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Branded Videos | What Non-Creatives Need to Worry About

by Rashon Dixon

More so than most areas of marketing, video marketing takes a village.

Before the first camera rolls, a strategy has to be agreed upon that aligns the purpose, scope, and budget. A manager has to corral the creative team. A writer has to craft the plot or copy. A set designer has to figure out the props.

Remember, that’s before the shoot ever starts. After the shoot comes audio, editing, analysis, and more. Between the two, there’s an almost endless number of places for branded videos to go wrong.

Where Marketers Go Wrong

Marketers may not be able to keep bad acting from dooming a shoot, but they can do their part to support the creative team and create effective videos. Avoid these common mistakes associated with planning, testing, and tweaking branded videos:

1. Setting non-specific goals

Brands create video content for different reasons. Some, hoping to spur product sales, use performance video content to encourage click-throughs from social sites. Others are looking for brand awareness, which they accomplish through everything from employee testimonials to animated shorts. Still others develop webinars for educational or event-related communication.

Whatever your content’s goal, a vague statement of purpose won’t cut it. Assuming you’re interested in awareness, how many shares or likes would you consider a success? Perhaps you’re trying to attract new customers: What’s your current customer acquisition cost, and what cost per acquisition would successful video content achieve? If you’re crafting a webinar about a later event, what proportion of webinar participants do you need to see sign up for the event?

2. Aiming at a general audience

Arguably the most successful piece of branded content of all time, The LEGO Movie introduced the block toy brand to a new generation. But because it was such a box office hit, generating nearly $470 million on a budget of around $60 million, many marketers have taken the wrong lesson from it: that targeting a general audience works with a large enough budget.

Watch carefully, and you’ll notice that The LEGO Movie made a series of subtle-but-smart audience positioning moves. To attract parents aged 30 to 40, who make the ultimate choice as to which films their children see, LEGO’s marketers made multiple references to ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture. The Millennial Falcon, a spaceship from Star Wars, shows up in block form. Will Ferrell, who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live and the Austin Powers series, plays the boy’s father, Lord Business.

3. Picking the wrong platform

Once you know who you want to reach with what message, the next question should be obvious: On which channel are you most likely to succeed? Here, consider the platform’s audience and its content tendencies. Although you might be tempted to default to traditional television, bear in mind that a Quartz analysis of traditional television shows viewing time is up since 2003 only among those over age 50. Remember, too, that most television ads are limited to 15-, 30- and 60-second slots.

What if you’re trying to reach America’s young people? Pew Research Center data shows at least 7 in 10 of them use YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Realize, though, that ideal video lengths vary by platform.

4. Failing to test

By its nature, video has more variables than other types of marketing content. Unless a factor is set in stone, such as a television ad’s length, experiment around it. You might be surprised just how much a small adjustment can affect the performance of the clip.

Shortly after video-hosting platform Wistia was founded, it published a “Wistia in 5 Minutes” video. Although the video needed to feature Wistia’s value proposition and popular features, Wistia’s marketing team could change the length, actors, and copy at will. Shortening the video to 2 minutes improved its play and engagement rates, but it actually dropped Wistia’s video upload rate. Because the upload rate was the metric Wistia was concerned with, it stuck with the original.

5. Giving short shrift to editing

Marketers may not be expert video producers, but they often lend a hand at the editing stage. When the CMO wants a tweak that can be made internally, it might not make sense to send the video back to the agency or creative team. In those situations, too many marketers take a “good enough” approach that translates to sloppy work.

Although video editing mistakes deserve a post of their own, the most common ones marketers face are poor transitions and inconsistent audio. Jump cuts are a great way to collapse time, but they can be jarring. Too-short transitions can result in a gap where the viewer sees a black screen. Sound chosen before the video is shot can seem out-of-place afterward. Sensitive data, such as employee names, may need to be blurred out. Fix what you can, but don’t be afraid to call the pros back in.

Even if you don’t know how to hold a camera, you’ll eventually work with branded videos. Don’t be intimidated, but do beware that the process is more complex than creating blog content. Specify your goals, know your audience, and make time for testing, and you’ll be just fine. 

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