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The 3 Key Ingredients of Video Storytelling

Decades ago, I was riding my bike on a warm summer afternoon, doing as most young kids do: living the dream with zero worries. Helmet-free, my long locks were flowing in the wind, as I zoomed around my Southern California neighborhood.

Much of this carefree lifestyle has carried over into my adult years. However, on this day in particular, my mother successfully got through to me and changed my behavior by telling a simple story.

She stopped me in my tracks and told me about a football player in a neighboring town who went on a bike ride without wearing a helmet, had a horrific crash, and became paralyzed. She showed me a picture of the kid, and I was instantly convinced that helmets were necessary.

Before this day, I thought helmets were for dorks—not extreme athletes (loosely defined) like myself. But in this situation, my mother connected her claim to a story, and this motivated me to change my thinking and behavior.

I may not have realized it at the time, but this experience did more than just encourage me to embrace safe bike-riding habits; it opened my eyes to what would later become my career. Now, 20 years later, I’m a visual storyteller who utilizes the power of video to help brands communicate and connect to customers, prospects, and key personnel. Every single day, I see how stories profoundly impact how humans assess and react to the world around them.

Regardless of how authoritative the person making a claim is — even if it is our mum — stories add a key element of authenticity to marketing videos. A majority of humans are visual learners, and our brains love stories. Theoretically, this can be traced to prehistoric times when people communicated via pictographs and told stories around campfires.

Back when television was essentially the sole broadcaster of video marketing, throwing your logo on any ol’ commercial that featured a celebrity worked wonderfully. However, now that content bombards consumers from all angles, their brains have evolved into being more selective about what they pay attention to.

Today, if you’re not telling a story that captivates your audience, you simply won’t be heard.

Video storytelling is most effective when the story being told is relevant to the brand, entices viewers to change their behavior, and motivates them to buy a product or service. Hitting this trifecta is no easy task, but with the right strategy, video can ultimately become your most powerful marketing medium.

Who ever thought a soap company could create a campaign that revolutionized the way women — and, really, the entire world — defined “beauty”? When done right, one short digital clip can go viral and motivate viewers across the globe to change their outlooks and behavior.

Let Your Story Do the Talking

Every brand story must include three key ingredients:

#1. Empathy

It’s crucial to show you know more about your target audience than surface-level demographic data. Create an all-encompassing persona of your consumers by identifying what they enjoy doing in their spare time, what their life goals are, and more. The more information you discover about your audience, the easier it will be to communicate with them in terms that matter.

Keep in mind that a great story should be more than just great copy. Jewelry brand TOUS, for example, created a short film that told a love story without using a single spoken word. The brand knows that its fashion-forward consumers are infatuated with love stories — and when it comes to love, actions speak louder than words.

#2. Relevancy

What’s the point of spending marketing dollars on a video that has no tie-in to who you are or what you do? Creating a work-of-art video that tells an inaccurate or irrelevant story will end up doing nothing for your brand’s bottom line.

Your story should link the consumer persona you develop with your brand’s purpose, and this Under Armour video strikes this balance beautifully. The brand used Michael Phelps — a world-class athlete — to tell a story that anyone who’s ever played a sport can relate to: “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.” This is exactly what the brand stands for, and consumers reacted in droves with thousands of shares, millions of impressions, and I’m sure a couple of dollars’ worth of purchases.

#3. Reality

In a world where Yelp and Amazon reviews are taken as gospel, don’t underestimate the power of creating stories that revolve around heartfelt testimonials from real-life customers. When done right, these videos come across as infinitely more authentic than those that feature company leaders or high-priced celebrities.

A couple of years ago, Sprint created a campaign that assigned real-life faces to its product. In each video, actual consumers explain how they use their phones and why they love them — adding key elements of authenticity and relatability to the story being told.

Stories are what add substance to your claims, ingrain your purpose and identity into consumers’ brains, and ultimately persuade them to hop aboard your train. If you focus on creating authentic, relevant stories in your video content, your audience will happily grab a helmet before hitting the trail.

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