It’s interesting to think about how the sci-fi cinema of yesteryear always includes futuristic video content amongst hoverboards, commercial space travel, androids, and other massive technological developments from The World of Tomorrow ®. 2001: A Space Odyssey features an early version of Skype, Blade Runner’s colossal billboard movies contribute to the film’s unique feel, and Star Wars is chock full of holograms.
Today, we don’t have hoverboards or robot butlers, and you have to have more cash than everyone to go to space – but where video was concerned, these classics were bang on the money (though Star Wars didn’t predict that holograms would mostly be used to bring back deceased rappers).
This type of content is becoming dominant in the popular consciousness, and where sales and marketing is concerned, it’s becoming essential. Done correctly, it can make you and your business far more powerful and influential – but it’s really hard to do correctly.
Over the last few years, my company has made thousands of videos: from explainer animations for startups to TV ads for huge brands. Here’s what we’d recommend to any company that hasn’t commissioned this kind of content before.
1. Set achievable goals
We’ve seen video content generate hundreds of thousands of leads and raise substantial amounts of funding for companies of all shapes and sizes. We’ve also seen it do absolutely nothing.
This usually happens when a key decision-maker sets about commissioning filmed or animated content without any real notion of what they want it to do. If you have £20k left in the marketing budget, you’d be better off burning it than making a pointless video – you’ll be warm, if nothing else.
Occasionally, a client will have objectives, but they’re muddled or unreasonable: “I want a viral video” being a classic of the genre. There is likely no secret alchemical formula behind “Gangnam Style” or “Numa Numa”, but if there is, it’s not something easily applied to a two minute animation about your amazing company culture.
What do you want your target audience to do after viewing your video? Fill out a form? Buy lots of stuff? Share it with their friends? Work it out, print it out, and nail it to the wall like the 95 Theses.
You might not need a video at all, but if you do, you’ll need a clear and reasonable goal to work towards. “I want a pet hippo” is not a good reason to bring one back to your one-bed flat, and “I want a video” is not a good reason to make a video.
2. Manage your HiPPOs
Speaking of hippos, an unfortunate part of the production process is the black hole of creative stultification and awkwardness that is the Highly Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO), a phenomenon where lower-paid employees defer to the putative wisdom of the well-compensated on the basis that they get more cash, and are therefore smarter and more capable than everyone else. It’s just as disastrous as having your video discussed and overanalysed and generally committee’d to death, but in a whole different way.
Now, executives are often paid a lot of money for good reason. They have, from time to time, been known to bring even more money into the business. But that doesn’t mean they know anything about making a video, or that they know what will stick in the minds of your target audience.
Sometimes they gently need to be reminded that hand-drawn animations aren’t cool anymore, that they probably shouldn’t deliver the narration themselves (no matter how sonorous their voice), and that this isn’t really their field of expertise – though you probably want to avoid the word 'hippo' when you do.
3. Seek professional help
If you want professional-quality video, you’ll want to work with professionals.
When it comes to things like scriptwriting, for example, your input is essential – but by consulting with a production house (even if they don’t have in-house writers), you’ll have a much better idea of what can be realistically translated to the screen.
They’ll also be able to advise on ways to achieve your ultimate objective. Will it be animated or live-action? Will it be interactive? Will there be a cool time lapse? An infographic? These are decisions that require outside counsel.
But a video agency – or a worthwhile one, anyway – will also be able to source equipment and crew from their network of professional contacts. They’ll take care of the post-production and editing. They’ll push those HiPPOs right back into the river.
These aren’t the only things to consider, of course: video content requires a lot of work. When it’s half-baked, it’s unlikely to yield great results. When it’s undertaken with the proper investment of time, energy, and strategy, it can work major sales and marketing miracles.