The Power of the Meme
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on any part of the internet knows that, in this day and age, video is king. Thanks to the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine (may its soul rest in peace), video is one of (if not the) most popular form of content consumed by users the world over.
During recent years brands and businesses have started jumping on this motion-picture bandwagon, some with great success. They have recognized the immense potential that video content marketing holds in possibly launching their online presence to astronomical heights.
But what is the true power of video content marketing?
Its strength lies in its potential to go viral – to be seen and shared over and over again to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of global internet users.
Harnessing this resource isn’t as easy as it may seem, though. There are many factors that go into the creation of a successful video, and that’s not even taking any form of branding into consideration. But fret not! There are a whole host of ways to make video work for your brand, regardless of your industry or budget.
If your brand hasn’t at least toyed with the idea of engaging in some video-based marketing strategies, what are you waiting for?
Why You Want To Go Viral
Don’t worry, going viral doesn’t mean that you’ve contracted some sort of life-threatening communicable disease. The definition of ‘viral’ (in a modern digital context, at least) is a message that has become self-replicating as it gets picked up and repeated relentlessly across the internet. Any piece of content (be it a video or an image or a text post) stands a better chance of going viral if it’s something that can be easily replicated in a variety of contexts (and mercilessly made fun of at the same time).
As the modern youth can attest to, it’s possible to measure the success of your video/campaign by how ‘meme-able’ it is – ie. how easily a frame can be taken from the video, with its context still intact, and be parodied in different situations for comic effect. Sometimes, the entire video itself might be parodied in live-action. The whole ‘meme’ concept might sound a little like gibberish, but have some practical examples:
Nope! Chuck Testa
In August of 2011, Ojai Valley Taxidermy released this ad featuring taxidermist Chuck Testa. The video, created by prominent YouTubers Rhett and Link, was uploaded to the platform and featured a collection of skits in which people were supposedly fooled into believing that Testa’s stuffed animals were alive and kicking. Testa himself would then pop up and proclaim, “Nope, Chuck Testa!”
Even with its low-budget appearance and questionable acting (elements that probably directly contributed to its success, in all honesty), the video skyrocketed to internet stardom and Testa’s catchphrase began cropping up everywhere. The video itself is pretty funny, but the memes it inspired were even funnier (though not necessarily politically correct).
Bro! Not Cool
A more recent example of a video that the entire internet has just taken and run with is the Gillette ad released in January of this year. Titled ‘The Best A Man Can Be’ (a play on their company slogan, The Best A Man Can Get), the video is a statement on toxic masculinity and calls to attention issues surrounding bullying, sexual harassment, inequality and sexism. The overall message of the video is to promote positive attributes like compassion, humility and responsibility, in an effort to challenge viewers and make them think about what defines the complex construct of masculinity.
This video received some pretty polarized reactions when it appeared on social media networks like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – people either loved it (appreciating the message of conscious self-reflection and creating an ideal society) or hated it (lambasting it as a smear campaign against the entire male species). You pick which side of the fence you sit on. But regardless of its more serious messages (as compared to good ol’ Chuck Testa), the internet still made some pretty good memes out of the situation.
The main thing meme-makers latched onto was a short scene in which one man stops another from following a woman passing by on the street (referred to as ‘Bro! Not Cool’). Below are some great examples of how the message of a video can be reinterpreted and parodied across a plethora of different scenarios, while still retaining the integrity of the original context.
More Than One Way
Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s more than one way to create a video for your brand. Video is a versatile medium with a wide range of applications aside from your standard promotional clip – this includes vlogs, webinars, interviews, tutorials…you name it.
Let’s have a look at some of the most popular forms of video content marketing:
Short for video blogs, they’re cheap to produce and driven by personality. There’s also no set time-limit to a vlog – they can be as long or short as you like and cover any topic that is both interesting to the viewer and relevant to your brand. Vlogs are generally unscripted and unstructured; an off-the-cuff type of video that shows things as and when they’re happening. The pro of vlogging is that you don’t need to constantly come up with new brand content – you can document things on a much more casual level, like office walk-throughs. Vlogs are an intimate way of sharing and connecting with your audience, and are a good way to build personal relationships with them.
2. Culture-Centred Videos
These kinds of videos make the brand seem more alive. They give the brand a human face, providing the audience with glimpses into the life (or culture) of the company. These types of videos can include things like slice-of-life employee interviews, office shenanigans, pranks, and team-building events. They go hand-in-hand with HR and attracting new employees as well as allowing the brand to differentiate themselves from their competitors through sheer personality.
Interview videos are a good way of bringing some authority into what might otherwise be a collection of personal videos. By having certain industry-leading guests appear on a series of interviews, a brand can create a positive, intelligent association with their field – as well as appearing to be very much ‘in-the-know’. Another payoff is that interviews help build relationships with potential referral partners and others in the industry (and it also helps when an interview guest shares the video with their own audience, thereby increasing that brand’s views and online traction). These videos can be a little more scripted, since you don’t want it to seem aimless (or have to edit out tons of awkward silences).
Event videos cover the proceedings of corporate functions in a polished, shareable way. These would traditionally cost an arm and a leg to produce, but thanks to the rise in popularity of short videos on Instagram and Vine, companies are starting to capture snippet clips during events to make social media-ready montages. These videos bring the event to the viewer and create a sense of inclusion, extending the reach of the event far past the physical sphere and way out into the digital world. These clips can also drive interest in upcoming events for a brand, spreading the word and creating a more sought-after experience (which just goes to show that making a little FOMO goes a long way).
Viewers like being able to see how to do things themselves. A brand providing helpful content appeals to customers, since there has to be more to a company than just promotional tie-ins and soft selling. Tutorial-type videos should be about actionable resources relevant to your target audience (like a paper company posting videos about step-by-step origami). The more useful tutorials a brand puts out, the more helpful and trustworthy they become in the eyes of the customer.
Even though animation is more of a style than a type of video, it appeals greatly to viewers for a number of reasons – they’re aesthetically pleasing, and (more often than not) leave visitors with a feel-good sensation (think Red Bull and Headspace). Animated videos are also more budget-friendly than live action ones since there’s no need to hire actors or studio spaces. They’re perfect for brands with complex or difficult to explain products, since everything can be broken down and shown in an easily-digestible way (visually speaking, that is – please don’t try to eat the animation).
What Makes A Viral Video?
Is there a sure-fire way to make your video an instant internet success?
The truth is, you can never predict how an audience will react to any piece of content. But, there are a couple things that you can do to give it the best possible chance of spreading (sort of like that communicable disease we mentioned earlier, except not as gross and with better PR).
It must evoke emotion
Any emotion is good, but we’re aiming for things on the more positive end of the spectrum – humour, empathy, the warm and fuzzies…that sort of thing. However, if your video does end up creating some controversy, or makes people angry, sad, whatever the case may be – at least they’re talking about it, right?
2. It should portray your brand, but without being overly promotional
Customers don’t like the feeling that they’re being sold to all the time. When it comes to creating video content, the aim is to make it feel more entertaining than promotional. Sure, it’s important to let the viewers know where the video is coming from, but don’t use it as an opportunity to shove more bland marketing material in their faces. Let the people laugh a little.
They’ll remember who you are.
3. Have other marketing strategies in place
So you’ve created a great video that you’ll sure will be a hit with viewers – but how do you get them to see it?
It’s a good idea to remember that a good video is wasted without a strategy in place to back it up. Make sure your other branding it taken care of – social media accounts, mailing lists, websites, etc. You want there to be a complete framework already up and running so that when a viewer decides to take a closer look at you because of your super hilariously entertaining video, there’s something there to give them a better idea of who you actually are as a business.
And while there may not be a magic formula to internet success, there is a pretty good combination of things that might get your video on the radar:
low budget + humour + topicality + provocation + surprises
Low budget videos have a certain charm to them – they come across as more raw and authentic since there was no high-end production value involved (a simple smartphone will suffice). Humour, as always, is a sure-fire way to get a viewer to engage with whatever you’re making – if they laugh at the same things you do, that is.
Topicality is important because, above everything else, your content needs to stay relevant. It needs to be caught up with the times, following the news, and engaging with all the trending hashtags on Twitter. If not, it’ll be left behind in the competitor’s dust (along with all of those 80’s Zumba commercials).
Provocation is another good point to consider because you want to make the viewer think. Make them question things – but be sure to stop just shy of creating an existential crisis. No one wants to think that much.
And last, but certainly not least, the element of surprise. Create an expectation, and then shatter it. Jump scares work, too. But only once. So use them sparingly and to maximized effect.
But, if all else fails, at least you can always revert to a tried and tested internet favourite – cats.