What’s Marketers’ Obsession With Viral Videos? It’s Costing Them

What’s Marketers’ Obsession With Viral Videos? It’s Costing Them
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Achieving virality in a marketing campaign has many marketers besides themselves with excitement, even though many marketers don’t know what the term really means. And yet, this obsession is leading marketers astray, argues Simon Palan, director of Refine Media.

Marketers are being led astray by their own obsession with creating viral videos. They are focusing on ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ more than the actual markets they are trying to reach, and it’s costing them dearly.

Marketers are splashing cash, sometimes up to $100,000, hitting the go button on viral, as if ‘viral’ is one of several content types they can choose from in a creative brief. They are whipping up humour, nostalgia and shock-value to entertain their way into consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets. But with 300 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, going viral is not easy, and planning for it with expensive video production, often leads to failure.

As more brands chase viral success, consumers are becoming increasingly cynical about their objectives. Just because you’ve put some cute cats in your video, it doesn’t mean we will watch it or share it, sorry.

The viral obsession means marketers are regularly overlooking other video formats that actually educate consumers about products and services. High-quality ‘meet the team’ style videos; company explainers & product demonstration videos can normally be produced for under $10,000. They sit on company websites and go out on social media and email. While they won’t go viral, they will inform and resonate with consumers who are already potentially interested in the product or service being offered.

Interestingly, a recent poll by US software firm ‘Levels Beyond’ found that ‘how to’ and ‘instructional’ style videos are the most popular among consumers, with 67 per cent ranking them number one. Entertainment and ‘spoof’ clips are most popular among only 42 per cent of consumers, and animated videos are preferred by 30 per cent.

Whether marketers are chasing their viral dreams, or just pursuing an effective, efficient video strategy, there are some key rules which apply:

Try to keep costs down: Video production can get expensive if it’s not managed well. Major savings can be made in pre-production. Do you really need storyboards for example? Do you need to hire studio space or maybe you can effectively shoot somewhere else for free. Often production companies will encourage the use of several cameras and elaborate lighting, when one camera and a basic lighting kit is enough.

Have a producer/interviewer: Some companies like to script their content to the last word, but this can lead to a video appearing contrived or impersonal. That’s why it’s important the video production team has a producer who knows how to generate content through interviews. This could be someone specifically trained, or with a journalism background.

Keep the video short: The top 10 ads on YouTube last year averaged three minutes in length. Less is usually more. We are all busy people, so give viewers a reason to watch your clip. Produce video when you have something to say or something to show.

Don’t make it an ad: Repeatedly mentioning your brand name can be a big switch off factor. Produce video the audience will want to watch, instead of focusing on what you want them to watch. ‘First Kiss’ was the most viewed video campaign of 2014, but the brand only gets a very small mention.

Choose an interesting thumbnail: The importance of the thumbnail is often overlooked. Most video hosting websites like YouTube and Vimeo allow you to adjust the thumbnail. Also make sure there is snappy title and description to optimise your clip.

Distribute the clip widely: Post the clip on social media and ask your employees and clients to share it. Email it to people and even media outlets who may be interested.

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