One of the world’s very first films had its premier in 1896 in a movie theater in Paris. The brothers Lumière’s film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotata was not particularly notable per se: it showed a train nearing a station, to finally arrive at the platform. But for many people in the audience this was a horror film. When they saw the train rushing toward them, many were terrified and ran screaming to the back of the theater.
Today we can smile at their ignorance. Despite the fact that biologically we are essentially identical with those panic-stricken theater goers, our modern brains have developed a fantastic capacity to understand and interpret visual messages. From early childhood we are fed visual images from film, TV, video clips and computer games. Our appetite for moving pictures seems to be impossible to satiate – we swallow everything from music videos and reality television to funny cat videos and news from war zones. The new English term for 2015 was “binge watching,” which means watching all the episodes of a TV series in a row.
Today, 73 percent of all Internet traffic is video, a statistic that is constantly increasing and, according to Cisco, will surpass 80 percent within a couple of years.1 This tubification trend means that every day the world’s population watches a billion hours of YouTube videos.2 If a single person were to sit down and watch that long it would take 100,000 years. To further attempt to put this in perspective: the number of YouTube clips that are started every second are more than the number of Google searchers.3 There are currently post-high-school courses for people who want become professional YouTubers, and the Golden Tube gala is held every year, where the most successful in the field are celebrated.
One of the reasons is that it is so easy to consume pictures. And moving pictures are what offer the least resistance for comfortable and lazy media customers. Text is a much more difficult, and above all slower, way to transmit complicated messages. It has been estimated that the human brain can process pictures 60,000 times faster than text.4
Another driving force behind this development is that the cost of producing video has dropped, while at the same time the tools have become much more powerful. Someone who wants to create simple animations describing a product or service can do so very inexpensively and in a matter of minutes using online tools with pre-packaged templates. Recording and editing a shorter video directly in one’s smartphone is also an alternative. The aim is not to produce a super professional production but rather to share thoughts and ideas. The advantage is that it goes fast and is easy, and that one can niche videos for small customer groups.
Many B2C companies have discovered the possibility of reaching their customers at low cost via video. Within B2B, for many organizations this is a less-researched area, but even here moving media and video are becoming increasingly-important ingredients in the future marketing mix. This can be about advertising space on various video platforms, but it is perhaps primarily about the opportunity to tell one’s own stories, and to entertain and educate one’s customers. Video-based marketing will likely continue to grow, with elements such as instruction films, video meetings, live streaming of events, testimonials from customers, virtual tours of factories or venues and descriptive animations of products and services. New creative formats are also emerging, such as drone videos and 360-degree cameras, were the observer can control the camera angle themselves after the fact. Tailoring content toward different customer segments, or even individual people, is probably something that we will see more of. Uberflip is one example of a tool where one can create an adapted collection of video clips for each potential customer and add in a personal welcome statement.
IBM has been particularly successful with video marketing. They analyzed what IT managers searched for on Google and created a list containing those exact formulations. Based on this knowledge they created a number of short explanatory videos for each of the topics. In this way they ensured their direct relevancy and could demonstrate for potential customers that they understood their problems and had solutions for them.
There are of course more extreme examples. The entrepreneur and lecturer Gary Vaynerchuk has hired a personal cameraman who follows him and constantly films him. They film all day, Monday to Friday, which means five to seven hours of film material – every day.5 Editing the footage can take up to ten hours. Sometimes they film on Saturdays and Sundays as well. This is not about perfection, but about quickly disseminating a relevant and current message.
Something else that is growing is live streaming, with services like Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Periscope. At first glance this can seem inappropriate from a marketing perspective because there is a measure of unpredictability coupled to live broadcasting. At the same time, it can give a more human and genuine experience than pre-recorded film, and better opportunities to get direct feedback and create dialogue. And what occurs live is, by definition, the very latest.
Within five years, Facebook will
be mostly video. | Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder
This shift toward an increasingly visual society is not limited to computers, tablets, and cell phones. Screens are becoming an increasingly common element in shops and public environments, as the prices of displays are dropping. At bus stops, in grocery stores, in the metro, in vending machines and in other places, we are seeing more and more screens that try to catch our attention with information and advertising. Physical shops that are aware of their competition from e-commerce are creating interactive interfaces where customers can study their product selection and shop when the shops are closed. Displays seem to be squeezing in to ever more places in our environment.
We are moving toward a visual era where photographs and moving pictures are becoming the dominant mode of communication and marketing. It is becoming clear that most people prefer a short film over reading long reports or manuals. Those who draw lessons from this early on and obtain experience with video marketing can create opportunities to build customer relationships and increase sales.
1 Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2016–2021 https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/executive-perspectives/annual-internet-report/white-paper-c11-741490.html
2 YouTube, “You know what’s cool? A billion hours”, 27 February 2017 https://blog.youtube/news-and-events/you-know-whats-cool-billion-hours
3 Internet Live Stats, February 2018: 262 miljoner YouTube-videor per timme, 234 miljoner googlingar per timme
4 Visual Teaching Alliance https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/350326/studies-confirm-the-power-of-visuals-in-elearning
5 Entrepreneur, “Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal videographer has some ideas on how to hire a personal videographer”, 27 Nov 2017