Skip to content

Video Storytelling: Here’s How To Get More From Your Investment

Your videos can’t just sell and tell. They need to resonate on a human level – reflecting your audience’s personal perspectives and real-life experiences, speaking to them as humans, and giving them a sense of belonging and community.

The increased demand for video and other visual content that communicates both clarity of purpose and authentic compassion was a hot topic of conversation at Content Marketing World 2021.

The advice shared by our expert speakers is worth seeing for yourself – there’s still time to catch these sessions on demand. I’ve gathered some highlights here.

Use strategy to accelerate – and transcend – the customer journey

In Imprint CEO Andy Seibert’s presentation with SJC Content’s Jacqueline Loch, he points out one of video’s strongest advantages is that it can communicate emotionally and rationally at the same time. “Viewers can become immersed in a way that reading an article or listening to a podcast can’t deliver,” he says.

It’s a particularly effective format to capture initial interest and spark engagement, but it shouldn’t be limited to that. “Video can really accelerate the customer’s journey like no other format can,” Andy says.

He explains that a thoughtful strategy and technical execution helps video storytelling blur the lines between each funnel stage and drive successful outcomes beyond the standard marketing goals.

Like many small businesses, craft beer bar Harlem Hops struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. The bar owners’ deep commitment to reflecting their African cultural roots made it a welcoming gathering space for the people of Harlem. This video shows how their partnership with Visa helped them achieve their business goals at a challenging time and illustrates how that success furthered their personal investment in supporting their local community and its culture.

“What I took away from the experience of producing this video was its authenticity and earnestness. It was a win-win for everyone involved,” Andy says.

Video can also be used to nurture consumers toward consideration and conversion. Andy shared the story of a video his agency created for the financial services firm Fidelity aimed at one of the company’s most important B2B audiences: small-asset management advisors.

Imprint tackled three areas they knew the audience might be interested in – how Fidelity would save them time, increase their productivity, and provide seamless support. The resulting interactive video offered viewers the ability to self-identify their most pressing needs and carve their own path through the experience. By clicking on key educational moments throughout the experience, advisors could pause the main dialogue to explore detailed information and customer stories on their chosen topic, then return to view the remainder of the asset.

Keep the focus on your audience with thoughtful planning

Once you map the strategic purpose for your videos, you can make the creative and technical decisions to shape the stories. Killer Visual Strategies CEO Amy Balliett shares some pointers for keeping a balance between your brand’s goals and your consumers’ interests:

Documenting key details about your audience

Your audience – not your brand – should be the hero of your videos, so you need to know who they are. What drives them? What key differentiators about your brand or your service or your product will matter most to them? What can your brand help them accomplish?

Outline your vision of success

Use those audience insights to develop a success statement – one sentence about your audience, the action you want them to take with your business, and a compelling reason they will take that action:

This clarity will keep the creators focused on the right message and guide them toward the visual styles most effective for delivering that message.

TIP: Develop this statement collaboratively with other content stakeholders. Giving everyone a chance to contribute will minimize the need for frustrating rewrites and costly reshoots at the 11th hour.


Balance creativity with message consistency and authenticity

Whether your video is meant to educate and inform, inspire action, or simply engage and entertain, success often comes down to your creative decisions – the script, structure, and style of the story.
Though a versatile format, video’s stylistic and formatting options can make it challenging to select the best creative approach for your purpose. It can also be time and resource-intensive to produce videos of the quality today’s audiences expect. Thus, every creative decision must be weighed carefully against available resources – and determined collaboratively with all content stakeholders.

Though there isn’t a right or wrong way to create videos, the speakers offered plenty of creative tips to steer you in the right direction:

Choose a format, tone, and visual style your audience uses in their own conversations and videos

Amy explains that who your audience is and how they prefer to consume content should dictate the imagery you include, as well as the other creative choices you make in your visual content. For example, filming a quick, casual livestream video or using a popular illustrative style might work well for a millennial or Gen Z audience. Boomer audiences, though, might be less familiar with those formats and may prefer to engage with photography-driven motion graphics, instead.

For inspiration, check out this TikTok video shared by food and travel influencer Shay Spence. This past summer, he received an invitation to explore The Bell: a branded pop-up hotel and resort created by Taco Bell.

@theshayspenceReminiscing on the Taco Bell hotel. ##fastfood ##traveltiktok ##tacobell ##palmsprings ##traveldiaries♬ Fun, light, honobo, everyday, piano solo – Dream Side Records

His quick-take visual tour of the experience puts the brand’s tasty offerings and aesthetics on display. It also speaks the universal language of the spot’s youthful target audience, namely FOMO (fear of missing out.) The combination of colorful visuals and conversational tone hit the mark, earning the spot more than 1 million views and nearly 200,000 shares.

Reinforce your message with consistent imagery

Your brand can talk a good game, but if the visuals stand in contrast to the words you say, viewers may doubt your intentions. In their presentation on telling authentic stories, Prudential Financial’s Bridget Esposito and Ceros’ Zarina Stanik point out that audiences can sniff out a lack of authenticity from a mile away. Match the tone and style of your stories to the intentions behind your message if you want consumers to trust that your business lives the promises it makes.

Make inclusivity a priority

Pay attention to the diversity in your imagery and language choices in your script – they signal if your business wants everyone in your audience to feel welcomed and valued. Further, reflect consumers’ diverse experiences authentically.

This video from Best Buy hits on both of those previous points at once: Not only is the importance of inclusivity and representation the main point, it’s also illustrated through the creative decision to give a diverse group of team members the podium to speak:

Use empathy mapping to frame your ideas in the most current context

Consumers’ priority needs and interests aren’t static, so your understanding of how to connect with them needs to evolve. A user journey map is great for keeping consumers on a transactional track. To get them to invest deeper cognitively, Bridget suggests creating an empathy map – a design-thinking tool that articulates details observed about actual customers. Visualizing how they feel under current conditions will help you better reflect – and connect with – who they are right now.

Image source

Introduce them to your world in 90 seconds or less

Amy contends that a large portion of your audience won’t press play if the video takes more than a minute or two – especially if they aren’t already acquainted with your business and its offerings. To introduce them to your value proposition, she suggests a simple explainer video that’s 90 seconds or less. Once viewers are hooked, they’ll be more likely to devote time to watching your longer videos.

Deepen their devotion with insider secrets

In his presentation, T60 Productions’ Tony Gnau says the more consumers get to know the people in your organization, the easier it is to win their trust – and their business. The best way to show your company is more than just a cold, corporate entity? Create behind-the-scenes videos that feature your team members in their element. “It will help you communicate on a whole other level of transparency,” Tony says.

Tony points to the NFL’s Chicago Bears as a brand that shines in this respect: “They have an entire series devoted to taking fans like me behind the scenes of the team’s daily operations and conversations. They go out onto the practice field and into the training room, giving us a fly-on-the-wall view of the things we never get to see,” he says.

In this video, head coach Matt Nagy delivers a call to player Justin Fields to let him know he’s been drafted to play for the team.

Make consumers the star in your storytelling

While it may be tempting to serve up a slice of your brand’s inner magic and call it a day, it’s important to ground your videos in a relatable and achievable reality – from the audience’s point of view, not just yours. To convey your brand’s understanding of their real-life experiences in your content, Amy Balliett suggests casting your customers as the hero of the story. One approach worth considering is to incorporate testimonials or product reviews other satisfied consumers have posted. Focusing on sharing those authentic, real-world experiences will help create a clearer connection between your offerings and what the viewer stands to gain from them.

Don’t overlook technical details and delivery decisions

To make a meaningful marketing impact, your creative techniques, formats, and stylistic choices aren’t the only considerations. You need to pay attention to the production details that make your stories easier to find, interact with, and act on.

Deliver on the needs of mobile-first viewers

According to eMarketer research in 2018, 75% of online videos were viewed first on a mobile device. Amy recommends you avoid meticulously detailed imagery, small font sizes, highly stylized typefaces, or small CTA buttons that may be hard to click. Err on the side of usability and go with visuals that will be easier to see, instead.

Don’t rely on voice-over to get your message across

Amy points out that audiences, especially in public places, increasingly watch videos with the sound off – a data point supported by the results of this Verizon Media/Publicis Media study. The study also found that 80% of viewers are more likely to watch an entire video if it has captions. This proves the importance of using visual callouts, captions, and overlays to communicate or reinforce key messages.

Ensure universal accessibility

Techniques like captioning and voice-over help ensure your videos are ADA compliant – an important consideration that should factor into both your creative and technical execution decisions, Bridget Esposito said. Be sure to follow best practices for accessibility, so the experiences you deliver will be available and engaging for all consumers.

Smarter video decisions lead to stronger marketing impact

If you want your business to live rent-free, in consumers’ heads AND build the trust to convince them to stay with you on their journey, put your audience’s needs ahead of your marketing agenda when planning, producing, and delivering video content. Thoughtfully consider how to balance creativity, authenticity, and usability, and viewers will reward you with deeper interest, engagement, and investment in what you’ve put on display.

Couldn't attend Content Marketing World in person this year? Register for the Digital Pass to access on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year. Use promo code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute