There’s a major problem with advertising on YouTube and Facebook, as this recent thread on Reddit indicates. The problem is, we hate it.
But despite this, marketers continue to spend more and more money on advertising.
And increasingly, they spend it on short-form mobile video formats.
The reason why we continue to move our marketing dollars in this direction is simple — digital advertising offers the most scalable and direct way available to reach consumers online.
So as marketers, we’re presented with a challenge: How do we benefit from the reach provided by digital advertising without irritating our potential customers?
Maximize the reach of your brand message while annoying the fewest people
Most businesses respond to this challenge by trying to create something compelling and entertaining enough that users won’t mind watching, despite the fact that it’s content they didn’t ask for. This generally works, and when it does (as seen in the example below from Nike) it really works.
But, of course, there is a catch. This bar for this type of creative campaign is insanely high. So high, in fact, that it doesn’t even work consistently for Nike. When something is risky and unreliable for the masters of the craft, the biggest brands in the world with incredibly deep pockets, how are aspiring brands supposed to compete?
The answer is, they don’t. Typically a small business, without the resources to hire a top creative agency will go to market with a relatively generic and uninspiring bit of creative that attempts to capture their brand message in 15–30 seconds, such as our attempt, below:
A huge amount of money is then typically spent to paper-over the cracks of poor creative — increasing vanity metrics in order to give the outward appearance of success, despite lacking any concrete evidence that the campaign increased purchasing intent or improved the perception of a brand.
The web is littered with attempts by businesses both small and large to replicate the success of the best Superbowl ads, spending billions of dollars trying to become part of the 0.001% of videos that go viral. Ads that no one remembers and that probably irritated more people than they inspired.
The reason why this approach tends not to work is quite simple — people just don’t like being interrupted with things they haven’t asked for. Whether it’s telesales calls, canvassers, or email spam, it’s always unwelcome unless it happens to provide the exact thing we were looking for at that moment in time.
So, what if, with advertising, we give people what they are looking for anyway?
Trailers are called “trailers” because they were originally played as post-roll bits of film after the movie had concluded, but were eventually moved to pre-roll in order to ensure people actually watched them rather than leaving the movie theatre.
Because people were forced to watch them, and because the product they were selling was further experiences at the Movie Theater, these short segments fast developed into “best of” compilations. From there (and to avoid spoiling all the plot points and removing the incentive to watch the movie in full) they became stylistic expositions aimed at intriguing and entertaining audiences without giving everything away.
Critically, the trailers themselves developed into a format that was both an advertisement and entertainment in its own right. When you head to the movies, it’s always enjoyable to sit through a bunch of trailers for upcoming releases, regardless of the quality of the film in question.
Today, we are watching more and more video content than ever, and often in quick succession. In this current golden age of TV, our major challenge is not having good things to watch, but actually navigating through the morass of amazing things available to decide what to invest our time in.
Social media advertising has become an amazing tool for solving this problem, as media companies have discovered. Take, for example, the latest season of The Good Place.
For each new episode, dozens of trailers spanning various different lengths, formats, and styles are created to market each episode. The trailers are optimized for the platforms they’re distributed on, with the primary call to action being “watch the full episode.”
Then, as part of the press for the season, cast members do interviews on all the major TV networks, and this content is then cut up and turned into other clips which perform the same function.
This process is then repeated for every episode in the season, and, before long, there are hundreds and hundreds of assets being used to advertise the full content experience, which is hosted on an owned platform.
This strategy works incredibly well. Why? Because it’s serving the user’s need for distraction, information, and entertainment. Short, fun clips from a TV show perfectly match the kind of distraction we’re looking for on social media, all while giving us recommendations for what to watch next.
“Short, fun clips from a TV show perfectly match the kind of distraction we’re looking for on social media, all while giving us recommendations for what to watch next.”
The reason why this practice has emerged for media companies is obvious; their content is their product. And the reason why these ads work for consumers is equally obvious; social media is a destination users go to find and consume content.
Most marketers, however, are currently stuck trying to market their products like they would media content. This has led to a strange paradigm where marketers adapt their products to connect with an existing trend or meme in order to gain attraction on social media. Take, for example, Glenlivet’s recent Whisky Tide Pods:
This is obviously a PR gimmick. Pernod Ricard is not really making this product available for mass retail, but it is effective marketing. It’s nonetheless slightly strange (and perhaps perverse) that a company with the history and product quality of Glenlivet needs to try and connect its product to a bizarre meme from 2018 in order to get attention on social media.
Perhaps, instead, the more reliable answer to the marketing challenges of 2019 is to give the people what they actually want through advertising. In other words, samples of content they might really love.
This approach, of course, necessitates creating binge-worthy content of your own, but as Wistia’s CEO and co-founder argues here, investment in long-form, creative media is the next investment every business should be making in order to grow their brands.
The marketing world’s perspective on advertising delivery hasn’t evolved since the early days of TV advertising. Back then, the goal was to get your ad in front of as many people as possible, as this was the only real factor that determined whether more consumers would be aware of your product, and at that time, awareness was the key factor in determining purchasing intent.
Media companies, however, see things differently. Show producers at NBC aren’t bothered by how many people watch the promotional assets for The Good Place. What they do care about is the number of people watching the show itself. And watching the show itself is the first step towards wanting to watch more of the show, which is the first step towards becoming a monetizable viewer (through ads or subscriptions) for the company.
“Show producers at NBC aren’t bothered by how many people watch the promotional assets for The Good Place. What they do care about is the number of people watching the show itself.”
The goal of advertising for media companies, therefore, is not simply “reach,” quantified in terms of impressions, but rather the acquisition of viewers on a video-on-demand streaming platform or via traditional broadcast TV.
And this is a much more sophisticated goal. One user watching 10 hours of content, perhaps giving you their email address in the process, is worth far more to your business than a passing interaction with 10,000 viewers.
But optimizing for this requires abandoning an entrenched, hundred-year-old perspective that it’s a marketer’s job to deliver content to an audience. Rather, marketers today ought to replicate the approach of media companies by directing the audience to the content.
Marketing like a media company, or using advertising to distribute trailers for a bigger content experience, is a far more effective use of media spend than straight-forward brand advertising.
At Wistia, we’ve shifted our entire paid media strategy towards marketing like a media company, and it’s really paying off. On YouTube, this brand ad from 2018 (which we’re really proud of), cost us about $0.05 per view and $45 per email sign-up.
And this year, with the trailer for our original series, Brandwagon, views are costing a similar amount, but we’ve been able to acquire new email addresses in our CRM system for less than $1 apiece.
For wider context, two years ago, we were paying an average of $2 per click from paid media to acquire new visitors.
Why such a dramatic difference? It’s actually fairly intuitive and simple — one has a compelling value proposition for users on YouTube (“Check out this video series relevant to your interests!”), and the other does not (“Check out a new product that you haven’t heard of before!”).
Critical to the idea of marketing like a media company is the role of the “owned platform.” Note that NBC does not publish full episodes of The Good Place on YouTube. Doing so would:
- Provide a sub-optimal viewing experience for show fans, where binge-watching is hampered by mid-roll ads and related videos.
- Prevent them from bringing users into their CRM & ecosystem, giving all control of their audience to Google/YouTube
- Invalidate the purpose of the ads and trailers, since users don’t need to take further action to receive the content.
And the same should be true for businesses adopting this strategy. An owned platform gives you control over the viewing experience, control over your data, and control over your audience.
When the goal is audience acquisition, rather than content distribution, audiences should be driven to a platform where the trade is mutually beneficial. The viewer and the content provider are left in a more favorable position, not just the viewer and the social media giant.
How to Build Hype for Your Video Series: Lessons Learned from Two Super Popular Shows
Today, marketers not only battle for the attention of a distracted audience, but also of a skeptical one. According to Social Media Today, only 4% of consumers believe marketers practice integrity. As a result, the standard email and social media marketing campaign can only take you so far. However, with Brand Affinity Marketing, marketers are able to cut through the noise and make people love their brands — all thanks to the help of binge-worthy content.
Unfamiliar with Brand Affinity Marketing? Check out our new four-step playbook that covers everything from finding a niche audience to measuring resonance over reach.
If you’re looking to dive into the world of Brand Affinity Marketing, chances are you’ve already started to produce your first video series. That’s great! But now that you’ve got a few episodes under your belt, how do you go about getting people to know your series even exists? What tactics can you employ to get that precious word-of-mouth marketing to flow organically? In this post, we’re going to look at two of the most popular shows in recent history — Game of Thrones and Stranger Things — to give you some ideas for where to get started!
To generate buzz for their highly anticipated final season, Game of Thrones partnered with Aaron Rodgers, a superstar quarterback and super-fan of the show, to create a hilarious video series post on Twitter.
Sitting on his throne as the Lord of Greenwater Bay, Rodgers boasts about the Green Bay Packers’ enormous success and shows his love for Game of Thrones, helping the iconic show rack up over 5,500 favorites and retweets, proving that even the most famous celebrities bow down to the throne.
Partnering with influencers to promote your own video series is a great way to provide the social proof necessary to pique your audience’s interest and convince them to watch it. However, just like Game of Thrones did with Aaron Rodgers, it’s best to partner with influencers who actually support your brand. Audiences can sniff out an ad masquerading as a genuine shout-out faster than they click “Exit” on annoying pop-ups.
So, before you badger every influencer in your space to promote your new video series, ask the folks on your team if they’ve developed any authentic relationships with thought leaders in your space that might be willing to advocate for your new show. If so, get those conversations started and brainstorm some of the compelling content you create with them ahead of your pitch!
In Stranger Things 3, two of the main characters work summer jobs at an ice cream shop. Naturally, Netflix saw this sweet opportunity (see what we did there?) and teamed up with Baskin-Robbins to launch Stranger Things-themed ice cream, like the “Upside Down Sundae” to build hype for their upcoming season.
Stranger Things 3 is also set in the summer of 1985, when Coca-Cola infamously altered their flagship soda’s classic formula. Netflix didn’t skip a beat and ended up joining forces with Coca-Cola to release New Coke for a limited time to add to the hype.
At first glance, Baskin-Robbins and Coca-Cola have nothing to do with parallel universes or telepathic teenagers. But since ice cream and New Coke play big roles in Stranger Things 3, Netflix’s collaboration with these brands made complete sense and, in turn, could cleverly grab their target audience’s attention.
If you decide to collaborate with another brand to promote your video series, be strategic like Netflix and work with one that has an audience with similar interests as yours, rather than the largest one. You’ll reach less people, but you’ll resonate with more of the right people.
A week before Stranger Things 3 debuted, the show took over attractions at a Santa Monica Pier and Coney Island amusement park. By rebranding rides, a fair, and an arcade, as well as bringing in a slime-filled dunk tank, the Hawkins High cheerleaders, and 80’s cover bands, they made people feel like they were actually in Hawkins, Indiana, which helped to skyrocket anticipation around the show’s third season.
Hosting an interactive event is a surefire way to generate buzz for your video series. Studies show that people value experiences much more than material objects, and when your fans can engage with your brand in-person instead of through a computer screen, they’ll feel more connected to you and will value your brand more.
Having a hard time imagining what this might look like on a scale your business could actually afford? Check out this blog post we wrote about the time we rented out a movie theater here in Cambridge, MA to screen our first-ever original series, One, Ten, One Hundred, for some inspiration.
With over 63 million views on YouTube, the trailer for the final season of Game of Thrones is one of the most-watched trailers … ever, and for good reason.
By structuring their trailer so that the moment everyone is waiting for — the final battle between the Army of the Dead and the Army of the Living — is at the very end, their audience realizes that they’ll finally get to experience the show’s climax.
Stranger Things 3’s trailer, which has over 35 million views on YouTube, relies on a similar structure to generate excitement and buzz for their latest season. They deliver a suspenseful, action-packed preview of the season that also introduces some new villains, monsters, and storylines, getting their fans just as excited for what’s in store.
When crafting your video series’ trailer, consider taking some inspiration from Game of Thrones and Stranger Things by structuring it after your plot. This will give your audience a sneak peek of your video series’ concept, characters, and story, heightening their excitement for what’s to come and increasing the odds that they’ll share the trailer with friends and colleagues. To learn how we crafted the trailer for our new talk show, Brandwagon, check out this blog post.
A year before the last season of Game of Thrones premiered, Emilie Clarke, who plays one of the show’s main characters, Daenerys Targaryen, raffled off an opportunity to watch the final season premiere with her and attend an after-party in New York City on an online fundraising platform called Omaze. Within hours of the announcement, the site crashed.
Running some sort of contest or raffle on social media that’s tied to your video series is the perfect way to get people talking about your content. Plus, by limiting the number of winners to a small handful, you’re able to leverage the scarcity principle, which taps into your audience’s desire to attain rare things. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the items you give away, too.
For our latest video series, Brandwagon, we ran a quiz on Instagram Stories and gave away Brandwagon-branded t-shirts to the first three people to get the most questions about the show correct. And while this is certainly less glamorous than attending a fancy party in New York City, to the fans of our show, this was (hopefully) an exciting way to get some free swag!
Nowadays, consumers trust people much more than they trust businesses, so why not use your fans to your advantage and build more hype around your video series? Their display of love for your brand and excitement for your upcoming show is what will persuade others to hop on your bandwagon. So, get creative and generate word-of-mouth for the series you worked so hard to produce with these tips from some of the most-watched shows in the business!
How to Nail Your Video Series’ Concept With a Show Positioning Statement
Creating an original video series is an exciting endeavor for marketers. But, since it’s also probably a brand-new endeavor, you may not have a process in place for vetting show concepts. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to create a concept worthy of loyal followers is to root it in your brand’s existing values.
That’s because people buy what you stand for as much as what you sell. If they can connect with your brand on a personal level through your values, they’ll want to spend time with your content and eventually, do business with you.
Writing what we call a Show Positioning Statement will guarantee that your video content is grounded in and reflects your company values. Here at Wistia, doing so has helped us drive the concepts and creative direction of our Webby Award-winning docuseries One, Ten, One Hundred, and our talk show for marketers, Brandwagon.
Learn how to write your own in this post to ensure that your idea for a video series is as reflective of your values as it is binge-worthy.
Your Show Positioning Statement describes who you’re creating your binge-worthy content for, what message you’re communicating, and why your audience should care. It’s the foundation of your video series and the compass for its creative direction.
For every show you create, you should have a unique Show Positioning Statement, which should include three core elements: audience, insight, and theme. Once you identify each one, frame your Show Positioning Statement like this: “We connect with people who [audience], but [insight], by [theme].
Below are some examples of Show Positioning Statements that a B2C and B2B brand might write (they’re totally hypothetical, mind you). Follow these examples and then get started on your very own!
Audience: The subculture you’re targeting
The first step to crafting a Show Positioning Statement is identifying your target audience — ideally, a group of people outside your existing audience who share a unique belief. You might call this group a subculture or niche audience.
For a company that sells cold-pressed lemonade made without any added ingredients and believes that food and drink should improve people’s lives, their target audience could be people who strive to live a healthy, additive-free lifestyle.
After identifying this target audience, the lemonade brand’s Show Positioning Statement starts to look like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily.”
Insight: The unique problem your audience grapples with
The next step to crafting a Show Positioning Statement is uncovering an insight about your audience. As one of the most frustrating problems your subculture faces and is constantly trying to solve, the insight highlights the gap between their aspiration and their current situation.
For the lemonade brand’s target audience — people who want to eat and drink more healthily — one of their biggest challenges is differentiating between food and beverages that are nutritious and the ones that claim to be. This is a prevalent problem in the lemonade industry, where an overflow of brands mass-produce their beverages by mixing powder with water but still claim they’re natural and healthy.
Locked onto this insight, the lemonade brand’s Show Positioning Statement could look like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily but don’t know how to identify packaged food that is actually nutritious.”
Theme: The solution to your audience’s problem
The final step in crafting your Show Positioning Statement is picking a theme, which offers a solution to your insight. As always, make sure it aligns with your brand’s values. Otherwise, your audience will perceive your brand as disingenuous and might disengage from your content.
To offer a solution to their audience’s pressing problem, the lemonade brand could show their audience how to identify nutritious food and drinks by examining the ingredients. They could also recommend certain brands from each food and beverage group.
With their theme determined, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement might end up looking like this: “We connect with people who want to eat and drink more healthily but don’t know how to identify packaged food that’s actually nutritious by exploring what ingredients actually make them healthy or not.”
Audience: The subculture you’re targeting
For this example, we’re going to talk about a brand whose software connects companies with freelancers. To attract the best customers, they need to attract the best freelancers, as the talent of the freelancers ultimately makes or breaks their product. With a target audience of people who want to build a successful freelance career, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could look like this: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career.”
Insight: The unique problem your audience grapples with
Being a freelancer is one of the toughest gigs around. You’re constantly hustling to finish projects, market your brand, and, toughest of all, close more deals. Given how prevalent this insight is in the freelance industry, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could be: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career but struggle to thrive in a cutthroat industry. ”
Theme: The solution to your audience’s problem
To help solve this problem, this brand could inspire their audience to persevere and find success as freelancers by creating a documentary about how some of the most successful freelancers have built their careers. After selecting this theme, this brand’s Show Positioning Statement could be: “We connect with people who want to build a successful freelance career but struggle to thrive in a cutthroat industry by inspiring them to persevere and find success through true, motivational stories from successful freelancers.”
As you can see, by running these hypothetical businesses and their brand values through the Show Positioning Statement framework, we could easily generate a relevant, emotionally-resonant concept for their next video series. And at the end of the day, the most important part of crafting a video series is creating a compelling concept. Just think about your favorite shows and films. Do you love them and keep coming back for more because of their actors, cinematography, or special effects? Or do you love them for their stories? In most cases, it’s the latter. And that’s exactly why you need to invest time in perfecting your video series’ concept.
Why Your Content Strategy Should Target a Niche Audience (Not Potential Customers)
As Raymond Williams once said, “There are no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.” As marketers, we tend to look at the world as three distinct masses:
- Existing customers
- Potential customers
- People who will never be customers
However, outside of our own lens, there’s usually nothing that unites the people within these groups. While, as a business, we tend to think of our potential customer base as a homogenous group of people who we can and should market to, this is rarely an accurate view of the world. In reality, those that are likely to buy our products and services are usually a hodgepodge of individuals from different communities and interest groups.
Marketing best practice engenders this skewed perspective. By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.
“By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.”
In the world of content marketing, we’re then tasked with the challenge of creating content that appeals to the interests of these people. But how can you create content that appeals to a group of people who don’t really identify as a group of people?
Let’s take a fairly straightforward example — the equally fictional musical instrument repair shop, “Don’t Fret,” run by our very own creative director.
The potential customer base for Don’t Fret is people who need instruments repaired in Somerville, MA. There are probably two characteristics that unite this group:
- They own musical instruments that need repair
- They spend time in Somerville, MA
Other than that, everything else will be varied. Some of these people will be musicians themselves, some will have children who play, and some will be restoring antiques or family heirlooms. Some will have guitars, some will have cellos, and there might be the occasional oud in the mix. Some will be professionals who need a set-up to withstand regular touring, and others will be hobbyists who mostly play at home.
In short, even for a small local business like this, there’s not a whole lot that unites the entire customer base. If my task is to create content that will appeal to all customers, I’m stuck with a fairly narrow brief: I must create something that will appeal to harpists and lutists, amateurs and professionals, collectors and layman i.e. everyone, and therefore, no-one.
It’s easy to see how trying to be all things to all people, even for a local business with a clear audience and value proposition, often leads marketers towards creating uninteresting and uninspiring content.
Target customers, so defined, are not a group of people you can create content for. It’s a made-up group of people, an abstraction that can be helpful for you in categorizing users and interactions, but one that typically doesn’t reflect anything tangible in the real world.
While it may be incoherent to think of potential customers as a group of people to create content for, there are invariably plenty of very real interest groups that can meaningfully be served by great content marketing.
What makes them good targets are a clear shared interest that spurs a great deal of conversation, with desires and challenges related to that interest. These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.
“These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.”
Our challenge, as marketers, is to identify these niche audiences by finding extremely active and passionate interest groups that are tangentially related to our customer base i.e. communities that a substantial number of our existing customers are a part of.
For the “Don’t Fret” guitar shop, we can see how different communities based on professions and hobbies can intersect with the customer base to provide niche audiences that have clear desires, needs, and challenges as communities.
Now, there are some fairly straightforward ways of discovering these types of niche audiences for your business.
Interview your customers
Rather than just asking for their opinions on your product or service, use this opportunity to find out what makes them tick. Ask them how they spend their free time, what kind of websites they regularly visit, what organizations they’re members of, and what communities they consider themselves a part of.
If there’s a subculture, there’s usually a subreddit. Explore the depths of Reddit to discover what kinds of topics your potential customers are regularly talking about.
Explore Twitter data
Use tools like SparkToro and Followerwonk to find out what topics and content your existing customer base are most readily engaging with on Twitter. Discover if there are any trends in how people identify themselves in their bios, and look at the content of tweets to determine the topics that ignite passionate reactions.
Increasingly, effective word of mouth distribution is not only a “nice to have” that can help things go viral, but an essential ingredient in ensuring any successful content marketing campaign. Unless your content is being shared organically, both on private social networks (e.g. Slack, Whatsapp) and public ones (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), then it simply won’t be found. Both search and social are becoming “winner takes all” games, and the winner is the content that secures the most organic interest.
Word of mouth is fuelled by conversation, so the crucial first step in securing word of mouth distribution is picking a niche audience that talks to one another.
Unless you represent a sports team, your customers probably won’t talk to each other on a regular basis, so this necessitates moving as far away from this broad, all-encompassing audience as possible and towards a very focused target group.
The more niche your target audience, the more likely you are to be able to create the best content in the world for that community. There’s a wealth of content that’s created to loosely appeal to broad demographics and industries, but very little that’s made for the communities of a few thousand people who are super-passionate about specific things.
You create word of mouth by finding your nerds. Take again, our creative director’s fictional repair shop, “Don’t Fret.” We could create content about how to restring a guitar‚ which would appeal very loosely to most of our customers. But, there are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar, and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile, meaning very few people would care, and the content likely wouldn’t get found.
“There are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile.”
However, if we decide to create some content about how to reduce humidity fluctuations in a dive bar, aimed at sound technicians, we’ll be creating genuinely unique content that’s extremely interesting just for the small subset of people who manage live sound at neighborhood bars and clubs around the world.
Because it will appeal to those folks specifically, this content will stand a better chance of being shared, and these sound engineers will grow an affinity towards our brand because we created something genuinely useful and interesting for them. They might then recommend us to the people they speak to regularly (musicians), who in turn discover and recommend us to those they influence, and so on.
This content will then eventually lead to awareness and affinity amongst our target audience, even though the content is far too specific to be of interest to the vast majority of people who need an instrument repaired.
This is why, paradoxically, targeting extremely niche audiences, and making the best content in the world for them is the most scalable way to increase affinity amongst a broad base of potential customers.
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