We used to etch them into cave walls, now we post them to TikTok. They’re the reason we pay $15.95 for popcorn, donate $25 to a colleague’s GoFundMe—they’re even why we fall in love. Stories are the backbone of all media, and they’re the most powerful form of communication.
Video storytelling is how effective businesses tell stories in the digital age. It’s becoming increasingly popular, as it enables a more immediate connection with potential customers. When brands combine the power of storytelling with the savviness of video marketing, it can make for a dynamic way to reach new audiences and re-engage your current ones.
Here we’ll get the story on storytelling, and learn how you can use video storytelling to grow your business through marketing.
What Do We Mean by "Storytelling"?
Why Storytelling is So Important to Marketing?
What is Video Storytelling?
Video Storytelling Techniques
How to Make Video That Tells a Compelling Story
Video Storytelling Tips and Ideas
Video Storytelling Examples
Why do we find some stories captivating, and others trite? Whether it's a funny anecdote or a spine-tingling horror story, a good story flies us away from the campfire and into the teller’s world. Likewise, a convoluted/poorly told story has the opposite effect: We don’t believe a word, and would rather get back to burning our marshmallow in peace.
A good story usually ticks three boxes: conflict, resolution, and emotion. Conflict provides the tension and drive that keeps us turning the page (or tuning in to the next episode), while resolution gives us a sense of satisfaction and closure. Think of the villain raising their sword over our hero’s head, only to be struck down at the last moment by a supporting character we’d thought dead.
Emotion is what makes us care about the characters. We see ourselves in their struggle, and imagine feeling the same in their shoes. Whether we're laughing at a character's slapstick mishaps or wounded by their tragic backstory, these three elements allow us to connect with a story.
Good storytelling rallies us to see the side of whoever has the conch shell. We synchronize with our narrator. It’s the reason we’ll root for an antihero, ignoring the subtle sense they should probably be in jail.
For marketers, stories can motivate people to make a purchase and increase positive attitudes toward a brand. In fact, 76% of businesses say that video has helped them increase sales.
Video storytelling is—wait for it—a story told through video. Businesses and organizations use video storytelling to promote their products, services and causes. When crafting a video story, it’s important to think about what you want to achieve and who your audience is. What is the message you want audiences to take home? How do you want the audience to feel? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin planning your video.
A good story doesn't necessarily need fancy production values. Often, the simplest videos are the most effective. The most important thing is that your story is honest and authentic. Connecting with your audience on a personal level is all that’s needed to create a lasting impression.
There are many different video storytelling techniques that can be used to create engaging and effective videos for your business.
One common technique is known as the "call to action." This involves ending the video with a memorable statement or image that encourages the viewer to take some kind of action, such as visiting a website or signing up for a newsletter.
Another popular technique is known as the "teaser." This involves creating a short, attention-grabbing clip that whets the audience's appetite for more information.
Many video marketers use what is known as the "staircase method." This involves starting with the most important information and then gradually adding more details as the video progresses. This technique is especially effective for longer videos (over 3-5 minutes) because it helps to keep the tension rising throughout.
A "reveal" is a storytelling technique in which information is slowly revealed to the audience over the course of the video. This can be done through interviews, voice-overs or text on the screen.
Given the nature of your message as a business, you may want to be careful with this one. Prospects tend to want the most important details up front, and may not appreciate a story that doesn’t make its point relatively soon.
By using one or more of these techniques, you can create a video that’s sure to leave a lasting impression on your prospects.
Making a good storytelling video requires careful planning and execution. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Choose a compelling story. The best stories are those that are personal and relatable. Think of what sort of things excite you or tug at your heart strings. If you can find a way to connect your story to the viewer, they’ll be more likely to engage with it.
2. Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to watch a long, drawn-out video. Aim for 3-5 minutes, and bear in mind that users on different platforms have varying expectations. A viewer on YouTube may watch a longer video, but on Instagram, they’ll dip out after 60 seconds.
3. Use strong visuals. A good story will paint a picture in the viewer's mind, so make sure your visuals are evocative. Unless you’re Tarantino, a static video of two people sitting in chairs talking to one another is going to be a big ask from your viewer. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for that kind of content, but, adding clips, motions, stats and other visuals are often more effective for business-oriented content.
4. Hire a dedicated video or editing team. It shouldn’t fall solely to your in-house marketing team to produce high-caliber video content. They’ve got goals and tasks of their own, and most don’t have the skills or resources to drive a full scale video campaign. Video production teams like Superside can help you feel more confident and produce consistent, quality content.
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Crafting a compelling video story isn't always easy. You’ll need to find the perfect balance informative and entertaining, without coming across as too staged or scripted. Here’s what you can do to help your video content go down smoothly.
Before you begin telling your story, you should know the answers to these questions.
Who are you trying to reach?
Consider the demographics of your audience and where they congregate online. Consider cultural references and how they expect to be communicated with.
What would they be interested in hearing?
Maybe your audience is familiar with the subject matter in question, and you need to produce content that dives deeper than the fundamentals. Perhaps the topic you’re discussing is new technology and you should provide fundamental knowledge instead. Where they sit on the knowledge spectrum should dictate where you place your stake.
What pieces of the story can they relate to?
Learn what your prospect cares about most, and make that the anchor point for your content. Discover videos that are currently popular in your industry by checking trending topics, and see how users are currently engaging with them. Don’t be afraid to read the comments, either. When and where people pitch fits can tell you whether to twist the knife or tread with caution.
Sometimes when brands make videos, they try to pack too much information into each one. Try focusing on one central theme or idea for each video. This’ll keep your story coherent and focused. Meandering stories risk losing your audience along the way. Remember, you can always make more videos.
Videos are a visual medium. Use images and footage to help illustrate your points and bring your story to life. This could include video from events, on-screen graphics and statistics, images of references you make within the story and more.
Use the tools at your disposal, too: Software like GoAnimate, Adobe Premiere Pro, Common Craft and Prezi can give visual content a big boost. For best results, consider a dedicated full-scale design team to bring your videos to life.
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Don't be afraid to infuse some personality into your videos. Be as natural and authentic as possible—audiences are discerning, and won’t respond to a story or presence that feels forced. Humor can help, as it helps your main points (which may have less entertainment value) go down smoother.
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Make sure to trim out any extraneous footage or filler material. Don’t belabor your points, and ask yourself what each frame achieves. If you spot redundancy, grab the scissors.
A rule of thumb in storytelling is “show, don’t tell”. Most audiences are smart enough to get the message with a little context, so don’t spend time on exposition unless you have to. If you can say it visually in a shot or sequence, you’ll entice viewers more than if you’d spelled it out with a voiceover or straight-to-camera explanation.
For businesses, this can include a clever graphic that succinctly highlights your prospect’s need and/or solution.
The biggest brands figured out long ago how to make video storytelling work for them. Here are a few of our favorites.
In this video series, B&W Trailer Hitches focused on telling customer stories and how their products help them live extraordinary lives.
You wouldn’t expect such gripping stories to follow the purchase of a trailer hitch. But rather than talk about the specifications or durability of their product, the team at B&W focused on the reason behind the purchase of a trailer hitch: adventure.
LEGO sets the bar for consumer brands in video storytelling. They’ve got an easy in, admittedly; many of us remember building colorful monstrosities with their product as children. The LEGO YouTube channel hosts entire movies showcasing the stories of LEGO fanatics, many of whom went on to work in creative professions.
Airbnb have upped their game in video storytelling recently. Their YouTube marketing videos depict real travelers’ positive experiences using the service, often honing in on Airbnb hosts themselves for a full picture of the encounter. What’s for sale here isn’t an app, but a wholesome, heartwarming memory you’ll cherish for years to come.
It probably comes as no surprise that one of the best video storytelling companies in the world is the same brand that owns YouTube. People use Google every microsecond for wildly different reasons, so the company has free reign to tell any story they want. Here, they’ve zeroed in on a popular and easy-storified trend of family reunions via Google search. Presumably “how to unclog toilet” didn’t test as well.
Clif Bar & Co. connects with its customers by telling stories that reflect their values. The company styles its products as being for the consumer on the go (images of mountain climbers adorn their packaging), meaning an image of wellness and, again, adventure is most likely to resonate with their target audience.
The eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker is a prime example of using humor in video storytelling. In this video, employees read and share common misspellings of the company’s name. It’s cute, brightens your day 5%, and plants the suggestion of Wobbly Barker as an option for your next pair of glasses.
It’s also a case study in working your angles. They understand that their name is one of the most interesting things about their brand, and lean into it to support an image of quirkiness that prospects will associate with them. Rather than ignore their silly-sounding name, they’ve turned it into a brand asset.
If going it alone, it can take some time to implement a video marketing plan that works for you. Once your first videos are up, you’ll probably have to tweak things based on your results. With some experience, you can begin trying more advanced techniques that guarantee attention-grabbing content. Here are some tips that’ll help strengthen your video marketing plan.
Understanding the performance of your videos is vital to figuring out what’s working and what’s not. Besides the view count, it’s good to know how long viewers are watching and if/how they’re engaging with them. Fortunately, video hosting and social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook offer these metrics in easily understood dashboards. After a few months online, see where those figures move and adjust your videos accordingly.
One of the best ways to evolve your video storytelling is to see what other brands and content creators are doing. What in their videos draws you to them? Why are they effective? How are audiences responding?
Trends are trends for a reason: When something works, everyone wants in. Take what you see others doing and apply it to your business. If you’re unsure how to go about this, watch videos from your favorite businesses and try making a video in the same style. Note that we said “style”: Be careful not to steal their property or send your viewers to their website by mistake.
If you don’t have the time or resources to become a video marketing expert (most don’t), there’s no substitute for experience. Superside dedicates talented professional creative teams to making compelling marketing videos. The cost of making effective videos is far more reasonable than it used to be, and partnering with a quality team means not having to purchase equipment or studio time yourself. Teams even ensure peak performance by fitting it neatly into your business’ marketing strategy.
Video storytelling is a powerful way to connect with your audience and relay your message. Good storytelling sharpens the tools already in your toolbox (strong visuals, graphics etc.), resulting in content that informs, entertains and strengthens your brand. Keep these tips in mind as you plan your next video marketing campaign.
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