How to Evoke Viewer Emotion In Your Next Video

People who work in video production want two main things from every video they produce:

  1. High production value

  2. Emotional response from viewers

The first can be achieved with the proper equipment and the proper technical training. The second, however, can be more elusive.

How do you create a story that stimulates a meaningful, emotional response from viewers that inspires them to act?

Obviously, if there was one tried-and-true answer to that question that I could bottle and sell, I could retire now. But the following episode from the podcast Revisionist History provides some fantastic insight on human emotion. I think if you work in video production it’s worth a listen. There are some important lessons to be learned and practices to implement that will help your next story illicit the kind of emotion that you want.

Here’s the episode. In it, Gladwell explores the country music industry and why its songs feel so much sadder than any rock ‘n roll ballad. If you can’t listen to the full 45-minute episode, here are a few sections you can skip to:

  • 00:00-06:45

  • 08:10-10:00

  • 15:04-18:40

  • 18:56-19:35

  • 20:35-21:09

  • 28:04-32:00

Rather than provide you with my own take-aways, I’d like to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the Comments section. What stood out to you? What can we all do as video production professionals to ensure that our stories resonate with viewers?

And if you haven’t subscribed to Revisionist History, I encourage you to do so. It’s a fantastic podcast.

The Benefits of Vertical Video

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Vertical video. Among video professionals, the term may provoke feelings of frustration, anger, or disgust. Often it's been mocked and ridiculed as an invalid format choice (see below).

But vertical video is a preferred format for platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Already, vertical video has been added to my list of deliverables. Whenever I finish editing a project, I'm asked to create different versions, including one oriented vertically for social media. 

Last night I came across a thread on Twitter from Anthony Monteleone, a video editor I follow. He made some very good, rational arguments regarding vertical video I felt they were worth sharing and discussing. 

One immediate ramification I've seen in my own work with vertical video is that footage needs to be acquired in 4K. If you need to deliver vertically, it's nice to have that extra resolution to play around with when you have to scale up and crop in. Otherwise, the video can start to pixelate rather quickly.

What are your thoughts about the validity of vertical video? Continue the discussion in the Comments section below.

Video Isn't Working

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Video isn't working. That's what many publishers have come to realize, according to a September article in the Columbia Journalism Review, written by Heidi N. Moore. Ever since first reading the article I wanted to post some of my thoughts here, and am now finally getting around to it. But first, if you're interested in journalism and/or video, please go read the article. It's very well-written and worth your time.

Before diving into my thoughts on the article, I want to point out that I will be approaching this from the perspective of a video producer. I'm a storyteller, but not a journalist. I'll leave it to the journalists to discuss their own experiences (and please do). But speaking as a video production professional, I agree with Moore's observations. Allow me to highlight four of her points, along with my commentary, and some takeaways.

Video is Expensive

Publishers have laid off writers and turned to video, thinking that somehow they'll save money in the process, while driving up their readership and revenue. But it costs a lot of money to produce unique, quality video. Even in 2017 I still have to educate others about the costs of video and why it's so expensive. I don't know what the root cause is for the misconception (perhaps it's the democratization of the equipment and the low barrier to entry), but it's a misconception that has led many people to believe that incredible video can be produced cheaply. Click here to read more about video production misconceptions. 

Consider this quote from the article:

Video is the most expensive and time-consuming of the multimedia disciplines. To cut a 30-second video can take hours of detailed work—which requires a good eye, good physical reflexes to capture the right moments, enormous patience, and the ability to time images, sound, text, and graphics seamlessly.
— Heidi N. Moore

Takeaway: Just like any professional in any industry, an experienced, reputable video production company will charge the going market rate for services. Don't expect quality production work to be done cheaply, or for free. We don't ask that of any other businesses, as the following video points out:

Video is an Investment

Today, more and more brands are taking their work in-house, opting for their own marketing departments and video production teams, instead of working with a traditional agency. And, as Moore points out, media publishers have also. They've decided to get rid of their writing staff in favor of video. But here's the main problem for publishers, and the main lesson for those brands who want to do everything in-house: You have to invest in video and give your team all the resources they need to produce good work. Moore emphasizes "low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content" as two of her four reasons why the pivot to video has failed.

As Moore writes, "Many publishers’ pivots to video are ill-considered, and thus they have deployed minimal investment in resources, studio space, equipment, or salaries. This won’t help video grow."

Takeaway: If you're going to do it, do it right. If you currently have an in-house video production team, or are making that transition, give them the very best tools to do the job. Don't expect them to produce masterful videos with one hand tied behind their backs.

Video Requires Planning

Clients and internal partners like the idea of video, but many times they don't have a clearly defined strategy for video. The notion of "let's just go out and capture it and then figure out what to do with the footage later," is not a well-defined video strategy for reaching your marketing goals. Video is more than grabbing a camera, running out to the location, and pressing Record. Consider Moore's observation, "The biggest problem with the pivot to video is that it’s not well-considered strategy. Instead, it’s been born of desperation." 

Of course Moore is talking specifically about media publishers, but the same can be said for many businesses who are using video. Considerations must be made when diving into video. One size doesn't fit all

Video Should Be Good

If all of the above considerations are made, then your video will be good. But if you rush into video without the right plan, the right tools, or the right investment, you will be left with video that just, frankly, isn't very good, as Moore writes, "Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated 'snackable' video. That’s no one’s idea of success." Differentiation comes when the proper value is placed on the process itself.

There's a place for video. People still want video. Moore isn't suggesting that publishers abandon video, but rather incorporate video into a, "balanced multimedia approach...that includes well-written, well-reported stories, strong data and graphics, and good art."

What I Like About the New Taylor Swift NOW Ad

Taylor Swift is currently promoting her new video experience called Taylor Swift NOW, which is on the AT&T network. I watched the promo today and I like what the AT&T creative team produced. Here are a few reasons why I think this spot works. First, watch the video, then scroll down for my impressions. Think about utilizing these techniques in your next marketing video.

  1. It's Taylor Swift - Duh. Let's just get the obvious one out of the way first. The ad works because it features a famous celebrity. So, if you can get Taylor Swift, get Taylor Swift. Okay, I know this isn't a real option for you, so consider this: Taylor Swift has a built-in fanbase that will watch or read anything she's a part of. Think about your own business niche. Is there an influencer within your own industry that already has a built-in following? Can you leverage that following for your own marketing video? Is there a way to cross-promote?
  2. Be Relatable - Part of what makes this ad so fun is that is really humanizes Taylor Swift. The spot makes her seem fun, relatable; like a good friend you like hanging out with. She doesn't seem like an untouchable celebrity. She seems real. In your own marketing video, think about ways you can make your company and your reps relatable to your audience. Ditch the formalities. Loosen the neckties. Try irreverence on for size, if it fits your brand. Try self-deprecation. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. But whatever you do, please be consistent with your brand's voice.
  3. Be Structured - This spot functions very well as an ad, but it's also a very nice short film. There's an overarching story that runs from start to finish. It's very tight and very self-contained, with events unfolding linearly, the preceding one directly affecting what comes after. That makes the spot more interesting, because the viewer is curious about what will happen next. If you stop and think about it, probably some of the videos you've shared recently follow this same pattern, like HP's recent Father/Daughter ad.
  4. Be Random - I know, this seems to contradict everything I just said in point #4. Perhaps a better word than "random" would be "surprising." Yes, the Taylor Swift NOW ad is structured, but it also has its moments of random fun. It surprises us. Unexpected things pop up, and the spot is more entertaining because of it.

What do you think? Does the Taylor Swift NOW ad work for you, or not? What other advice do you have about video marketing? Leave them in the Comments section below.