Stock footage is a powerful tool for brands and marketers, especially if you’re in a situation when you can’t shoot original footage. However, as with any tool, it’s only effective when used properly.
While guaranteeing any particular video will be 100% effective is impossible, there is a way to guarantee a video will be ineffective. And that’s by making a video that’s been done before. Not 1 time, not 5 times, not even 100 times, but 10,000+ times. At Umault, we call video ideas that have been done ad nauseam, “Default Creative.” We use the word, default, because no critical thinking was done. The video idea, or creative, was sitting there, and it was picked up with no thought to strategy, audience personas, etc. Just like defaulting on a loan means no payments were made, using Default Creative means nothing new was made.
Here’s a list of videos, in no particular order, that we qualify as using Default Creative. By looking at examples of what not to do we hope you will start to see how to create a great marketing video.
- Interviews with executives paired with stock footage of cities at night with traffic sped up. Or shots of people “collaborating” in a conference room. They’re all smiling and pointing at a whiteboard or computer screen.
- Close-up shots of people picking up their name badges and eating coconut shrimp in an event video recap. Side note: it’s 2019, ALL events have name-tags and serve food. No one is seeing this event video and saying, “Holy crap! They serve low-grade fried shrimp at this conference!? I’m buying a ticket now!”
- An animated video that starts with an announcer saying, “Meet Bob,” with an animation of a man waving at the camera.
- Any video that uses that intersection in Tokyo with words like, “disruption” or “integration,” over it.
- Mini-documentaries featuring subjects talking about how great the culture at the company is.
- A sweaty-upper-lipped customer giving a testimonial – looking like deer in headlights. They typically use phrases like “top-notch” and praise how easy your company was to work with. They have been coached to say, “Company X Brand Facial Tissues” instead of what they would really call them, “tissues.”
- A stretched-too-thin metaphor that attempts to give larger meaning to the company’s purpose. While the VO rambles on we see shots of farmers on iPads looking at their crops and kids on a swing in slow-motion at sunset. HBO’s “Silicon Valley” did a great job of parodying this:
So why do brands continue to make marketing videos using Default Creative?
It’s easy to develop, to produce and to sell through to management. There is almost zero perceived risk because it’s been done a million times before. Everyone knows what the end product should look like because they can all point to a ton of examples on YouTube.
Videos using Default Creative are typically cheaper to make too. That’s because the video production companies brands hire to make them have literally made the same video more than a dozen times before. This may seem like efficiency at its finest but it’s the canary in the coal mine for an ineffective video.
Why Default Creative doesn’t work
If your video uses Default Creative, it starts off at a disadvantage because, by definition, it’s nothing new. As Gary Vee says, “You can’t beat what you copy.” Meaning the best your video will do is slightly less than the video you copied. It’s not adding new to the collective experience we call humanity. I might be getting hyperbolic here but you get the drift.
Default Creative ends up being white noise in your target customer’s feed. It’s nothing. It’s the soggy, bland airport sandwich of video. You could have gotten higher ROI putting your video budget on black in Vegas.
Now here’s the catch: at one time the Default Creative videos I point out, were not Default. The first time that kind of video was made, it was new. And it was effective. Because if it wasn’t, it would never gain enough popularity to enter what I call, “The Public Domain of Creative.” That’s what Default Creative is after all. It’s a bunch of ideas that have been out there for so long that the public is entitled to use them with no fear of copyright infringement. But think about it. Why are you now making a marketing video using a creative idea that was popular a decade ago?
Earlier in this article I said that there is almost zero perceived risk when making a video using Default Creative. Note that keyword: perceived. It’s perceived as not being a risk on the face, but once you’ve made your video and it doesn’t deliver, the risk becomes all too apparent. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on a dud. And lost your opportunity to make waves.
How to create a great marketing video
Your goal should be to make the next amazing video that will become someone else’s Default Creative. If that’s your goal, here’s how to do it:
Be risky up front. Reject things that have been done before. Push push push into uncomfortableness. As Lee Clow (the man behind Apple’s 1984 ad) says, “Don’t do the right thing…Do the brave thing.”
Now I’m not saying to go out there and make something totally crazy with no basis in research and strategy.
I’m saying you need to start being comfortable with being uncomfortable. When your video agency (hopefully that’s us) presents an idea that you’ve never seen before, don’t reject it because you’ve never seen it before. Think about your favorite band. When they release a new album, usually you hate the new songs. You hate the new songs because you haven’t heard them before. That’s what new ideas are like. You need to give new ideas the same grace you give your favorite band’s new album.
This article is starting to get a little “out there” so I’ll end it with this: extraordinary results require extraordinary measures.
We’ve all been part of projects that start strong and then slowly putter out. When it comes to your video project, you want to make sure it stays on track and keeps moving forward (as do we!). To avoid the slow putter out, there are six things we recommend you do to ensure a successful video marketing project.
There are certain moments that projects are more likely to get off track. When brands hire us to create a video for them, we see three main peaks of excitement.
Excitement Stage 1: Signing the proposal. Our teams have had great conversations leading up to this point. We’re aligned on goals and ROI for the project. Our team is excited to dig in and start researching, developing a strategy, and brainstorming creative. Your team is excited to get an effective new tool to use in your sales process. We’re all ready to dig in. Let’s do this thing!
Excitement Stage 2: Production day. Shoot days are fun, plain and simple. Both our team and yours love seeing the idea we’ve been working so hard on come to life. Plus there are guys in black t-shirts with walkie-talkies whispering about stingers and C-47s, a craft services table, and a general hustle and bustle around getting the best shot. It’s a long day (a standard production day is 10 hours, and 12 is not uncommon), but full of adrenaline. Also Red Bull.
Excitement Stage 3: The first draft. After the shoot itself, seeing the first draft is the exciting culmination of all that strategy, writing, and production. We love presenting first drafts and hearing reactions. Clients love seeing the actual product for the first time. Everyone is pumped and ready to start using this puppy!
Notice that there is not an excitement stage for the delivery of the final video. It’s counterintuitive for sure. Isn’t that what you bought? Don’t you want to start using it? And yet, we tend to see a noticeable decline in momentum and excitement after the first draft presentation. This is not because clients are unhappy with that draft. On the contrary, the ones that lose the most momentum are the ones who had very few notes on the draft. When it comes time to finesse and finalize, projects often slow down and sometimes go off the rails.
There are a few things you can do to keep your project momentum moving once the peak excitement phases are over. Importantly, some of these steps need to happen before that first draft is delivered. Keep them in mind throughout your entire project.
Don’t go off the rails: How to make a successful marketing video
- Make sure your key stakeholders are involved from the very beginning. No matter who does the initial outreach to our team, we always ask to speak to the key stakeholders on the project before we send a proposal. The reason for that is that we want to ensure that everyone on both of our teams is aligned before serious work gets started. Surprising your boss is one of the biggest pitfalls we’ve seen clients make.
- Align your whole team with the strategy and creative idea. After we present and get approval on the video strategy, it becomes our North Star guiding every choice we make. If your team has any doubts about the strategy, creative idea, or script, let us know as soon as possible. While it requires brainpower, time, and extra conversations, at the end of the day it’s much easier to change words and ideas than to reshoot expensive video scenes.
- Come to the shoot. Yes, we really do want you there with us. We’re nice, I promise. This is especially important if your product or service is complex or technical (like most of our clients). While we take the time to understand your product or service, you are the expert. Having a member of your team present to ensure that we capture everything correctly can prevent complaints from your product team down the line.
- Remember that the video will not exist in a vacuum. The videos we or anyone else make do not appear on a black screen with no context. You need a video for a very specific purpose, be it pitch meetings, a company town hall, or a landing page. Keep in mind that the video does not need to have all the information about the product or service in it.
For a video that will be used in a pitch meeting, for example, the video’s purpose is to break the ice and engage with your potential customers. Then your salespeople will do what they do best and make the sale. It is the salesperson who will share features and benefits, and tailor the pitch to the company or industry. It’s asking too much of a video to do everything or be everything to everyone. Keep that context in mind when deciding what needs to be included in the video.
- When you ask others for feedback on the video, share the strategy behind it. People at your company who are outside the core video project team (or your in-laws, neighbors, fellow commuters on the train) can provide valuable feedback on the video if and only if they understand what it will be used for and what its purpose is. If our goal for the project is to create a 15-second video teasing a new product before launch, feedback that the video is too short and not descriptive enough is bad feedback. Passing on that note blindly could push the project off the rails.
Remember the old adage about a camel being a horse designed by a committee? When we discuss a piece of feedback like this, our team may push back and remind you of the original goals and strategy of the video. What were we looking to accomplish in the first place? Does this feedback make the video more effective? We don’t do this because Joanne in HR doesn’t have a point. The video doesn’t have long descriptions of the product, but it’s not supposed to. This leads to a lot of back and forth between our teams and slows down the process. See also: your video will not exist in a vacuum.
- Trust yourself and trust the process. Great work, be it video or anything else, requires boldness. A lot of people around you may be scared by that, and that’s a totally appropriate response. It is scary. Anyone in a business leadership position has experienced pushback on great ideas because they’re different.
Because it’s work. Because it’s not what everyone else does. But guess what. That’s exactly what makes it a great idea, and why you have to try.The same applies to videos. You may hear someone on your team poo-poo the video not because it isn’t good, but because it isn’t what you’ve done before. Or it isn’t what’s standard for your industry. If you hear that kind of feedback, GOOD! That means we’ve done our jobs. Your prospects are bombarded with content all day, every day. To stand out, your content must be bold and it must be different. Stand behind the work you’ve commissioned and don’t let the naysayers convince you otherwise.
If you follow these tips throughout your video project, it’s more likely to go smoothly and you’re going to be happier with the final product. And of course, our team will be here guiding you through the process and doing our best to both keep your project moving and help you create an effective video that your team can’t wait to start using.