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The Case for Creativity in Marketing, Backed by Neuroscience

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These days, almost every business believes that optimization is its main competitive advantage. But the obsession over doing what everyone else is doing actually produces a stale result: all of our content looks the same.

More often than not, creativity is placed on the back burner because producing content that games an algorithm or follows a best practice can help marketing teams achieve their short-term goals, such as a certain number of views or leads per month.

However, almost every algorithm update and best practice are public knowledge. And brands that are laser-focused on optimizing their content for them blend in with their competition and barely innovate their work. In the long run, this plummets engagement and severs their emotional tie with their audience.

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So how do you captivate your audience’s attention and keep them emotionally invested for the long haul? Science says you should provide creative, novel marketing experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn’t just a self-indulgent pursuit of happiness. Evidence from neuroscience proves that it’s a brand’s most powerful differentiator — and optimization isn’t. Below, we’ll explore some insightful findings from neuroscience that prove creativity isn’t actually a risk for your brand — it’s your safest bet.

Noticing novelty kept our ancestors alive

With all the watered-down content flooding the internet today, you may think your new video series or podcast will struggle to find an audience. However, saturation is actually a good thing for creative marketers. The human brain is wired to pay attention to novelty, so crafting creative, novel content (even on saturated platforms) can draw an audience’s attention, especially if all of your competitors churn out the same type of content.

Paying instant attention to novelty is an evolutionary trait. In prehistoric times, the odds of becoming lunch for a saber-toothed tiger were sky-high, so anything new or different in our ancestors’ environment, like the rustle of a bush or a snap of a twig, would instantly grab their attention.

Nowadays, our tendency to lock onto novelty isn’t as crucial for survival. But it can help truly creative brands survive and even thrive because they can grab their audience’s attention more effectively than their competitors can.

“Our tendency to lock onto novelty isn’t as crucial for survival, but it can help truly creative brands survive and thrive.”

Novelty triggers the release of dopamine

Novelty isn’t only useful for grabbing your audience’s attention — it’s also highly effective at retaining their attention and dialing up their passion and loyalty for your brand.

According to researchers at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine, experiencing unexpected pleasure triggers the release of more dopamine, a chemical that plays a huge role in motivation, reinforcement, and reward, than when you experience an expected pleasure. In other words, people enjoy pleasant surprises more than the things they already like.

Additionally, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, when these pleasant surprises trigger the release of dopamine, the neurochemical helps us form long-lasting memories of the experience and its surroundings, so we can remember exactly how to experience those feel-good chemicals again.

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This phenomenon dates back to when our prehistoric ancestors would search for sustenance and stumble upon a new, fresh stream of water or patch of berries. Finding as much food and water as possible was necessary for survival, so when our ancestors experienced the pleasant surprise of uncovering a new source of sustenance, their brains would reward their actions with a flood of dopamine, which seared the path they just traveled into their memories. This boosted the odds that they would seek out more sources of food and water and vividly remember exactly how to find them.

For many of us, we have clean water piped into our homes and berries available year-round just miles from our front doors. However, we still crave novel experiences and will always come crawling back for more. For brands, that means prioritizing creativity will help you build a truly engaged, passionate, and loyal audience and, in turn, contribute to your business’ growth. After all, your audience is likely to spend more time with your brand when they have positive experiences with it. And the more time they spend, the more likely they’ll become a customer and brand advocate.

Audiences are habituated to generic content

Optimizing your content by following a popular best practice or churning out the same type of work over and over again are proven audience repellents — our brains stop paying attention to a stimulus after repeated or prolonged exposure to it.

“Optimizing your content by following a popular best practice or churning out the same type of work over and over again are proven audience repellents.”

This evolutionary phenomenon is called habituation, and it scrubs constant stimulation from your awareness, such as the soft touch of your shirt on your skin, to focus your attention on new stimuli that could potentially extend your life, like fresh water, or end your life, like a saber-toothed tiger.

The majority of your target audience is habituated to the listicles and ultimate guides drowning our space. Producing more of them won’t attract any new audience members because they won’t even notice it in the first place. If you truly want to attract and retain their attention, you must provide enough novelty to trigger the release of dopamine — the chemical that rewards humans and incentivizes them to repeat an action.

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Without doing so, you’ll fail to connect with new audiences, your bond with your current audience will crumble, and you won’t be able to convince either of them to stick around.

Creativity makes a lasting impression on your audience

According to Antonio Damasio, chair of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, when consumers are making a purchasing decision, they attach the emotions they felt from previous, related experiences to the products or services they’re evaluating. Soon after, these emotions produce preferences, which drive their decision.

In a nutshell, memories about emotional experiences not only help us reminisce about the past but they also inform our future decisions. As a result, we pursue the things that have rewarded us in the past and avoid the things that haven’t.

That’s why placing pleasant memories in your audience’s mind is so crucial. If you can insert a positive memory of reading a blog post in their brains, you’ll boost the odds that they’ll read another one.

“If you can insert a positive memory of reading a blog post in their brains, you’ll boost the odds that they’ll read another one.”

But how do you get your audience to remember these interactions with your brand? From what neuroscience has taught us, you must grab and retain their attention with creative, novel experiences. And if you can develop a reputation for crafting creative content, your audience will rely on your brand for the jolt of novelty that they crave in their lives, rocketing your brand to the top of their minds and getting them hooked on your content.

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Video Marketing

The Bite-Sized Edition of the Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook

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If you’re keeping tabs on what we’ve been up to lately here at Wistia, then chances are the words brand affinity should sound pretty familiar to you by now. But, on the off-chance you’ve been able to maintain that New Year’s resolution of yours to spend less time online and need to get caught up to speed, here’s how we define the term:

  • Brand affinity is the most enduring and valuable level of a relationship between a business and consumer based on the mutual belief that they share common values.

In 2020 and beyond, we think it’s more important than ever for brands to focus on building brand affinity, not just awareness, in order to be successful in the long term. Some of the biggest brands across B2B and B2C are already doing this by creating binge-worthy content like podcasts and video series. So, how can small or medium-sized businesses like yours get in on the action? Luckily, our co-founders Chris Savage and Brendan Schwartz discussed how brand affinity can be earned at our live-streamed event Change the Channel and introduced our four-step Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook that’ll help you start executing this strategy today!

Marketing is changing and brands have to change with it. Watch Change the Channel and hear from Wistia’s co-founders and expert guests about what every marketer must do to connect with their audience and build better brands.

In this post, we’ll give you a high-level overview of the key topics we cover throughout the Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook so you can get a sense of what you’ll learn. We’ll get into why current brand-building strategies aren’t as effective as they once were, why binge-worthy content is the key to getting people to spend more time with your brand, and much more. Let’s get started, shall we?

The problem many marketers don’t see when it comes to digital advertising is that ads alone don’t make people like you. As marketers, we need to collectively face the hard truth that it’s impossible to make potential customers fall in love with us at first sight.

Interrupting people with messages and short videos they didn’t ask to see is not behavior conducive to making them like us more — in fact, it makes them like us less. Sure, running an awareness campaign might ensure that people recognize or know of your brand, but brand awareness does not inherently lead to the creation of brand advocates.

“The problem many marketers don’t see when it comes to digital advertising is that ads alone don’t make people like you.”

These days, most customer-facing teams like product, sales, and support are often left to carry a lot of weight on their shoulders when it comes to building affinity for their brands with customers and prospects. These teams are foundational in building brand affinity, but they’re not scalable in terms of time. To paint a picture, on the sales side, we’re usually trying to decrease the time it takes to close deals. On the support side, although we love chatting with everyone and understanding their problems, we are also trying to be as efficient as possible.

That’s why we believe investing in a Brand Affinity Marketing strategy is the best way for businesses across an array of industries to create true fans of their brands, and ultimately scale that affinity that other teams across the business work so hard to build.

The first step to any effective Brand Affinity Affinity Marketing strategy is to identify your business’s niche audience. What does your brand stand for beyond your products and services? What values do you care about promoting to the world? When it comes to practicing a successful Brand Affinity Marketing strategy, identifying and understanding your business’s values on a core level is key to determining which audience is best for your binge-worthy content.

To determine the right niche audiences for your video series or podcast, you need to define who you’re speaking to, what you’re saying, and why they should care. It’s also important to note that the audience you choose for your binge-worthy show should extend beyond those who are in your potential customer base. In other words, you should aim to create buzz amongst a niche group of people that care about more than just your products or services.
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Once you have your positioning statement in order, the next step is to come up with the creative execution of your show. Now, as we mentioned before, it’s possible to execute this strategy with podcasts, short videos, books, blog content, and the like. Think through the type of show you want to make — interview-style, a gear review, docu-series? The world’s your oyster. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on the production of your series if the content isn’t grounded in a solid idea from the start, so make sure you get this part right!

When it comes to creating this type of content, you can trust that the right people will stick around to engage with your content because it resonates with them on an identity-based level. Some of these people might not be customers or even know about your brand before watching or listening to your show, which is the beauty of it all in the first place! With binge-worthy content, you can cast a wider (yet more niche) net and tap into new audiences while garnering more fans for your brand.

The next step in the Brand Affinity Marketing strategy is to distribute and promote your content like a media company would. Companies like Netflix and Disney are already in the business of aggregating, creating, and distributing content to the masses that helps them build audiences, so you’re going to want to take a page out of their book.

Your content doesn’t need to be available in full on social media in order for it to be discovered. In fact, the best approach to promoting your show on social media is to replicate the approach taken by broadcasters and media companies. Promoting trailers and snippets from your shows works well for driving folks back to your show’s home-base on your own site. Doing so ensures that users can find your content through search and recommendations, but that if they’re intrigued and engaged enough by your offering, they’ll move from a social channel to an owned channel.

“The best approach to promoting your show on social media is to replicate the approach taken by broadcasters and media companies.”

The fourth and final step in any Brand Affinity Marketing strategy is measuring the impact your binge-worthy content has had on your business. The more of your series people watch, chances are, the more connected they feel to your brand and your values. And the more connected they feel to your brand, the more likely they are to spread the word about your business, in turn creating the opportunity to build more brand affinity.

In order to be successful with your Brand Affinity Marketing strategy, you have to change the way you think about ROI to account for advocacy, rather than just awareness or conversion. To that end, there are three core metrics you should use to measure the success of your shows over time: Brand Search Impressions, Time Watched, and Subscribers. Based on these metrics, you can get a better sense of how your audience is behaving and engaging with your content over time.

People’s affinity for your brand relies on their relationship with you. Just like relationships between two people, relationships take time to build and become stronger. They don’t usually happen overnight, which is why investing in finding ways to increase the amount of time people spend with your business is the key to growing relationships.

With a long-term Brand Affinity Marketing strategy in place, businesses are able to create stronger, more personal connections with their niche audience — and their niche audience’s friends. In the end, chances are these loyal fans will be happy to talk about and recommend your business — and your content — with the people they already know and trust. And thus, the positive word of mouth cycle continues ad infinitum.

Now, this was just an overview of what the playbook has in store for you. So, what are you waiting for? Jump into the Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook today.

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Video Marketing

4 Creative Promotion Strategies to Borrow From the Media Industry

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Last year, we witnessed what some may call a revolution in content creation. Rather than adhering to the status quo and continuing to produce stand-alone articles to educate our audiences, we started emulating the media industry by crafting long-form, episodic video series and podcasts to entertain them.

However, while this is certainly one giant step in the right direction, it’s not enough to just create this content. If we want to create content like media companies, we have to market it like them, too! From leveraging social media trends to creating behind-the-scenes video content, here are four creative marketing examples that the media industry has used to promote some of its most popular shows and films. We’ve also extracted relevant takeaways from these examples so you can apply them to your own marketing strategy. Let’s get right to it!

To promote the first season of their hit show You, Lifetime crafted a video of one of the most suspenseful scenes from its first season — Joe casually starting a relationship with Beck by scooping her out of the way of an oncoming train. I don’t know about you, but I was practically screaming at the screen when I saw this (“Beck, grab his hand … no, for real, grab it now!”). Have a look for yourself:

Even though this video is already captivating and terrifying on its own, You’s social team took this opportunity to start a conversation with their viewers and drum up some engagement. In the post’s description, they ask their audience to share their craziest stories about how they met a significant other, a relatable and intriguing question that You’s audience couldn’t help but answer. The post itself generated over 3,400 reactions and 1,500 comments on Facebook alone — pretty impressive!

Key takeaway:

If you want to take this page out of You’s social media marketing playbook, identify one of your video series’ most interesting, insightful, and relatable themes. You can pinpoint these themes by examining your brand values and defining your audience’s problems. Then, find a snippet of your video series that covers this theme and ask your audience to share their own experiences relating to it!

Asking people to talk about themselves is a surefire way to garner engagement and, in turn, boost your post’s organic reach. In fact, talking about yourself activates the parts of the brain that also light up when you eat delicious food, so this is an effective way to make people feel good when they interact with your brand and build a loyal, passionate audience.

One of The Good Place’s most beloved and hilarious running gags is its characters’ inability to curse when they’re in heaven. Naturally, the show’s marketing team crafted a highlight reel of The Good Place’s characters saying fake curse words (spliced in with some commentary from the actors themselves) and shared it on their Facebook page. You’re going to enjoy the fork out of this one:

Showcasing the actors’ love for these fake curse words is an effective way to make their audience feel like they have something in common with these top celebs. As we always say here at Wistia, being human and showing building a true connection with your audience is your best bet for gaining loyal fans for your brand. With this video, The Good Place was able to forge an even stronger connection between the talent and the audience, racking up over 2,200 reactions and 100 comments.

Key Takeaway:

When focusing on highlighting one of your video series’ running gags or common topics, create a video that peels back the curtain and reveals its true origin or why your actors or hosts admire it in the first place. It’ll make for an insightful video about a topic that your audience is already interested in and passionate about. If you need some additional inspiration, check out our documentary-style video about how we built the Brandwagon for our talk show for marketers: Brandwagon.

Now, this one might sound a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how often marketers overlook this — don’t be shy about your successes! While it might feel like giving yourself a pat on the back, you should always share the wins your series has accrued overtime online as social proof.

Take Marriage Story, for example. One huge reason the film skyrocketed in popularity was that it kept earning nominations and winning awards. And while that might sound like circular reasoning, if they hadn’t shared all that acclaim with the world, we never would’ve known about it in the first place. Posting a photo to social media that shows all of the Golden Globe nominations the movie received provides even more proof that it’s a film worth watching.

Key takeaway:

If your video series has earned awards, critical acclaim, or even just positive audience feedback, promote it on social media and on your blog. With countless pieces of content screaming for your audience’s attention every single day, social proof is one of the most effective ways to cut through the noise.

Humans evolved in tribes, so we naturally believe the “group” knows better than the individual. Thanks to that psychological phenomenon, the more social proof backing up the quality of your video series, the more likely people will give it a shot.

The typical marketing distribution playbook — publish a blog post, send an email, and post to social media — is a bit outdated and stale, especially when promoting binge-worthy content. Fortunately, arming yourself with these creative marketing strategies will allow you to cut through all the content clutter and build more hype for your video series than Baby Yoda did for The Mandalorian.

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Video Marketing

Start Identifying Your Brand Values by Answering These 6 Questions

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“Salad is food, and a lion might be hungry,” writes Jay Acunzo, founder of Marketing Showrunners, in a blog post about collecting audience intel before launching a new show. “But you should never feed salad to a lion.” What’s Jay getting at here? Admittedly, without reading the whole article you may have no idea. To put it simply, he’s pointing out the fact that marketers need to create the right kind of content to succeed in the video series and podcast space — not just Any Old Show™️.

Deciding what kind of concept to run with can feel like an uphill battle, and without a crystal ball or omnipotent powers, it’s hard to know if your audience will enjoy watching or listening to the content you worked so hard to create. One strategy to consider when trying to land on the right concept is rooting the premise of your show in your brand values. Simon Sinek, an author, motivational speaker, and organizational consultant, once said people buy the “why” behind your organization, not the “how” or “what.” So, using your brand’s purpose to drive the creative direction of your show is one of the most effective ways to build a loyal, passionate audience.

But your audience also identifies with some of your brand values more than others. As a result, to create a show that resonates with your audience, you need to understand which of your brand values they care the most about. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of six, research-backed questions you can ask your customers, founders, and colleagues so you can truly understand which values resonate most.

Why did you choose us?

The overwhelming majority of your customers agreed to do business with you because they connected with you in a meaningful way. In fact, psychology has proven that emotions drive purchasing decisions while logic rationalizes them.

When you interview your customers, be sure to uncover the main reason why they resonated with your brand in the first place, and in turn, chose to do business with your brand. Their answers will reveal some of your most important brand values — the ones that ultimately convinced them that you were the right brand for them — so take note!

How would you describe our brand if it were a person?

In Jay Acunzo’s podcast with Drift, called Exceptions, he features an exceptionally creative B2B brand that’s relied on brand marketing to succeed in their industry. At the beginning of each episode, he asks one of the brand’s customers to describe the brand like a person in their life, which paints a vivid picture of what their customers truly admire about them.

For example, in an episode featuring ProfitWell, a subscription software service, the CEO of Tettra, Andy Cook, compares ProfitWell to his mother, who is the voice of truth in his life. When Andy started his first business, she steered his focus toward generating revenue instead of boosting secondary metrics. In other words, she helped him focus on the things that truly mattered while filtering out the fluff. As it turns out, this is exactly tied to ProfitWell’s mission: To help people find the truth using the power of data.

Humans evaluate brands based on the same personality traits they use to evaluate people, so asking your customers to describe your brand like a person in their life will clarify your brand’s attributes that resonate with them the most.

Why did you start this company?

There’s a compelling reason why your founders started the company you work at today, and more often than not, it definitely wasn’t just to make tons of money. Chances are there was a huge problem in your industry that ruffled their feathers, and your company’s founders set out to solve it. Sure, they saw a market opportunity, but their passion for solving the problem vastly outweighed their desire to cash-in on it.

Asking your founders why they started your company will reveal your company’s true purpose and, in turn, a brand value that will resonate with an audience. For instance, Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to make environmentally friendly climbing tools that could replace pitons in the 1950s, which were metal spikes that mangled mountainsides. Ultimately, his unwavering passion for helping people explore the outdoors while preserving it is what prompted him to start the company. And it’s also a huge reason why Patagonia is a billion-dollar company today.

What do you value the most, personally?

Your founders’ own personal values tend to drive the direction of your company, but before you designate their personal values as your company’s brand values, get some feedback from your peers. It’s crucial that these personal values align with the business’ values as a whole, not just your founders.

Back when we first wrote (and rewrote) our company values at Wistia in 2015, we did an exercise to create values that reflected what our entire company stands for. Our new values pushed us to do something we never would’ve considered before: running a funny, creative mobile billboard during conference season in Boston.

Our billboard’s main purpose wasn’t to peddle our product — it was to take a creative risk that would connect with our customers, put a smile on their face, and teach us a lesson about marketing. This risky ad ended up being a hit with our customers, prompting them to tweet a ton of pictures of the billboard (featuring our office dog, Lenny, didn’t hurt either). Chances are, we wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking this risk had we not gotten super clear about our values and what risks we were and were not willing to take.

Why did you join our organization?

According to Jim Schleckser of the Inc. CEO Project, the majority of your employees joined your company because they believed in what you stand for, what you do, and the work they get to do. Like we mentioned before, your customers also likely do business with you because they support what you stand for and what you do, so tapping into what attracted your employees to your organization can uncover some brand values that will also resonate with customers.

For example, if most of your employees mention that they joined your company because of your commitment to creativity, then it’s worth figuring out if your founders and customers also agree with and resonate with this sentiment.

Why have you stayed here?

According to Harvard Business Review, the more aligned your employees’ and company’s values are, the more satisfied your employees will be, the more comfortable they’ll feel at work, the harder they’ll work, and, in turn, the longer they’ll stay. So, if you can uncover the genuine reasons why your most loyal employees still work at your organization, you could potentially uncover even more of your brand values that your customers will also passionately support.

For instance, if most of your employees praise your company’s dedication to a long-term strategy, then it could be one of your most important brand values, especially if your founders and customers also appreciate it.

After identifying the shared values that your customers, founders, and colleagues all say your company possesses, you can create a show concept that reflects them by creating a Show Positioning Statement. A Show Positioning Statement describes who you’re creating binge-worthy content for, what message you’re communicating, and why your audience should care.

Your Show Positioning Statement will have three elements: Audience, Insight, and Theme. Your audience is the niche audience you’re targeting, your insight is the problem your audience faces, and your theme, which is driven by your brand values, is the solution to that problem. Altogether, your Show Positioning Statement will look like this: “We connect with people who [audience] but [insight] by [theme].

Want to learn more about nailing the concept for your next binge-worthy series? Be sure to check out our Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook for more examples and exercises.

These days, people buy more than your product — they buy what you stand for. And if you want to create binge-worthy content like video series and podcasts that will build a loyal audience, infusing the brand values that resonate most with your audience is the first step toward success.

Once you distill the values expressed from each group, you can paint a clearer picture of the brand values that should guide the direction your show ultimately takes. So, get out there, ask the tough questions, and get introspective on what makes your brand tick!



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