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Why a Wistia Channel Is like Netflix for Your Branded Video Content

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When it comes to long-form videos, serial video content, and documentaries, there’s nothing more important than creating a high-quality viewing experience (well, aside from making the awesome content itself).

Take Netflix, for example — their impeccable viewing experience is a huge part of why they’re so successful. From its highly effective discovery algorithm and its human-curated micro-genres to its elegant hover-over previews to its smooth “Up Next” transitions from episode to episode, Netflix’s thoughtful and user-friendly design keeps viewers watching for hours on end.

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Now, imagine a world where you could create a similar viewing experience for your business’ branded shows that lives right on your website. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, luckily, there’s a tool for that! Wistia Channels help businesses maximize their video engagement and eliminate distractions all while building a beautiful home for your content (without writing a single line of code).

Want to learn how to tackle today’s marketing challenges with Wistia Channels? Register for our webinar here to save your spot!

The rise of social media platforms has made driving deep engagement a challenge for marketers. Plus, focusing solely on traditional success metrics like conversions and impressions doesn’t accurately capture the most meaningful interactions you have with your audience.

We think measuring “time watched” is the best way to understand the true value video is bringing to your business, and just as Netflix encourages binge-watching, Wistia Channels are optimized around maximizing the time people spend with your content.

Why time watched is so important

Focusing on the number of seconds, minutes, and hours people spend with your content reveals a strong connection between you and your audience that goes beyond product utility or clever stunts. People who are watching full-length episodes of a video series are engaging with your brand in a more meaningful way than those who are watching a couple of seconds of a social media clip.

“People who are watching full-length episodes of a video series are engaging with your brand in a more meaningful way than those who are watching a couple of seconds of a social media clip.”

The time watched metric proves that your content is compelling, relevant, and entertaining to the viewer. People are voluntarily sticking around to hear what you have to say for an extended period of time, and that means they’re likely to come back for more.

How Wistia Channels increases watch time

Grab some popcorn, sit back, and relax, because Wistia Channels are designed for long viewing sessions. In fact, these features work so well you won’t even notice they’re there! Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes to encourage deep engagement with your video content:

  • The full-screen player: Clicking the “Watch” button on a Wistia Channel opens up a high-resolution, full-screen player that loads quickly, attracting and sustaining attention.
  • Next buttons: While videos are playing, a subtle white “next” arrow appears on the right-hand side. It lets the viewer know that there’s more to come and the story’s not over. At the end of a video, an “Up Next” thumbnail appears in the lower right corner of the player, giving a preview of upcoming content.
  • Sections and categories: With section headers, you can break out your content into chapters, categories, or topics. You can pique curiosity with section titles or just keep things organized so that viewers can navigate to exactly what they want to see.

Netflix is a form of escapism for many people; you can watch whatever you want from wherever you want, whether that’s in the comfort of your own home, on a bus, or even on the toilet (no judgment here). And while other corners of the social web feel like noisy intersections, your Wistia Channel is a zen-like space focused solely on your content. Why not give your content the spotlight?

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Why it’s important to eliminate distractions

Social media is great for shorter interactions, but when you’re releasing long-form video content, it’s best to create a distraction-free environment where your audience can engage more deeply. Think about the last time you watched a video from a business you follow on Twitter. Were you easily distracted by the surrounding content? Did that puppy who was learning how to walk downstairs catch your eye? Yeah, us too.

It’s impossible for viewers to focus on and fully absorb what they’re watching when they’re distracted. If you’re sharing a story that’s near and dear to the heart of your business and speaks to your values and what you do, you want people to remember what they watched, and you want to open up the possibility of starting a conversation.

Increase signal-to-noise ratio

Wistia Channels are designed to shine a spotlight on your videos so you don’t have to worry about viewers getting distracted by other shiny objects (or adorable dogs). Here’s how we keep the focus on your content:

  • No ads or links to other sites: Your Wistia Channel is part of your own website and doesn’t link out to promotional content or other sites … unless you want it to, of course. Either way, you’re in the driver’s seat.
  • Control over the display of content: When it comes to the presentation of videos within your Channel, the choice is yours. Even if viewers are tempted to click on a different video, they’re still only being exposed to the content that lives in your Channel, not your competitor’s.
  • Minimalist design: You won’t notice tons of animations, blinking lights, flashy ads, or other distracting elements on a Wistia Channel. The text, buttons, and other UX on the page inform viewers about the content they’re meant to watch, keeping the focus on your video content.

Netflix celebrates its original content by ensuring each show has a stand-out, distinct visual brand to go with it. The eye-catching visuals are unique to each series and help viewers remember which shows looked appealing to them so they can come back later and tune in. Luckily, with Wistia Channels, marketers can also customize the look and feel of their content’s home base so that it matches their brand.

Why it’s important to brand your series

With Wistia Channels, you can do things like add a video or image header, select a font and color scheme, add text details, and more. But why put all this effort into creating a consistent, cohesive experience for your viewer, you ask?

Well, when you brand the content that lives on your Channel, you’re building on the familiarity principle: The more people see certain visual information, the more they’ll come to develop a preference for it. These little repetitive branding details add up to you and your audience getting to know each other better. It’s ground zero for relationship building.

“When you brand the content that lives on your Channel, you’re building on the familiarity principle: The more people see certain visual information, the more they’ll come to develop a preference for it.”

Netflix has a carefully calibrated brand for each series that’s designed to evoke an emotional reaction with the viewer. Thumbnails are A/B tested, short preview copy is written, and previews start to autoplay when you hover over a thumbnail. From our own Wistia video data, we’ve found that a factor as simple as video-player color can affect the play rate, so don’t sleep on giving the content you create some extra attention from a brand perspective.

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Customize your Wistia Channel

Custom branding on your Wistia Channel creates a visual identity for your series that, in turn, creates a positive association with your brand. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Autoplaying hero video: Adding a silent, auto-playing hero video to your Wistia Channel really kicks your branding up a notch. Turn on this setting and you’ll be capturing your viewer’s attention in no time.
  • Thumbnails: As with other Wistia videos, you have full control over the thumbnails displayed on each video in your Channel. We recommend featuring people’s faces in your thumbnails because faces convey more emotion, but at the very least, keep the colors and fonts consistent to build that brand of yours.
  • Color themes: This one’s plain and simple — choose a consistent color scheme for your series that lets viewers know it’s coming from you.
  • Custom font and logo: Add your brand logo and choose your font so that people really know it’s you. No doppelgangers allowed.
  • Titles and descriptions: Add text to your Channel to entice people to click on individual episodes and learn more about what the entire series is all about (and to give your series an extra SEO boost, too!).

We love thinking big about video content and the impact that long-form videos, serial video content, documentaries, and more can have on a business’ brand. After all, serious storytelling deserves all the support you can give it, and investing in a better user experience for your audience gives your content the chance to go the distance. So, what are you waiting for? Give your content the beautiful home it deserves.

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Video Marketing

Episode 5: “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast with Lauren Fleshman of Picky Bars

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From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last time, Chris sat down with Veronica Parker-Hahn, SVP of Growth & Innovation at Effie Worldwide, to learn why she believes strategic rigor is essential to building an effective brand. Today, we’re excited to share our extended interview with this week’s guest, Lauren Fleshman, Co-Founder and CMO of Picky Bars.

Check out the episode to hear how Lauren learned the power of identifying and marketing your values from her experience as a two-time US track and field champion, and a Nike-sponsored athlete.

Or listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Watch the actual Brandwagon episode here!

Before becoming the co-founder and CMO of Picky Bars, a real-food company that makes energy bars, oatmeals, and granolas to fuel active lifestyles, Lauren Fleshman was a highly decorated professional runner. She’s a two-time US 5K champion (her fastest mile time is 4 minutes and 23 seconds!). When she signed on as a Nike-sponsored athlete, she soon realized she was Nike’s own brand marketing asset. From this experience, she learned how to be an exceptional storyteller and the importance of marketing her values to renew sponsorship deals.

Using this wisdom, Lauren started Picky Bars and grew the business in the energy bar market. On this episode, we hear all about building your brand for the long-run by paying attention to how you make your audience feel.

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“I think you can make an interesting story out of anything. Because if you have a goal — no matter what the business is — there’s a journey involved in getting there. Everyone can relate to a journey.” On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Lauren Fleshman highlights how knowing your values and telling your story will help your audience connect to your brand.

Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:

  • Identify your story and decide it’s worthwhile to tell
  • Figure out why people like you and lean into that
  • Go narrow yet deep with your current audience and trust that your brand will grow from there

Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Lauren.

1:22 – “I think it’s helpful sometimes to be a beginner at something”

After Chris runs the best mile of his life, Lauren and Chris sit down to talk about all things brand. Chris kicks off the conversation by asking Lauren about learning how to play the violin. Despite being a champion runner and a business owner, Lauren talks about how it’s important to be a beginner at something. It’s helped her in her coaching career and has pushed her to understand certain aspects of her business in new ways.

4:14 – On being a marketing asset

Not long after her highly successful collegiate career, Lauren signed on as a Nike-sponsored athlete. She quickly came to understand the world of running from an interesting perspective: she was another brand’s marketing asset. Fleshman talks about what it was like to pitch herself to companies in hopes of renewing sponsorship deals and how being an influencer helped her learn to tell her own story.

8:55 – Changing values at Nike

Even though she had a demanding training and race schedule, Lauren still found the time to tell her own story. Early on, she realized women athletes at Nike were treated differently than male athletes. Nike advertising for women featured models instead of professional athletes whereas ads for men’s shoes and clothing featured top male athletes at the time. Fired up, Lauren emailed Nike’s CEO on a whim and ended up changing the culture at one of the world’s largest brands. The company worked with Fleshman to make the first Nike catalog featuring female athletes and produced a commercial with her.

14:04 – “Everyone can relate to a journey”

When you’re a national champion and a Nike athlete, you’ve got a pretty cool story to tell, right? But what if you’re selling insurance or golden-toe socks?! Chris asks Lauren what companies should do if they feel like they don’t have a story, or that their business is “boring.” Lauren says if you just start telling your story, and if you accept that your story is worthwhile, you’ll be surprised by how people will be interested. If you have a business, you have goals. And if you have goals, there’s a journey involved in working toward those goals. Experiencing this in her running career and with Picky Bars, she believes everyone can relate to a journey, and they’ll be invested in your successes and failures along the way.

17:40 – Layering risks

What happened after Lauren missed competing at the Olympics due to injuries? She took the downtime and started four major projects, all of which she fully expected to fail. Fleshman describes how low-risk ventures can feel worthwhile in the face of failure because impacting even a few people in your community can have a great benefit.

21:26 – Starting Picky Bars

Chris asks Lauren about how she started Picky Bars, which are energy bars made with whole foods and balanced for sport. The story began when Lauren was on a break from running and wanted to help her husband and triathlete, Jesse Thomas, find an energy bar that wouldn’t mess with his digestive system (and fill the house with unwanted…gas). Lauren continues to tell the origin story of her business and how the brand grew organically.

26:47 – Growing a business in a crowded space

The energy bar market is saturated with products of all shapes, sizes, and claims. So, how did Lauren begin marketing Picky Bars and differentiate the brand in a crowded space? She first focused on her community and doubled down efforts on her personal blog. Then she drew on her experience as a sponsored influencer for other brands to market Picky Bars.

28:32 – Understanding your values

Lauren’s personal values have a ton of overlap with the brand values at Picky Bars. Chris wonders how you discover and define your values as a brand. Lauren explains how she began to define her own values and why she thinks it’s important for brands to lead with their values. Often, it’s about looking at what’s working and identifying why people like you in the first place, and then leaning into that.

32:14 – Finding a home at Oiselle

Amidst the discussion about values, Lauren mentions how she began to feel out of alignment with Nike due to their policies around athletes starting families. At that time she fell in love with Oiselle, a clothing company for female athletes, and left Nike to work with Oiselle, who helped her scale her values to affect more change and impact more people. Fleshman describes how she felt more motivated to work for Oiselle because their values aligned. This has fundamentally changed how she feels about sponsorship opportunities and how to inspire employees.

36:53 – Marketing your values

Chris asks how companies should market their values once they define them. Picky Bars and Oiselle both tell brand stories that reflect their brand values. In doing that, Lauren’s noticed that brands have the power to change the culture of the industries in which they operate.

40:15 – Creating brand affinity with Work, Play, Love

In 2018, Lauren and her husband started a podcast called Work, Play, Love. The podcast focuses on the intersection between sports, entrepreneurship, and relationships. On the podcast, the couple talks about their experience running Picky Bars — including all of their mess-ups and struggles — they offer advice on balancing life with goals in sport, and they talk about their relationship. Chris asks why they decided to be so open about their business and Lauren talks about how it gives their audience an opportunity to have a deeper connection with them and the Picky Bars brand. She describes how doing a show like Work, Play, Love has helped their business.

44:43 – CEO recaps

Lauren recommends that small businesses create a CEO recap for their fans, the same way a CEO would brief investors on the state of the business. She talks about the benefits of being open with your audience, both for your customers and for yourself.

47:24 – “Decide your story’s worthwhile”

What advice does Lauren have for marketers who are thinking about making shows and being their own spokespeople? She says that the first step is deciding that your story is worthwhile. Then? Go narrow and deep with your current audience and trust that your brand will build from there.

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Announcing Change the Channel: A Live Event from Wistia HQ!

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Online marketing is getting harder — there are fewer new channels, the best tactics are known, our playbooks don’t work like they used to, and our technology is no longer a competitive advantage.

To stand out in a world with unlimited distractions we have to build brands that are strong. Brands that have clear values and brands that our audiences care about.

To win, we need to create more brand advocates who believe in what we are doing and who will help us share our stories.

On October 2 at 1 p.m. EST, my-co-founder Brendan Schwartz and I are going to be hosting a special live broadcast called Change the Channel. We’re going to share what we’ve learned about building brands, where we see marketing heading, and what you can expect from Wistia in the coming years. We’ll even hear from a few special guests from InVision and ThriveHive — companies that are already building incredible brands.

Now it wouldn’t be Wistia if you weren’t able to be involved in this announcement as well. Before tuning in, be sure to download our Change the Channel Bingo Card* and play along for the chance to win an all-in-one mobile video studio, aka the Wistia Soapbox Station. Print a card out for yourself, or pass them around your office! Three winners will be chosen at random on each channel. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Snap a picture holding your winning card
  2. Post it to Twitter or Instagram
  3. Tag @wistia & use the hashtag #watchCTC

Be sure to register and watch the livestream on Wednesday, October 2 at 1 p.m. EST. And if you can’t make it, don’t worry — all registrants will receive a recording of the event once we’re done broadcasting. We hope to “see” you there!

Sign up to watch live:


*Participants and winners must be U.S. residents. Limit of one entry per person on Twitter or Instagram exclusively. Submissions must be posted by 9 AM on Thursday, October 3rd in order to be considered. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 7th. Soapbox Stations provided to eligible winners are not transferable, redeemable for cash or exchangeable for any other prize. If a winner cannot be contacted or is disqualified for any reason, Wistia reserves the right to determine an alternate winner or not to award that winner’s prize, in its sole discretion.

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What We Can Learn from Streaming Services About Audience Viewing Behavior

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There once was a time where sitting through 18 minutes of ads to watch your favorite one-hour show was an unfortunate necessity in life. Today, however, a 10-year-old wouldn’t be able to distinguish a cable box from a DVD player and binge-watching a show for hours on end is the norm. Video streaming services have clearly been dominating the space for some time now, but television networks aren’t ready to go down without a fight.

Media conglomerates that were once disrupted by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are now entering the race to win back long lost customers. How will they go about doing it, you ask? Our best guess is by crafting impressively entertaining content. After looking at different trends in audience behavior on streaming services, marketers would be wise to take a similar approach when it comes to capturing and holding the attention of their audiences.

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Over 600 million people are now subscribed to streaming services worldwide, and the average U.S. adult watches 6 hours of video per day. However, the popularity of streaming services doesn’t just tell us that consumers expect on-demand content from every media company. It also tells us that audiences are hooked on entertainment.

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Image Credit: Variety

To feed our voracious appetite for both shows and films and, in turn, claim a healthy slice of the market, AT&T, Disney, Apple, Viacom, and Discovery all plan to launch their own streaming services this year.

This battle for market attention should push brands to raise the bar creatively, crafting content that their audience can’t help but want to consume. For instance, imagine if your audience held your docu-series in the same regard as Last Chance U, or if they listened to your podcast over This American Life while commuting to work? That would be an unprecedented level of resonance.

“This battle for market attention should push brands to raise the bar creatively, crafting content that their audience can’t help but want to consume.”

To survive and thrive in this war for attention, it’s time for brands to start tackling what the streaming service industry has already mastered — the ability to entertain.

When content marketing was first gaining steam, earning consumer attention by providing educational advice was a novel and revolutionary idea. Nowadays, educational content is rather ordinary, and people have become habituated to the standard listicle or ultimate guide.

Fortunately, the human brain is wired to pay instant attention to novelty and narrative, so crafting creative, story-driven content can attract and retain an audience. That’s why Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV, and Disney spend the majority of their combined $24.5 billion annual content budget on original productions — they understand humans crave novel experiences.

71% of millennials are now subscribed to streaming services to watch original content. Additionally, the average American subscribes to 3.4 streaming services to access as much variety as possible. In other words, novelty sells.

In the content marketing space, Mailchimp has taken a page from the streaming services industry’s playbook by making sure Mailchimp Presents — their creative studio that produces original series — hits a diverse range of notes. In just eight months, Mailchimp released three docu-series, two comedy series, two documentaries, and two podcasts that all cover different (yet targeted) subject matter. And in the months since Mailchimp Presents officially launched, the people who have engaged with the original series tend to buy their products faster and spend more money with the software company.

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Not all marketers should feel like they have to mimic Mailchimp’s showrunning moves, though. Since the content marketing space is already so flooded with similar-looking content, starting with a single, creative, story-driven series is enough to get started and cut through the noise.

While online video streaming is only 12 years old, the number of streaming-service-only households has tripled since 2013, and the number of cable-cord-cutters is expected to increase by 33% this year.

It’s easy to see why so many people are ditching cable for streaming — streaming services provide instant access to commercial-free content and personalized recommendations based on viewers’ history and preferences. On top of that, streaming is much more affordable than cable: subscribing to all four of the main streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO, is cheaper than subscribing to Spectrum Cable TV.

“The number of streaming-service-only households has tripled since 2013, and the number of cable-cord-cutters is expected to increase by 33% this year.”

Brands can easily offer these same benefits, too. One business that has emulated these qualities and has built a loyal, passionate audience is Yeti Coolers. As a company that makes coolers, drinkware, bags, and other gear for outdoorsmen, Yeti has crafted over 70 short stories and films about the pursuit of hunting, fishing, the outdoors, ranch and rodeo, and barbecue. All of their binge-worthy content is hosted on a single webpage that’s easy to find through their homepage, making it accessible for any visitor.

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Any business can easily host their binge-worthy content on their own website, driving visitors to a home-base where they can consume more content at their leisure. And when it comes to making the content itself, brands can (and should) cater it to their specific target audience while leaving out any mention of their products, just like Yeti.

As marketers, investing in producing documentaries and original series might seem like a big risk, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from streaming services, it’s that our audience craves something that most brands have neglected to provide — binge-worthy content. Maybe channeling our inner screenwriter isn’t a risk after all. Maybe it’s our safest bet!

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