Many of my office hours are spent trawling through and assessing branded online video content. In no other medium is the divide between compelling and fruitless more pronounced.
Why is this? There’s no question that we’re visual creatures. With over half of our brains being directly devoted to visual processing and with the internet generation’s voracious appetite for video - demonstrated in the eight decades of content being uploaded to YouTube every day - one would expect video marketing efforts to go down a storm.
In the vast majority of unsuccessful cases, it is a combination of misjudged messaging and the general feeling evoked by the video. With our heightened perception for this medium, getting the emotional pitch of your branded videos correct is absolutely essential.
The power of emotion
In 2009, a man named Rob Walker bought 200 ‘insignificant objects’ from eBay. This veritable jumble sale cost him $129; however, he soon sold the items for a total of $8,000. Walker achieved this impressive markup by asking 200 established authors to compose an emotional background story for each of the items; the stories were then attached to their respective products before sale.
The power of emotions and stories is long-established, from both a psychological point of view and in marketing. Elmer Wheeler’s famous technique “Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!” is known colloquially as 'Sales 101', while Tony Robbins tells us that “people don’t buy products, they buy feelings”.
So, is there any science to back this up?
Counter-intuitively, human decisions are nearly always based on emotion, not logic. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s groundbreaking experimentation on brain-damaged subjects demonstrated that when the emotional section of the brain is impaired, our ability to make decisions is next to non-existent.
Thinking, Fast and Slow, the summary of years of research by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, tells us that people tend to make decisions based on emotion—quickly—and subsequently go back to support that decision rationally.
This emotion-first, logic-second structure to decision-making is certainly something that can inform our marketing efforts.
So how to use this insight to mould the most effective sales funnel?
From emotion to logic: our video marketing funnel
According to Kahneman, top-of-the-funnel efforts should appeal emotionally. From a marketing perspective, it is simply about getting as many eyes on your content as possible—vetting and nurturing starts further down.
While viral videos aren’t right for some brands, a renowned study into internet virality confirms the importance of emotion at the awareness stage. Additionally, we are 22 times more likely to remember information when it’s wrapped up in an emotional story than laid out bare.
Oftentimes, awareness-stage content barely mentions the brand. Sainsbury’s controversial Christmas ad pulled at the heartstrings by revisiting the celebrated football truce in WW1. Whether it was right or wrong to use this incident, it generated unparalleled levels of online conversation and shares for the brand.
Appealing to positivity and self-examination is another common tool for emotionally driven awareness videos, demonstrated beautifully by this heart-wrenching video by Dove.
Most viewers will already be aware of these two companies, but for SMEs and fledgling brands, it’s sensible to wrap up company information within the content in order to improve brand retention. The brilliant and often-cited) Dollar Shave Club video is a shining example of this - hilarious, quirky and somewhat absurd. This awareness video was the primary driver behind their equally absurd growth, which led to the startup being bought for $1bn just four years later.
Middle of the funnel
Once you’ve attracted the attention of your viewers, the middle stage is essentially about proving yourself to those who are showing interest. Using Kahneman’s paradigm, we want to begin appealing to their rational side.
Looking back over my marketing experience, this suggestion rings true. We’ve found that brand videos demonstrating company values and their differences from the competition - all while showing a human face and compassion - are a powerful catalyst at this point.
This video from Medivet isn’t at all salesy but gives us a behind-the-curtain look at some of their practices. It mentions some of their USPs (24-hour services offered and an exclusive training college) without being preachy, and, most importantly, demonstrates how much the staff enjoy being there. It instills trust and confidence in an industry known for being clinical and (often) dispiriting and is exactly the kind of reassurance people are looking for when deciding between options.
Bottom of the funnel
In the final lap to the finish line, it’s our job to ensure the virtual shopping carts of our surviving elite remain bursting to the brim. Kahneman tells us that appealing to logic will give us the best chance.
Again, this stands up to real-world scrutiny. Product videos are the most common type found at this level, and for good reason - ncluding a product video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by up to 80%. A survey by Animoto shows that one in four consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have product videos. Additionally, the many SEO experts out there will know that this will also improve your visibility - indirectly through improved user metrics and directly through video search.
But does video content at this stage have to be clinical and serious? The contrast between this and this (and their respective view counts) gives an indication of the directions you can go. Also, product videos are not the only effective content at this stage. Customer testimonials are powerful hooks to drag customers towards conversion - and usually provide a better opportunity to include emotional nuance.
For example, in this member review for LifeLock, we learn about Jamie’s fears and, thankfully, feelings of security. While here, Tommy Nicholas’s rise to success and financial independence inspires and delights in this story from Codeacademy.
Setting aside the immense engagement received by both videos, these are just two examples of how to inject a bit of life and humanity into practical bottom-of-the-funnel video content.
Keeping emotion in mind
Many of these techniques are known by marketers and salespeople, but they are without question worth bringing to the surface and re-examining every once in a while.
The power of both emotion and logic as forces of persuasion can be illustrated in a hypothetical social context. When someone discovers a new company, they’ll take delight in explaining to others its powerful branding, creative approach to the marketplace and pleasing social values; if, a few weeks later, our subject has bought a product from that brand, they’ll justify that purchase by highlighting its practicality, value and durability.
Legendary adman Dave Trott describes this mental dichotomy as consumers actually tricking themselves. They subconsciously fall in love with an option and then rationalise it superficially with front-of-mind reinforcement. We marketers simply need to be aware of this phenomenon, provide the pieces, and then, for once, we can sit back and let the consumers do the work.