In this opinion piece, Clipchamp’s Head of Product, Anna Ji, shares her perspective on creating content with authenticity.
Authenticity: it’s like charisma. We all want it, we can all recognise it — feel it — when we see and hear it, but for the life of us, we can’t replicate it.
The internet is filled with legions of essays and tips telling us how to cultivate authenticity, step-by-step guides trying to explain what remains largely unexplainable. How do you advise a person on how they can be their true self — or how to at least find a way to begin?
Better yet: how do you advise an entire brand, and have that translate through a company’s video?
As many founders know, before you make it, there’s an element of “faking it”. And by faking it, we don’t mean lie; but find the best angles to tell your story.
While authenticity is in many ways bound to self-awareness and soul-searching, there are ways to convey a brand’s identity that signifies its sincerity without looking like a sell-out — and breaking the bank.
Videos were once a by-product of a brand’s marketing strategy, available primarily to companies with big budgets. Today, high-quality smartphones and a proliferation of video-editing apps and tools make it possible for anyone to produce a solid company video, provided they know how.
With video streaming — especially live streaming — increasing significantly over the last few years (the live-streaming platform, Twitch, saw year-over-year growth of 14.3 per cent in 2020 and boasted up to 1.645 billion watch hours per month) and various surveys showing that more than 50 per cent of consumers want to see more video content from a business or brand they support, it’s never been more important for brands to think about the contents — rather than the grandeur — of their videos.
So here are a few tips to get you thinking about how you can infuse some much-needed authenticity into your brand videos — and trust us, it’s actually easier than it seems.
Professional production doesn’t always mean better
The Australian government has recently learned a valuable lesson: that a multi-million dollar budget does not translate to great — and authentic — video content.
After dropping $3.79 million on a suite of 350 online materials for teachers, students and parents about ‘respectful relationships’ (which includes explaining the nuances of sexual consent), its consent video — which featured a bizarre allegory of milkshakes, pinball machines and football terminology — has been so thoroughly mocked by the public and professionals alike the educational department has chosen to remove it.
While no one can deny the production values were extremely high, the script, characters and stories chosen to convey something deeply complicated and sensitive clearly missed the mark. It’s immediately obvious the interactions are highly scripted, and that there is no charisma between any of the characters.
Relying on a script too much is a big red flag when it comes to conveying authenticity — by its very nature, authenticity cannot be faked or scripted and requires some improvisation — even a stumble here and there — to truly communicate a sense of vulnerability.
More humans and stories, less tricks
People trust people more than elaborate productions, and in a world saturated with reviews and online tricks, people just want to hear what others think — not just from brands.
This is the quiet genius of Bunnings: there are no tricks (at least not to our eyes), no fancy lighting or promises — there’s just your average Jane and Joe, decked out in their red shirt and green apron, telling you why they like working at Bunnings.
Telling interesting stories is also another way of showing authenticity. Humans have used storytelling as a means of engaging with others for thousands of years, and with good reasons. As Princeton University’s psychology professor Uri Hasson found out during a storytelling experiment, the more interested and engaged people were in a story, the more their brains started to mirror the storyteller’s brain in a phenomenon called ‘neural coupling’.
Top listeners even synchronised with the speaker and began to anticipate their thoughts. To brands, this is critical, as it shows that stories have the ability to transport us into another world. And once we are in this other world, metaphorically speaking, our brain actually activates the same neural pathways as if we were there in person.
Telling stories well, without relying too much on a script, in your videos can help you capture and keep the attention of an audience. And if those stories happen to be true stories about your team or your clients, your authenticity will shine through.
Keep it simple
And finally, a key to making a video seem less sale-sy and contrived is to keep it simple. While adding epic soundtracks, flashy graphics and theatrical characters may seem like a cool idea, more often than not they’re merely annoying distractions that will make viewers think you’re trying too hard.
Only add an effect if it enhances your story, and if it doesn’t, consider taking it out. Like most things in life, picking the right people (from the script writer, to the video producer to the people in the video) is more important than trying to cover up a badly run production with a bunch of gimmicky tech.
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