As things become more popular and their usage widens, they often fragment into smaller, more specific versions of the same thing. There are examples across genres and entire forms of expression. Once there was a time when you could just listen to metal. Now you have to listen to thrash metal, or melodic death metal, or emo-core groove metal.
The same is true of video.
PR’s and marketers distinguish between several different types of video, and the dichotomy is a meaningful one insofar as separating strategic aims. You can make explainer videos, company culture videos, vlogs, testimonials, traditional advertisements, and today’s topic of conversation: branded video.
To get to the bottom of what separates a branded video from all those other types, I sat down with 4media group’s Lisa Spychala, an expert in video production of every sort, to talk about what really distinguishes types of video, specifically the nuances associated with telling a brand’s story.
Branded Video: What’s the Difference?
Perhaps the first distinguishing line in a brand video is its scope. Any brand interested in using the medium needs to ask a pivotal question: What do I really want to get out of this piece of content?
“A branded video is anything made with the intention to share a story about a product or service or company—not just to entertain, but to express a particular product’s personality or offering,” Spychala said. “So what differentiates a branded video from a commercial, for example, is that everyone kind of knows the intent of a commercial, and I don’t think commercials really work as hard to convey a message that hits home with any particular audience, whereas a branded video should have more emotion and connection attached to it. A brand story is more of a two way conversation.”
Spychala’s answer here is spot on, so let’s take a moment to consider it.
No one could correctly assert that commercials are void of emotion, which is good, since that’s not what happened here. Commercials don’t work as hard to convey a certain message that hits home with any particular audience—the operative phrases highlighted for emphasis.
A brand video varies from its related counterparts most immediately because it does tend to work harder, both literally and figuratively. Brand videos are typically longer than traditional ad spots, but also do more to take a specific line on a brand, its products or services.
Also important is that brand videos tend to be more directly targeted. While advertisements often assume a fairly wide base, brand videos can be made to be speak more directly to a particular segment of the population—something that is hugely helpful for brands offering a variety of products or services, especially if one of those may work really well for a woman between 30 and 55 but not as much for men between 18 and 22.
A Two Way Conversation
One important point regarding brand videos is the option to open a dialogue for wider conversations surrounding brands or products. Branded videos can be utilized across all types of media, and producers should take as their onus establishing a clear, almost journalistic, story line.
“So when I talk to brands, I always look to find out why they need help,” Spychala said. “What’re the points that people don’t know about your brand or service that you really wish they knew? What do you love about your product, and what kind of things does it solve?”
If you approach branded videos in this way, you’re en route to telling a story worth being a part of, which should be a big goal of anyone producing branded content.
That’s why conceiving of your video as a conversation is so helpful. But an exchange needs to be available to anyone consuming the video, whether they’re looking for your product or not—that’s why all brand videos need to be approached with a special mindfulness towards dialogue, entertainment, and creating value around a particular product or service.
It may help to think of your branded video as a story first, and a service second. The best brand videos are those that take as their core mission engaging audiences of all sorts, regardless of what they’re looking for.
Think like an entertainer first, a journalist second, and a marketer third—and you just might strike gold.
Putting Branded Video to Practice
So with the differences defined, and a big-picture method of thinking about producing such a video, it helps next to consider the technical aspects of the piece.
Spychala said when it comes to the length of the piece, shorter may be better.
“I think a minute is a good rule of thumb,” she said. “Anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute-and-a-half is the perfect point, because there’s a lot you can say there.”
The process of making the video then requires a couple more questions, and they are ones we like here at 4media: “Something that I’ve learned in my travels is the Three T’s,” Spychala said. “Talent, topic and timing must coincide. And that can go for literally any kind of video that you’re making. Why now? And then you have to ask yourself a really important who: Who or what is being showcased?"
If you’re still unsure of what we’re talking about, or if you’re a visual learner, here is my personal favorite example of branded video content. Notice what it does well, in telling a story, invoking emotion, and ultimately pointing at an issue far bigger than any brand.
If you think you’d like to work on a branded video, or talk more about what constitutes one, give us a call.
TJ Stallbaumer is 4media Group's Account Coordinator in Media and Research, where he focuses on delivering meaningful, click-worthy and research-driven content for clients and their brands. TJ worked in television news, where he was an online content editor and social media manager in a top-100 media market. TJ also spent time as a freelance longform journalist, and has had pieces featured in publications across Northwest Arkansas ranging in scope from 'social media's subliminal priming in political discussions' to a series detailing the area's best motorcycle roads. TJ has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and is an NWA native living in Rogers.