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Short Marketing Videos – It’s all about the Story

storytelling Everybody loves a good story.  Research has shown that memorable storytelling is one of the key factors with a video’s likability.  Face it, with so many choices online, your video will probably only be watched if people really want to watch it.

When people first begin learning how to make video, they often concentrate on the technical basics and learning how to operate the equipment.  Certainly one needs to learn those things to be a successful video producer, but storytelling is truly the essence of video production.  It is usually the last thing people grasp about video making, but honestly it is the most important.

If you want your short marketing videos to stand out from the crowd and attract viewers online, you need to add time-tested storytelling elements that engage the viewer on an emotional level.

Canon vixia hf g20 video camera

SO HOW DO YOU TELL A STORY WITH VIDEO?

If you’re new to video making, how to tell a good story can be a bit mystifying.  My best advice is to read posts like this one to learn about the basics of visual storytelling.

Then, whenever you watch any movie TV or commercial, analyze and evaluate the caliber of storytelling.  Doing this will help you begin to recognize the various video storytelling elements that work well.

Watching videos created by others makes it is easier to be objective and evaluate the techniques and methods that are usually present no matter what exact story you are trying to tell.

EXAMPLES OF QUALITY VIDEO STORY TELLING

A successful short marketing video is all about clever storytelling. That is the secret sauce as far as we are concerned.  One of our mantras is that people will give you a minute, but you better make it worth their while because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

boy_-_happy_3So many short productions focus on “what do we want our target audience to know.” And though this is certainly important, often times what is left out is “what do we want our target audience to feel.” Even in a one minute short I cannot emphasize how important this element is. Your audience wants to connect with the video and you certainly improve the odds of your video resonating if they can relate to the story unfolding before them, through an emotional connection, not a statistical data dump.

Volumes have been written about effective storytelling and what makes a good story work, so I won’t  pretend to shed ground-breaking light on the subject. But one book I just finished reading that outlines it eloquently is “Tell To Win,” by Hollywood media icon Peter Guber.  (Linked to at the bottom of the post)

In his book, Peter outlines four storytelling principles that will help transport your audience emotionally. He focuses on the art of the oral story but I believe that these principles work for all quality storytelling, including the moving picture.

Paraphrased:

  • 1) Include central character(s) with whom your audience can identify
  • 2) Add a dramatic element to hold the audience’s attention
  • 3) Include an ahha moment where your audience “gets it,”
  • 4) Include a “me-to-we” connection where an interest , goal, or problem is shared between you and your audience

This connection ignites the audience’s empathy, secures their trust in the teller, and guarantees their interest in the call to action.

Animated shorts are particularly fun to do because they lend themselves nicely to implementing these four principles, which is clear in some of the work our animators have done.

EXAMPLE #1

Take this animation for 5th Finger as an example: 1) Here we have two characters that the audience can identify with, Darryl and Nicky. 2) The dramatic element of “overcoming the problem of poor website experiences on smartphones” is paramount. 3) The “ahha” moment comes in at 40 seconds with 5th finger to the rescue! 4) The “me-to-we” connection is apparent throughout the entire piece as the viewer can certainly empathize with the problems Darryl and Nicky face.

EXAMPLE #2

In the VisaHQ animation Guber’s principles are again applied. Watch the video and see if you can identify them:

Unlike a large part of the industry, we do not call these animations “explainer videos.”

Though it is true that one of our primary objectives is to educate our video audience about what it is our client’s do, who wants to be “explained” to?

periodic table

For me that conjures up thoughts of sitting in my 3rd period high school science class while my teacher explains the Periodic Table. No thanks! What we want to do is share a company’s unique value proposition through the art of emotional storytelling. Something we do on both the animations and live-action pieces.

EXAMPLE #3

For this Hakone Gardens live-action short below, shot in 2.35:1 cinematic widescreen, our writers worked hard to emphasize the Hakone experience and the sense of peace and serenity that one feels when visiting the gardens.

Example #4

In the “Veeple Your People” piece we wanted the audience to feel the joy and laughter of friends connecting with one another as they engage with each other and the product.

We certainly are not the only short-form video production agency where we focus on true storytelling principles and the emotional connection. There are many companies doing it very well and our hats are off to them. And of course television commercial producers have been doing it for years. But there is an art to it. A science if you will that takes time to hone.

We certainly have not arrived but we get better every day. Actually, I am not sure one ever does “arrive.”

The joy of visual storytelling is that it continues to evolve and we will always be lifetime students of the “emotional sell,” inspired by the famous quote from Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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