What is audience-first content?

16th January 2018

written by George Hughes

In today’s digital world, brands can now reach their customers with dozens of touch points from Google and Youtube to Facebook and Instagram. But there’s also a problem; with the proliferation of digital marketing, people are starting to become desensitised to online adverts – they’ve learnt how to tune out the digital ad noise.

 

As we move into the next decade of the 21st century, brands will have to work far harder to connect with their “audiences”. Conventional advertising won’t be enough. They will need to create educational, entertaining or informative content that puts their “audience-first” – putting the customer’s needs before the brand. Not only will this help them to compete for their customer’s attention, but it will also enable them to create a more meaningful relationship with their customers.

 

For consumers, this “Audience-First” video content will compete for their attention with TV programming and other forms of entertainment. The only difference is that the video content they love to watch online, will be powered by brands. For the Brands, the video content they provide will enable them to create a connection to their market and loyalty beyond anything they had experienced before.

 

A lot of major brands like Volvo, Patagonia and Red Bull already have Youtube channels dedicated to audience-first content. These include informative series about interesting people, places or topics that they know their audience will enjoy watching. Volvo run a documentary series called “Human Made Stories” looking at amazing people doing incredible things. Red Bull’s focus is on extreme sports; people snowboarding, mountain biking or surfing, where the only mention of Red Bull is a logo in the corner. And Patagonia do a series called  “Workwear” looking at craftspeople and workers doing interesting jobs. It’s not heavily branded and it’s video content that normal people love to watch.

 

So how do you get started with audience-first video content and how can you incorporate it into your own marketing strategy?

 

It’s firstly important to understand your demographic – their interests, their dislikes, their habits and their activities. You need to understand what sort of video content will resonate with them. It’s clear that a 25-year-old women in London may not enjoy watching the same content as a 50-year-old man in Leeds, unless they both share similar interests and passions. Once you’ve found a common thread to your customers, try to come up with ideas for video content that will resonate with them.

 

Social media platforms offer great tools to connect with customers and find out what they are interested by. Using Instagram stories you can directly ask your audience questions. By using “polls” or “ask me anything” tools, you can find out first hand what your audiences are interested in. So if you want inspiration for your first Youtube series then post the question on Instagram.

 

Audience-first content doesn’t have to be a massive production of documentaries or nation engaging stunts. It just has to be content that is made for your audience, whether that’s “how to videos”, interviews with experts, or recipe videos. At its core, Audience-first content should not be too heavily branded or advertorial. You need to make your audience forget there is any kind of branded message.

 

For more information on Audience-First content please feel free to give us a call or drop us an email. We always encourage our clients to explore audience-first content as we see this as the future focus for brands.

 

Regardless of the type of client, industry or budget, we see the same pattern of mistakes emerging when brands decide to commission a video.

 

  1. Going with the cheapest quote.

 

When it comes to commissioning video for your business, the landscape for finding a video specialist is a minefield, littered with all kinds of video production providers; from marketing agencies to video production companies and freelance videographers.

When navigating your path to the right video producer, there is often a temptation to go for the cheapest solution.  In fact, your mate Dave is pretty handy with his Canon DSLR and filmed your sister’s wedding last year. And Sam from Accounts has a brother who’s graduated from film school and set himself up as a videographer. He’s willing to create your video for free. But before you go down the tempting route of finding someone cheap, consider this; what is the true cost of working with an inexperienced video producer?

 

Before we answer that question, let me ask another one… If you’d bought a plot of land and were about to build your family’s dream home who would you hire? Would it be a professional architect with a solid reputation, proven track record, references and access to the best builders, carpenters and plumbers? Or would you hire your next door neighbour’s son who’s pretty handy with a hammer and did their loft conversion last year?

 

When you hire an inexperienced videographer with no track record, you might save yourself some money on paper, but you’ll end up paying the price 10 fold in the long run. There is the chance that you’ll get lucky as there are some amazingly talented freelancers out there, but it’s a gamble you should be willing to risk losing. Inexperience can result in a whole host of problems from being given a poor quality video that can cause brand damage to a lack of professionalism, leading to an unreliable service and unexpected costs.

But beyond those issues, the biggest problem our clients have reported from hiring inexperienced videographers is the time strain and stress caused by them having to micromanage the project. As soon as the cracks start to appear in a video production, you will be sucked into trying to problem solve and sort out the mistakes.  

 

 

  1. Thinking of the video company as “technicians” and driving the creative from in-house.

 

There’s often a perception that videography is like photography – you need a photographer for a shoot, you just hire them to take photos. So surely a videographer is the same? But in reality the two are very, very different.

When you need product photos, portraits, fashion images or pictures of an event, you hire a photographer for the day on a flat rate with a potential cost for processing. But the minute you decide to create video of the same things, it becomes more complicated. And here’s why…

 

A photographer can rely on a simple moment in time, captured in a single image that tells a story. But for a videographer, that story has to be told through a series of video clips. And for a proper story to be told through video, the videographer needs to plan the shoot before hand and build a narrative. Unlike a photographer, the videographer also has to record sound from the environment they are filming in and then potentially add more sound to their video in terms of music or sound effects.

All this means that the video they create needs to be edited and that takes far longer than it takes to film. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For any production that’s more complicated, the videographer cannot work alone. Other players will need to be enlisted from producers, directors and script-writers to sound operators, lighting technicians, editors and motion graphics specialists.

 

Sometimes, brands and agencies believe that they can cook up an idea for a video in the same way they might plan a photo shoot, then hire a videographer to come and film the concept they’ve created. They are then surprised when at best it doesn’t turn out the way they expected and at worst is a complete shambles. Video production is more than just the videographer shooting the footage, it’s a team effort from the producers in pre-production using their expertise to create the best concepts and storyboards through to the specialist post-production team who add the bells and whistles to the finished product.

 

 

  1. Not having a clear budget.

 

The most common experience we have when speaking to prospects is that they won’t be transparent about budget. Sometimes they say they don’t know what their budget is, other times they are just evasive and want to find out how we charge and what our “rates” are. Unfortunately, whilst this may seem like a chicken and egg exercise, it actually isn’t. Without a basic steer on budget, any production company worth their salt cannot provide a realistic quote.

 

Think of the person offering the quote as the project manager of a house build. If you put that individual on a patch of land and say “I want to build a house here and I want it to have 5 rooms – how much will it cost?”, there is absolutely no conceivable way that the project manager can offer you a realistic quote. If they do offer you a “competitive” quote then you can bet anything that the final price will be far higher than the quote. Without knowing the scale of the project, the materials you want to build in and the finish on the inside, how can that Project Manager accurately quote?

 

It’s the same in video production, we need to know how long the video needs to be, what level of expertise the camera operator and equipment should be, whether you need a soundman, lighting, added equipment, how long the edit will take and whether you want added elements like graphics. It’s a complex build that is tailored to the available budget.

 

  1. Not having a clear objective for the video.

 

We see time and time again where companies decide they want to create video but they don’t think about their objectives or what outcome they want it. Without a clear strategy going in to creating video content, you may as well flush your money down the toilet.

The first thing we always do when talking to our clients about creating video is to identify the overall objective and who they want this video to be seen by. It’s the most important factor and informs everything we do. Is this B2B or B2C? What demographics are we targeting? How will the video be shared? What is the objective of this video? Sales? Brand image? Production explanation? All these questions need to be answered before we can come up with creative concepts for the video. For example, if the video has ad spend behind it and is destined for Facebook pay-per-click then it needs to be very short and punchy but if we are relying on organic shares then we’ve got to create a strong hook so people engage with it. Conversely, if this video is B2B and will be sent out via email, then perhaps we can assume a pre-existing level of knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter in your audience, so we can have a longer video with more depth to it. By having clear KPIs and understanding of the core objective for the video you will get far more out of it than just creating video for video’s sake.

 

  1. Not aligning video to brand purpose.

 

Video should always be seen as an extension of your brand identity. When done correctly, it will feel like a seamless transition from your print materials, web site and brand image through to video. This is done through the style, tone, fonts, imagery and colour. Too often, companies will use video inconsistently, putting up a series of videos that have nothing connecting them. Or worse, they will post videos to their social feed that are amateur or home made. A third of people who watched a poor quality video had a negative perception of that brand. Video should always be integrated into a company’s marketing strategy from the outset and even if it’s only used sparingly, it should reflect the quality of the brand. Lack of budget should not be used as an excuse for putting poor quality video out into the public domain. With careful planning and a reliable video production company, most budgets can be stretched to create video content that will have a high impact in the right way. For example, a single day’s filming could be done in a way that generates large volumes of material that can be recycled into a series of short videos for your social media feed. By setting a style for the look of the videos from filming techniques to motion graphics, larger volumes of content can be generated for a fraction of the cost.

 

  1. Not getting on the front foot with a good video partner.

 

All companies with a marketing strategy can benefit from using video and most of them know that. But we often see that unless there is an immediate need for video, most people don’t bother to find themselves a video production partner. The result is that when they finally realise they need to commission some video work, they are already on the back foot. The deadline looms faster than they thought and they are forced to hire the first company they find even though they may not be the best. This can lead to paying above the odds for an inferior product.

There are a lot of benefits to partnering with a video production company for future opportunities. We have a few companies we work with on a rolling basis and it brings huge benefits to them. Firstly, we’re always on the phone to discuss any video ideas they have and to brainstorm concepts with them as well as budgets. This can help with internal marketing briefs they are putting together or in the case of agencies, with pitches to clients. Because a relationship is in place, there is a transparency to pricing and budgets that installs a sense of trust in all the players. Everyone values the relationship and wants it to continue so no one is going to take advantage of the other. And finally, its in the vested interests of the video production company to keep the relationship going so they will always try to deliver above expectations. In this way, we’ve helped some of our clients to win big contracts with some major brands and we’ve helped others to put a lasting content strategy in place that maximised their yearly marketing budget.

 

mistakes commissioning video

 

George Hughes set up Small Films with a simple ambition – to create brilliant films for brilliant people. Over the past 14 years he’s learnt his craft in the television industry working in the UK and USA as a Producer / Director and camera operator making hundreds of hours of high profile series for major broadcasters including the BBC and Discovery Channel. From hard-hitting documentaries about the mafia to light-hearted cooking shows with high-profile chefs, he has worked with a wide range of budgets, briefs and subject matters and is excited at transferring this experience into the production of branded content. George and his team are passionate about partnering with like-minded people and organisations to create amazing films. For more information, or a chat about commissioning video content, contact us here.

 

When it comes to creating video content for a brand or small business, viral video is the holy grail. A piece of content that so connects with audiences and captures the imagination that it is voluntarily shared repeatedly across the internet – what could be better for a brand seeking maximum exposure? The common misconception with viral video is that it is always home-made, amateur or that it spreads somehow accidentally. Though this was true in the early days (and can sometimes still be the case today), marketers quickly realised how powerful viral video can be and began to harness that power. In fact, today, 9 out of 10 of the top viral videos have been created professionally.  It’s a modern marketing fact that viral video can work brilliantly for raising brand awareness fast – but how can you deliberately ‘make’ a viral video?

Although there are no guarantees when it comes to making a video go viral, there are certain characteristics shared by all viral videos. If you want your video to be compellingly shareable, these are the top priorities in terms of content and style:

 

 

Harness the element of surprise. All viral videos have something unexpected about them that marks them out as different from their competitors. Don’t follow the rest, subvert an idea that immediately piques the viewer’s interest. Think of the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ Australian public safety film that was an internet sensation a few years ago. Using cute animated characters and a funny, maddeningly catchy song, Dumb Ways To Die turned the idea of the serious, educational public information broadcast on its head, and heralded a new era of naïve style animation.  Catchy music can also help – although be aware that many viewers (especially mobile users) will watch video with the sound off.

 

 

Include humour. Not all viral videos are funny – but many contain humour or irony. Humans are social animals and laughter is eminently shareable. If you can include humour – do. But only if this authentically reflects something about your brand identity. Have a look at this very amusing (yet highly informative) video for toilet training seat ‘Squatty Potty’.

 

 

Make your content value-adding. Although it sometimes seems like we are all just pointlessly sharing videos of cats falling off shelves and pandas sneezing, the brand films that go viral often contain an important element of useful information. Michael Dubin, former CEO of the Dollar Shave Club, sold his cheap razor subscription business for 1 billion dollars, five years after launching with a brilliant viral video. Combining charismatic humour with the unexpected, the video entertainingly demonstrated why no-one should spend more than a dollar a month on disposable razors. In this case, entertainment + value-adding content resulted in ultimate shareability.

 

 

Don’t be derivative. If you see a funny video that’s gone viral, don’t try to do your own version – unless you can make it genuinely quirky and captivating in its own right. There are many derivative versions of Dollar Shave club that don’t work, but also a very clever antidote version, ‘The Dollar Beard Club’ which promotes a subscription service for oil and products for men with beards.

 

 

Use the power of emotion. Humans take action based on how they feel. Successful viral videos generate strong emotions in people – be they joyful, empathetic, or sad. A moving charity video for example can prompt people to take direct action and donate or share (the Second a Day video for Save the Children is an amazingly affecting example of this).

 

 

Unless your brand requires an empathetic response from your audience however, research shows that it is best to concentrate on generating positive emotions. The feel-good factor can play a large part in making your video shareable. For best results, use your video to tell an emotionally uplifting story simply, quickly and arrestingly, using humour and surprise. The big budget Nike football ‘The Switch’ ad brilliantly demonstrates this.

 

 

Piggyback a cultural trend. Make it easier for yourself by basing your video on something that is already being widely shared and searched. If people are currently responding to prank videos and it fits with your brand, have a think about incorporating that. If the gadget of the moment is a VR set or everyone is talking about Star Wars – can you somehow use one of those themes in your video? It may well not be appropriate for many brands, but it’s worth thinking about popular content themes as a way of leveraging more social shares. Social Media scheduling tool Hootsuite cleverly made a Social Media themed version of the Game of Thrones title sequence to piggyback on the popularity of that show.

 

 

Keep it short. We often look at Social Media in short bursts, during breaks, scrolling through quickly and stopping briefly on content that momentarily captures our interest. Video is naturally more captivating than other forms of content, but in order to go viral, your video needs to grab the viewer’s attention in those first few scrolling seconds. Dispense with rambling intros and product shots and get straight to the point. Sustain that attention by being fresh, pithy and quirky. 15 seconds to 1 minute is the optimum length for a viral video. Turkish chef ‘Saltbae’ produced a compelling 30 second video that achieved 7 million views and spawned thousands of copycat memes (not to mention football goal celebrations).

 

 

Use influencers and paid promotion. Give your video a head start by pushing it heavily on social channels in the initial stages. The best way to do this is by getting ‘influencers’ with a large number of followers to share your video to their audiences. Think about influencers who are relevant to your brand or product. Often ‘micro-influencers’ might better suit your promotion – they have smaller follower numbers than the top influencers but their followings are more focused and niche so you will have a better chance of reaching an audience who will be interested in and engaged by your video. You might even think about featuring or interviewing an influencer in your video. They will share it on their channels and you will have access to their followers. Some influencers will share your content for free and others will have a payment structure in place for various levels and types of promotion. Whisky distillery Lagavulin did this to great effect with Ron Swanson.

Likewise, think about paying to promote your story by advertising on Social Media when you launch it. Once it gains a certain number of followers and shares, then a snowball effect will lead to far greater (organic) engagement and you can cut back on the paid promotion.

 

 

Professional video production. As we learned earlier, the majority of viral videos are professionally made. Viral video is highly sought after for a reason – it’s incredibly valuable to a brand, and is pretty hard to achieve. If you want your brand video to go viral deliberately, it will usually need an exceptional creative concept, a great script and good production values – not to mention a strategic approach to promotion. Have a go by all means, but if you’d like to have a chat about professionally producing a viral video and have a look at our previous viral work, please do get in touch: info@smallfilms.com

 

Small Films are video content specialists. By combining strategic minds with creative flair we create powerful stories with video that deeply resonate with audiences, supporting our clients to achieve their ambitions in growing their organisation, brand or campaign

 

 

 

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