Herding Cats (Part I)

I love video. It makes you laugh and cry. It educates and informs. For marketing communications purposes, it’s ideal for drawing the customer into the world the marketer wishes to create – telling the brand story. It is the most powerful medium for making your audience “feel” a certain way about your brand or product.

Here’s a famous Superbowl ad you may remember for a very difficult-to-communicate B2B service offering, IT outsourcing.

It’s simple, clever, and memorable. It’s successful because the folks at EDS had the discipline not to squeeze all their offerings into 30 seconds. They stuck with a simple analogy – “we herd cats”- and wrapped it with a humorous spaghetti Western theme.

What’s the catch with video?

Besides being one of the most expensive forms of communication to produce, it can be hugely wasteful if not done right. With video projects, many marketers get drunk with creative juices or seduced by the creative agency’s superhero concept and forget that their main purpose should be aligned with the business objective – whether it’s selling product or extending customer loyalty.

I attended the “Value of Video” breakfast in San Francisco hosted by video distribution vendor BrightCove. VP of Interactive at Symantec, Michael Parker first asked his audience, “Does anyone in this room want to be a Hollywood director?” Some folks raised their hands. “You should all move to Hollywood,” Michael says, “Because you have no business making marketing videos.” It was refreshing to hear a video evangelist advocate common sense rather than razzle dazzle.

Video ROI

The cost of the video needs to be in line with its objectives. Because of the sliding scale nature of video production, it’s easy for costs to escalate well beyond what makes sense for its purpose. If a video is intended as a product tutorial for the Web, you can produce this very inexpensively with voice over and flash or even still photos. Such a video should cost less than $10K. No need to go into a studio and film products. But, if you’re introducing Steve Jobs for a product launch at Comdex, you would be justified to spend more than $100K to set the tone and blow people out of their seats even if the video is only used once.

Like any marketing communication vehicle, a video communication needs to be tied to the business and communication objectives. The marketer should develop these core elements before the project moves forward and stick to them.

I’ll talk more about these fundamentals in the next post…

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