Video Puts Marketing in Motion


Reluctant to incorporate video into your content marketing efforts? It may be time to examine your intimacy issues. “Video is by far the most emotional medium, yet businesses are afraid to take advantage,” says Chris Savage, cofounder of video hosting platform Wistia. “Video makes it easy to be authentic and connect.”

Shunning video will put you behind the curve. According to a Social Media Examiner survey, 73% of marketers are increasing investment in original video. From blink-and-you’ll-miss-them video loops made popular by services like Vine and Coub, to feature-length productions that inform and educate, video connects with prospects on an immediate and visceral level.

Here’s how to weave video into the marketing mix without busting the budget. 

Video saves the day

The right video campaign, it seems, can make or break a business. Jamie Shanks, CEO of training firm Sales For Life, credits video with saving his company. When the firm’s original model as a sales recruiter went sour in 2011, Shanks reinvented it around sales training. But he had few references to build from. He gambled short-term revenue on a content marketing strategy, hoping that a rapidly growing testimonial base would convince others to sign on.

Working with SAVO, Sales For Life designed digital postcards that combine video, infographics, and call-to-action screens in a single microsite. “I would give away training for free in exchange for a video testimonial, with sales leaders sharing real, tactical reasons for using my business,” he says.

Rather than simply hoping to be discovered in organic search or incorporating the videos in a drip campaign, the company directly promoted the videos to partners and competitors of testimonial customers. The strategy worked and the firm flourished with the new model.

Today, Sales For Life credits half of its revenue to content marketing. With a sales cycle that can last a year or more, it’s impossible to pin success on any single item. But virtually every published content item—from blog posts to landing pages—includes at least one video, and testimonial videos continue to play a huge role. Shanks says he’s not afraid to ask customers to participate, even though their success will be used to entice a rival to learn the same sales techniques. “They’re not stupid, they know we’re going to show it to their competitors, that’s just part of our ecosystem,” he says. “Now it’s in our contract: Upon the success of our program you’re going to make a video with us, because that’s what got you in the front door.”

Visuals on a budget

When a single Super Bowl ad can cost more than $1 million to produce, it’s easy to regard video as out of reach for all but the largest war chest. But modern technology and a little creativity make slick results entirely possible on a more modest budget.

Clothier ModCloth publishes videos on its product pages to demonstrate real-world fit and to help consumers find the right look. That’s a large undertaking for a vendor with a wide variety of inventory, so ModCloth works lean. Amateur, unretouched models show off the clothes in videos shot by a one-man crew in a conference room that has been converted to a studio.

The models and clothes may change, but the look and feel of the videos stay consistent. That means no extra time and expense tearing down and setting up again in exotic locales, or green-screening models against different backdrops. “If they’re watching the video, they know the ModCloth brand, so we want them to know what they’re going to get when they fire up a video from a product page,” says Andrew Witchey, ModCloth merchandise video manager. “We want the video to just be about the product, and helping visitors decide if it’s a beneficial purchase for them.”

ModCloth leaves room in its video budget to consult reports and refocus future clips. Looking through statistics from the Wistia video hosting platform, for example, ModCloth noticed that its users were rewinding and pausing to the introduction, when the model’s measurements were shown. Videos are now edited to show the measurements for virtually the entire duration of the clip. 

Stories worth telling

Coffee brand Illy began its branded entertainment efforts in 2011 with a simple goal: focus on engagement, not advertising. “Instead of interrupting what’s interesting to the audience, we would like to become what’s interesting to watch,” says Paolo Bonsignore, marketing director, EMEA at Illy.

Illy saw early success with an episode of National Geographic Channel’s “Megafactory” series, which focused on the company’s huge Italian plant. The success of that episode spurred the coffee company’s marketers to create an episodic series, Artisti del Gusto (Artists of Taste), a lavishly shot look at barista culture. Most recent, Illy produced a feature-length documentary, A Small Section of the World, focusing on a woman-owned-and-run coffee mill in Costa Rica—the first of its kind.

“For over 20 years Illy has only bought coffee directly from growers, which is how we know the coffee is the quality we want,” Bonsignore says. Illy wanted to demonstrate the principles behind this decision in a more visceral way than just a slogan on a coffee can, but recognized that it knows coffee better than it knows filmmaking.

The company engaged renowned documentarian Lesley Chilcott to tell the story, and the services of FilmBuff to bring the film to a wide variety of content distribution platforms, including Netflix. “It doesn’t really matter to us who finances a piece of content, as long as it’s good,” says Janet Brown, FilmBuff CEO. “Brands are realizing that video is a great tool if they have a great story.”

Brown salutes Illy as a sterling example of smart, subtle video content marketing. “Be smart about how obvious your involvement is; the less obvious, the better,” Brown says. “In Illy’s case, they used video to capture their high-level brand values in a way that’s organic and natural to the brand.”

The soft touch is paying off. Being more active in social media has helped Illy double its direct consumer database over the past two years, and Bonsignore credits half of that improvement to content marketing efforts like Megafactory and Artists of Taste.

The surprising ease of simplicity and flexibility

Director/producer John Mounier left behind a career in national broadcast working with 15-camera shoots for a one-man production company. He knew that simply repeating his long-form work for brands would be a mistake. “We’re inundated with marketing videos all the time. We skip past them because we’re not interested,” Mounier says. “For video to be successful on the Web, it has to be authentic, right to the point, and short.”

As an experiment, Mounier did an 80-second video profiling the life of a friend and painter. “I had an epiphany. You can get a lot of narrative in that short period of time, and that’s what people are looking for,” he says.

Mounier now helps professionals tell their stories and build their personal brand in short profile videos of about one minute each. The entire process takes less than a day, and Mounier rarely shoots footage for more than a single hour. That’s because one of the cost-cutting, time-saving secrets of modern video is that much of the work can be done without ever picking up a camera.

If he needs to illustrate an idea with footage that he can’t find or create in that timeframe, he pulls down a stock clip from VideoBlocks, a service that curates and publishes royalty-free video. “I did a television series in 2006 that had a budget over $60,000 per episode for stock footage. Today, for a couple hundred dollars per year, I can find all kinds of tiny nuggets to fill the gaps in our videos,” Mounier says. “And having access to tons of interesting footage really lets you get creative.”

Using royalty-free library content makes it feasible for modest operations to experiment with structure and messaging without significantly increasing production costs. “Some of our most successful customers will create six or seven versions of a single video and do A/B testing. That would cost a fortune to do with a traditional agency and film crew,” says Joel Holland, VideoBlocks CEO and founder. “But when you have time and a library of templates, you can sit down and be creative.”

The good news

Video has never been more important to include in a brand’s content marketing efforts—but it’s also never been easier to include. Even marketers concerned about mobile video complicating their efforts can relax. Today’s hosting platforms and mobile operating systems do all of the heavy lifting.

Keep in mind that wide, sweeping panoramic shots aren’t as effective on a four-inch screen as they are on a wall-mounted television, so mobile users will appreciate closer footage. As far as actual playback is concerned, video requires no special tweaking or optimizing. “The vast majority of video platforms are device-agnostic,” FilmBuff’s Brown says.

Whether you shoot for the big or the small screen, getting your video content strategy in order is definitely worth the trouble, as Sales For Life discovered when it meant the difference between shuttering and success. “Our company wouldn’t exist if we didn’t understand how to deploy video properly,” Sales For Life’s Shanks says.

Did this article strike your fancy? See the entire list of articles from our 2015 Essential Guide to Content Marketing


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