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March 14, 2014

6 Proven Ways to Become a Powerful Video Storyteller

Any ideas?Let me guess. You’d get into the video marketing game if only you had a terrific idea. The only hitch is that you and your team haven’t been able to think of one yet.

All of the popular brand videos out there started with an idea but – more than that – they developed into a story.

Stories are the bones of video marketing, and y’need a sturdy set of them if you’re going to fly (okay, that metaphor took a weird turn there, but stay with me folks).

While it may be difficult to come up with a compelling story initially, here are six proven techniques you can use to “frame up” your message and have it appeal to your target audience in a video.

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1. Personify a product or the problem

Stories have a setting and a plot – sure – but we remember great characters. Seinfeld was said to be a sitcom about nothing, but the characters stole the show. That said, use the people in your marketing videos wisely. You can personify your customers’ pain points and make their frustrations come to life in your videos.

Take a look at how Motorola does this with Jared’s “lazy smartphone”:

Motorola’s hilarious series of ads showcase a lazy guy as the personification of the problems customers have with their phones and you can do this with your brand videos. If your clients have trouble with software adoption across the organization, or eInvoicing, or other industry-specific problems, determine the characteristics you’ll need to portray and create a video around those traits. You’ll need a strong actor to pull it off, but if your B2B solution transforms a finicky database into something sexy, it works wonders to show rather than tell in a video featuring these character types.

2. Create a conflict (or a villain)

Image courtesy of FandangoOne of the best storytelling pieces I read this week was about Jennifer Lee, the now Oscar winning co-writer and co-director of Disney’s Frozen.

In her interview with Fast Company, Lee explained that the story was never going to come to life until the team could finalize the conflict:

“On Frozen, we knew it was going to have something to do with an act of true love…We knew the sisters were going to be there, but we didn’t know how we were telling the story.

It wasn’t until I went back to the original story and said, you know, the most exciting thing about this to me is the concept of the power of love over fear. I said, Anna represents love and Elsa represents fear, and this is how we play that out in the film. Until I articulated that, there was a lot of: What if?”

Ultimately, the writers ended up creating a meaningful conflict between two sisters and a really believable villain we can all sympathize with (and, let’s be real, that’s the best kind).

When creating your videos, think about good and evil, or what can triumph over another thing. Consider how you can reach your target market using a story with a conflict they identify with. For an awesome B2B example of this, check out this post for the Juniper Networks Rap Battle example. It’s a simple conflict between IT security nerds with an excellent video result.

3. Compose a song

Whether you’re an airline, a software company, or sell soap, a song can be your ticket to telling the best story possible. We’ve seen music videos from Virgin Airlines (their safety video went viral), and here you’ll see video trailblazer Old Spice with their hilarious (and creepy) “Mom Song”:

The point here is that no matter what you sell, you can create a fun video story with a song. Change the lyrics to one of your audience’s favourite jams of their generation to walk them down memory lane and deliver your message in a catchy way. Done right, it could get stuck in their heads all day long.

4. Paint the bigger picture

One of the main lessons in content marketing is that it’s not about you, it’s about what you do for others. This customer-focused approach is key and this video by SAP is a great example. Rather than talking about their enterprise software offerings, this video is all about the overarching theme business owners:

By using relatable moments to showcase how real people interact, SAP demonstrates the connections they help facilitate without ever having to talk about a product. To create an inspirational video of your own, outline your company’s broader focus. You might sell environmentally friendly solutions, for example, but go beyond that. Talk about the global shift we’re experiencing and how everyone needs to work together to alter the future of the planet. Tell a story about the bigger picture.

5. Focus on an engaging storyteller

Have you ever met someone who just “gets it”? Someone who is cool and interesting, but can also read your mind a little bit? That’s the kind of person you should feature in informative videos for your brand. When telling your story you need someone your audience will listen to. Nike knocks this out of the park with their Equality storytelling, take a look below.

6. Pull a crazy stunt

Stories are important, but they can also be simple and disguised as something a bit different. Take this video from Omaze, a company that auctions off incredible experiences. To market a day with Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’ve put together this piece:

While there’s a lack of story going on, it’s really about selling you YOUR story with Arnold. The premise? He’s got a tank and you can join him to create a story all your own.

Just as a horror film can be even more scary by using the power of suggestion rather than showing you what’s going on in the cabin in the woods, you can market an experience by implying what could happen once your customers get on board. Using clever humor and hyperbole, you can really market something with a “story” that isn’t necessarily true to life. The trick is to go far beyond real life. You can see another example of this exaggeration story method with Direct TVs award winning series of commercials called “Get Rid of Cable“.

Overall, next time you’re in the boardroom with your creative and marketing teams coming up with your new video concept, think about using these six methods to frame up your storytelling. Stories are important, but it’s also about how you frame them up in your time-sensitive video marketing.

So, which video inspired you?

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Jennifer Pepper

Jennifer Pepper

Jennifer is the Customer Success Content Strategist at Unbounce. One day she wants to direct the ads you skip on YouTube. Follow her on Twitter @PeppersWrite.

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