Posts Tagged‘content marketing’

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The Narrative Arc in Online Video

Essential to good journalism, feature films and novels, the narrative arc is no less important in online video. The arc is the point at which all productions should begin, and return to when things get tricky.

It means planning and structuring your idea around a central thread but does not always mean a three act structure; problem, conflict, resolution. Nor does it necessarily mean fictional storytelling with characters and dialogue.

An arc is simply a direction – it means there is progression and cohesion throughout the video. The Content Marketing Institute neatly refers to it as “editorial focus”. 

The need for a clear editorial focus is often either neglected, or misconstrued as necessitating an epic three act structure (or hero’s journey). A recent Forbes article distinguishes content like customer testimonials, (which they say needn’t have a story arc) from what they call ‘brand stories’ in which story design is integral. But this restriction of narrative arc to a certain type of video is too narrow an application. A narrative arc should be intrinsic to all video content that is intended to engage a user, not merely the problem, conflict, resolution sort. In the two examples below we identify the narrative arc and show how it contributes to the success of simple promotional videos.

This is a short promo by the V&A for their exhibition Heatherwick Studio: Designing The Extraordinary.  It’s very simple and not what might conventionally be referred to as ‘storytelling’, but the video’s effectiveness is rooted in its narrative arc.

The film quickly establishes the subject as a designer at work on a scale model. The pace and editing tell us that we should anticipate the fruits of his labour before the end, immediately giving structure to the film. We are shown the completed design intermittently which tells us that like the video, the exhibition will explore the design process from modelling to installation.

In short the video has a progression; rather than simply showing a designer at various stages of work, we are taken on a cohesive journey about the design process.

In this short by Museum of London, clothing exhibits from the 1920s are explored by way of an imagined night out and some simple motion graphics.

This is much more than a show-and-tell exercise as the head curator puts the items in context and brings them to life through the narrative.

Without any problem, conflict or resolution we have a tight narrative arc that holds our attention in both videos.

Good video content is always memorable and often share-able, and both are enhanced by the narrative arc.

We find it much easier to recall an overarching message or feeling than a series of statements, no matter how interesting at the time. So too users are more likely to share content that can be boiled down to a simple arc.

Finally, the all-important emotional hook is always rooted in the narrative arc.

Creating a satisfying arc is a specialist skill and when scaled up it is arguably as difficult as developing a screenplay. This is why big brands employ teams of experienced writers to script their brand stories. But creating a narrative arc in its most fundamental sense simply means coming up with a strand that gives progression and cohesion to your idea, and should be intrinsic to all online video productions.

Get in touch with to discuss how Impact Video can help you create narrative arcs that captivate your audiences.

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User Generated Video Content – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post we looked at the rise of user generated content as a facet of a good content marketing strategy. We also discussed the future role of user generated video and the barriers to this. Here we explore some starting points and guidelines to user generated content.

Redefine the meaning of ‘quality content’

Think of quality content as anything that fosters community around your brand, anything that is shared avidly by your fans, not just professionally produced video or photography. Authenticity and sentiment are more powerful than production value. Moving past this hang up is the main difficulty for a lot of organisations. First up take a look at this innovative campaign by Lexus using user generated photography to put together a film frame by frame. The photos were taken on various phones and users were asked to edit them however they wanted before uploading them, giving the final video a very cut and paste feel.

Give your audience context for creation

People want to create but you must lead them toward your objectives for the campaign. The more parameters you can set them, the more quality interaction is likely. Ask them something specific, set a time limit and make the call to action clear. Conveniently Vine already constrains us to 7 seconds of video and Instagram to 15. Incentive will almost always play a part in your brief; the more to be gained the more effort people will put in and the higher quality content. Of course the gain for some groups could be purely recognition or personal satisfaction, other groups might need something more tangible. A great example of how to set context and constraints is Nissan’s #VersaVid campaign. Users were asked to create a Vine video with a 3d paper cut out Nissan, which was downloaded and printed from a specific website. By giving the resources, the subject and the time constraint (along with a $1,000 Amazon voucher) Nissan ensured high engagement. Here one of the winners.

Empower the real over the professional

There’s nothing more convincing than an independent review or testimonial. In the swamp of marketing communications, consumers value real experience. Empower your fans to bring the ‘authentic’ to your brand. How do they live with and interact with you on a day to day basis? Find and highlight that point where their lives meet your brand. Rather than only pushing your idea of how you’d like them to see you. Some of the best examples of achieving this have been in retail fashion by GAP, Burberry and Urban Outfitters. GAP ran a campaign in 2013 where customers were encouraged to share what GAP’s signature blue denim meant to them and contribute to their What’s Blue To You campaign on Tumblr with gifs or pictures. Adding a different and genuine angle to the very much ‘in-studio’ look of their usual advertising. Here are some of the winners.

"What’s Blue to You?" Tumblr contest winner  Chasing blue skies. Back to Blue. GIF by Landon Williams.               "What’s Blue to You?" Tumblr contest winner <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Painting blue moves. Back to Blue. GIF by Erica Anderson.

Consider how your objective will influence what you ask for

If you are hoping to get the broadest level of engagement possible from your audience, then a simple task or a huge incentive is necessary, as in Lynx’s Apollo Space Campaign or Queensland Australia’s best job in the world campaign (which now has its own Wikipedia page). Whereas if you’re aim is to acquire a small number of high quality submissions and use these to spearhead a campaign, you should think very clearly about who those people are and about how to incentivise them. Ironically the best creators may not always be your biggest fans, but of course this depends on the reach of your brand in the first place.

How can it be valuable for those not directly participating?

Make sure the content that’s being generated doesn’t end with you and the creators. Explore how it can be shared and exhibited online to reach those non-participants engaged with your brand. Think of content as pieces of a puzzle of bricks of a building that combined will be visible to wider audiences. As with the GAP Tumblr campaign mentioned above, where the Tumblr attracts not just creators but any fashion conscious users.  Adam Vincenzini at states that in a successful campaign “all parties (host, entrant and participant) are part of a mutually beneficial experience.”


Your customers are out there and they want to create. Why not let them? If you missed part 1 of our post on user generated content, find it here.

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User Generated Video Content – Part 1

It’s commonly accepted that brands can no longer just throw expensive outbound marketing campaigns at their customers.

This is the era of inbound content marketing, where brands must pull the public towards them with enticing content. The difficult question has been; where does this content come from? Of course you must invest more time and money in creating it, as you would any other facet of your marketing strategy, but you can also ask your customers to create it for you. In this post we talk about why user generated content (UGC) is picking up and how video might begin to take a bigger slice of the pie.

UGC has existed for a long time but the conditions are perfect in 2014 for a surge in popularity and relevancy. Adam Vincenzini at explains that “the key change [for user generated content in 2014] is the role content now plays in the fortunes of brands and businesses”, underlining the importance of content marketing. Combine this with the biggest strength of UGC – authenticity – and it seems like a no brainer. However, until recently the quality of UGC has been a constraint.

Consider now the modern customer: loyal brand ambassadors walking around with high resolution cameras and HD video recorders in their pockets, connected to the internet and thousands of other people via social networks. Applications to record and share videos and images – Vine, Instagram, and YouTube – are as simple as reading and writing to the modern mobile user. But most importantly, people want to create. Social media is about sharing, but this doesn’t mean endlessly retweeting your content, your fans don’t want to passively absorb your messages, they want to share too. This week Tate asked its twitter followers “what did your parents wear in their youth?” They received dozens of photo tweets, retweets and related activity. Their feed was populated with a collective nostalgia in the run up to their Late At Tate Britain event A History of UK Style. Some argue that UGC is only effective if there’s an incentive, that may have been the case at one point but since social media the landscape has looked very different.


Another recent campaign by Eurostar collated amateur photographs from Londoners in Paris (and vice versa) into charming online ads. Instead of churning out a romantic-weekend-in-Paris cliché, this campaign tells us that our experiences are and will be totally unique and unpredictable. That’s a very different, and much more romantic, concept than actors sipping champagne under the Eiffel Tower.

User Generated Video

Image based campaigns like those by Tate and Eurostar tend to have more participants than video or other more time consuming activities. At this stage it seems there either has to be a pretty juicy incentive, or a vested interest, for consumers to commit to creating video content. To illustrate, the Queensland Tourism Board in Australia ran a campaign in 2009 that received over 1.4million video applications from all over the world to secure ‘the best job in the world’ – a tropical island caretaker with a 6 month salary (it was so popular they did it again in 2013). Here the incentive was big enough to encourage anyone and everyone to enter.  Here’s the winning entrant from 2013.

Conversely a campaign with small incentives but significant vested interests would be likely to see a smaller number of high quality submissions, in which one or two might go on to be shared more widely or go viral. Depending on whether your focus is the content itself or awareness, a company should decide whether quantity or quality of content is more important – especially when considering a user generated video campaign. Do you want top content that you can curate push out yourself, or a breadth of content generating more awareness? A lot of film and short-film festivals now include a super-short-form film competitions as a way to engage the amateur filmmaker, and it’s proving a very effective model albeit mostly among the more camera-savvy users. However, as the average customer becomes as confident recording simple videos as taking pictures we will surely see more user generated video campaigns. Instagram and Vine are backing this trend, and successful campaigns have been realised through these applications already by, among others, GE, Virgin and Tribeca Film Festival. There are of course online platforms that will manage video submissions to a competition, however these mean an extra set-up and run cost, something that only the larger brands are willing to incur. The entry point for brands looking to experiment with UGC is undoubtedly on established social media platforms. Your loyal customers are out there and they want to create and share. Why not let them?

In part 2 of this post we look at some starting points and guidelines for catalysing User Generated Content.




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