Storytelling through video has become part of the required content marketing toolkit for brands looking to create awareness in their market. Old Spice, for example, sought to refresh a sleepy brand; Jack Dorsey launched a whole new product category with Square Cash; and Red Bull created a movement with its "Gives You Wings" campaign.

The power of video to move consumers to act has played out nicely in the numbers. YouTube users watch more than 6 billion hours of video per month; that's up 50% over last year according to YouTube execs. Meanwhile, Cisco predicts that two-thirds of the world's mobile traffic will be video by 2016. So, clearly, this ship isn't sinking any time soon.

Short-format videos are in

Let's start with the short-format videos being used on platforms such as Vine and Instagram. They're hot, they're new, and users are flocking to them in droves. Some 59% of the world's top brands are now active on Instagram alone, according to Simply Measured.

What's great about these platforms is that they allow you to tell visual stories in the form of "content snacks," or bite-sized bits of engagement. Much as Twitter has done for microblogging, these platforms force short-form storytelling by limiting the length of the video clip to mere seconds. They also seem much more conducive to sharing, and they're perfect for branding.

"Brand vines are shared 4x more than other online videos," Heather Taylor, a vice-president at Ogilvy, claims. Furthermore, 40% of the most shared 15-second videos are marketing efforts, Unruly Media found in a recent study. Here are some examples:

GE's 6-Second Science

Lowe's Fix in 6

The GoPro3 Adventure Series


Regardless of form or viewing device, video is an ideal medium to engage, inform, and entertain prospective buyers and clients.

Here's what you need to know to get in on the action.

1. Understand the difference between a conversion video and a brand-building, engagement video

According to a recent Wordtracker post featuring Poo Pouri video ad director Joel Ackerman, "There are two main types of videos a business will want to make. Conversion videos are designed to drive sales, whilst engagement videos can work well to get people to subscribe to a YouTube channel."

Don't confuse the two. If what you need to do is drive sales, make sure your video strategy has that goal clearly defined. Otherwise, you could end up spending hard-earned cash on awareness videos without ringing the register.

2. Make your videos accessible

Half of executives look for more information after seeing a product or service in a video, according to Forbes. With that in mind, it's crucial that you make your videos accessible and thus sharable, so that you can get your message out in the wild.

The easiest way to do so is to create branding and sales-related videos for promotion on open discovery platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Vine. There are also a host of other opportunities where video can be very effective:

  • Product detail pages
  • Testimonials
  • Emails
  • Landing pages
  • Thank you pages
  • Support documentation

3. Tell great stories

In the words of social media wunderkind Gary Vaynerchuk, "The story is the game. What you have to understand is that storytelling is the way you build a brand. And storytelling is not dictating your story in a press release. Storytelling is a give and take."

The most compelling messages come from the questions you should be asking yourself: What is my brand's narrative? What experience am I promising? What is the human element that my product or service represents that sets it apart from every other widget on the market?

You can't persuade people to buy something they don't care about. So what is it about the product that moves them? All successful videos have that in common: the ability to tell stories that make you feel something.

4. Know your audience

Understanding the personas that gravitate to your product will let you know how far you can push the boundaries, to whom you should be targeting your message, and, most important, whom you can ignore. One of the pitfalls of mass appeal is mediocrity. If you try to speak to everyone the same way, no one will pay attention.

Learn from the following great examples:

Dove's Real Beauty Sketches

Evian's Baby & Me

Kmart's Show Your Joe

5. Be bold and make a statement

So maybe you're still on the fence. Maybe you think everything has been done with marketing videos to build brand recognition and the rest is bandwagon waste. But here are a few successful product videos that clearly push the boundaries of humor, comfort, and, depending on your perspective, taste. The takeaway is that you have to do something to be seen above the noise; just make sure it works for your brand and your audience, or you could risk alienating customers important to your bottom line.

Bad Breath Test

Diary of a Dirty Tongue

Girls Don't Poop—

Let me know what's working for you and what you think of the videos by leaving a comment below. I'll be sure to respond. Happy video marketing!

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image of Seth  Price

Seth Price is vice-president at Placester, a platform for marketing real estate online. He's a marketing strategist who helps companies tell great stories to accelerate growth. He's also a passionate content creator, marketing keynote speaker, host of the Craft of Marketing podcast, and an aspiring chef.

Twitter: @sethstuff

LinkedIn: Seth Price