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Does great marketing create great companies?

Or is it the other way around? Do great companies all do great marketing?

 

 

Marketing, at its highest level, is the practice of making people feel a certain way about your brand.

Great products are never enough. Promoting features and benefits is never enough. Nike, Apple, Coke – the great ones, the companies that continue to flourish over time all have at least one thing in common – they all do great marketing. Not ‘good’ marketing – that level of marketing is achieved by a relatively small number of companies on a regular basis – I mean ‘great’ marketing. Consistently great marketing is more to the point. IKEA is one of those companies.

Does Nike excel because they build a vastly superior running shoe? Has Coke maintained its market leadership for over a century because its unique flavour of sugar water is vastly superior to that of its competitors? Of course not.

There are thousands of companies with great products who employ great people and yet most of these companies will quickly come and go. Some may linger, ebbing and flowing along the tides of a fickle market, but eventually they’ll either fade into obscurity or be absorbed by a larger, even averager (it should be a word) company. These companies will never elevate themselves beyond the intrinsic value that the features and benefits of their products or services offer.

Their marketing will never make them aspirational brands.

How do great companies achieve great success with marketing? They create marketing that relates to you on an emotional level. They show you (not just tell you…) how to feel about their company. That’s it. That’s the secret. It’s that easy… and it’s also that difficult.

Detractors will rail against the “Apple Fanboys” and Nike zealots and yet what company wouldn’t want a legion of supporters out there talking up their brand and eagerly awaiting the next product announcement. ‘Fanboys’ are the holy grail of marketing.

What makes IKEA even more interesting as a company is that they are not a premium brand in a premium category.

Ikea sells decent quality furniture at a low price that you put together yourself… and yet, somehow… they are one of the most recognized brands in the world. The video above is testament to their continued excellence in promoting their brand and showing you how you should feel about the company.

This is what great marketing achieves at its highest level.

Why this video works

This video works because it makes you think and it makes you feel. Most video promotions do neither.

1. This video tells a great story

IKEA is clean and spare, it’s both vast and simple at the same time and IKEA is, or has been, part of your everyday life. Those are the attributes that IKEA wants you to associate with their brand. Especially the last one. The vast majority of the first world population (excluding the most privileged, of course) have at one time owned and haphazardly constructed some IKEA furniture. The purpose of this video is to remind you of that – that IKEA has been right there with you through the ongoing adventure that is your life. For most of us that evokes very powerful and positive feelings. Time seems to melt away the hardships endured and turn them into something slightly more romantic. That’s the story this video is telling.

2. Editing style.

For the first third of the video I wasn’t sure where the promo was going. The editing style didn’t immediately tell me the whole story. The juxtaposition of the ‘real memories’ and ‘imagined memories’ was confusing. (I’m not a quick study…). It took a while for the ‘oh… I get it’ moment to arrive. That said, making you think isn’t a bad thing. They could have set up the video in a more formulaic fashion: real/imagined, real/imagined, in a match-posed style from the get-go, but sometimes it’s more fun if you have to use your brain a little.

3. Great videos always have great music.

The purpose of music in a video is to set the tone and pace of the video, to pull you through the story and ultimately to tell you how to feel. The choice of music here is inspired.  The music sets a beautiful and nostalgic tone that reminds the listener that ultimately,  it’s all about ‘you and me’.  The music even has its own backstory – it was a lost demo track by an unknown group called Penny and the Quarters that was discovered in a record executives files 40 years after it was recorded.

 

IKEA doesn’t do a lot of promos that scream 50% OFF THIS WEEK ONLY!!! They don’t lie about the price of their furniture (like the majority of the furniture industry does:  WAS $3,250, NOW !1,999!!!,), instead they just remind you that they are there, and that they’ll be around tomorrow when the vast majority of their competitors will be gone.

The correlation between great companies and great marketing remains very high.

 

{Exceptions}

Like all things that involve business and the vagaries of human emotions, there are always exceptions to the ‘great marketing = great brand success’ rule. Microsoft and Samsung are two companies that jump to mind. Neither has ever done anything approaching ‘great’ and yet both companies have built an enduring brand presence with a broad global appeal around good products and sometimes good, but never great, marketing.

 

Video Production Cost Calculator

Client: “How much will my corporate video cost?”
Production Company: “It depends…”

 

A few years back we created a blog that tried to answer the question: What does it cost to make a video? The feedback we received was that, while helpful, it would be even better if there was a tool to help people understand the total cost of putting a corporate video together… something like a video production cost calculator.  So we built one.

This tool is intended to provide a cost range (not a specific price) for a video produced at three different levels of production: Low-Cost, Mid-Range and High-End. Pick a production range that suits your budget… and start calculating. There is also a ‘save as PDF’ function that allows you to save your choices to either print as a document or save as a PDF.

If we missed something, if you discover some rather egregious errors or assumptions or if you’d just like to say thanks, let us know.

 

 

Corporate Video: Only One Thing Matters…

 

The purpose of a corporate video is to sell a product, service or an idea. 

Anyone can create a video today just like anyone can write an ad or design a brochure. Knowing how to craft a video that communicates an important message that resonates with your target audience – that’s what’s valuable and that’s what businesses should be paying for. Are you getting full value for your investment in corporate video?

A bad video is more than just a waste of time and money, it can have a negative effect on your brand. If you didn’t take the time or spend the money to make a good video that contains a smart message then you’re really telling your audience that you and your product or service are just not that good.

A decent video will be ignored by most and quickly forgotten. It may not necessarily cause you harm but the time and money that went into creating the video will have been wasted.

Most businesses create average videos just like most business produce average products and services. The illusory superiority bias will have us believing that our corporate video is ‘pretty good’ just like we all deeply believe that we are smarter, better looking, and more generous that the average person.

Most corporate videos don’t stand out in any meaningful way. They are typically derivative and often sound and look like everything else out on the market. Average videos still get watched and some can even communicate important ideas but they are unlikely to move the dial to any significant degree.

Creating great looking videos is often the goal for video production companies.  Why? Because ‘great looking’ is easier to identify than ‘results oriented’, and the truth is that many producers are more aesthetically inclined and are not necessarily business inclined. Some producers aspire to entertainment and do corporate work to pay the bills and many assume that a great looking video is an end, in and of itself. It isn’t. Sure, your video should look great – but looking great is usually not the purpose of your corporate video. Great looking video can certainly help sell a product or service but only if the format and message resonate with the audience. In image-heavy business sectors such as luxury goods or fashion, great looking videos are table stakes – that’s just where you start, not where you finish.

Many video production companies set out to create award winning videos. The problem is that most awards have no connection to whether the video helped to sell a product or service. Some awards don’t even consider what message was actually communicated in the video. Often the chief criteria is the creative merit of the video – as chosen by a panel of creative people. Awards are great for the image and ego of the video production company but they are often meaningless to the business that is paying for the video to be produced. Awards can drive attention and traffic to a video but that traffic may or may not be your target audience.

The goal for your corporate video should be to sell your client’s product, service or idea. The most effective videos are the ones that sell both ideas and products – like the ‘Will it Blend‘ series of videos or like the original “Dollar Shave Club‘ video. In both of these videos the execution of the video was top notch – they made you want to keep watching, but the real value was that they were actually selling the merits of the products they were promoting.

Depending where your customer is on the buying cycle the purpose of your video might just be awareness – which represents the purpose of 90% of television commercials: to sell an idea about your product (/service) so that the viewer connects on some emotional level with the commercial and forms an opinion about the brand because of the commercial. If the viewer doesn’t connect with the commercial or if the connection to the brand is tenuous then the ‘idea’ of that video is lost… and so is your investment.

While television commercials still command the largest budgets the vast majority of corporate videos today are delivered on the web – on the clients website or through a social media channel. The majority of these different types of business videos are targeted at customers further along the buying cycle who are either in search or decision making modes.

What about content marketing, how does that fit into the ‘selling first’ paradigm? Make no mistake, when you launch a content marketing initiative you are selling. You are selling the idea that your company is knowledgable about a specific topic and that you are willing and eager to share your knowledge and expertise. The better you are at selling that idea, the more value your brand has to customers and prospects.

So please, get creative, win awards, make beautiful and entertaining videos but don’t forget that if your video isn’t effectively selling a product service or an idea… you’re wasting your money.

 

The Future of Video Production – Chaos, Specialization & Real Reality

Video production used to be about fancy equipment, cool effects, big budgets and ‘creative’.
Today, effective video production is more about delivering measurable business results.

 

Back in the ‘big-iron’ days of corporate video you took some shots of the corporate headquarters, threw in a couple talking heads yammering on about the company’s mission statement and their place in the universe, added in a whack of superfluous motion graphics and $25,000 later, voila! – you had yourself a corporate video.

Fast forward to just a few short years ago when Sony introduces the EX1 camera, shooters like Phillip Bloom start telling everyone their secrets, Canon accidentally turns their DSLR’s into fantastic little video cameras and you have the makings of a revolution. Today, everyone and their aunt is a video producer and…  here we are.

 

Video Production – Where we are today

 

1. The industry is in transition. 

Let’s put one myth to bed forever. Video production is no longer a dark art mastered over decades slaving at the the feet of your local video Jedi master. Video production is just another technical and creative skill that can be learnt by anyone with a bit of ambition and imagination. My daughter was taught video editing in grade nine and she’s really good at it. My other daughter takes phenomenal photographs with her iPhone (aided by a bit of Instagram magic.) My son, who worked with me in video production with no prior training was ahead of me in many (perhaps most) aspects of video production after a year or two. I took up video production after 20 years in marketing (old dog, new tricks.) The ground beneath us continues to shift.

2. The means of production have been commoditized.

Software is (virtually) free. For $50 a month you can get every bit of new software you’ll ever need from Adobe. Hardware is quickly becoming irrelevant. Sony just introduced the FS7 (the camera the dude is holding in the picture above) which does everything you’ll ever need a camera to do (4K, low-light, slo-mo, etc.) for under $10k. The purists, tech snobs, and big budget players will always spend more on gear – good for them, but the differences in final output quality are becoming less and less obvious to the general viewing public.  (Remember those audio geeks who bought the 1/2 inch thick, gold plated, plutonium enriched speaker wire and claimed it provided a much ‘truer’ sound experience? Those same guys are now playing their iPhone tunes through a single wireless Bose speaker.) Tech (via lower prices and more convenience) changes everything.

3. Everything is trending to Free.

Chris Andersen made a bold prediction in his book ‘Free : The Future of a Radical Price” that any business with a digital trajectory (many/most businesses as it turns out…) will  have to deal with the fact that the future of many of their digital products and services will trend to free. That’s scary because it also means that commodity services will continue to be subsumed by larger companies who can afford to give stuff away. Like Google, for instance. Google makes (virtually) all of it’s money from search. Sure, we all love (/hate) Youtube and Gmail and Google+ (okay, not Google + but we all still use it because we believe doing so will please the Google) but those free services are all paid for by search. Youtube is generating billions in add revenue and still not making a profit. Google, if they chose to be evil, could literally wipe out any web-based service they cared to. The amount of free stuff online is staggering. Photos, video clips, training, software… the list goes on and the list is growing. The services you provide may not yet be ‘free’ but as Andersen pointed out, bundling services with other things that you actually get paid for is the next wave. “Ya sure, I’ll throw in video production if we get to manage your entire account.”

4. The world is shrinking. 

I’m currently working with people in India, Serbia and Kyrgyzstan on a variety of projects… because I can. You say you’re a really good shooter? So is the eager kid just out of college who’s been shooting since he was 10. You’re an amazing editor? So is a guy in Pakistan that edits for $10 per hour. You’ve got wicked experience in all aspects of video AND marketing? Yep, so does the ad agency that just added video production to their list of services to stay relevant and to keep their creative directors happy. Everyone is doing video production everywhere – and that trend is accelerating.

So that’s the ‘chaos’ part.

 

Corporate Video Production – Where we’re going, and what will matter.

 

1. The demand for video is insatiable.

Video is everywhere and the use of video by businesses is accelerating. That’s the good news. The best indication that corporate video has finally ‘arrived’ as a mainstream business activity is the fact that news articles and video production blog posts have finally stopped mentioning this months YouTube upload figures. Yep, we get it – the average person ‘watches 25 hours of video each day’ and ‘3.7 years of video footage is uploaded to Youtube every nanosecond.’ We’re finally getting over hyping the numbers to ‘prove’ that businesses should jump on board the video bandwagon. Granted, a great deal of this new video output will be total crap but the fact remains that millions of business videos around the world are being created each year… and somebody has to create these videos.

2. Specialization (adding value) is the key to future success in video production

A  buddy of mine works for a local App development company. (Like video, everyone is building Apps.) His company specializes in building Apps for Museums – big museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim. His company is able to land marquee museum customers because of their unique knowledge of, and experience with museums – not because they are wicked App programmers. This is exactly where video production is heading. Offering generic video production services is going to continue to get more challenging because undifferentiated video production services are commodity services. “HI, I’m Bob from Bob’s Video Production, would you like some video?” just won’t move the dial. There is only one way for the price of a commodity service to go. (Down.)  The new breed of video production company will begin to specialize in specific business verticals like health care, or real estate and will develop knowledge and experiences that add value to their engagement beyond just being able to shoot and edit well. Vertical markets are one way to specialize. There are many other ways to differentiate your services. You can develop a recognizable and unique style like Sandwich Video has done, or you can specialize in a type of video like the grandaddy (if your grandfather is 29 years old…) of explainer videos – 2minuteexplainer.com has done, or you can bring in the best people to do really, really good work like the folks at Variable seem to do on every frick’en project. In every case where a video production company is growing and successful it’s not because they are great at the mechanical aspects of video production. It’s because they’ve moved beyond being technicians and they are adding unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the video production process. Buying a new camera doesn’t change anything. Telling your client how they can use video to solve their business problems – that changes everything.

3. All the world’s a screen. 

Apple’s big idea – the one that changed the trajectory of their company was the re-imagination of the cell phone from a stupidly complex mechanical input device (loads of buttons) to a sheet of glass (a virtual device.) The interface options are infinite with a screen. Today we spend a growing portion of our lives staring at screens. Desktop computer screens, mobile phone screens, tablet screens, television screens, promotional display screens. Our interface to the digital world is through a sheet of glass and we are all becoming digital… and video is the digital rockstar.

4.  ‘Real Reality’ (experiential video) and the coming tsunami of un-staged video. 

Most marketing video today is fake (staged). Even the video that is supposed to be real – testimonial video – is staged to some degree. Most people watching corporate videos understand this. Marketing is the art of positioning (faking) stuff to sound and look real and important. All of us who work in this industry live on that continuum. We simply decide how much ‘fake’ we and our audiences can stomach. Un-staged (or ‘slightly  staged’) is becoming more relevant because it seems less fake. Most successful viral videos today look real even if we all know how much behind-the-scenes planning went into creating all of that reality. The next wave is going to be Real Reality – video that is genuine and spontaneous and not stage-managed. Where is this video going to come from? Everywhere. We all now carry really impressive video cameras in our pockets and we’re all getting quite good at using them. The flood of experiential video is going to change the corporate video production landscape and it’s going to change the style of corporate video even more. Winning with fake is going to get tougher and tougher. Entertainment will be the exception here, but as we begin to see real reactions to products and services it’s going to be tougher and tougher to show people how they should ‘really’ feel about your product. Wearable tech like Google Glass (even though everyone’s first reaction to seeing those things are ‘WHOA, DUDE!!!! are you filming me right now????’ – which isn’t a good thing…) will make it easier and easier for us to lifestream our entire existence. If your product sucks, there’s going to be no place to hide any more and no amount of PR is going to fix real (and shared) perceptions. And for those futurists out there.. the bionic eye is already here. Very soon we’ll be capturing everything we do. And we’ll be sharing it. Nowhere for businesses to hide anymore.

5. More efficient video production processes

Back in the day (say…. a couple years ago…) if you wanted to get help on a project you’d either call somebody over to your cubical or give someone you know a call and try to explain your dilemma. Today there are so many online resources like training tips (I.e. Google: How do I extrude a 3d shape in After effects) or Royalty-free video clips (the prices are dropping and the quality is increasing very fast – why go out and shoot a reference clip of a city if you can download a great aerial shot for $100 or $10 or $1 or for free – remember that everything trends to free online…) and collaborative tools (either integrated tools like Adobe anywhere or AVID Everywhere or Autodesk 360 or stand-alone tools like WispterRemark, and Vidmaker ) that allow video producers to be more efficient in their jobs.

6. We’re entering the Post-hardware Era of video production

Remember when it used to matter which desktop publishing platform you were on, or which photo editing software you used, or what coding platform you developed on? No one cares any more. Really, no one cares. Same thing is happening now with video. I wrote a post about this a while back and it’s interesting to see the old guard still griping about ‘kids with camera’s.’  The hardware you had owned used to define your position in the video production industry. Today you can do great stuff with just about any camera out there and if you’re missing a special bit of functionality wait a couple months and some company will be dumping that into their newest model release. How you solve your customer’s business problems is what matters today. Having expensive video equipment doesn’t make you a good video producer any more than having an expensive pen makes you a good writer.

 

Some near-term video production trends

1. Video continues to go in-house.
Businesses will continue to create their own video because they can and because, for certain types of video projects, it makes sense to do so.  Businesses will also experiment and waste valuable time and resources on more complex video projects that they will ultimately out-source but, like a petulant toddler, they’ll have to make these mistakes and suffer through the pain in order to learn.

 2. Better integration of video with marketing 
Video continues to be a bit of a stand-alone activity for many businesses. This will change. Video has to be integrated with all other marketing activities. As an example video has to be properly optimized for SEO, video always benefits from building a strong landing page presence to support the video and video needs to part of a larger distribution process. Putting your video up on your website and on YouTube isn’t enough any more.

3. Metrics
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you don’t know how people are reacting to your video (open rates, completion rates, where people drop-off, call-to-action completions, etc.) you can’t tell if your video is having an impact. There are many online services / platforms to assist you with both video hosting and tracking such as vzaar.com, wistia.com, and brightcove.com.

4. Shorter continues to be better for business video
There is no correct length for a corporate video. Your video should only be as long as you need to make your point and not a second longer. There will always be exceptions and with certain business uses of video such as training and post-sale support it makes sense to produce longer videos. But, all things considered, shorter is better. Mobile is beginning to overtake desktop as the primary venue for watching online videos. Attention spans continue to shrink, particularly when people are using mobile devices.

5. Pre-production is where all the value is today in video
If you don’t have the right message and the right concept and the most appropriate style all decided beforehand in the form of a final storyboard that everyone understands and agrees to then your’e wasting your time with video. Having some video up on your website used to be a goal in and of itself. If you don’t start your video project by first identifying the specific business goals that your video needs to accomplish then you’re waisting your time with video. No amount of shooting and editing and creative is going to save a video that is not on message or delivering a specific business outcome.

6. Personalization and mass-customization.
We’re still a few years away from technology allowing us to easily mass-customize the delivery of video, but there is no question that personalization and the creation of focussed, targeted content is the future of video. Broadcast viewing (programming that makes you watch stuff on some-one else’s schedule) is being replaced by personalized, mobile viewing. That means a video targeted to a mass audience is going to have less and less value. Context, where you are and what you are doing is going to require videos that are created and delivered to meet the needs of a very specific audience, wherever and whenever they are.

And there you have it. Please feel free to share your ideas and comments below on this topic below.

 

 

 

How to design the perfect celebrity endorsement video.

Do celebrity endorsement videos really help your brand? Are celebrity endorsements effective? Yes and yes… but the devil is in the details.

There’s no denying the transitive power of a celebrity endorsement. We live in a celebrity culture. How else do you explain the ludicrous prices on offer at auctions of celebrity flotsam and jetsam. I suppose we imagine that some of the ‘essence’ of that celbrity is transferred to us or perhaps it’s simpler than that – maybe we’re just socially programmed to like /crave/envy/desire/revere/need /stalk/love those in our society who have special gifts and powers.

Google “are celebrity endorsements effective?” and you’ll discover a mine field of warnings and caveats about the risks of celebrity endorsement and the questionable return on such a superficial investment. So how then do you explain Nike’s yearly expenditure of upwards of  half a billion dollars on celerity athletes or Pepsi’s ongoing investment in celebrity pop musicians? Surely those businesses (and their accountants) must find ongoing value in these endorsements.

Which brings me to the this Johnny Walker promotional video.  This promo should be used as a case study in how to design the prototypical endorsement video. In fact, I’ll build the argument for you:

 

How to build the perfect Celebrity Endorsement Video

 

1. Chose the celebrity that best suits your brand… that you can afford. Don’t start with the concept because the celebrity is bigger than the concept. The idea should be ‘informed’ by the celebrity – that’s the power of celebrity. This is where a great deal of the risk is. If you’re a local brand then you can only afford local talent and the risks are probably low. If you are a national or international brand then the risks in choosing a celebrity are much higher. Sure, if you can wrangle George Clooney, super, he’d add luster to just about any product imaginable. He’s the archetype of ‘cool’. Anything he’s associated with will glow and hum – metaphorically speaking. But most A-listers aren’t so easy to choose between. Check out Brad Pit’s $7 Million endorsement for Channel or Scarlett Johnasson’s SodaStream Superbowl ad.

 In this video. Johnny Walker is the most widely distributed blended scotch whiskey in the world so there’s a great deal riding on who is chosen to represent this iconic brand. The choice of Giancarlo Giannini and Jude Law in this promo is inspired. Giannini is one of Italy’s national treasures and Jude Law plays the perfect foil and partner to Giannini’s old world charm. Johnny Walker chose very well. Both actors personify ‘sophisticated cool ‘in this ad. I’d give the casting a 10 / 10 here.

 

2. Build a story that people will want to watch. Once you’ve chosen your celebrity you have to build a story around them that suits their character. I recently wrote about a promo that Kahlua created using Jeff Bridges. Another A-list actor and another international alcohol brand. Jeff Bridges reprises his iconic ‘dude’ role from ‘The Big Lebowski’ to promote one of the world’s great party drinks. In this video a story is built around what you might expect to happen to ‘The dude’ in those circumstances. Build a story that people want to watch. If you read the story on paper and you shrug, then you should keep writing. A good story should always jump off the page.

In this video. The title of the promo is ‘A gentleman’s wager’- which set’s up the basic story-line.  The ‘bet’ makes you wonder what comes next and the terms of the bet (a dance number) make you wonder how on earth this could possibly work. It’s very difficult to stop watching this video. You can’t say that about most videos. The story also suits the positioning of the product. A couple of bored rich guys sipping scotch on a yacht in the Mediterranean – that’s certainly how I picture myself when I sip on my Johnny Walker (Red). I’d give the story a 9/10 (The dance sequence was great, but I would have preferred a ‘con’ or a car chase…) { Update: see Post Script at bottom.)

 

3. Execute really, really well. There are two ways to do this. The first is hoping that a Devine combination of luck and talent coalesce in the equivalent of a ‘hit’ video (the Will-it-Blend series or Dollar Shave Club) and the second is to hire the best talent money can buy. Execution is the hardest to do well and given that acquiring the right talent and developing a great story are also very difficult, it’s easy to see why most branded entertainment and celebrity endorsement videos are just not that good.

In this video. Johnny Walker hired top tier talent to execute this video. The video was directed by Jake Scott (Ridley Scott’s son) and was shot by John Mathieson who has worked as D.O.P. on movies such as Gladiator, August Rush and Robin Hood. Production design was done by Joseph Bennett who was responsible for the look of HBO’s “Rome,” great music… and on it goes. They brought the ‘A’ team to this gig and the production team delivered. The video has a style and elegance that is rare in most promotional videos and Law and Giannini both deliver uber-cool performances.  I’d give the execution a 10 / 10 here as well.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for the formula to develop the perfect celebrity endorsement video it’s all rather quite simple: 1. Find the perfect actor that best represents your brand, build a great story around that character and hire a world-class production team to deliver your video.

Good luck with that.

 

Post Script:

The good folks at Johnny Walker commissioned a follow up video appropriately entitled: A Gentleman’s Wager II.  Running at just over 11 minutes this new video illustrates just how difficult it is to re-create the glory of a great idea, well executed.

 

10 things your marketing video requires to be ‘Awesome’

Disclaimer. I’m a big Jeff Bridges fan. He was cool with his dad in Sea Hunt (look it up) and he’ll still be cool in his nineties doing ‘The Big Lebowski Part V.’ Anything with Jeff Bridges is, by default, inherently awesome… just saying. }

I’d award this marketing video 5 “OMG’s” for sheer awesomeness. For those of you who may not recall, Jeff Bridges’ character, ‘The Dude’, in The Big Lebowski was rather fond of his White Russians, so it makes sense that the marketing folks at Kahlua would cajole Jeff Bridges into promoting their coffee flavored combined stimulant/depressant liqueur. (” I am sooooooo drunk right now.. but still somehow strangely alert…”)

Why is this video awesome? Let me explain why by way of a web marketing video checklist. If you want your next web promo to be awesome it has to contain at least 6 of the following 10 elements:

 

The 10 things your marketing video requires to be ‘awesome’

1. Jeff Bridges.

2. A  great story. This video has a beginning, a middle, an end… and it even includes a teaser ending. To recap: The video includes a great intro, a quest, a ‘discovery’,  some sinister looking bad guys, a plot twist, a girl in a bar, some more sinister bad guys… It feels like a movie trailer and I’m keen to see the movie if they ever decide to tack another 90 minutes to this promo. Most web videos are boring, or salesy, or dumb or just poorly executed. This one is very entertaining. Sure, this video is just branded entertainment but that’s becoming a pretty smart strategy  for consumer-focused companies looking to maintain relevance. Just ask the good folks at Go-Pro. They’re becoming a media company. Their over-subscribed IPO seems to agree with their new direction.

3. A purpose. Kahlua could simply have done what most other lazy brands do – shoot some beautiful people consuming their product in an exotic locale and call it a day but they took a risk and tried a little bit harder. They would be very smart to continue building their brand around these quirky little vignettes: Bring in some new A-list (or B+ list) actors, make a few oblique references to pop-culture, and just entertain.

4. The “give me more” factor. This is the single most difficult thing to do in entertainment or marketing: Eliciting a feeling in the viewer that makes them want to watch more… makes them want to find out what comes next. If you can accomplish this goal, you’re golden. If you can attach your brand to this type of content – that’s a very good thing.

5. High production values. This video is really well done. It feels like a Cohen Brothers vignette. The cinematography is superb  The sound editing  is awesome, it has great pace and great atmosphere… really top notch.

6. Jeff Bridges. 

7. Great Music. Music is sooooo important to the success of a marketing video. It sets the mood and it tells you how to you should feel. The music track in the car on the radio is ‘El Secreto Callado‘ by Diego Verdague. The track at the end of the film in the bar is Fading Blues” track by Hird and the rest of the music was a custom score played and recorded live for the video. It’s all good.

8. The video doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. Sure, there are likely three or four people alive today who are not rabid Jeff Bridges fans and perhaps a few more who are not fond of off-beat, Cohenesque, hyper-quirky, almost-clever, lazy-hipster, stylish-in-a-really-convoluted-way type videos. Ignore them. Your brand will never appeal to everyone so trim down your focus a tad. Narrow cast a little and find a grove that suits those people who will care about and champion your brand. (What would you prefer, a million people saying ‘ya, that was alright… or a few hundred thousand saying ‘THAT WAS FRICK’EN AWESOME!!!”)

9. An easter egg. Did anyone catch the ‘White Russian’ in the video. (The cosmonaut in the white spacesuit).  Those little hidden nuggets make the video more memorable. So what was in the brief case? Considering that he was working on a coffee plantation, my guess would be a couple bottles of Kahlua.  Or maybe the Holy Grail.

10. Borrow a meme / reference pop culture / be cool. People like what they like, so give them more of it. There’s more than enough pop-culture references in this video to go around: A Cormac McCarthy plot, a  Tarantino editing style and, of course, The Dude from the Big Lebowski. What’s not to like.

This is a  great little promo video that serves to animate the Kahlua brand and that subtlety but surely implants the idea of Kahlua in the back of your brain. That’s how advertising works.

 

 

 

Top ten things you never want to hear your video production company say

Did I really just hear you say that?

Video production continues to grow as part of the overall corporate marketing mix. With that growth comes specialization, complexity and a host of issues that many video production customers may not be aware of.

Here are the top ten things you never want to hear your video production company say:

1. “We don’t have general liability or errors and omissions insurance.” 
What could possibly go wrong, right? Quite a lot, as it turns out. One of the crew drives over your best customer, someone forgets to get a permission form signed, your production company uses licensed material that nobody has a license for, a light falls on someone… etc. Chances are things won’t go wrong, but if they do you had better be working with a company that is well insured. Standard insurance coverage today for a video production company is $2,000,000 for errors and omissions and general liability.

2. “We do a bit of everything – websites, PR, SEO, graphic design, print, advertising… oh ya, and video.”
The market will always support a range of generalists and specialists that service the same business audience. That said, a good rule of thumb is that if the number of services offered by a company is greater than the number of employees you might want to consider getting a second quote.

3. “We don’t really understand the web, or social media, or marketing .” 
The vast majority of corporate video today is being delivered either exclusively or predominantly on the web. Creating video for the web is not the same as creating video for broadcast, or for theatrical release, or for presentations at an event. Viewing behaviors are very different online. You have to consider delivery platforms, hosting options,  interactivity,  conversion techniques, social media aspects of your video and many other factors that are unique to the web. If your video production company doesn’t understand delivery, then someone on your marketing team or ad agency better have that piece covered.

4. “We just do corporate video to pay the bills but we’d rather be doing television.”
Very few people go into video because they want to help businesses sell more products or services (marketing and sales stuff). Film or television is usually the goal. Doing corporate work is just what pays the bills. While there are a number of great companies that do both very well, unless your video production company is working under the direction of an ad agency or marketing firm, or they specialize in marketing video you shouldn’t be surprised if your video is wonderfully irrelevant.

5. “We don’t really focus on business results per se, but we think this video could win an award.”
Creative work is wonderful if it serves a business objective. If it doesn’t you’ve wasted your money. Very few industry awards consider business results in their selection criteria – which is unfortunate because business results are the only thing that matter.

6. “There will  be lot’s of different people working on your video project.”
You met the president of the company and his senior team – they all seemed pretty sharp. Are they all going to be working on your project? Every service-based organization operates with some form of distributed work model. It’s up to you as a client to ensure you get the best people working directly on your video project. If you’re not sure, ask… up front.

7. “No, we don’t need a script or a storyboard, we like our work to evolve as we go.”
If you don’t know exactly what you are shooting and why, you’ll likely end up wasting your time and money with video. A script tells you what key messages have to be communicated in your video. Even if it’s a testimonial video project you should be looking for specific ideas rather than random musing. If you don’t have a storyboard, how do you know what to shoot?

8. “We can always take money out of pre-production if you need to keep the price down.”
That’s like saying ‘we can take money out of the design and architecture phase of building your home.’ Pre-production is where all the value in your video is created. This is the last place you ever want to cut corners.

9. “OK, sure we’ll shoot that, whatever you want… it’s your video.”
The best video production projects are collaborations between client and producer. Both sides should have ideas and both sides should have opinions. You won’t always agree on every point but your video production company should have a lot of experience and that experience should add value to your project.

10. “Do you want this thing to go viral?
That’s sort of like asking ‘do you want us to write a hit record for you? Viral isn’t just a lucky outcome – it’s part of a specific plan that is built in from the very beginning of your project. If you goal is for your video to be shared by thousands or millions of people then you had better build something into your video that you know people are going to want to share. (And then you need to spend a whack of money promoting it…)

 

 

OMM’s Corporate Video Production Hierarchy of Needs

“We just put a video up on our website… it’s really cool, but nobody is watching it”

Video production for business has evolved rapidly over the last 5 years. Video isn’t novel any more. Anyone can, and does, produce video.  Just like websites 10 years ago – when every company had to have a ‘web presence’  but were not sure why, businesses are now starting to use video to communicate to their customers and prospects. But just like websites a decade ago, most of the video produced today doesn’t move the dial. Here’s why:

In Abraham Maslow’s groundbreaking paper  “A Theory of Human Emotion,” Maslow outlined five ‘states’  (Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence  needs) to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through. His premise was simple – each state is a foundation layer for the next. You can’t experience a state until you have met the needs of the lower states. I’ve applied this same framework to Corporate Video Production. 

Most corporate videos today fail because they are not built on a solid foundation. When I say ‘fail’ I mean fail to achieve a measurable business outcome. If you want your business video (whatever type of video you are producing ) to make a difference then you have to go through each of the steps described below. There are no shortcuts. You might get lucky by showing up with an idea and a camera but, chances are, you won’t. Corporate video isn’t just about shooting and editing any more. It used to be because video was cool and video was novel. Today video is neither, video is just another content element, another tool to communicate your important messages to your audience. Don’t get me wrong – your video still has to be shot and edited well, really well, but if you ignore these foundational steps… you’re likely just putting ‘lipstick on a pig’ by the time you get to production and post-production.

 

1. What is your business goal?

“We want to update the look of our website.” “Our competitors are using video and we don’t want to be left behind.” ” The guys in sales say they want something really cool.” None of these are business goals. Having a ‘web presence’ was never a business goal. It was just something you did because everyone else was doing it.

The importance of defining business goals for your video cannot be overstated. These goals speak to the reason for your investment. These goals serve as the foundation to measure the success (or failure) of your video. These business goals also serve as the context -the ‘drivers’ for the next level of the hierarchy. You can’t start thinking of building a message platform for your video if you don’t fully understand the business motivation for the video. If you can’t work this first step out, save yourself some money and don’t bother with the video. (I can just picture my industry colleagues screaming ‘shut-up’ at their monitors.) If you and your video production team don’t understand your business motivations then your video won’t have any impact. And you’ll likely stop using video… for a while. (Remember when you asked ‘Why do we need this website anyway – it’s just a brochure in space?”)

 

2. Get the message right.

“Getting the message right” is the single most important AND the single most difficult thing you can do in marketing. Your message underpins everything you do in marketing. It’s the answer to the ‘what’ question. What are you going to say and why are you saying it? You should not be thinking of ‘creative’ at this point. You shouldn’t be thinking about styles and treatments and yet that is often what happens in corporate video production. The tail wags the dog. Someone sees a video and then wants to shoehorn in ‘some of your product or corporate stuff’ into that idea. THIS STEP IS WHERE MOST CORPORATE VIDEOS FAIL. (I figured bold and all-caps would really help me make my point…).

Getting the right message to the right audience at the right time is very difficult. Most companies don’t have a solid grasp on exactly what market they serve, what specific business problems they solve and how to frame their message into a form that will resonate with that audience. Relying on your video production company to solve this little conundrum may, or may not, be your best option. Video production budgets typically allocate a very small fraction of the overall production budget for this important work. That’s not very smart, and yet… that’s how it generally goes,  either because production companies assume the client will “fill all these missing pieces in” or they will magically figure everything out when they are doing their location scouting or other more important video production work. Uh huh.

“The message” is not the final script. The ‘message’ is knowing the things that you want to communicate to your audience. It’s knowing what stirs your clients giblets. It’s knowing what your customers really care about and packaging what you do in a way that they will understand and believe… and knowing what will compel your customers to take that next step, wherever they happen to be in your sales cycle.

 

3. What do you show?

Assuming that you’ve developed a strong message platform and you know exactly what you need to say, to whom and why, then the next step is to determine what you need to show in your video. This is where you develop the storyboard and script. This is where creative concepts are considered and refined. This is where you determine who is in the video, where the video is shot, what supporting elements need to be in the video, whether or not you need music or a voice-over, motion graphics, on-screen talent and a host of other factors that all contribute to the cost and quality of your video.

An example: You know  your customers pain points and you know how to frame your product in a way that positions your product as their only real choice. How do you delivery this message? Do you get your CEO in front of the camera. No, he’s too dull. How about Steve in sales? What, Steve’s too slick, nobody will trust him? OK, how about Homer in R&D, we’re selling to a technical audience they’ll relate to him right? Great, so where do we shoot this? At Homer’s desk? No, okay how about on the production floor – that will also help us show off our facilities. Too distracting… alrighty, how about Homer talking to one of our clients? Why don’t we have Homer interviewing one of our clients about their experience with our product? Do we even need anyone from our company in the video?  Wait, wait, wait, I saw this cool ‘explainer, cartoony thing, what about one of those… and on it goes. The permutations are endless.

This is where some ‘old school’ and some ‘new school’ video production companies shine. Some. Knowing how to take your important messages and translate those into video glory is a specialized skill. It’s not just ‘creative.’ It’s applied creative. There’s a big difference. Anyone can be creative (think movie script) but being creative with a specific business objective in mind, that’s heavy lifting. Your goal is to develop a storyboard that resonates with your audience. It makes them think AND makes them feel. If you can communicate your messages on an emotional level – you’re waaaay ahead of the game.

* Important Note. Everything discussed above is delivered in pre-production. everything mentioned happens before you pick up a camera. Today this is where all the value is in video production. Being able to light, frame and edit and shot and add cool transitions and graphics to the edit – those are becoming table-stakes – those are the skills that you are starting to find everywhere because everyone now has access to great cheap tools and free online training. The bar for higher and higher ‘production values’ is being raised every day. This is putting even more pressure on businesses to absolutely nail the pre-production piece – because being slick just isn’t good enough any more.

 

4. Filming

You have a storyboard, you have your locations chosen, you have a shot-list, all the on-screen personnel in place, the production crew has arrived well in advance… you’ve prepped your VP who is going on-camera in five minutes and you’re good to go. Lights, Camera Action! Shooting is all about preparation and planning. A seasoned crew will have experienced every problem imaginable and be able to adapt when problems occur (… they always do). A smart director or some other ‘handler’ will be good at getting the right delivery out of the folks on-camera and someone will be listening and watching to ensure that you get everything you need during the shoot. Shooting should be like a concert performance. All the players act in unison and delivery a great performance. What you never see is the time and effort in getting to that stage.

 

5. Editing

This is where your story gets built. Your video isn’t just a recitation of facts and figures. It’s a story.  It has a beginning, a middle and an end. People want to watch it because it informs and engages them. This is where your video is ‘self-actualized’ – using Maslow’s terminology. This step takes great skill but even the most talented editor can only do so much with the material he is given. He has to count on all of the steps before him being achieved successfully before he is able to create magic.

 

 Key Takeaway – Video projects should never start with ‘creative,’ they should start with a business need and a fully defined set of messages that resonate with your target audience. Once that’s in place, then you get clever.

 

7 Ways to Keep Video Production Costs Down

“There is no victory at bargain basement prices.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight was, of course, right.  If you want to win (in business or in war…) you have to pay the price. If it’s important to you you’ll incur the necessary costs that will guarantee success. If being successful is not that important… then why bother. That said, there is always opportunity to be more efficient.

There are many factors that affect the cost of a video – I.e. you can pay a thousand bucks for a talking head video or you can pay a million bucks for a world class broadcast commercial. Both are video.  Assuming that you have a budget in place to produce good work and a video production company helping you that is very good at what they do, how can you minimize the overall cost of your video project? Here are seven suggestions:

1. Know your content before you shoot. Yep, this one sounds like ‘motherhood’ but this is the single most important thing you can do. Don’t wing it. Don’t wing anything. You should know EXACTLY what you want your on-camera people to say before you arrive on set. If you don’t then you’ll likely be disappointed. This even applies to testimonial videos. You never show up for a testimonial video and hope you’re going to hear something good – that would be silly, right? Senior business leaders are the worst offenders here. “Don’t worry, I know exactly what I’m going to say…” Uh, huh. My experience is not good with ‘execu-wingers.’ If you don’t have a script you should, at a minimum, share an outline with all participants that includes all of the talking points that have to be captured.

Everyone involved should also know the outcome and purpose of the video before you begin production. Knowing how the content is going to influence the person watching the video (why they should even bother to watch your video) is what will guide every decision you make.  Old-school corporate video production used to be all about the ‘how’- cool camera angles, cool animations, cool locations etc. Today it’s all about the ‘what. ‘ What matters is the content.

2. Plan efficiency into your schedule. This takes a bit of forethought and creativity. If you’re shooting a corporate video, why not plan on doing two, three or more at the same time. Gang your production and post-production into a more efficient schedule. Do you really need multiple set-ups for every shot? Perhaps. Or perhaps capturing your presenters all on the same green screen is the most efficient way to go. Even if you are planning a large scale production it’s very easy to ask the folks who are on-camera to record a little extra content for other purposes.

The video production company’s job is to ensure that the video they produce is top notch. Your job as a company employee or owner is to ensure the maximum use of resources that generates the best results for your company. It’s a dance. (If you and your video production partner are not in step, change partners.)

3. Use your employees as actors and presenters. This is getting easier to do simply because authenticity is valued as much today as ‘polish.’ Certain types of video (i.e. broadcast commercials) lend themselves to actors. Steve Jobs never appeared on Apple Commercials, but he was brilliant at product launches. If you are selling to a technical audience then that audience will trust someone just like them a lot more than a suit. If you’re promoting a lifestyle consumer product or service then you have to use people that best represent that lifestyle.  For a great deal of corporate video projects however, (there are many different types of corporate video) using one of your owners or employees is not only cost efficient, it’s also a great way to showcase the folks behind the brand.

4. Keep the length of the video short. Shorter is almost always better and it’s usually cheaper. Granted, a 30 second tv spot costs a great deal more than a one hour talking head video but, all things being equal, it’s prudent to cater to today’s A.D.D. afflicted business audience. A web-based business promo or corporate overview video should be between one and two minutes. The closer you can get to one minute, the better. (Here is a link to some broader video length guidelines.)

5. Minimize the use of graphics and animations. Back in the day corporate video used to be all about motion graphics and animations. Today real people saying real things is what generally matters. There are still many specialized options and uses for animations such as in animated explainer videos, but on the whole, there is less and less need for combining animations and motion graphics with live-action video outside of a few specialized formats. (Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned 8 second flying logo at the beginning AND end of your video?)

6. Use events to capture your thought leaders thoughts. Events (your own, conferences, local meetings, etc.) are the ideal opportunity to capture your thought leaders ideas (your business leadership, clients, suppliers, industry experts, etc.) You have a confluence of people in one location all primed to learn and to communicate. Find or rent a room, set-up a camera and start capturing all of the video content that you could never afford to otherwise capture. Testimonial videos, thought leadership videos, industry updates, promotional videos. there are lot’s of opportunities to make hay at your next event. Most companies totally miss this opportunity.

7. Prepare a video production brief for production firms to bid against. If you plan on getting two or three firms to bid on your next video production project make sure you have prepared a thorough video production brief to help them with their proposals. Why? This way you can ensure that the companies interested in bidding on your work fully understand your business objectives and this also ensures that they have the best opportunity to add value to their bid rather than just filling out a check list of hourly rates. As well, this document is critical when production starts as it serves as a guidepost against any unexpected increases in production costs.

While it’s true that you get what you pay for, being proactive you can help you find new ways to save money.