minutes

Event Videos – 2 to 60 minutes.

Vlogs – 1 to 10 minutes

 

Video Length Tips:

Tip #1 Your video should be exactly as long as it takes for you to get to the point. The sooner you get there, the better. (Don’t give people a reason to click-away)

Tip #2 The type of video, audience relationship, and purpose of the video ultimately determines the length of your video. Never follow industry averages blindly. (120 seconds isn’t ‘right’ and 85 seconds isn’t ‘wrong.’)

Tip #3 Front-load your content. Build your content in an inverse pyramid just like you would write a press release. Most people will never get to the end of your video so make sure you include all the good stuff at the beginning.

Tip #4 Don’t include useless branding content at the beginning of your video. I still see videos that take up to 30 seconds for anything of value to be communicated. Save your animated logos, credits, motion graphic intro’s and all that other flashy stuff for the end of the video where most people will never see it.

Tip #5 Consider serializing your content. If you know your video is too long and you have a lot of important things to say consider breaking your content up into smaller chunks. If you can’t do this consider adding index references on the page where you host your video to allow people to jump to the piece of the video they actually care about. Don’t make the viewer wade through 4 minutes of useless information just to get to the piece they are interested in.

Tip #6  Measure your results. If you see people abandoning your video consistently after 55 seconds it may be time for an edit.

Tip #7  Don’t bloat you’re video with message creep. ‘Script by committee’ will ensure that your video includes everything anyone could possible think of. The only thing adding a third, fourth or fifth ‘benefit’ will do to your video is confuse your viewer and make your video longer.

Tip # 8. Get help with you video. Go to prospective video production companies, look at their work samples and ask them how long they think your video should be. You’ll get a good sense of their value by the questions they ask you.

Bottom line, in corporate video (and in most other forms of communications) get to the point as quickly as you can.

 

 

 

 

 

We’re entering the ‘post-hardware’ era of corporate video production.

 

 

Changes in Corporate Video , One Market Media

 

Very soon, hardware will cease to be a differentiating factor in corporate video production. 

Way back in the day (i.e. five years ago) the equipment you owned defined your place in the video production hierarchy. Big production houses had very expensive equipment and charged accordingly. Then, out of the blue, Canon added a basic video capture feature to one of their DSLR cameras and the video production industry has never been the same.

Today, professional video editing software is virtually free – so cheap that the cost is immaterial. Premiere, Final Cut, Media Composer, Vegas… whichever NLE that suits your purpose – they’re all great products that do much the same thing. The differences between them now relegated to angry LinkedIn rants. Same goes for editing platforms. Nobody knows or cares if you edit on a Mac or a PC. It’s irrelevant.

Hardware still matters in corporate video production today, but not for much longer. Black Magic has just announced a $4,000, 4k camera with a global shutter. That’s astonishing. It’s not perfect, it’s not quite ‘full featured’ and folks with ‘real 4k camera’s’ will dismiss this new camera as something less than ‘professional,’ but that would completely miss the point. 4k workflow is still a bit of a kludge for many, tomorrow it won’t be. Technology is narrowing the gap quicker than any of us realize and the subtleties and nuances that we in the industry chatter about are lost on the average corporate video viewer. Granted, there will always be the need (or desire) to employ the most expensive camera on the market to shoot an immensely complex high-end video for theatre advertising of for broadcast but for the vast majority of corporate video projects the tools we need are readily accessible and they are getting cheaper and better by the day.

We never really see these things coming – we can’t. Our linear brains are not wired to anticipate or predict the effect of exponential growth in technology. The incredible change we’ve witnessed over the past few years in the video production industry is really just the beginning. In a few years we’ll all be shooting and editing in 4k. (Whether it’s one, two or three years doesn’t really matter.) The point is that the cost of hardware is going to follow a similar path to that of software. It will never be free, of course, but it will be cheap enough that hardware will cease to be a differentiating factor in corporate video production.  Everybody is going to have access to the same great equipment and the same great tools. What happens then?

 

1. A new pecking order will emerge

Each geographic market will continue to have a video production market leader or two – the big name production houses that attract top talent. That won’t change. Beyond and below that however, we’ll start to see a lot of change, in fact that change has already begun. There will continue to be a flow of new market entrants as the cost of production drops. I’m not referring to the steady churn of ‘dabblers’ at the low end of the industry. I mean creative people, marketing people and people with other strategic skills who will begin to take up video production on their own… because they can. We’d all like to think that video production is a highly nuanced craft that requires years of mastery and training but the truth is that if you have talent and drive today there is very little stopping you. You don’t need to work your way up in a production house spending years learning different skills. We’ll also start to see creative firms competing across service specialties. Most ad agencies are already experimenting with video in-house and you will also begin to see video production companies working in social media, marketing and other non-traditional areas. Video production will remain a specialty for some, but for others it will become part of a more integrated offering.

2. More sector specialization

Calling up a prospective customer and saying ‘we do video, would you like some’ used to bear fruit. Today it doesn’t. Being ‘everything to everyone’ isn’t how you want to be positioned going forward. The value in video used to be in production and post-production. Today and tomorrow the real value will be in pre-production. That’s where the ideas, the business logic and marketing strategy are developed. Finding someone who has good equipment and understands how to frame, light and edit won’t be the biggest challenge. The challenge will be finding firms that can help you create a storyboard that delivers some type of measurable business outcome. I’m not diminishing the need for great production and post production skills. I’m saying that these skills, to some degree, will become table-stakes and they will be abundant.  We’re already starting to see the first stages of specialization in the Industry. Video production companies are beginning to specialize in specific business verticals. This evolution is inevitable. As a business owner who would you rather work with; someone who understands the quirks and dynamics of your industry (and someone who might even teach you a few new tricks), or a firm that does corporate video for everyone or simply to finance their entertainment ambitions. As new (non-video production industry trained) entrants come into the market they will bring their business sector knowledge with them – and that will add value to the process. Making beautiful video won’t be as important as making video that achieves a measurable marketing objective. Prospective customers are going to start asking you what type of video you specialize in.

3. More accountability

Accountability is the thing that most production professionals don’t see coming. As the cost of production drops it becomes harder to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Businesses are going to start to hold production houses accountable for results. “Hey, I just shoot and edit video, it’s your script” won’t cut-it. Similarly, winning awards, looking cool and being clever won’t matter the way it used to. As the web becomes the medium of choice for the vast majority of corporate video, feedback and measurement tools will have to become part of your service offering. And why shouldn’t they? This is exactly what business owners want. If you’re going to spend $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more on a video wouldn’t you want some way of measuring its value to your company? The production houses that bring some level of accountability into the process will thrive. A cool production reel won’t be enough.

4. Video Quality will improve.

I‘m not referring to the overall average quality (average quality has to drop as more people and businesses cycle through bad experiences in the vast lower margins of video production.) I am referring to the quality level of output from most professional video production houses (the folks and businesses who make a full-time living in video production ) – the quality level from full-time production houses will continue to increase. There are many reasons why:

Better tools (all other things being equal) better tools in the hands of professionals will result in higher quality products.

More experimentation. Access to high performance tools will result in more new methods, styles and uses of video. This will lead to better products over time.

Better and quicker learning. There is an unprecedented amount of great training available online either for free or at a very low cost. There are very few secrets in video production today. Just ask Phillip Bloom. Besides that, the best way to learn is by doing, and having access to all of the exciting new tools of production (not just classroom access as was traditionally the case) will result in much faster learning.

Better reference materials. Let’s not kid ourselves, just like in the movie industry; all corporate video production is derivative. We learn from others. We copy others. We do what other people are doing. The quality of reference materials and access to great video samples (i.e. on Vimeo) is accelerating and there is no end of people wanting to showcase their work. We will continue to learn from, and emulate others. The spiral is definitely upwards in this regard.

Specialization. As more people employ video in their marketing activities more specialists will evolve – both in-house and in production houses. This will result in better quality video because the content will become more focused and strategic.

Necessity. Owning equipment used to guarantee you work. Tomorrow it won’t. That means that only companies with initiative and talent will survive. By definition then, the overall quality has to improve.

Business demand. Video marketing will continue to grow in importance. Today video marketing is important mostly for web-based companies and large businesses who can afford broadcast advertising. Tomorrow virtually all businesses will be employing video in their marketing activities.

Allocation of funds will be more efficient. Money spent today on using expensive equipment will be put to better use in pre-production, distribution and measurement.

New and better ecosystems will evolve. As video production increases in use and popularity we’re seeing the development of new and exciting ecosystems develop. Amazon just introduced an automated storyboard tool. Hardware manufactures are all clamoring to announce new motion stabilization tools. All of these support and peripheral tools used in video production will quickly drop in price as competition and broad adoption brings in more money and technology to the industry.

5. Video Production Costs will continue to drop as video production becomes mainstream. (But the amount of work will continue to increase.)

My daughter learned video editing in grade 9 and she’s rather good at it – so are many of her friends. Basic video skills are already a commodity and the downward pressure on equipment prices will result in a hollowing out of the low end of the industry – much the same as we’ve witnessed in photography. Corporations will take simple video production in-house because they can and because it makes sense to do so – especially for basic point and shoot projects. Companies serving the vast and ever-changing middle market will also experience price erosion but specialization and new added-value services should help to alleviate some of this pressure. We’ve seen the same phenomena in website production over the last few years. There is little to no money to be made designing and developing simple/basic websites because there are too many free and DYI options available at the low end. Yet there is still a vibrant market for servicing mid and higher-end websites. The valuable work now for websites is where it always should have been – in creating compelling content. Video will play a larger role in future content creation priorities for corporate websites.

While prices at the high-end of the market have dropped the volume of work has increased dramatically. Television commercials and high-end corporate overview videos used to be the only high-end corporate video production opportunities available but today there are many different types and uses of corporate video.

These market forces will continue to cause production houses to become leaner (and yes, perhaps a bit meaner…) and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. New tech drives new efficiencies in every market it touches. Working out of your house is a good thing. A two-man crew that can do the same work that a three or four-man crew used to do is a good thing. Fitting all of your gear into a car rather than a panel van is also a good thing. Being lean and being nimble is a very smart way to run a business in an industry in transition.

As the cost of equipment continues to drop, talent, drive and specialized skills and knowledge will become critical success factors in corporate video production. What equipment you use won’t really matter.

Video Pre-Production Planning Check-list – 11 Steps to a Successful Project

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“Let’s really think this through before we start” is likely the best business advice you will ever receive. Too many video production projects start part way through the process – with a ‘cool idea’, a bad idea, a misguided idea or worst of all, no idea at all. If you haven’t taken the time to properly plan out your production, it will likely fail. By ‘fail’ I mean fail to achieve any measurable business objective. (Being ‘up on your website’ isn’t a meaningful business objective.)

There are many different types of videos that you can create to promote your product or business and there are many factors and costs that go into the production of a video. This post was created to provide the reader with a tool for planning a video production as well as to give the reader an appreciation for the many elements and tasks associated with the creation of a corporate video. Your video project won’t necessarily require each of the steps described below. In fact, some projects (i.e. recording an expert talking-head for training purposes) can be quite straightforward and only require a few of these steps. That said, the success of your video project will largely be determined by the time and effort you put into properly planning your project. If you don’t have a great idea and a solid shooting plan in place no amount of production or post-production expertise and experience can save your project. Consider the following before you start your next video project:

 

Pre-Production Planning Check-list

The challenge with this phase of video production is that while it’s the most important phase of video production it’s also the hardest to cost-justify. It’s relatively easy to cost-out crew, equipment and editing time, but how much is an idea worth? (A lot, as it turns out) … and who wants to pay for ‘planning?’ If you want your video project to succeed consider the following critical tasks that go into the pre-production phase:

 1. Define your business objective. What do you want your video to do? To raise awareness? To drive traffic to a landing page? To motivate your customers to buy your product? To influence key decision-makers in your industry? To showcase your company as being environmentally conscious ? To clearly differentiate you from your competitors? To save money on travel costs for training or sales? To educate a new target audience on important issues affecting your industry? To drive prospects to the booth at the next trade show you will be attending? The list is infinite but each business objective should have a matching outcome that you can measure. If you can’t clearly articulate your business objective you are wasting your time and money. ‘Having a video up on your website’ or ‘keeping up with your competitors’ are not business objectives. Determining a business objective allows you to focus on outcomes.  Lack of clear focus is the principle reason why business videos fail.
    Answer this question: What do you want to happen when people finish watching your video?

2. Define your audience. Marketing is the process of communicating the value of your product or service to a specific audience.  Unless you are Google or the Catholic Church {merger rumors are unfounded…} you probably have a very narrowly defined audience who can benefit from your product or service. You have to know who your customers and prospects are and you have to differentiate your message for that specific audience. This step typically requires some degree of research. The more narrow the focus the greater chance of success because you can deliver a message that you know your audience cares about. What is the demographic and psycho-graphic make-up of your target audience? What are the needs, preferences and biases of this audience?
  Answer this question: What does this audience care about and how does your product or service relate to those concerns?

3. Develop your message. {We’re still not getting ‘creative’ yet…}  By message I mean what are the ideas, themes or topics that you need to communicate. Ideally there is only one principle message but if you have a broader purpose in mind for your video then you may want to include two or three key messages. What are the things that you need to tell your audience that will resonate with them and what do you expect them to understand AND remember after they have watched your video. Obviously, the more messages you include the less likely your audience is to understand and remember any of them.
    Answer this question: What specific problem am I trying to solve and how do I communicate the solution to that problem?

4. What’s your budget. This topic, more than any other, illicit’s the greatest ‘chicken and egg’ discussions. How can you determine a budget before you come up with the idea?” Or conversely, why would you even bother considering ideas outside of the context of a budget? (“OK!, imagine this… a thousand multicolored toy Poodles all chasing J-Lo, against traffic, through Time Square at rush-hour…”) You might have to do some research if you have no prior experience with video production but at the end of the day you, or someone you report to definitely has a budget for your video project. There is little point in discussing video with anyone if you can’t communicate a budget. If you are unfamiliar with video production costs you can start here as a reference point.
   Answer this question: Find a video similar to what you are thinking about and ask potential video production companies ‘what would a video like this cost to make?’

5. Planned Distribution. While promotion and distribution are outside the scope of this post it’s important to understand how you plan on distributing your video before you create it. Where, how and why will people watch your video. Knowing the answer to those questions will help you determine answers to the next steps in production. A broadcast audience is very different from an audience on a professional business portal and different again from someone viewing your video on a mobile device. There is not a lot of value in creating a video if you don’t have a plan for getting people to view it. Putting it ‘up on your website’ may or may not move the dial. If the video production company you are talking to doesn’t ask this question then I’d suggest getting a second opinion.
Answer this question: How are you going to get people to watch your video?’

6. Concept – What’s the big idea. Often (especially for broadcast commercials) video projects start off as concepts in search of a purpose. (“Imagine a video with these amazing roller-blading babies in diapers, someone’s gonna want it!!!) I suppose that if your concept is epic enough then you can tag a logo on just about any idea and realize some benefit but the execution of most clever ideas never reaches the giddy expectations imagined at conception.  So… back to earth, the vast majority of video production concepts are driven by both practical and creative imperatives. The ‘concept’ or ‘idea’ can be as simple as ‘let’s move the CEO out from behind his big desk and show him actually talking to customers’ or it can be as complex or grand as your imagination and budget allow. Either way, this is where the value is really created. No one might remember who’s idea it was to invite all your brand enthusiasts to a one day event and film them talking about your product but that may be the’ big idea’ responsible for tripling subscription rates on your website.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to charge for ideas so they typically get wrapped up in execution costs.
   Answer this question:  What is the idea for this video?’

7. Treatment and Storyboard. Your concept or idea is the big picture idea. A ’treatment’ is a summary of how you realize that idea. On larger projects the treatment is usually a one page summary of your idea which will outlines the style of the video and the devices used to communicate your key messages.  From there you need to flush out the video in detail (typically by scene).  For this a ’storyboard’ is created to outline the various sections of your video. The storyboard takes your concept or idea and considers things like: do you use voice-over to support what is being shown; do you use animation anywhere; do you employ actors, if so which ones and how; do you use music to set a tone or maintain a pace; what locations do you shoot at; etc. This is the step where you determine the style, the flow, the length (more on this step below) and the structure of your video. The storyboard is the physical manifestation of the treatment. It breaks down the video into three key components: 1. Script / Narration – what is being said by whom on-screen or as voice-over. 2. What is being shown on screen – where is the action taking place and who or what is in each scene. 3. What other elements (logos, text, animations, cgi, etc. music track, sound effects etc. are needed to support what is being said and shown. Even if you don’t plan on developing a detailed storyboard (as a rule you should…) it’s still a very valuable exercise to write down the structure of your video. It allows you to think through the video in a logical fashion and share this vision with others. It’s also a tremendously valuable tool for accountability. You can’t ask your production company when the video is finished why something wasn’t included during shooting if it wasn’t included in the storyboard. A well written storyboard holds everyone involved accountable.
Answer this question: What are the list of details that need to be included in the video?

8. Length of Video. Shorter is better, but shorter is also harder. Shorter seems riskier because you necessarily have to leave things out and narrow down your message to a very few key ideas. That’s tough to do. But as online attention spans continue to shrink, ‘shorter’ should definitely be the target. ‘Shorter’ is a guideline not a rule, however. If you are creating a product demo, a training video or something else for someone much further along the sales cycle – then these audiences may want more information, they may want more detail. The length of your video then really depends on the motivation of your viewer. A good rule of thumb for promotional videos (targeting the ‘awareness’ or’ interest’ phases of the sales cycle) is between one an two minutes in length. Your video needs to be succinct, it needs to include targeted, relevant information and it better be interesting.
Answer this question:  How long do you need to get to the point of your video?

9. Approvals. Who has to be involved in the approval process. What is their involvement and do they have any input or biases that should be communicated upfront? This becomes much more important in large organizations. If you don’t circulate the storyboard and schedule to the folks involved in approving/blessing the video you may be in for a shock when they tell you that you’ve left something out or you have not represented the material the way they would have liked. Every business video ever made has, prior to release, first been sent to at least one colleague accompanied by the question ‘what do you think of this?’ Why wouldn’t you give the storyboard the same due diligence?
  Answer this question:   Who needs to approve the video and where do they get inserted into the process?

10. Pre-production meetings. The size and scope of the job will determine how many meetings and how many people are involved in the video production process. On large conceptual projects we sometimes hold facilitated story planning meetings with a range of people associated with the project to ensure that we are getting all relevant perspectives on the project. This process has proved invaluable in uncovering stories and reference that no one else would have known about or would have considered. On smaller projects a simple video production brief may be enough to estimate and start the planning process – especially where a good client/supplier relationship already exists. The better the collaboration, the better the outcome.
Answer this question:   Who’s input/perspective would really be of value in the planning process?

11. Scheduling and production planning. Video shoots, even small ones, are logistically challenging. There are a tremendous number of moving parts in video production and as a result there are a tremendous number of things that can go wrong (something always does…) Pre-production planning will minimize the risks associated with your project. Some things to consider before the folks with cameras arrive:

Location Scouting - Where are you going to shoot and what challenges do you have there? Are there lighting, audio or other logistical problems that you will have to solve. A pre-production location visit and discussion with on-site maintenance or security is often necessary.
Permits - Do you require permits for shooting, sign-off /waivers for people in the video, special insurance, parking access for the crew and equipment, etc.
Crew - Who is on your production crew? Camera, Audio, Lights, Director, Production Assistants, Grip for special equipment, Teleprompter operator? When is shooting scheduled to start and how much time is required for everyone to set-up?
Equipment - What type and how many cameras do you need. What do you have as back-up if something goes wrong? Do you have all of the right lights, lenses, audio equipment, jibs, sliders, reflectors, tools, power, etc. necessary? Do you need special equipment or props or products for the shoot.
Talent or Presenters - Who is on-camera? Are they prepared to be on-camera? Have they rehearsed their lines or will they be using a Teleprompter. When should they arrive? What should they be wearing? Do they want / require hair and makeup? Are they on a tight schedule? (The answer here is almost always ‘yes’….)
Weather - Are you shooting outdoors. What happens if it rains/snows/hurricanes? Do you have an alternate shoot date?
Schedule- – Does your storyboard include a shotlist and schedule that let’s everyone know when to arrive and how long each scene or shot is going to take?

If you consider all of the above steps and take the time to properly plan you will have a much higher likelihood of success on your next video production.

 

 

Google Glass, Lifecasting and the Future of Business Video


 

Welcome to the billion channel universe.

{Overheard somewhere in the distant future, say…. next year.} “CSI Toledo is a re-run and there aren’t any new disasters on CNN, let’s watch Roger Kaputnik’s lifecast and see what he’s up to! The implications of Google Glass are far-reaching. From privacy issues, to changes in lifestyle, to new forms of entertainment and gaming, to education, to global communication, to new business behaviors, this is a big deal.  While it’s difficult to say which new wearable devices will be the next big thing, or how these devices will be adopted, one thing is certain – we are going to be capturing more and more of our lives on video and we’re going to be augmenting our daily living with easily accessible information and this is going to have a significant effect on all businesses.

We never really see these things coming.

No one saw the internet coming. Even years after it arrived most businesses dismissed it. Same with mobile, social media, tablet computers, and almost everything else. Sometimes mass adoption takes time (although the adoption cycles are getting much shorter) and being an early adopter is not always the best use of scarce resources. Google Glass is a class of device that is going to do two things: 1. Augment our lives with relevant and contextual information and 2. Record and broadcast our lives. Should businesses care if we all begin to stream our geo-tagged, time-coded and narrated life experiences wirelessly to our personal storage accounts where these visual data streams will be parsed, packaged and organized ready for us to add a soundtrack, Instagram ‘look’ and a bit of meta-tagging to so that we can broadcast our every living moment to the world? Yes, businesses should care. Here’s why:

The ‘outernet’. 

This isn’t just ‘augmented’ or ‘virtual’ reality, this is real reality. We’re going to start using technology to capture and share our life experiences, unencumbered, in real-time. This isn’t us behind our first, second or third screens, this is us living, communicating, learning, sharing and recording. The mobile phone got us out from behind our desks. These new devices will integrate with our day-to-day lives and the effect on business will be dramatic.

Customer experiences. Customer testimonials are one of the most powerful marketing tools you can employ. They are social proof – that last thing we need to ice our decision to buy that 7 blade razer. What if instead of a testimonial you could share real customer experiences.  Imagine a POV video that someone shared right after they had an exceptional customer experience with your brand. Or conversely, what if someone shared a nightmare experience with your product or service. (Remember that video of the FedEx guy heaving the computer monitor over the fence… now multiple that by a hundred or a thousand.) What would that do to your brand? Simply put - your company will have nowhere to hide. If your product or service sucks – everyone is going to know about it. If your product or service rocks – that story is going to be shared.

Hyper-Social. Most established companies still don’t ‘get’ social. Many new companies, especially tech companies, exist because of social. These new devices will make us hyper-social. We’re human – social is our nature (except for my crabby neighbor Ned…) and these devices will accelerate this trend. Sharing text and photos was just the first step. Sharing our life experiences will be commonplace and we’ll start to do this across geographic boundaries. We’ll all learn a bit more about each other – that’s a good thing. Businesses have to pay attention.

Customer Support. Imagine being able to share (not explain… not show… but truly share) your experience with someone at the help-desk who can see and experience what you are experiencing - that would be remarkable. Customer support will be a critical success factor for any business that has any degree of complexity in their product or service offering. The best products are the ones you can just use right out of the box (I.e. Apple stuff…). But for those products or services that need explanation, or for when that product isn’t working the way it should, nothing will engender customer loyalty like having someone there to guide you in real time.

Advertising and marketing. (Google has stated that advertising isn’t a priority for this new product. I laughed out loud when I read this.)  There’s already been some pretty good Google Glass parody videos and you can imagine how distracting ads could be with this device but promotion doesn’t need to take form of graphic images or video – it can just be contextually delivered information based on your current situation. This has always been the great promise of Mobile but aside from Foursquare and a few other apps and games, mobile advertising has yet to live up to it’s promise. This will change. The purpose of these glasses is to help you acquire contextually relevant information. That search will be supported by audio queues from you and also by your circumstances. Visual search will also be part of this experience. (Where am I? What is this? Where do I go? Show me who I know is around. etc.) All of these things are advertising and promotional opportunities. Many of these exist today on your cellphone but it’s a kludge. Contextual awareness today is rudimentary. A head’s-up camera is a game-changer. Now your device and apps will be able to interpret your circumstances in real-time and provide relevant information based on your voice requests and preferences.

Market Research. Get a bunch of people together all wearing Google Glass for your focus group sessions and send them off on a brand quest to use / experiment with your product. This is research gold. Real-time feedback amongst peers all sharing and talking about a real-world brand experience – not behind a two way mirror. There is no better measure of a product or service than seeing how it performs in it’s normal environment under normal circumstances. This isn’t just eye tracking, it’s limb, torso, full body and attitude tracking all rolled into one experience.

Internal Communications, Public Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility will all take on new meanings and mandates when you can share the experiences that you are trying to communicate. Instead of stating that ‘our company cares about this, you can prove it by showing what you’ve been doing about it. Talking is good, but real life examples are better.

Get everyone moving again. Over the last few decades we’ve become a society of people who sit at a desk and stare at a piece of glass all day. It’s interesting to note that we spend billions now on air quality, environmental efficiencies and workplace health and safety standards and yet we totally ignore the one thing that is doing us the most harm – sitting all day. These devices could help to reverse that unhealthy trend.

The implications of always communicating, always connected and always recording are huge. Just because 98% of our lives are not that interesting doesn’t mean we’re not going to record them. I’m sure Google is working on an algorithm right now to determine who’s life get’s moved to the first page. Maybe we will start watching each others ‘casts’ instead of television – isn’t this the evolution of Facebook.  (BTW – If anything is going to dislodge Facebook from it’s social perch… this would be it.) This is a development that businesses can’t ignore. From a  shopping experience where access to real-time information such as product specs, reviews, and comparative pricing is available to getting immediate help assembling your new ‘Bjorgen Huugen’ shelving unit, businesses are going to be able to engage with their customers in ways far beyond the mobile capabilities of today.

Bonus video – check out this video put together by college students to demonstrate the creepy, but entertaining possible evolution of this idea.

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