That’s the secret ingredient of a viral and uber-successful video. It uses a strong story to hook in the audience, keep them engrossed throughout, and make them feel something.
Story sells and there’s a reason why. We remember stories. We remember characters; heroes and heroines. We remember emotions; heartbreak, fear, and euphoria. Did you know messages delivered through a story can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts?
That’s why brands are increasingly using storytelling to attract, engage and sell to their audience.
And since videos are 1200% more powerful at generating shares and going viral than plain text, videos + storytelling is a lethal content combination for brands and marketers.
It doesn’t matter what kind of video you’re creating; whether it’s a 10 second Instagram video or 10 minute talk on YouTube, every video can be made more impactful and powerful through storytelling. Your sales message can come across a lot better (and a lot less slimy) through a good story.
"There's plenty of popular demand for good stories, if binge-watching, binge-listening, and binge-reading statistics are an indicator.
Stories move not only people, but they also move product."
And they’ve got results to prove this.
I’ve outlined 3 crucial tips to make your videos 10x better and ace visual storytelling.
No conflict? Bye bye.
Cinderella married the prince without any hiccups and lived happily ever after.
Little Red Riding Hood reached her grandma’s house safely and enjoyed a cup of tea (plus some delicious scones) with her.
Snow White’s stepmother loved and cherished her, and married her off to the dashing prince.
What if our classics had no conflict? Smooth sailing from the start. No wicked stepmothers, no hungry wolves, no fruit-bearing assassination attempts. Nothing. Would you be interested in reading them? No.
The best stories have some sort of conflict in them to raise heartbeats and keep your audience engrossed. To keep your audience engaged in the first few crucial seconds, you need to give them something they’re not expecting. And conflict doesn’t mean an elaborate problem; no, just a little something unexpected to raise their interest.
And this scientifically backed, as well. Paul Zak, a leading neuroscientist on story, conducted a research on conflict and how it affects human brains. He found out that when watching a story, conflict causes our brain to release the stress hormone ‘cortisol’. This nudges us into paying attention and focusing on the story.
Let’s take a quick look at some conflicts in the top brand ads of this year.
Amazon - Alexa loses her voice
Conflict: Celebrities who tried to replace Alexa were ones that you know would fail. Chef Gordon Ramsay (‘Enjoy, you idiot sandwiches’, need I say more?), Rebel Wilson (or fat Amy as she’s fondly known as), Anthony Hopkins, rapper Cardi B. That’s the little surprise, the little problem in this video. Simple, right? But, completely, absolutely, and hilariously unexpected.
Samsung Galaxy: Growing Up
Conflict: Notice how they represent each year’s model with a little conflict, and all these conflicts are real problems faced by their audience, which makes the entire video a lot more authentic. His earliest Galaxy device doesn’t have enough storage so he shifts to iPhone, but the next model of Galaxy is a lot bigger than iPhone. And on and on it goes. They’ve compared both models by demonstrating problems that users faced.
Cute situations. Small conflicts. But enough to arouse interest and get their point across in a non-slimy way.
Barclay’s Corporate Recruitment
The funnest recruitment video ever in the banking sector is brimming with dramatic conflicts.
Here's how you can use conflict in your brand videos.
Find a problem that your brand is solving (or can solve). Create a storyline where the hero in your story will face that problem and then overcome it. A good story has ups and down, good and bad. So find your those ups and down for your story.
Create a structured storyline around it - beginning, conflict, resolution.
Use empathy. Don’t make up a conflict, but try to find out real conflicts that your audience face in your niche. And use them in your video.
It doesn’t matter what kind of video you’re making - recruitment videos, employee videos, internal communication videos, marketing videos, or social media videos. Every video can have some sort of a small conflict or an unexpected turn of event.
Here’s Jet Blue’s humorous take on in-flight foibles for their social media campaign.
“All stories are narratives, but not all narratives are stories. A story isn’t a chronology; a story is a dynamic series of events that hooks and holds and moves people to action.”
Award-winning author and authority on the craft of storytelling, Robert McKee
2. Focus on your audience
Worst recruitment video vs. best recruitment video. What’s the biggest difference?
While the former focuses on telling perks in an unnatural, awkward, jargon-heavy way, the latter has employees explain the benefits of working (or not working) at BambooHR in a layman-friendly way. Australia's Department of Finance’s ad is focused on company (the jargon, the stilted acting, the supporting text), while BambooHR focused on their audience, people who’re thinking of applying to the be a part of the team.
Storytelling is not limited to ad films; it can (and should be) incorporated in every brand video. Because people remember stories. And the best stories are ones that focus on their audience.
There are several ways you can incorporate your audience in your videos.
Find out your audience’s problems and outline how your brand can solve those problems. Then simply turn it into a narrative story.
Use popular events, stories, issues that your audience follow and use them in your videos. Create a story around them. It doesn't need to be a complex story, even a simple one can pack a punch if you do it right.
84 Lumber’s Pro Immigration ad is one of my favorite ads ever.
Use customer case studies
A cool way to use actual customers in your videos? Use their case studies and make them feel. NGO’s and customer-centric brands can pull at some serious heartstrings through this tactic.
Use real people
A lot of bigger brands use popular athletes, celebrities, and influencers in their videos for star appeal. You can do that too. But popular people are not always a must. You, your employees, your customers, regular people can create equally beautiful stories and inject authenticity in your videos. This also costs (a lot) less.
Producer/director Fraser Morton at Click2View explains Visa’s Solo Traveler video series,
“It was my job to find millennial talent who embodied the solo traveler. We did not want anyone who had a ‘showbiz’ persona on camera – that would defeat the purpose of creating a real-life series of travel micro-docs.”
British airways ran a brilliant ad campaign that featured two lifestyle influencers who chose surprise destinations for each other based on their social media and website content.
Real people, real stories
Warby Parker creates simple social media posts featuring it’s employees (and their quirkiness).
Tip: Research on the language your audience use to describe your products, or similar products in your industry. Use that jargon in your video for further appeal.
3. Start dramatically with a cold open hook
One of my absolute favorite cold opens from The Office.
Ever noticed how your favorite TV show episodes begin? It’ll start off with an interesting scene preceding the opening title to instantly hook you in. The best videos start off with a strong cold hook to instantly spellbind the audience. After all, the average attention spans are now down to just 8 seconds, so you need to make those 8 seconds count.
Popular influencers use this tactic in their videos, too. Gary Vee is a huge advocate of this tactic. Here’s a super-impactful 5 second cold open hook.
You can open your videos in several different ways.
Be humorous about your video, your brand, or crack a bad joke.
Marie Forleo tries a variety of different cold opens, but most of the time she’ll try to inject some semblance of humour while opening her videos to instantly grab her audience’s attention. It usually works for her because (a) she doesn’t drag it too long (b) it goes with her brand image and voice.
State a strong statement that relates to your topic\niche
Gary Vaynerchuck frequently uses this tactic to capture his audience’s attention instantly. He’ll start his videos with a powerful statement that relates to what he’s going to discuss in the video.
This Dove US ad starts with a simple statement that sums up the conflict in this video. While it only lasts for a couple of seconds, it’s powerful enough to make people think ‘What? What has she inherited?’
Your open hook doesn’t need to be super short or long. It should be enough to hook your audience in. That’s it. That’s the main purpose of it. Experiment with different hooks, different time lengths, use audio to create a specific mood, and see what works best with your audience.
Use stories to sell
Stories have always had the power to sell. The first printed story was carved in pillars in 700 BC, and since then people have used the lethal power of storytelling in different ways for different purposes.
All the big brands nowadays are investing in brand storytelling. Why? Because it sells.
"Every time the product that had a story pulled in more money than the same product without one. That's a lift on no additional investment." — Vedrashko