Video’s greatest accomplishment—aside from killing the radio star, that is—is its ability to affect viewers’ emotions. Ever since an on-screen, oncoming train scared the bejeezus out of the first film-goers in 1896, storytellers have leveraged filmed visuals (and later, audio and visuals) to make their audiences feel something. For branded content creators, the goal is the same: Tell a story that makes an audience laugh or cry, feel shocked or inspired, and instills more than the desire to chew gum.
We’re not knocking the effectiveness of a dynamite email campaign or a killer CSS animation to achieve brand goals. But if you’re aiming to create emotionally potent content that gets eyeballs, video might be the best bet.
Want to hit your audience right in the feels? Consider these traits of impactful video:
It’s not “less is more.” It’s “more in less time is more.” Audio integration and the expanded visual palette of editing enables branded video to tell whole stories with clarity and speed. Fitting a whole narrative in a two-minute clip, though, doesn’t guarantee that it will resonate with viewers. We think the quick-paced editing in this Google spot, which tells the story of a father watching his daughter grow up, successfully touches its audience. The video shows memories of the daughter’s childhood in such rapid succession that the viewer can’t decompress between each shot. Behold the emotional bombardment:
In this context, “spectacular” isn’t empty hyperbole. Video is the perfect showcase for spectacle—light, colors, explosions, or choreography, perhaps shown hyperlapsed or in bullet time. Awe-inspiring visuals encourage viewers to be dazzled again with a second viewing, giving the brand more opportunity to convey its message. Spectacle is the cornerstone of this branded music video from OK Go and Morton Salt, which uses saturated color, bullet time, and (several) mini-explosions:
Though only some commercials feature Jason Statham, all good branded videos employ actions that help an audience empathize with their subjects and lend momentum to the narrative. Video communicates action quickly, too, giving viewers less time to click or turn away before they’re invested in the story. Characters running along walls and firing weapons in this Call of Duty spot definitely holds the viewer’s attention, but the subtle actions do even more. When a barber shaves Michael B. Jordan on the game’s battleground, the unexpected moment makes the viewer wonder what’s coming next:
Ever find yourself laughing even harder just because your friend was also cracking up? Similarly, the echo chamber of social media amplifies the reaction a brand’s video elicits from its audience. Unlike some content types, video can be recut and reframed for social media with relative ease, which makes it a cost-effective format for this react, share, react, repeat phenomenon. Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercials—some of the most shared videos on social—are a great example. Our favorite is this one about the friendship between a puppy and horse. A beer bottle isn’t even in the shot: