In an AI-driven world, human connections matter more than ever.
Video’s ability to tell stories and resonate emotionally with audiences makes it an ideal format for making those connections. That’s a big reason why B2B marketers frequently use it, according to CMI’s recent B2B research.
But CMI’s latest research into video and visual storytelling tells a more nuanced story. Sixty-seven percent of marketers say video has become more important to the business over the last year. Yet only 7% say they use it to its full potential.
“Video is a top priority for many organizations. But why haven’t budgets for video gone up,” asks Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy advisor. “It’s not that organizations don’t take it seriously. They’re building in-house capabilities for it. But interestingly, they’re not spending the money, time, or effort to produce enough of it, or any of it consistently.”
So, it’s no surprise most marketers say they get average results from the format.
However, some surprises did show up in the survey of 382 marketers conducted in August 2023. You can read the results of the third annual Content Marketing Institute Video & Visual Storytelling Survey. Use this table of contents to go directly to the sections you’re most interested in, or dive in and read it all.
Video use, types, production, and challenges
Video continues to be an important component of the marketing mix: 67% of marketers say video has become more important to their business in the last year. About one-third (32%) say the importance remains the same, while 1% say video is less important.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents use social media videos – the most frequently cited type. More than half say they use video for:
- Branded stories, such as short films, series, and documentaries (61%)
- How-to or explainer topics (59%)
- Interviews with influencers and subject matter experts (54%)
- Case studies, testimonials and customer stories (51%)
- Thought leadership with company leaders (51%).
Less than half of marketers use video for product overviews/demonstrations (45%), stories about their organization/employees (41%), external training videos (24%), livestreaming videos (24%), and other types (4%).
Which types are most effective? Fifty-four percent of marketers say social media videos deliver some of their best results. Fifty-one percent name case studies, testimonials, and customer stories, 48% cite how-to videos, 44% name branded stories, and 41% cite interviews with influencers and subject matter experts.
Where do marketers post videos most often? Seventy-nine percent say they post on YouTube, followed by LinkedIn (76%), Facebook (72%), Instagram (71%), X (38%), TikTok (28%), and other (6%).
Most marketers (69%) produce videos in-house. Twenty-one percent mainly outsource, 8% rely primarily on employee-generated videos, and 2% rely on user- or customer-generated videos.
The time to produce videos is a challenge cited by most respondents (69%). Other widely shared challenges include generating video content consistently (56%) and producing enough video content (52%).
Conversely, fewer marketers see the following as challenges: human resources to produce videos (43%), cost to produce videos (40%), producing high-quality videos (34%), the expertise required to produce videos (31%), and choosing the right distribution channels (14%). Three percent say they don’t face challenges, and 2% picked the other category.
Video AI use: Few marketers use AI to assist with video creation so far
Only 18% of marketers use AI to assist with video creation. However, one in three marketers who don’t use AI for video now plan to do so in the next year. (Thirty-seven percent say they have no plans, while 30% say they’re unsure.)
One marketer explained the value of AI for video creation in their open-ended response: “[It] has the potential to revolutionize the way videos are produced. AI can assist at various stages of video creation, from generating scripts and storyboards to automating the editing process and enhancing visual effects. Importantly, automating certain aspects of video production through AI can potentially reduce costs associated with hiring a large production team.”
Most marketers who answered the open-ended question appeared positive about using AI for video creation. They express interest in using AI as a tool to generate scripts, enhance efficiency, and streamline production processes:
- “Anything that can improve production time without impacting quality is a must-use solution.”
- “We will be incorporating more AI throughout the whole video production process.”
- “I think AI is great for content, so I’m sure there’s room for value for AI for video creation as well.”
- “AI is [a] game-changer for video creation.”
Others expressed concerns and reservations, including worries about AI-generated content appearing inauthentic, ethical considerations, and the need for human involvement in content creation:
- “I wouldn’t be opposed [to AI] for script drafting, but ideation and visuals? No. You miss the human touch.”
- “Responsibility and trust are paramount. I can see using AI to help with script development and the creation of visuals to support a narrative that is edited and overseen by a comms lead. My concern is ensuring that my audience trusts that the subject matter expert/talent is, in fact, the person speaking and that the video has not been manipulated.”
- “I see using AI as a tool for video creation. There will always be a human factor in the creative process. AI creates what you tell it to create. It is not autonomous!”
- “We’re using AI for voiceover and some motion graphics and script writing. Beyond that, our company has guidelines in place for AI usage – against things like AI for people/imagery, etc. AI poses several unique opportunities to produce videos more efficiently; however, I think challenges could arise in terms of ethics and truthfulness.”
Among marketers who use AI, most use it to create video scripts (69%), followed by video editing (34%) and generating videos from existing scripts/text (26%).
Other uses include adding motion graphics (23%), generating new content from existing videos (20%), localization (10%), and other (17%).
Marketers most often cite time savings as a benefit of using AI for video creation, but only 17% say it resulted in higher-quality content. This suggests AI isn’t quite there yet when it comes to delivering the video products marketers want.
Among the other cited benefits are an easier video creation process (59%), cost savings (47%), more content variety (41%), fewer human resources needed (33%), and improved ability to maintain multiple digital channels (19%).
“Using AI for video creation can be a game-changer when it comes to saving time,” says Melissa Francois, content, comms, and social lead for PlayPlay, a video content creation tool provider. “Imagine going from a plain text idea to a full-fledged video within seconds – it’s a marketer’s dream come true.
“Once you’ve got your tool of choice, the fun begins. Take time to learn the ins and outs of the software, experiment with different text prompts, and watch as your ideas come to life in the form of engaging videos. Just remember that you should treat each AI-generated video as a first draft to build from, not the final version. Regardless, using AI will save you time and help you stay agile and creative in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing.”
Audience journey and preferences
As last year’s research showed, marketers most often create videos for the brand awareness stage (48%). Twenty-two percent produce them for the consideration stage, while 15% create for the buying stage and 15% develop videos for post-purchase.
Video’s value in making human connections grew in importance this year – up to 43% from 37% last year.
To achieve that, create videos sharing the stories of real-life people to whom your audience can relate. Grainger’s Melissa Hodai and Bean Porter share how they did with the brand’s Everyday Heroes series in their Content Marketing World 2023 presentation.
“Human focus is what creates connection for us,” Melissa says.
Bean offers questions to answer to create a successful human-focused video:
Forty-three percent of surveyed marketers say video can create a human connection by sharing stories, struggles, and triumphs. One-third (35%) say videos can inform by showcasing products and services, while 20% see video as a help to educate audiences.
But tread cautiously. Only 30% of marketers say their key audience prefers video over other content types. Almost half (45%) say their audience consumes videos but doesn’t seem to prefer them over other content types. One in five marketers say they’re unsure about the audience’s preference, and 5% say their audience prefers other content types to video.
Video effectiveness: Organizations have a long way to go
Only 7% of marketers say their organization uses existing videos to their full potential. Sixty-three percent say not yet, but they’re getting there. But the group saying their organization has a long way to go grew to 30% this year from 22% in 2022.
Only 14% of marketers say the results from videos exceed their expectations (compared with 15% in 2022). Most (70%) say the results meet their expectations, while 16% say they saw below-average results.
What do marketers think they need most to get better results? Sixty percent say they need a video strategy (same as in 2022). Less than half cite other needs:
- More budget (49%)
- More human resources (46%)
- Better distribution (35%)
- Better on-camera talent, including subject matter expert participation (32%)
- Better measurement (30%)
- More training on best practices (28%)
- Better equipment/production, editing tools (20%)
- Better quality videos (20%)
“It’s alarming to see so few marketers reporting above-average results. This, along with CMI’s finding that 60% of marketers say an improved strategy would help, suggests an issue of execution rather than the content medium itself,” says Amy Balliett, author and senior fellow for visual strategy at Material.
“Video, executed properly, can yield amazing results for brands hoping to connect with their customers. But modern audiences are very discerning. For many, their perception of your brand or service will be based entirely on the design quality of your visual content. Audiences are no longer impressed by traditional, live-action video content,” she says.
“If you’re set on live action, avoid using stock video and ensure everything is custom. Add animated overlays and custom transitions to take your content to the next level. Alternatively, move away from live action entirely. Focus on high-quality motion graphics instead.”
Video budgets and spending: Many spend less than $10,000 a year on video creation
Half of the surveyed marketers have knowledge of their organization’s budgets. Of those, two-thirds spend less than $10,000 a year on video creation. Here’s how the budget figures break down:
- Less than $5,000 (36%)
- $5,000 to $9,999 (16%)
- $10,000 to $24,999 (14%)
- $25,000 to $49,999 (7%)
- $50,000 to $74,999 (7%)
- $75,000 to $99,999 (3%)
- $100,000 or more (13%)
Forty percent say their 2023 video budget was more than their 2022 budget, 34% say it stayed the same, 12% saw a drop, and 9% didn’t have a video budget in 2022. Five percent are unsure.
For 2024, 64% expect the budget will increase (27% expect a more than 9% jump, while 37% plan for a 1% to 9% increase). About one-fourth (26%) expect the video budget to stay the same, with 1% expecting a decline of 1% to 9% and 2% expecting a drop of more than 9%. Seven percent are unsure.
Still, 75% of those surveyed say their organization needs to invest more in video. One-fourth (24%) say they invest the right amount, and 1% say they need to invest less.
“This research shows us that, in many cases, marketers don’t feel like they get good results from their videos,” says Tony Gnau, founder and chief storytelling officer of T60 Health. “The reality is many don’t have a plan for their video projects. The video itself is their plan. Wrong! If you want more budget for video, make sure each video or video series has its own plan for success. Share your video production strategy with your company’s decision-makers. Sharing that plan for success will help you get buy-in.”
Action steps: Strategy and story drive video’s real value
Let’s return to CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose for his further take on this year’s findings.
He says content teams need a strategy with video as a core component. Among the strategic actions he proposes:
- Invest in the process – not just the output. Developing an institutional process and expertise for the creation of videos – regardless of whether it’s executed internally or outsourced – contributes to success. If you invest more in the process of developing great content, you have more great content from which you can decide what would make great videos.
- Develop measurement plans. Companies with successful video-creation processes also have clear measurement plans, not just views or downloads. A high-level framework for measurement can help justify spending more time and money on video.
- Use the competency of quality to drive quantity. It seems intuitive, but organizations that start slowly and focus on quality have a better capability to later produce higher-quality videos in greater quantities. Get good at creating video first and then focus on how to scale it.
“Remember, video isn’t just a one-off format created in a silo. It should be an integrated and connected part of the broader storytelling operation,” Robert says. “Work it through a process that refines that story for some or all formats. Once you’ve nailed down the story, you can start developing scripts. The ultimate goal is to produce videos with specific objectives, designed for multiple uses, that integrate into the broader brand story.”
After you’ve done that, he says, “That’s when you’re ready for your close-up.”
For its third annual video and visual storytelling survey, CMI surveyed 382 marketers, mostly from North America, in August 2023. The survey was emailed to CMI opt-in subscribers.
Thanks to the survey participants, who made this research possible, and to everyone who helps disseminate these findings throughout the content marketing industry.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute