Why most marketing videos miss the mark.

These days, you can watch videos on any subject under the sun. Seriously. Just go to YouTube and search for “underwater basket weaving.”

I saw a guy playing ping pong the other day with a Go Pro mounted on his head. Stand in a lift line at your local ski area and you’ll notice that every other helmet is mounted with a camera.

The marketing brains at GoPro nailed it with their “be a hero” campaign.

Small HD cameras and simple video editing software have made video production as easy as doing a powerpoint presentation. So a lot of small business owners and marketing coordinators are jumping on the bandwagon. Many seem to think video is the be-all, end-all of their marketing “strategy” or branding. Just get some videos up on YouTube, and everything else will fall into place.

Unfortunately, most of the video branding efforts you see online are nothing more than crummy powerpoint presentations, transferred to a different medium. They ignore the fundamental benefit of video… that you can demonstrate the product and capture the action.

Video is supposed to be a visual medium, and yet most marketing videos that you find online these days are not visual at all. Usually all the audience sees is some guy’s face sitting in front of his laptop camera. If he really feels creative he might repeat important points by throwing the words up on the screen and underlining them a couple times.

Just follow the boucing ball!

The fact is, most marketing videos communicate nothing more than a few still photos and a little bit of text. They don’t capture the essence of the brand, or promote any sort of sound bite that people would likely repeat.

Here’s a good test… If you don’t miss a thing by walking away from the computer and just listening to the audio, you know it’s not a good use of the video medium. Could have been a podcast.

Eons ago, before the advent of YouTube, I worked on long fromat videos for big brands. We were constantly looking for ideas that did NOT involve a corporate talking head. Because they’re boring, with a capital B. And when we absolutely had to use one, we made darn sure the spokesperson was attractive, well spoken and downright great in front of the camera.

Because I have news for you… no one wants to sit and watch your lips move.

Unless you’re a super model, or the world’s sexiest man, people aren’t going to tune in just to see your face. They might be interested in what you have to say, but they don’t care about seeing your face in lousy light, distorted and unappealing. Like Shrek.

Unless your brand hinges entirely on your personality, try something different the next time you sit down to do a video…

First, figure out what you need to communicate. THEN decide if video is the right medium for your message. Just because you have the ability to do a video, doesn’t mean you should. When it comes to presenting your product in the most favorable light, good still photos are often a better choice than low-budget video. Even if you have a nice, HD camera, the product won’t look as good as it would if a pro were shooting it.

Let’s say you’re launching a new service… often those are tough to show. You can talk about it, explain it, and do your pitch, but there may not be anything really to demonstrate on camera.

A new product, on the other hand, can be held, touched, and demonstrated quite effectively on video. So quit talking about it, and show it in action. Rather than rambling on about the features of the product, show the outcome of using it… the happy ending that comes from your products. Image always trumps information.

If you’re selling a new bike, focus on the sheer joy and freedom of riding. If you’re pitching a new type of sprinkler system, focus on families enjoying the lush, green grass.

If you insist on talking, cut away and show something, anything, but your face. Study how the great documentary filmmakers do it… it’s visual storytelling, not just audio.

The fact is, lousy videos can fail just as easily as any other marketing tool. So before you jump on the video bandwagon, take time to hone your message, and develop a story that’s worth telling. In whatever form.


About the Author

I’m a brand strategist, creative director, copywriter and published author living in the very livable town of Bend, Oregon. I’m also an ad agency veteran and owner of BNBranding. Read more about me »

Leave a Reply 6 comments

Paige C. Willey Reply

Great thoughts here. If you make a video that just has a talking head, it might as well be a documentary. You should communicate with visual elements, not just auditory ones.

asher Reply

Thanks for the input! Very interesting. Can you recommend some simple easy to use video editing software for a training product I’m creating? I need to insert some slides as I speak…


Steve Schwartz Reply

Great points! Just like you said, I always tell my clients is that a video should tell a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That end should be a “call to action”. Marketing video doesn’t pay off (in terms of dollars) until the viewer takes some sort of action based on the video.

Steve "@PodcastSteve" Lubetkin Reply

We always urge clients to think visually for a video. We don’t like green screens, we think it looks fake and part of the reason you do videos is to build trust with prospective clients. Inauthentic backgrounds or trickery undermines that. We also dislike the very popular “words on a screen” videos that have no images whatsoever, just flash a bunch of facts at you. Please, just give me the white paper, I can read! Video should do exactly what others here have said, “Tell me a story.” that is the formula prescribed by Don Hewitt more than 40 years ago for “60 Minutes,” and it is no less relevant today for marketing videos. And also, try not to sell so hard. It shouldn’t be a commercial! People don’t watch them on tv, if it feels like a commercial, they won’t watch it on the web either. Tell stories, be like a news crew, cover your company. That’s it.

Stjepan Alaupovic Reply

Very clear and concise article!

Hey Asher, if you’re looking for something easy, then I’d suggest iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

Rob Reply

I completely agree – the majority of brands aren’t using video to its full potential. From a brand strategy (http://www.milesdesign.com/about/brand-strategy) point of view, using video needs to be done in a strategic way. Does your brand offer a product of service that requires video to help explain and introduce the topics?

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