In a WORLD … of video MARKETINGwith a budget BALANCED ON THE EDGE OF A KNIFE … a few marketers blow their lead goals out of the water. Why? Probably because they’ve learned to create buzz by watching movie trailers.

Movies are a $286 billion industry and much of their success hinges on the handful of 1 to 2- minute movie trailers that promote them. Wherever an industry pours millions into making brief video snapshots as entertaining and persuasive as possible, we’re interested, and we think you should be too.

4 things video marketers can learn from movie trailers:

1. Infuse your videos with emotion

No, your marketing videos don’t have to make your viewers bawl, but they do have to make them feel something. That something could be annoyance (at their current process), desire, mirth, or camaraderie—whatever drives your point home.

How do movie trailers do this? According to the master of Hollywood teasers, John Long, “A great trailer has its own mini-story.” Long was recently nominated for multiple Golden Trailer Awards (yeah, it’s a thing) and he told Fast Company that he recommends breaking down the whole movie into a trailer with a “three-act setup” where you introduce a problem, complicate it, and then bring it back home and hint at a grand finale. This works, he claims, because audiences have grown more sophisticated over the years and aren’t satisfied with long, linear shots of people just talking.

For your marketing videos, the same holds true. Figure out how to break down your brand narrative into a mini-story. Are you saving the world by saving customers’ time or money? Are you skyrocketing end-users to career-stardom because of how good they’ll look after buying from you? Fit it into the three-act setup and you have a solid, attention-holding plot.

2. Begin with a powerful hook

Good trailers don’t open with a whimper—they launch into a mystery. Often, directors use tense music, an unexpected sound, a cloud of fog, or a curious piece of dialog to spark curiosity. Do the same with your marketing videos, and do it fast. Research shows that you only have a matter of seconds to snare viewers’ interest and unlike movie theatres, you don’t have a captive audience.

To achieve this hook, don’t be afraid to start somewhere other than the beginning. Copy the director Quentin Tarantino who is famous for capturing interest by leaping to an exciting scene in the middle or end of his story. After your hook, introduce your company logo or the title.

See the trailer for Bladerunner 2049 which hits all the right points:

3. The real story is told in post-production

If you’ve ever seen a movie and thought, “man, that was nothing like the trailer!” you’re definitely onto something—editing can completely change the story. The folks who cut movie trailers are rarely the same people who made the film and their only goal is to sell tickets. As such, they’ve been able to produce some pretty misleading trailers over the years. For example, the trailer for the Tim Burton film Sweeney Todd famously forgot to mention that the movie was a full-fledged musical because that fact may have hurt ticket sales.

Testament to the power of editing, an entire cottage industry of jokesters have recut movies to completely change their meaning. Just look at the horror film The Shining, turned into a romantic comedy:

Or Jaws turned into a Disney film.

Point being, it’s how you edit it, not how you shoot it, that determines what your video is about. Make sure that you have the appropriate tools, time, and talent to make something noteworthy out of your marketing video post-production.

4. Create anticipation

Finally, viewers need to take action after your video. An evocative trailer hasn’t done its job if you don’t want to actually see the movie afterward. Your marketing video should similarly leave out the best part while hinting at the grand finale. “You have to have a great way to end the piece,” says Long. “The way people’s [sic] brains are wired, first we remember how something ends, and then we remember how it begins.” How does Long typically end his trailers? Just after the dramatic climax:

For your marketing videos, you can do one even better: Instead of waiting for your viewer to hopefully buy from you later on, capitalize on that climax with a CTA or lead form within the video itself. Any viewer who has made it that far is clearly qualified and interested and it’s time to move them forward in the epic drama that is … their customer JOURNEY.

Want more video marketing tips? Read How to Use Video In Your Email Marketing Campaigns.

Chris Gillespie