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Video killed the radio star

What are the implications for comms as the ‘play’ button becomes ubiquitous?

The fact is, video is going to kill just about every other medium in 2016 as it continues its seemingly unstoppable takeover of the global web. The numbers are pretty staggering –YouTube now has over 1 billion monthly users and more than 400 hours of video content are uploaded on it every minute, helping to make it the world’s second largest search engine. By 2017, 74% of all internet traffic will be video, according to Cisco.

In our age of information overload and dwindling attention, video is the ideal infotainment format, particularly as new technology and high quality mobile devices allow consumers to access and watch more and more video content.On YouTube, the average mobile viewing session now lasts a lengthy 40 minutes and 65% of consumers have watched a video online of 30 minutes or longer. Blog posts like this one may well be an endangered species, as the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words is shown to be true many times over when it comes to video.

As Google ranks video content more highly and looks set to adopt in-SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) video advertising, we’ll see the play button becoming the standard call to action for communicators in all sectors and geographies. According to Nielsen, 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future and we may reasonably wonder why that number isn’t higher.

It’s not just Google putting video first. Publishers and social networks are also in love with video and are giving it priority in their news feeds. Facebook boasts more than eight billion daily video views and Snapchat is not far behind with more than six billion a day, having more than tripled in six months.

Social entertainment provider, Buzzfeed gets an incredible two billion views a month for its video content – most of this via social channels, increasingly on mobile. Another growing trend is allowing people to comment on forums and posts with a video clip rather than typing their thoughts, in an effort to keep visitors more engaged whilst also combating anonymous trolling.

The Buzzfeed Formula

Brands desperate for positive attention will be taking video lessons from the likes of Buzzfeed to create sticky videos that directly target specific functional and emotional needs of their audience.

Buzzfeed creates videos in three main categories that are defined by the motivation for watching or sharing:

  • Identity – content that helps define/explain you;
  • Informational/Utility – content that helps you learn/do;
  • Emotional gift – content that provokes a strong emotional response.

Brands must decide which of these motivators best suit their purpose, message and personality if they want to find a genuine audience rather than buying empty views.

Those that can afford to, will be working directly with the publishers, like Nestlé Purina teaming up with Buzzfeed to create a series of funny branded entertainment videos such as ‘A Cat’s Guide to Taking Care of Your Human’ which have gained millions of views and shares.

Brands Leverage Influencers

Vloggers will also become ever more powerful as Viners and YouTube creators become a critical channel to reach key audiences and establish credibility. A study by DEFY Media found that 62% of 18-24 year olds would buy a product endorsed by a YouTube creator.

McDonald’s has been working with mom vloggers and YouTubers as part of its See What We’re Made Of campaign to show where its food comes from in an engaging and believable way.

Top Viner, Lele Pons has collaborated with brands including Ritz Crackers, HP and Kotex to give them real promotional clout with her huge audience of more than 10 million followers.

Meanwhile American Spanish language broadcast television network Univision has created its own multi-channel video network that brings together influential Hispanic creators on YouTube, Vine and Snapchat.

Others will be going straight to consumers for their content, such as Disney incentivizing visitors to create authentic video content of their Disney experience with their ‘Vine Your Disney Side’ competition.

New Formats

New video formats will proliferate in the coming year and offer alternatives to individual repeat watch video productions. We can expect to see corporates, brands and politicians trying to find an audience for their Snapchat Stories (stringing photos or videos together to create a narrative that lasts for 24 hours) to create brief but powerful connections with hard-to-impress digital natives. Burberry used this visual story-telling to great effect with its #LFW SnapChat Story debuting the Spring/Summer 2016 collection a day before the live runway show.

Meanwhile live streaming will become the norm as marketeers share events, behind the scenes footage, interviews, performances and competitions in real time through platforms such as Periscope and Meerkat and new-comers such as Blab which allows up to four simultaneous live video streams. Grayling achieved a world first with its live Periscope broadcast of the great Wildebeest migration to a global audience, for our Make it Kenya campaign

So organisations and brands who decide to put video at the heart of their communications and content strategy in 2016 will certainly not want for options, but it’s going to be a steep learning curve. As the flood of video grows, gaining attention is going to be harder than ever and achieving genuine love and virality a rare thing. Video for the sake of it will quickly become a waste of valuable resources but as always a clear purpose and laser focus on the audience’s needs, attitudes and behaviours will be a good starting point for creating and/or generating content that people genuinely want to watch.



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Brand compassion

As altruistic Millennials wield greater market power and also greater power in the marketing department, brands will have to establish social relevance as well as product relevance.

This is not just about organisations throwing money at CSR initiatives to help right wrongs to which their products and services contribute, or behaving ethically in how they treat their employees and supply chain – although these things do matter now more than ever. It’s about a humanitarian brand mind-set which may mean companies looking beyond their immediate business activities, and sometimes beyond their category, to consider how they might use their position for good. This requires a broad world view, taking into consideration all their assets and skillsets, from property and production to R&D, marketing and HR, and how they could help deliver positive change.

Increasingly, brands will be judged as people and for how they treat people and they need to demonstrate qualities like empathy, compassion and support if they want to secure loyalty and longevity. GOODcorps’ Brand Goodness Report asked consumers to rank various factors that drive repeat purchase or use from top brands, and “goodness” ranked as the second most important factor after “quality”. When it came to exploring what “goodness” looked like in practice, people and community-focused efforts scored most highly.

These efforts vary widely from direct donations and volunteering man hours to innovating products and solutions or funding others to do so. Notable examples include TOMS’ One for One program, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, as well as providing sight, water and safer birth services.

Outdoor gear company Patagonia launched the $20 Million & Change internal venture fund that will plow money into startups working to find sustainable solutions in the areas of clothing, food, water, energy, and waste.

Starbucks’ Global Month of Service has delivered more than a million community volunteering hours in 40 countries by gathering thousands of partners (employees), customers and other participating organizations to work on projects that address local community needs.

Planet Labs makes inexpensive, breadbox-size satellites with off-the-shelf parts, which are as much as 95% cheaper than traditional satellites, and puts them into space to monitor activities such as deforestation and illegal fishing in the Earth’s most precious places.

And the numbers show that doing good is good for business too. Global spending on responsible consumption products is over $400bn and growing 9% annually in the US alone. Unilever has seen such success from the approach that it has a dedicated ‘brands with purpose’ portfolio – those contributing towards business goals whilst increasing positive social impact – which is growing at twice the speed of their other brands.

Ben & Jerry’s is a classic example, having supported Marriage Equality and the LGBTQ community for over 35 years in the unshakable belief that all people deserve full and equal civil rights. Their support ranges from equal employee benefits to funding key pressure groups and lobbying same sex partners of employees to celebrating historic gay marriage milestones with renamed products such as Hubby Hubby and I Dough, I Dough.

Dove is another well-known brand from their purpose-driven portfolio – its Self-Esteem Project is dedicated to increasing body confidence and self-esteem in young people and is proven to have helped 17 million people in 112 countries through its workshops and online content.

These examples underline how important it is that brands don’t just pay lip service to social and charitable activities. This is not an opportunity for a quick marketing stunt, it requires clear purpose, honest leadership and real staying power.

Without clear goals, commitment across the organization and measurable impact it becomes self-serving and can do more reputational and commercial harm than good. But done authentically and effectively, the payback is a more powerful brand story and a deeper connection with key audiences that will deliver long term advantage.