There’s no doubt that video marketing continues to grow in relevance. The only question is how quickly can your business adapt to capitalize on it? Below, we present our ultimate guide to video marketing. Learn how to make videos that communicate your strengths, compliment your brand and are fun to watch at the same time. Your videos will go so viral, the CDC will warn against them!

illustration of video marketers sending out videos in form of paper planes
Illustration by Vladanland

The power of video marketing

A long, long time ago… 2010… a digital marketer and ex-comedian Michael Dubin was talking to his dad’s friend Mark Levine at a Christmas party. It seems this family friend—who knew more about manufacturing than marketing—had acquired a surplus of 250,000 razors and was asking Dubin’s help to unload them. Dubin agreed because he had an idea. What Dubin understood back then, before most other marketers, was that the conventional way of advertising was crumbling. So he set out to try something unconventional.


Via Dollar Shave Club

The same day the Dollar Shave Club’s first video went live (March 12, 2012), they sold all 250,000 razors. After 48 hours, the freshly launched startup received more than 12,000 orders. In 2016, Dollar Shave Club was acquired for $1 billion by Unilever. A billion dollars is a pretty substantial return on investment for a one and half minute video that cost $4,500.

With his background in both entertaining and marketing, Dubin understood that offering a valuable product or service is only half the battle. The real challenge is convincing the people you have a valuable product or service.

In the shadow of the Dollar Shave Club, video marketing has become the new conventional. According to the online marketing agency IMPACT, 86% of businesses use videos on their websites and 77% use videos in their social media. Today, video marketing has become a legitimate medium, attracting A-list celebrities and Hollywood directors like Idris Elba and Spike Jonze, below.

Via Squarespace

What is video marketing?

Video marketing means sharing videos about your brand anywhere online, whether on your site, social media or via email. These could be flat-out advertisements for your brand done in a TV commercial style, or something more subtle where your brand takes a back-seat. But in most cases, the viewer knows where the video came from, giving brands the opportunity to influence their reputation, for better or worse.

It’s tempting to call the recent popularity of video marketing a passing trend. But the truth is that videos have always been popular—just look at the last century of cinema. The reason videos are skyrocketing now is technology. Sites can now host more videos, devices can now load videos faster. With more live-streaming options on social media and better quality phone cameras, the popularity of video online is a self-perpetuating whirlwind that turns viewers into filmmakers who inspire new viewers to become filmmakers.

But it’s not only the popularity of video that makes it so effective, it’s the medium itself. Video allows more artistic expression and emotional connections than static or text-only content, and they can be a powerful visual aid in teaching complicated concepts. Videos draw on a century of cinematic techniques to weave rich narratives that speak to viewers in a way other mediums can’t compete with.

And how effective is video marketing? Recent statistics from Hubspot and Social Media Today reveal just how much of an impact videos make:

  • Sites with videos have 41% more traffic than those without.
  • Videos on social media receive 1,200% more shares than text/picture posts.
  • 87% of consumers want to more videos from brands.
  • Marketing campaigns with videos see an increase in revenue 49% faster than non-video campaigns.
  • Emails with videos have a 200 – 300% higher click-through rate than those without.
  • 68% of consumers cite video as their favorite way to learn about new products. That’s 4 times as many people as the second-favorite option, text-based articles (15%).
  • Videos increase conversions by 20% on a home page and 80% on a landing page.

Plus there’s more benefits behind-the-scenes. Video content also receives technical boosts in algorithms for social media feeds and search engines. Platforms like Facebook give special priority to videos in their social feeds, and Google’s latest 2018 algorithm changes have prioritized video by giving them an automatic carousel cemented at the top of search results.

In other words, video content gets seen more than text- or picture-based content. If you prioritize accessibility, you can enhance these effects even further with SEO-laden transcripts, which we discuss below.

Of course, in order to reap all these benefits, you have to understand video production and marketing. The first step is understanding all your options.

Types of marketing videos

A video can be anything you want—it’s your brand, so you make the rules. But when you pool together all the different types of marketing videos you see online, some distinct categories emerge. Here are the most common types of marketing videos, each attuned to a different goal or brand personality.

Explainer videos

Via Headspace

What is an explainer video?

Explainer videos are the most common type of marketing video. As you can guess, these videos explain what a company or product does and how it works. They’re likely the kind of video that comes to mind when you hear about branding videos or product videos.

Their complexity ranges from a quick introduction of the brand, to more in-depth instructionals outlining how a product or service works. If your brand enters new ground, i.e., you offer products and services that customers haven’t heard of before, explainer videos are an ideal way to show them how they work. That’s why they’re so popular with the tech industry, where “what does your software do” is always the first question.

The beauty of explainer videos is that they can entertain while they educate. Playful and stylistic visuals can make otherwise dull information more exciting, not to mention the effects of visuals on memory retention.

What’s it good for?

  • an introduction to new brands or products
  • brand awareness (getting your name out there)
  • instructing consumers about how your product or service works if it’s complicated, new or experimental.

How to make it great?

Make sure the style matches your brand personality: the visuals, language, pacing, etc. Real actors or animated motion graphics? Jokes or just the facts? Remember, you’re communicating more than just what’s in the script—all your design choices like shot composition, color usage and shot transitions will influence how viewers perceive your brand.

Brand videos

Via Salesforce

What is a brand video?

Brand videos are like explainer videos without all the explanation. Well-established companies often use them to maintain their reputation. Their main objective is to present the brand in a positive light, so they often include customer testimonials and statistics highlighting the company’s success.

What’s it good for?

  • improving or changing a brand’s reputation
  • highlighting your value points
  • incentivizing viewers to do business with you.

How to make it great?

Although plenty of brand videos tread the same worn-out ground, they’re more effective if they’re original. You want your brand to stand out, so don’t be afraid to be unique. Avoid the same generic structure and visuals as your peers—the stuff you might see from Hooli on Silicon Valley.

Social media stories

What is a social media video?

Different social media platforms have their own sections for user-generated videos, usually called “stories.” These are usually composed of brief live streams or quick messages to followers—ideal for periodically “checking in” with your online community.

As a rule of thumb, these are usually streamlined and last just a few seconds, often without audio. Stories are more popular with younger markets, and may be out-of-character for more formal or serious brands.

Via Pizza Hut

What’s it good for?

  • strengthening your online community and building personal connections
  • periodically checking in for greater brand awareness
  • depicting your brand as youthful and modern
  • making announcements and driving traffic to other campaigns, as Pizza Hut does with its Buy 1 Get 1 Free campaign.

How to make it great?

Cater videos to their platform, and that platform’s audience. Your followers on Snapchat have different expectations and preferences than your followers on Facebook, so vary the style of your videos accordingly. Note the technical differences with each platform as well—for example, Facebook has some interactive features that other platforms don’t. For more information, read about the differences between stories on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

Live streams

Via Marvel

What is a live stream?

Live streams are videos that are recorded and screened in real time. They’re similar to social media stories, but more ambitious and live. They’re larger in scale, last longer, and (hopefully) are created with better-quality technical equipment. Viewers can comment during a live stream, which is great for engagement. While social media live streams are bound by restrictions of the platform, like time limits or how long they stay live, you can also host live streams independently for greater freedom and control.

In particular, live streams are perfect for covering one-time only events: interviewing a powerful influencer in your industry, hosting a lecture, sharing a behind-the-scenes footage at a public event, etc. They don’t always have to be grand affairs, though—you can live stream a product demonstration, a quick tour of the office, or even something like a weird-looking spider under your desk.

And because live streams are live, they add a sense of intimacy and engagement. Viewers feel like they’re participating, even in spite of geographical barriers. Some platforms can even heighten this effect with interactivity, such as live-streaming comments from viewers.

What’s it good for?

  • community building and engagement
  • giving people access to exclusive events
  • gathering publicity for events

How to make it great?

Don’t forget to publicize live streams beforehand to both let people know they’re going to happen and to get them excited. If you’re already publicizing a real-life event, it’s easy to tack-on a mention of the live stream in your press materials. If the live stream is the event, be sure to advertise it as you would a real-life event—it’s always embarrassing if no one shows up to your party, online or off.

Vlogs

Via Sephora

What is a vlog?

In short, video + blog = vlog (the word was never intended to be said out loud). These are regular videos about a specific theme; done in the same casual format as blogs, but in video format. Vlogs usually involve the daily experiences of a vlogger (video-blogger). YouTubers who review a new game every week or travel bloggers who film their travel experiences are both common examples. Filmed podcasts can also be considered vlogs, as long as they offer more than just audio.

Vlogs are great for community building and traffic, as they keep people coming back again and again, and at predictable times no less. The downside is that they’re more effort—vlogs require consistency and every time you miss a post, your followers notice.

What’s it good for?

  • increasing traffic with regular visitors
  • community building
  • establishing your brand as an authority on a certain topic—whenever a viewer has a question about that topic, they look to you for answers first
  • creating a solid backlog of content, which boosts SEO and time on site

How to make it great?

Focus on topics relevant to your brand. Videos in these areas will attract the consumers you’re looking for anyway, and these people will most likely associate your brand with whatever theme you choose.

Product videos

Via Tello

What is it?

Product videos revolve solely around a singular product: highlighting its features, explaining how it works and building anticipation for its launch. Product videos are similar to commercials, but they have the freedom to focus on one or two key aspects as opposed to giving a general overview.

For ecommerce, product videos are a must. According to Neil Patel, up to 85% of viewers are more likely to buy a product after watching a video, so there’s a direct correlation with sales and conversions. Product videos also reduce the amount of returns—videos are more realistic than still images, so shoppers have a better idea of what to expect before buying.

Furthermore, video can explain how to use a product, minimizing returns from people who say nothing more than “it didn’t work.” The best of them can even inspire new ways to use the product—see how the Tello drone video suggests different ways to use the product, some of which are not self-evident.

What’s it good for?

  • introducing new products or new features on existing products
  • ecommerce product pages
  • explaining how to use complicated or confusing products
  • influencing the reputation of a product, i.e., video of happy people using the product make the product seem fun

How to make it great?

As they have a very distinct goal, product videos don’t follow the same rules as other videos. They’re less about style and branding, and more about showing off the product itself. Think about the video from the perspective of the viewer who’s never seen the product before. What features will they be interested in? What parts need clarification? What wouldn’t they discover on their own?

How-to videos

Via Lowe’s

What is a how-to video?

A how-to video explains in a visual, step-by-step way how to do something. A large portion of netizens look to online videos when they need to learn how to do something, so the right how-to videos can bring in a lot of traffic. When successful, how-tos both establish you as an authority on the topic and strengthen your community by giving them something valuable they can use: knowledge.

What’s it good for?

  • establishing yourself as an authority
  • increasing more traffic with regular visitors
  • improving brand reputation and loyalty—viewers are grateful that you are providing useful content

How to make it great?

The trick is to stay on brand, giving instructionals on topics relevant to your target customers. Normally, people will stumble upon your video when searching for how to complete a specific task. But if you can master this technique, regular viewers will browse your videos for inspiration on new ideas or, in the case of Lowe’s, new projects to try.

Short films

Via Apple

What is a short film?

When we talk about video marketing as an artistic medium, we’re referring to short films. These forego the pretense of a promotional video, and are no different than the short films at the Oscars (quality notwithstanding).

Rather than “selling,” short films take a back-door approach to winning their audience’s money by winning their hearts. Look at the cultural impact of Ridley Scott’s iconic 1984 “commercial” for Apple’s Macintosh, or the cinematic storytelling in The Follow, which boasted a top-tier Hollywood cast, director, and even screenwriter.

Like their feature film counterparts, short films aim for an emotional connection, even just a laugh or two. From a marketer’s perspective, the viewer will associate those positive emotions with the brand, and that has a stronger promotional component than simply listing out benefits.

The trouble is, making a good film is a lot harder than Pixar makes it seem. Without self-promotion as the backbone, you’re left building your story on emotional connections and cinematic techniques—both of which require sufficient talent and ability. That’s why brands often outsource these videos to seasoned filmmakers outside of the advertising sector.

What’s it good for?

  • Sparking emotional connections and building community
  • Fostering brand recognition and awareness
  • demonstrating your brand’s personality, especially if your branding strategies prioritize style or feeling over the practical value of your products/services (typical in the fashion industry, for example)

How to make it great?

Short films work best when the promotional elements take a back seat. That is to say, let your viewers immerse themselves in the story without reminding them it’s really just a commercial. Apple’s The Bucket does this well. It’s essentially just a short film; the promotional element is that it’s shot entirely on the product they’re trying to sell.

Classic commercial

Via Walmart

What is a commercial?

When it comes to video marketing online, a commercial is basically a TV spot, co-opted for online spaces. Remember that people don’t necessarily like commercials though, and may choose not to watch them online. For that reason, its best to lean towards the entertaining side of commercials.

What’s it good for?

  • traditional online marketing
  • highlighting product features and incentivizing sales
  • multichannel campaigns spanning TV, print or other avenues besides the internet

How to make it great?

If you already filmed a commercial for TV, it’s as simple as uploading it online—although viewers would definitely appreciate something new for the online version. You could upload a longer version online with “extra footage,” like Walmart’s online TV commercial with more famous cars.

How to master video marketing

Once you have an idea about the types of marketing videos that will work best for your brand, the real challenge begins: making them and marketing them. Here are 9 expert tips for marketing your videos like a pro.

1. Build a video marketing strategy

Think you’re ready to start filming? Make sure you create a video marketing strategy first. Coming up with a strategy will help you get clear on your video marketing goals and how exactly you’re planning to achieve them. It’s the foundation of all your video marketing efforts. First off, cover the items in this pre-production checklist:

  • What’s your goal? — Do you want sales, or just traffic? Do you want to impress, or just inform? Different goals necessitate different approaches, so answering this question is step one. You’ll also use this to set the metrics of success.
  • Who’s your target viewer? — What do they want to see, and where will they look online to see it?
  • What’s your budget? — Filmmaking is famously expensive (unless you’re making a low-budget film on your phone). Set your budget early so your creativity doesn’t overshoot your finances.
  • What’s your deadline? — When do you want the video finished? This is an important factor when hiring a film crew, especially if you have to wait for their availability.
  • What’s your branding style? — In other words, how does your brand personality translate cinematically? A brightly-colored cartoon about horses or a black-and-white film noir with real actors?

Having clear answers to these questions sets the course going forward, so don’t be afraid of being too specific with your answers. Here you can learn how to build a video marketing strategy from the ground up.

2. Stick to what you excel at and outsource the rest

Do you know when to use a wide-angle shot as opposed to a close-up? Are you 100% sure you know what a wide-angle shot is?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t—it’s not your job. You’re not a professional filmmaker. If you’re an expert in marketing or managing a business, that’s where your time is best spent—not wielding a camera.

Rather than diving in the deep end, you’ll get better results if you spend your time on strategy and marketing while outsourcing your filmmaking needs to a professional crew. Freelance filmmakers already understand the ins and outs of their craft; all you have to do is explain the style and tone you’re going for, and they’ll know the cinematic techniques to create it. And because they’re freelance, you can hire them in whatever capacity you need.

The trouble is often finding a film crew in your area, as branding videos are often location-dependent. Platforms like 99designs offer video production services that match you with the best filmmakers in your area, narrowed down by the style you’re going for. If you find yourself lost and unsure of how to proceed, we can guide you to where you want to go.

Video for Leigh & Taylor via 99designs

3. Stay consistent with your brand

Your video is a reflection of your brand, perhaps the most influential one, too, if it’s the first impression for the viewer. But it won’t have much of an effect unless you tie it together with your other branding efforts.

Animated octopus logo design
Animated logo design by Sava Stoic

Aside from echoing your brand personality, which we’ve been discussing, you also want to continue using visual branding cues. This includes your brand’s color scheme, which should show up in your videos, and also mascots and spokespeople. If it reminds people of your brand, it deserves a cameo in your marketing video.

You can even use video as an opportunity to build upon your brand image. A prime example is an animated version of your logo. Most logos are designed for static imagery, such as a product label or web page graphic. But video is a medium of motion; adding some movement into your logo can breathe new life into it, and leave a more lasting impression on the viewer.

4. Aim for the heart

Many shoppers make purchasing decisions based on feelings rather than rational fact—they trust their gut more than their brain. For a powerful storytelling medium like video, this can be a huge advantage to marketers.

If you’re shooting a short film, you definitely have to prioritize emotional connections over promotional sales tactics. But even if you’re doing a dry explainer video, you still want to include a narrative and sentimental moments. Even the basic dramatic elements go a long way—character, conflict, resolution, etc.

Rather than showing imagery of different people using the product, consider having a single relatable character going through some kind of journey to resolve his problem. You can still show off the product the same, plus the more dramatic aspects add personal context that helps the viewer put themselves in the shoes of whom they’re watching.

Even straight-forward videos like real-user testimonials can benefit from more emotionally oriented story-telling. Knowing how to use the right cinematic techniques at the right time, i.e., when to zoom in, when to stay wide, can accent the emotional beats and make the viewer understand the speaker even more.

5. Use animation strategically

We’ve all seen those animated explainer videos with basic, flat design visuals. They’re done in a simple style that seems to suggest “cartoons for adults.” Flat design is clearly quite popular for explainer videos, and for good reason.

Crazy Cap social media banner
Getting lost in the visuals, you’ll come away from the video knowing what CrazyCap can do. Animation by Maryia Dziadziulia.

When you combine flat design with animated motion graphics—which we explain in detail in this article on animation and motion graphics—it’s a great visual aid for teaching. For one thing, the easy-on-the-eyes visuals makes these otherwise boring videos fun to watch. Smooth animation alone can be hypnotising, making the viewer more receptive to learning something new, whether they want to or not.

Moreover, this style helps with comprehension. Like the Crazy Cap example, a lot of modern products and services can be hard to grasp and involve concepts the viewer has never heard before. The flat design style of motion graphics can make these ideas easier to understand, essentially improving the viewer’s understanding more than if the video had used real actors.

Of course, this playful style can undermine more formal or professional brands. Other times, if your brand centers around something inherently emotional, real people may convey those feelings better than animation. The kind of brand you are and the goals of the video will determine whether or not animated motion graphics are the way to go.

6. Give yourself a head start

Just like search algorithms sometimes favor videos over other other types of posts, so too do they favor videos with lots of views over those without many views. So making a video popular early on increases its chances of being popular for the long haul.

But that’s easier said than done. The best way to start your video off with plenty of views and likes is to stack the deck. Let your company employees, friends and family access it before the public launch so that your customers don’t mistake your new video for an unpopular one.

Another strategy is to send the video to your email subscribers as “exclusive content” before the public launch. This rewards their loyalty with special benefits, and gives your video a head start right out of the gates.

7. Be in the right place at the right time

You’re not responsible for showing your video to all its viewers—they’ll also be finding it on their own through searches. That’s why you want to make your video as easy to find as possible.

For one thing, that involves posting it on the right platforms, meaning all the platforms your potential audience is active on—whether that’s Youtube, Instagram, facebook or all the above.

And you want to post at the right times. Each social media platform has a different “golden hour,” so change up your posting schedule accordingly. Sprout gives a comprehensive guide of the best times for each one.

8. Make your videos easy to find

Be sure to use a clever title and description that include the keywords your audience would search for. Good titles explain what the video is about without giving too much away—they draw people in and make them curious to watch. You should tailor your video titles to match SEO keywords. In particular, you can target long-tail phrases, a string of SEO keywords that match whole or partial sentences users enter into search engines, like “What is Coachella?”.

On top of that, make sure you’re using the right tags and hashtags (if the platform uses them). Combine the most popular tags with lesser-used ones to attract different kinds of viewers, and research which ones your target viewers prefer.

9. Make it accessible with closed captions and transcripts

Accessibility is about making your content available to users with disabilities. For videos, this equates to closed captioning and transcripts, but you’ll find these accessibility concerns can benefit your brand as much as your viewers.

Users with hearing disabilities rely on subtitles and closed captioning to fill in the audio portions of the video. While you can use an automatic caption generator in a pinch, these are far from foolproof and your captions would benefit more from a review by human eyes. Using captions is also a great idea because most people who encounter your video on social media will watch it without sound.

Users with sight disabilities may not be able to enjoy your videos to the fullest extent, but they can still get something out of it if you include a transcript. A screen reader can narrate a transcript with no difficulty, and you get the added bonus to your SEO by including a block of text full of keywords.

Conclusion: Are you ready for your close up?

Are you ready to make your marketing video and enter the frontier of video marketing? Just stick to the tips in this guide and you’ll be able to market your videos like the pro you are.

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