Online video is great, but it isn’t marketing’s new silver bullet

I went to the Mumbrella Festival of Branded Content and Entertainment last week. Despite the big, catch-all title, the festival seemed to mainly to be about video content.

And I can see why. The stats around video speak for themselves (I came across this great blog post recently that pulled out some key stats around online video and why it’s so powerful). Try some of these on for size:

  • 78% of people watch video online at least once a week
  • 55% watch video online every day
  • 81% of senior marketing executives use online video content in their marketing operations
  • 57% of consumer internet traffic will come from video by 2015
  • 500 years worth of content is uploaded to YouTube every day
  • 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute
  • 70% of the top 100 search listings on Google in 2015 were video results
  • You’re 53 x more likely to get a page one listing on Google with video content on your website.

Impressive, huh? With stats like that, every marketer worth his or her salt should run out and invest a large proportion of their marketing budget in video content, right?

Well, yes and no. Video content is not really all that different a beast to editorial content (you know, blogs and such like), which marketers have been using for years. And like editorial content, if marketers want to tap into the power of video, it’s important to take a step back and think about an overarching content strategy. (According to the recent ADMA/CMI survey, only 29% of marketers think their content is effective, whereas 65% planned to spend more on content – which screams ‘the content I am already producing  hasn’t been properly thoug

But thinking of online video content as something akin to blog content is difficult for a lot of marketers, because video as a format is reminiscent of TV advertising. And TV advertising is usually about communicating a single-minded proposition as efficiently as possible, in a 30 second spot. Which means marketers often produce online video content that looks a lot like a TV spot.

This is a mistake, because online video is a different beast. For a start, users usually seek it out, rather than being forced to sit though it. Which means that we can ask them for a little more of their time and attention (about 90 seconds, rather than 30). And this in turn means we can tell slightly more complex stories than the single-minded ad spot allows. Hence needing an overarching content strategy.

For another thing, distribution is different. TV as a distribution model we all know about. But online video has loads of different distribution mechanisms, from social to EDM to YouTube search – which changes the context that video will be viewed in. On brand sites, video may well be rubbing shoulders with editorial content, and lots of other imagery. On YouTube it will need to compete with loads of other video content, most of it rubbish but still muddying the waters and crowding the marketplace (if you’ll forgive my decidedly mixed metaphors). Again, a strong content strategy is essential.

Different cost models mean that frequency is a consideration. Online content shouldn’t be campaign-based, like TV spots, but ‘always on’ – a constant presence, reinforcing and enlivening brands, entertaining, informing and providing utility to consumers and stating and restating a point of difference. To run an always-on content strategy, it’s essential to have – you guessed it – a solid overarching content strategy.

So, before diving in to video and being dissatisfied with the results (see that 29% of marketers mentioned earlier), marketers should have a proper think about what they’re trying to achieve, what their audience want and need, and what it is about their brand that is really important to consumers. Only when this is properly understood can online video really be the force to be reckoned with that it ought to be.

Richard Parker is head of strategy at content marketing agency Edge, where he works with brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel.



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