Corporate videos: No-one cares about your brand, and other home truths

In my many years of experience as a content writer, script creator and video fanatic, I’ve learned a thing or two about the way that corporate videos function. That’s not to say that I’m an expert: the writer in me just smugly smirks when I see an out-of-place apostrophe, or Americanised spelling; scripting can be tough, but the speaker does the real hard work; the video obsession is simply because I’m still under 30 and everyone else my age is that way, unless they’ve suffered some form of blunt force trauma.

I am, however, a daily consumer of digital marketing efforts, and when you regularly have to watch videos – as part of a job, a lunch break, a social gathering, or even with your trousers firmly undropped in the toilet just to escape your riotous children and get a bit of peace and quiet because daddy needs some time to himself kids – you pick up a lot.

As you’ll have undoubtedly found yourself, the meteoric popularity of moving visuals (.gif, WebM, mobile video or full-blown HD experience) has resulted in a marked rise in corporate video attempts. And I do mean attempts.

Despite it being seemingly eons ago since the days of VHS safety demonstrations in your first day at a box-packing factory – “don’t stand on that chair, Margaret! It’s got wheels!” etc – many companies still seem to cling on to the things that made those videos terrible, not exciting (disappointing spoiler alert: Margaret gets caught by a colleague).

Let’s take a look at what they’re doing wrong. As with football management, proofreading and online gaming, you’ll never hear what you do right in a video – just what you do wrong.

Branding everything.

You’re a company that’s done something good for the public, like a how-to guide. You’ve uploaded it to your channel and promoted it via your social channels, which have your brand name there. Aside from a logo at the end (and briefly at the start, perhaps), why plaster yourself over more?

To give your video the corporate “endorsement” of your colours, logo, catchphrases and so on, you’re reminding an audience of your existence when they already knew about you from before pressing play. People aren’t stupid, and will be less likely to share it. The people who are, and didn’t pick up on your brand, probably aren’t your audience.

Taking time to make a point.

Have you been on the internet? According to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, it’s steadily giving us a digital form of ADHD – 55% in every two billion page views last under 15 seconds, so you’ve got to be quick with what you want. So with how-to guides, don’t talk about how you love whatever it is you’re how-toing. If it’s an unboxing, have the box in front of the camera from pressing record.

I’m also very aware I took five paragraphs before making my first point, but you’re here now, and I appreciate your commitment.

Lacking a sense of humour.

It’s not always right to do it, but there’s usually a way to be a little more light-hearted. Let’s take a master class from Mick Humphries who, despite poor grammar, hammered together a small-budget 30-second clip for his construction industry vehicle training company. Sounds as boring as it can get from the outset, but all he needed was a jingle, a few mates, and some classic charades. The Australian accent helped – even if the guy who did the “forklift” action didn’t. Target audience nailed, message communicated, all information laid out.

Sacrificing creativity due to a lack of brand relevance.

This goes against a lot of rules laid out across the internet among expert marketers, but sometimes you have to draw the line. Too many companies don’t do something different because they can’t see the relevance of the endeavour to their brand.

Not to sound like a broken record, but State Farm’s involvement in the video for OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass was nothing more than money and manual labour – but it worked. It wasn’t uploaded by State Farm, either.

The company knew that even if they weren’t the brains behind the operation, what they were creating was so good that they could feasibly bolt on their message after nearly four minutes of video. Sure, the truck at the beginning has a State Farm logo, but even I didn’t realise that until I re-watched it now, five years since I first saw it. 47 million views says success to me.

Only consulting other people in the business for feedback.

This last point may seem like a no-brainer from the outset, but I honestly believe it happens more often than not. If it’s an in-house production, put it in front of people who don’t work for the company. Too many companies think they’re funny, cool, intelligent and so forth, but only by their internal sense of humour, style and corporate standards. Get someone (ideally many people) far removed from your company culture to review what you’re producing, and ask for brutal feedback. It may just save your video.

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