THE BLOG

Video Raises the Bar, but Extends the Opportunity for Brands

08/06/2015 16:58 BST | Updated 05/06/2016 10:59 BST

The ease with which anyone with access to a smartphone or tablet can create their own video content was recently demonstrated when MP Chuka Umunna announced his intention to stand for the Labour leadership with a YouTube posting.

Chuka's video may yet be reassessed as a masterpiece of gritty cinema verite, filmed on the windswept mean streets of Swindon, but it didn't set the world alight. The shaky camera and blustery sound was a bit amateurish to be honest, and Chuka removed himself from the race a couple of days later. No connection, I'm sure.

It's easy to be flippant about such attempts to communicate more widely, but brands are finding themselves facing a similar set of issues as they tackle the area of social video. The combination of low production costs, instant access to an audience, and the social factor is absolutely irresistible. There is the potential for a message to go absolutely everywhere... or absolutely nowhere.

The difference is great content, and getting that right is not always easy, especially where budgets are tight. Sporting events are a particular area where social video has potential to explode. Engaging with an already enthusiastic audience makes sense as brands seek to capitalise on sponsorship rights or just being present at an event.

Major brands throw big money at key sporting events in a bid to outdo their competitors. Look at the World Cup and the Olympics where shareable content is starting to become as important as traditional media channels like TV and print. The reasons are well rehearsed: growing use of smartphones and tablets, a socially aware audience keen to share information and entertainment with their network, and the bandwidth to deliver streaming content.

Shakira and Activia teamed up ahead of Brazil 2014 to produce the most shared ad of all time. The song La La La (they don't write them like that anymore) clocked up almost six million shares on Twitter and Facebook in about two months, raising funds for the World Food Programme's school meals project in the process. The appearance of soccer superstars such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cesc Fabregas no doubt helped. But how can you compete if your budget doesn't stretch to their appearance fees?

Achieving standout is getting tougher all the time, as more brands go down the branded content route, but the rules remain the same. Everything has to start with a great idea that will intrigue, inform or entertain people.

For brands to achieve cut through they have to do something that get people's attention, holds it for a few minutes and then makes them want to do something about it - share the content, comment on it, or even buy the product. TV cynics used to moan that the best thing on the idiot box was the ads, and that's how brands now have to think. They have to consider themselves as content producers and broadcasters.

Technology has removed the barrier to getting a message directly into people's hands. Twitter has introduced Meerkat and Periscope to make streaming video easier from a Tweet easier, and other platforms such as Amplify and Grabyo are extending the opportunities for using video in communications. Now brands just need to work out what they want to say.

Done properly, video can be an incredibly powerful tool for brands. A spoof SunLife video ad for beard insurance on April Fools Day this year lead to 25,000 enquiring about the fictitious product, as well as 50,000 views on Facebook and 6,000 shares.

When bookmaker Coral wanted to make a splash at the biggest horse racing event of the year, Cheltenham, it knew it couldn't outspend its bigger rivals - it had to outsmart them. It came up with CheltenHAM, a parallel festival of miniature pig racing. A specially designed pig racecourse, complete with jumps and winners paddock was built and pigs raced in their own mini silks. Each day of the festival, an edited race, complete with onboard shots from the 'Ham Cam' was seeded into Coral's social channels offering the chance to win real bets at the festival.

CheltenHAM captured the mindset of racegoers perfectly - it was funny and up for the craic, while at the same time enhancing their experience. Amid a flurry of competing voices on social media, it stood out claiming 28% share of voice compared with the next best placed betting brand on 16%. It did this by engaging new audiences without alienating traditionalists.

According to the Content Marketing Association, about half of people interact with a Tweet with visual content, and Tweets with images are 35% more likely to be retweeted. But knowing this fact and acting on it effectively are two different things. Content is king - it might be a cliche, but it doesn't make it any less true. Are you taking notes Chuka?