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The Science Behind Storytelling: Why Narrative Cuts Through the Noise

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At the beginning of every year, most marketing teams set aggressive goals for their content. With lofty numbers hanging over their heads, they crank out content with the sole purpose of gaming an algorithm or converting leads.

Unfortunately, this type of content is more likely to meet traditional marketing goals than say, an original docu-series might. And because of that, marketers claim the data backs up their strategy — they’re moving the needle, making more people aware of their product or service. The problem with this strategy, however, is that this type of content doesn’t actually resonate with audiences in a meaningful way. Sure, it may reach them, but it doesn’t strike a chord with them. In other words, it won’t turn them into life-long fans of your brand.

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Storytelling, however, has the power to do just that. And lucky for us, neuroscience backs up that claim time and time again. Let’s take a look at the science behind storytelling itself, why it’s such a powerful tool for marketers, and how it can help businesses cut through the noise.

Before our ancestors could write about the dangers of their environment and teach their children how to maneuver the social dynamics of their community through books, they told stories.

It’s estimated that from the time humans started speaking to the time we started writing, almost two million years passed. During that period of time, the humans who learned how to survive their ruthless, prehistoric world through stories lived longer and reproduced more often than the humans who didn’t. As a result, natural selection shaped and hardwired our brains to crave, seek out, and pay instant attention to narrative.

“Humans who learned how to survive their ruthless, prehistoric world through stories lived longer and reproduced more often than the humans who didn’t.”

Today, brands that prioritize storytelling are tapping into their audience’s innate need for narrative. They’re the ones who will be able to get their audience hooked on their binge-worthy content. And not only that, but they’ll be the ones to inspire their fans to spread the word amongst their peers and friends.

Take, for example, how Taco Bell teased the return of their popular menu item — nacho fries — in their ad below:

To announce that nacho fries were making a comeback, the brand launched a fake movie trailer ad campaign with a witty and enthralling sci-fi storyline. By using a storytelling strategy, they were able to capture peoples’ attention in an entertaining way.

If a scientist scanned your brain while you watched Stranger Things, it’d look like Joyce Byer’s alphabet wall. Now, watching Stranger Things doesn’t lodge a Demogorgon into your brain. What it does do, though, is boost your brain’s neural activity, lighting it up like a Christmas Tree.

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Image Credit: The A.V. Club

When more parts of your brain are active at the same time, your ability to remember whatever you’re engaged with increases exponentially. Stories warned our ancestors about the dangerous dire wolf lurking at night and taught them valuable social norms like generosity and cooperation, so the fact that narrative can illuminate our brains and sear information into our memories makes complete sense. If stories didn’t have this effect on our minds, our ancestors wouldn’t have remembered how to dodge that dire wolf or why they should help their neighbor.

Today, stories haven’t lost a speckle of charm. In fact, in a marketing industry that’s filled to the brim with uninspired content, narrative-driven content is more alluring than ever before. So, trust the neuroscience — if you want to earn people’s attention and bake your brand into their brains, do it through stories that speak to the wants, fears, desires, and beliefs of your audience.

“If you want to earn people’s attention and bake your brand into their brains, do it through stories that speak to the wants, fears, desires, and beliefs of your audience.”

Playing on fear, Allstate Insurance successfully bakes its brand into the brains of their audience. They’ve literally personified mayhem into “Mr. Mayhem.” For every commercial, Mr. Mayhem takes a different form, whether it’s a car thief or a pesky cat.

In this ad, Mayhem is a cat who is plotting against its owners. Allstate illustrates several instances where a cat might wreak havoc on your house. If you’re a pet owner, these mini-scenarios remind you that having the wrong home insurance coverage (and not Allstate) might end up costing you!

Every marketer has heard the adage that humans are creatures of emotion, not logic. But how do you consistently form bonds with strangers, persuade them to buy your product, and convert them into brand advocates? According to neuroscience, storytelling is your best bet.

When we read, watch, or listen to a gripping story, the activity triggers the release of oxytocin in your brain, which pushes us to relate, care, trust, and help others. Within the context of a story, a brain full of oxytocin helps us empathize with the protagonist. In fact, we’ll empathize so deeply with the protagonist that the parts of our brain that would be active if we actually experienced the story switch on.

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If your audience can rely on your stories for a consistent fix of emotion, they’ll fall in love with your brand and keep coming back for more. In fact, humans have always revered great storytellers. In 2017, anthropologists discovered that the best storytellers in two different Filipino villages had a better chance of getting chosen to be social partners, gaining community support, and having healthy offspring. For brands, the benefits are equally valuable to their bottom line.

Nike has mastered the art of storytelling and other businesses look to them for inspiration. Their ads are famous for telling powerful stories, but they also showcase the brand’s values. Here’s a look at their recent ad “Dream With Us”:

Nike’s not just pumping up their brand here. In a world where women are marginalized, they’re encouraging women to tell their stories and inspire today’s youth to chase their dreams. However, the message still works to build their brand because people emotionally connect to the values being displayed.

Producing content that’s designed to game algorithms or convert website visitors might be able to generate a decent amount of views and leads for your team. And as a marketer with goals to meet and bosses to please, it’s tempting to prioritize your team’s own goals over your audience’s needs. But if you truly want to resonate with an audience, create a lasting impression on them, and, in turn, produce real long-term results, storytelling is the best path forward.

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Video Marketing

The Differences Between Wistia Channel Subscribers and YouTube Subscribers

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Last month we launched Wistia Subscribers, a new feature that adds a simple subscription form to your Wistia Channel, allowing viewers to subscribe just like they would on…well … YouTube.

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While on the surface these two features may seem a lot alike, there are some critical differences between YouTube Subscribers and Wistia Subscribers. Here’s what you need to know about Wistia Subscribers (and why this data may be more valuable to your business).

When someone subscribes to a Wistia Channel, you, the content creator, receive their email address. When someone subscribes to a YouTube Channel, on the other hand, all you get is an extra number on the subscriber counter.

With YouTube, you have no idea who has subscribed to your Channel and no way to reach them directly other than via paid advertising. YouTube controls the communication with your subscriber and keeps all the details of who they are locked away.

This is a problem, because with both B2C and B2B marketing in the modern world, an email list of engaged subscribers is one of the most valuable assets you can build. Once you have an email address, you can communicate directly with potential customers, build remarketing lists, encourage word of mouth, or use email enrichment to understand more about who your subscribers are.

With Wistia Integrations, it’s a 5-minute job to ensure all of your new subscribers are integrated directly with your email service provider or marketing automation platform. This means that every new Channel subscriber you have automatically gets sent to your database of leads and subscribers, where you can bring them into your wider email marketing and lead nurturing workflows. With YouTube subscribers…you can’t do any of those things.

“With Wistia Integrations, it’s a 5-minute job to ensure all of your new subscribers are integrated directly with your email service provider or marketing automation platform.”

If users subscribe to your YouTube Channel (and have notifications turned on) they’ll occasionally get an email that aggregates recent updates from all the channels they’re subscribed to. If you’re lucky, your video will be front and center in this email.

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If you’re unlucky, your update will be buried next to a review of an unappetizing looking chicken burger…or worse.

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However, with Wistia, you can choose to notify someone the moment a video is published, with your own branding, customized subject line, and copy, stipulated by you.

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The core difference between the two platforms is, ultimately, control. With Wistia, you pay for the product, but you retain all the value from each new subscriber. With YouTube, the product is free, but Google owns your audience and charges you for the privilege of trying to speak to them.

Social media can be a risky place, and YouTube is prone to changing its terms and conditions very quickly. The only way to futureproof your business from the whims of the biggest company in the world is to build the audience yourself.

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Video Marketing

4 Show Title Structures That’ll Help You Name Your Next Video Series

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There’s an old adage in the world of copywriting that states, “The sole purpose of the first sentence in an ad is to get you to read the second sentence.” When crafting binge-worthy content, the same principle applies. In this case, your first sentence is your video series’ title, and your second sentence is your trailer.

Coming up with the right name for your show can be the difference between your audience tuning into your first episode and scrolling right past it. So to help you craft the perfect title that’ll grab your audience’s attention and convince them to hit play, we’ve analyzed seven popular TV show names and shared some key takeaways that you can apply when naming your next binge-worthy show. Let’s get going!

“Coming up with the right name for your show can be the difference between your audience tuning into your first episode and scrolling right past it.”

The showrunners of Black Mirror have created a futuristic (yet all too realistic) universe where society completely depends on technology to lead their lives. Each storyline features a visionary piece of technology that seems strictly utilitarian at first. But by the end of each episode, the tech ends up revealing a profound insight into human nature. And that’s exactly why Black Mirror is such a great TV show title. Your device’s black screen reflects much more than your mirror image.

When naming your video series, consider using a metaphor to shed light on what it’s going to be all about at its core. By doing so, you’ll help viewers quickly make the connection between the name of your show and its overall theme. Your show’s title is a great opportunity to give your potential viewers an idea of what’s to come if they tune in.

image1Image Credit: Medium

Coined by the advertising men who worked on Madison Avenue in the 1950s, the term “Mad Men” was just a clever play-on-words they used to refer to themselves as. But the brilliance of this show’s title doesn’t lie in its historic roots — it lies in the irony that the ad men of Madison Avenue (or at least the ones that are portrayed on this show) actually live their lives like madmen.

The creators of Mad Men placed a hidden meaning behind the show’s title as it subtly hints at one of its most important themes. If you can do the same, your audience will immediately understand the double-meaning of your title after watching the first episode of your video series, which can play a big role in persuading them to keep coming back for more. Who wouldn’t want to tune in to see how mad these men really get?

image5Image Credit: Shrink Tank

Another example of a show with a pretty explicit double entendre for a series title is the classic medical comedy, Scrubs. The show portrays the lives of young, ambitious doctors who are trying to climb the medical ladder at a bustling hospital. But even though they’re eager to succeed, these rookies’ inexperience leads to countless blunders and antics. They don’t just wear scrubs — they are scrubs.

Using a double entendre to highlight your video series’ external and internal narrative in your title is a clever way to grab people’s attention and retain it after they start watching your video series. For instance, when you see the title Scrubs, you immediately understand that the show is about being a doctor. But after you watch the first episode, you start to realize that the show is more about the struggle of being a young doctor than purely just saving people’s lives.

image3Image Credit: Next Episode

Sometimes, straightforward titles are the best titles. For instance, How I Met Your Mother is exactly what it sounds like: A show about the lead character, Ted Mosby, meeting the mother of his children — his wife.

Clarity is one of the most effective ways to get your audience to understand and visualize your video series’ concept. So when naming your next show, consider starting with a working title that clearly describes your video series’ premise. From there, you can spice it up a bit, but, sometimes, the most straightforward title can be your best title.

image4Image Credit: Den of Geek

Regardless of whether or not your video series can compete with a big-budget Hollywood production, your show title still needs to be compelling enough for an audience to want to give it a shot. So be sure to give your video series’ title some serious thought before slapping it on there and calling it a day. Remember, you only have so many opportunities to grab your audience’s attention, so make sure you step out of the gates with your best foot forward!

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Video Marketing

10 Ways to Grow Your Audience and Get More Eyes on Your Video Series

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Building an audience for your video series might feel a little daunting — how do you get people to actually sit down and watch the show you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into creating? The truth is, distributing your series and getting people to pay attention to and talk about it is a huge part of Brand Affinity Marketing. It’s also something you should actively pay close attention to throughout the entire production process. Don’t just worry about promoting your series once the entire series is made — there’s plenty you can do while producing your content to ensure that the right audience is tuning in.

So, whether or not you’re a few episodes deep on your business’ first video series, or if you’re just in the ideation stage of the process, check out these suggestions for how to grow your audience over time and get more folks interested in watching your show!

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You went through all the trouble of sourcing guests, nurturing your relationships with them, and sending contracts back and forth, but you didn’t follow up with them when their episode actually aired. Oh boy, that’s a big no-no! You don’t want to miss the opportunity to engage with your guests and encourage them to spread the word. Make it super easy for them to share the episodes they’re on with their personal networks by giving them exactly what they need to get going with just a few clicks. Here are some suggestions for what you can share:

  • Pre-written tweets and posts with short links to their specific episode
  • Different cuts of their episode that features them prominently
  • Images and other unique media with quotes and headshots of the guest

This is a great way to get more people to watch your content, and the good news is, you can encourage this type of behavior from your guests without coming off as needy or demanding. Be sure to word your communication in a way that lets the guest know that this isn’t mandatory (it’s the truth after all!), but it would be really great if they were able to give it a share on social media, for example. The main takeaway here is to make it so easy to share your series that your guest would be hard-pressed to not want to do it.

“The main takeaway here is to make it so easy to share your series that your guest would be hard-pressed to not want to do it.”

This is another simple marketing tactic that can be easily overlooked when hyping up a video series — promoting your show internally! Sure, you might work closely with the people on your team who are responsible for creating the series themselves, but people across the organization might not be as in-tune with it. Send a team-wide email every time you publish a new episode and be sure to include pre-written tweets and posts (similar to the ones you might share with guests) so your teammates can encourage their own personal networks to tune in. If you have a big projector in your office, you can even screen each new episode during lunch to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to tune in.

Also, be sure to think about who on your team has the biggest audience and personal network. Here at Wistia, our CEO has a pretty decent Twitter following, so whenever we release a new episode of Brandwagon he shares it along with a little friendly tweetstorm (it doesn’t hurt that he’s also the host of the show, but you get the picture!).

If you sense that folks on your team are a little reluctant to share about your series, you can always point out how getting more people to watch the series will help build brand affinity, turning passive viewers into active fans of your business. It’s a win-win for every team!

While we’re talkin’ email, your video series can also benefit from being featured in the email signatures of public-facing employees at your business. Adding your show’s logo to your email signature won’t cost your marketing team a dime and the impact it can have on how many people hear of your show can be huge. Here’s an example of an email signature that a lot of folks on our team have right now to promote our talk show for marketers:

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Plus, for those folks in sales, it can be a great conversation starter! Just read out to teams at your company like sales, customer support, and human resources and give them what they need to get set up. Hopefully, you’ve noticed a trend by now — make it as easy as possible for people to help spread the word about your video series.

You’re going to want to order yourself up a nice plate of supporting content when promoting your new video series. One of the best ways to attract new viewers to your long-form content is by getting them in the door with content that already speaks to their interests. For example, a viewer might not only become interested in watching our docu-series One, Ten, One Hundred, after they’ve read a blog post about how to make a beautiful set based on lessons we learned while shooting it. That’s why we recommend creating and promoting other content related to your series — you just never know who might show up to watch your show!

There are a number of angles you can take to creating this content depending on the type of show you’re making. Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Share an extended interview with a guest
  • Dive deeper into a topic you only covered briefly
  • Pull and share key takeaways from an entire season
  • Take a segment from your show and expand upon it
  • Craft thought leadership content based on overarching themes

Now, this is something that should be baked into the actual production and scripting process from the start. You know how YouTubers and podcasters always ask people to “rate, review, and subscribe” to their shows? Well, it’s for a good reason — if you don’t ask, chances are most people will forget to do it. But, it’s never too late to make an explicit (but friendly) ask of your subscribers so long as you are truly providing value in return. Once your audience has shown that they are engaging with your content by subscribing for updates and watching several episodes, why not email a targeted list of folks and ask them to spread the word to their friends?

Be sure to add links to the different social networks and provide some boilerplate copy along with your unique hashtag to send them in the right direction. The last thing you want to do is put a bad taste in people’s mouths, however, so keep your copy fun and friendly, ensuring they know this is more of a “nice to have” than a demand. Here’s an example of an email we sent to folks asking them to give their friends a heads up about our series, Brandwagon:

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Think about the last show you binge-watched on your streaming platform of choice — did you happen to watch any bloopers or clips from the show along the way? I sure did! After the last episode of Game of Thrones aired I spent far too much time watching interviews with cast members right there on HBO as I wiped away tears of frustration (we all know how it ends). The bottom line is, sharing trailers and clips from your series on social media is one of the best ways to engage new viewers and get them excited about your show.

Share funny clips and outtakes, entire segments, extended interviews, and more, with the express purpose of encouraging folks to watch the full episode on your website. Also, be sure to create and incorporate a unique hashtag that’s related to your series (not your business) into your post. Ultimately, when trying to build an audience and get more eyes on your content, you want to market your content like a media company, in other words, use advertising to strategically distribute trailers and clips that tease out a bigger content experience on your own website.

“Sharing trailers and clips from your series on social media is one of the best ways to engage new viewers and get them excited about your show.”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever entered a contest or giveaway on social media. Is your hand raised? I’m (somewhat) embarrassed to say mine definitely is. From t-shirts and socks to stickers and pens, there are tons of different giveaway options out there that you can consider when promoting your series — and they won’t break the bank. Often it’s less about the quality of the prize (no one’s saying you should give away a car, though that would’ve worked well for Brandwagon), but you should offer some sort of prize or incentive for engaging with your content if you can.

For example, we ran a t-shirt giveaway on our Instagram Story where we had folks answer a series of questions related to the content in the most recent episode of our talk show. The first three people to get all the questions right got a free t-shirt — easy peasy! When you send the t-shirt to the lucky winners in the mail, be sure to ask them to post a picture of them with their prize and tag your business in the post. This will help you reach an entirely new audience, and chances are if this contest winner liked your series, some of their friends might too.

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Pay attention to the people who are actively engaging with your content, plain and simple. These are your early adopters, the folks you want to find more of so you can grow your audience. Tactically, you can create polls on Twitter to get them to engage with your brand and share countdowns for when new episodes drop on Instagram so they never miss a beat.

Read and reply to their comments, ask them questions about your show, show them gratitude for tuning in, and above all else, be human. Thank them for their feedback and commentary, and then apply these insights when crafting future episodes of your video series. Letting your audience know that they’re making an impact can turn passive viewers into engaged fans, and who doesn’t want that?

Now, you might be familiar with podcasts that are recorded (video podcasts), but have you thought about flipping that concept on its head and starting with a video series first? Depending on the type of show you’re creating, you may want to consider turning your series into a binge-worthy podcast so more fans can enjoy your content. This tends to work particularly well for interview-style video series, as a lot of great content often gets left on the cutting room floor in order to keep the video watchable, engaging, and not too long.

Creating a podcast version of your show is also a great way to help get your series discovered — folks in your audience may actually be bigger podcasts-listeners than video-watchers. By turning your series into a podcast, you can meet your audience where they already are, and then ultimately, cross-promote your video series for a deeper, more robust content experience. Remember, though, there are tons and tons of podcasts out there, so you have to make sure your content is actually really good and provides value. In other words, don’t just rip the audio from your episode and slap it on Spotify. Take the time to create a really good podcast that can stand on its own, and then use it as another opportunity to talk about your show. Use your blog to write recaps and synopses of what you covered and include links and relevant time staps directing folks to interesting moments throughout.

Here’s an example of a podcast we created called The Brandwagon Interviews that’s based on our newest video series, Brandwagon.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to promoting your series. Think outside the box and try new tactics to see what gains traction with your niche audience. Why not make a Spotify playlist that features songs that match the theme of your series? Hang out on Reddit on relevant threads to see what people are talking about as it relates to your series, and if topics or concepts overlap, share an episode there (but make sure you don’t sound too self-promotional or spammy!).

Another way to get creative with your promotion is by finding other video series or podcasts that are targeting a similar audience and trying to get on their show. Many podcasters are already masters of this, which is why you may hear some of your favorite podcast hosts doing the rounds as guests on other podcasts you already listen to. Take advantage of the amazing content you’re investing your time and resources into creating and try to think about how your favorite streaming platforms promote their content. Rip a page out of their book and start promoting your content more creatively with clips, behind-the-scenes content, extras, and more!

This may sound obvious, but if your content is relevant to your core customer base in some way (which it should be!), send them an email to let them know about your new series. Of course, you don’t want to spam them, so refrain from emailing them over and over about your show. Instead, let them know when and where they can watch your series, and then give them the opportunity to sign up for updates. That way, they can opt-in for further updates and communication about your specific series.

You can also add a notification within your product if you’re a SaaS company, or simply update your website or homepage with a call to action to watch your series. You may feel like you’re doing everything to promote your show on social media, email, and beyond, but remember that not all of your customers might be following your business on social or subscribed for email updates. So what are you waiting for? Start growing your audience and getting more eyes on your content with these ten tips for promotion!

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