There is no shortage of people out there telling us that marketing today is all about storytelling, and that if you want people to connect with your brand, you need to tell stories that they can relate to. Of course, this is easier said than done, so in this post I wanted to introduce you to some ways of determining what story you should tell.
When you first consider making videos about your product, the natural tendency is to think about making videos that revolve around the product itself - demonstrating its features and benefits. This is our connection to traditional sales-focused advertising talking.
Here is a Fairy Liquid advert that anyone based in the UK of 30+ years should remember. It is a good example of a product-focused advert that clearly shows some awareness of the importance of ‘story’ and emotional connection – but hasn’t quite got the guts to let go of the blatant product placement yet.
The following example is a modern take on a product demonstration style video. BlendTec have added some serious entertainment value to what could potentially be a very standard approach to product demos:
You will see that this video has had nearly 17 million views (at time of writing). It is clever because it is funny but also manages to say something about the power of the product which of course is the key USP for a blender. An added extra, in terms of strategy, is that by associating with big brands and popular products (in this case the Apple iPad), it will increase interest in the video and therefore the view count.
Another approach to combining engaging stories with your product is to tell a story about the product itself, or to make your product a significant part of a story that is about something else. To give you an idea of how this can work, here are some of our favourite examples:
In this online video ad, Innocent links the purchasing of their smoothies to a charitable cause. The video demonstrates the journey that ‘Mark’s’ money will go on – a primary link in the ‘chain of good’. There are stories within the wider story and we meet a family who have benefited from the fact that you (or Mark in this case) have bought a smoothie.
This short film tells the story of a story of a farmer who makes a mistake by turning his family farm into a factory. He realises his error and goes ‘back to the start’ by opting for a more sustainable model. It is a beautifully animated piece with a soundtrack of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay. Chipotle appear near the end (approx. 01:57); their logo is on the delivery truck that arrives to collect some of the produce from the sustainable farm. Subtle.
This video can be seen on the Kickstarter page that was set up to raise funds for the development of this product. Despite it being very much a product explainer video, it also has some vital storytelling elements that have undoubtedly contributed to the massive success of the Stout Kickstarter campaign. They place the bottle opener into the American lifestyle – the American dream. In fact, this video almost makes you feel that the bottle opener was present at significant events in your past – even though it didn’t exist!
Each of these videos are very different, but all succeed in placing their product in a wider story, which offers the audience a chance to relate to the product and the impact it could have on them – or how it is in line with their own personal values.
This approach to storytelling is a lot braver than any other. But when you get it right, it can be extremely powerful. When we say ‘theme’ here, we are using the term to encompass very broad approaches – anything from ‘sport’ to ‘love’.
How you establish these themes is completely up to you. They may come to you naturally – because they are obvious to your business. It may be that it is a bit more complicated and difficult to pin down one in particular.
Our advice at this stage is to think about who your audience is. Create customer profiles (if you don’t have them already) and thought-shower the values that you would associate with those people. In short, what is important to them?
One company that does this really well is Guinness. After watching a video like the one below, who wouldn’t want to be associated with this brand? Fair enough, the Guinness itself does make an appearance at the end of the video, but it certainly isn’t the driving force. The driving force is the emotion behind the idea that “the choices we make, reveal the true nature of our character”. So in other words – ‘good’ men choose Guinness.
If you connect your brand or product to a theme successfully, it may be worth considering creating a series of video along the same theme.
Two finer examples of video series’ are the Intel "Look Inside" series and also the Expedia ‘Find Yours’ series.
The Look Inside series from Intel simply associates Intel with science and technology that has changed lives. Each video tells a story that is emotionally powerful. The Jack Andraka example above is brilliant. It tells the story of a 15-year-old who lost his uncle to pancreatic cancer and went on to invent an early detection method for cancer. He won the Grand Prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2012.
The Find Yours videos from Expedia are along the theme that ‘every trip is unique’. Each video therefore tells a unique story. The stories usually relate to people being united or reunited under different circumstances. The example above is about a father who travels to his daughter’s wedding, after accepting that her relationship is with another woman.
If you would like to take these ideas a step further, here are some suggested questions to help you get started.
What all of the examples in this post show, is that it doesn’t matter what your business does, there will be a way to find a story, it's a question of devising the best angle for storytelling.
By Neil Davidson
Neil Davidson is the Founder of MWP Digital Media, a leading Corporate Video Production Company. He also runs My Web Presenters who specialise in creating video spokesperson videos. They work with businesses of all sizes to create and market compelling and emotive videos that get specific and clear results. If you would like to have a conversation about how to create video for the web then please contact Neil here.
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