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Archive for July, 2013

Nobody Cares About “Best”

Key stakeholders and decision makers care a lot about best. They want to make the best product they can. To refine their service using best practices, and know they’ve given their best effort to produce something great. That’s good. Going after “best” means having the relentless quality-focus that market-ready products require.

But no one outside the company really cares about it.

Honestly. We (the consumers) might say we care about “best,” might even think we care about it. But what we really care about is satisfying an emotional need.

Like belongingness. Or the need to be right. Or the need to feel smart.

Getting the “best” product might be part of that, but it’s not the major driver of our purchasing decision. The major driver is catharsis. “Best” is, at best, incidental. And best is in the eye of the beholder.

Just look at Pepsi, who tried with blind taste tests to establish superiority over Coke. Or Coke, who tried to convince us “New Coke” was even better than the original. Nobody cared.

So… don’t show us 10 Reasons Product X is Best, show us someone we respect using it. Don’t tell us Lexus is the best car on the market, show us it’s what successful people drive.

As a new brand doing video for the first time, you’re in a rare position to establish what you stand for, to decide what space you’ll occupy in the hearts and minds of your customers. Established brands have it rougher, but they can still use video and other media to re-frame the way people think of them. (The way Avis re-framed their permanent number 2 position to seem like an advantage — “We try harder.”)

Just don’t tell us you’re the best. We probably don’t care. What’s worse, many of us just won’t believe it.

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3 Steps to Hiring a Videographer

1. Decide you’re ready to do a video

This is not an obvious or foregone conclusion, as readers of our “3 Reasons to NOT do a Video” post know. Even if you’re brand-ready to move forward with marketing, you might want to look at a few other things first.

For example: your publishing channels, your network, your mailing list. A video can help bolster them, but you need to have the initial groundwork there to begin with. The most beautiful production in the world is useless if nobody sees it.

But let’s say you’ve done all that. You have influential contacts within your target audience. You have social media accounts with a decent number of quality followers. Your website is clean, interesting, and optimized with the kind of dynamic content users (and search engines) love.

Good for you! You’re ready to take things to the next level. Leverage those networks by pushing out something really remarkable. A marketing centerpiece. An attention-grabbing opus that’ll get your regular followers talking, and get new followers in the process. Of course, it helps if you…

 

2. Decide to hire a professional

We’re not going to say amateur video is useless. In fact, there can be a lot of value in it. Much of YouTube is comprised of self-shot content. And of all the viral videos we can think of, only a few have the obvious production value that suggests money and experience at work.

Michelangelo

But there are different reasons for creating a video, and different methods of production depending on your final intent. Poorly lit rooms and shaky phone cams might be fine for a funny cat compilation. They’re less acceptable in a B2B ad, where you’re trying to come off as professional.

Also, there are some things the amateur approach can’t capture. We’ve known clients who tried to “go it alone” before giving us a call. The experience they report is similar to the one we have when trying to paint like Michelangelo. It’s the difference between being able to visualize, and being able to execute.

A professional videographer can help make your vision a reality. They have the tools and the talent, and as long as you keep communication open, they can get pretty close to whatever’s in your head.

They might even exceed your expectations, as long as you…

 

3. Hire someone who understands what you’re about

Newly-founded production companies are generalist by definition – we take what we can get. But there are some things we’re better at than others. Like sports videos. Or brand videos with a sense of humor, excitement, or adventure.

It’s the same everywhere. Every company has their forte. And it’s up to you to identify that, to pore through portfolios, short-listing those whose past work matches your imagination.

That’s half the battle. The other half is sending your favored videographer links to more work that resembles what you have in mind. If we know where you want to go, we’re a lot better at getting you there.

 

So… hire the right person and then help us. This is still your baby. Your production. You’re going to feel better about it if you’re a little more hands on. And we’re going to create better, as well.

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Your ‘Official Message’ is Boring

We know a lot of interesting people whose resumes read like a legal document: passive, jargon-filled, sleep inducing. People who can time a joke, keep their coworkers effortlessly entertained, but become someone else in formal contexts.

It’s the same in front of the camera. Interesting people start to communicate like they’ve just read “100 Cliche Ways to Talk about Work.”

The implicit rule seems to be: the higher the stakes, the less you should be yourself. The more you should bury your humanity, and become a faceless agent of The Official Message.

But no one is really interested in The Official Message.

If it’s a corporate video, we’ll sit through it at orientation because we have to. If it’s a marketing video, we’ll sit through it for 30 seconds until we can get the YouTube content we really wanted. But no one is going to seek your Official Message out.

Here’s a better rule: your resume ought to be as interesting as People magazine, your presentation as interesting as a TED talk, and your video as interesting as the million other things we could watch instead.

You do this by allowing yourself to be human. To tell stories and jokes and talk about things you’re really interested in.*

If you’re working for the right reasons, your business becomes a natural part of that conversation. Nothing forced or “Official” about it.

 

 

*Consider the work of Phil Simon, an author who incorporates Breaking Bad, Rush, and Seinfeld into his books on business. Or Dave, who blogs about travel and family while selling leather products.

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3 Reasons to NOT do a Video

There are plenty of good reasons to do a video. Besides simply looking good, video has the advantage of engaging multiple senses, blending multiple art forms, and (if they’re dialogue free), crossing language barriers. Also, we’re programed to watch them. On a computer screen or a presentation projector, they’re a lot more attractive than a big paragraph of text (like the one you just read).

Still, there are times when you shouldn’t do a video. Times when you shouldn’t do any marketing, as a matter of fact, but video especially, since it tends to be more expensive.

It has to do with your level of readiness. Here are three ways to know you’re not quite there yet:

 

You don’t know what to say

Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we encounter this. The problem is typical of newer businesses, but afflicts some golden oldies as well. It’s usually a problem of identity (i.e. not having one).

Before contacting someone to do a video, ask yourself: “What’s my brand? What’s my unique offering? Why do clients choose me instead of a competitor?” If you can’t talk interestingly about what you do for 60 seconds, a five minute video isn’t going to be much better.

 

You aren’t ready to be honest with yourself

Why are you doing this? Why make a video? Why now?

Is it because sales are slumping, customers are grumbling, and you want a big push to rehabilitate your image? Or maybe you’ve got culture issues and want a video to remind everyone just how great you are.

These things don’t work. You know they don’t work. Your viewers are smart, sophisticated people. They can tell when something’s disingenuous.

But you have to be honest with yourself about your situation and motives. If your service is broken, fix it. If your culture is broken, fix it. Then talk to us about communicating your improvements.

 

You have unrealistic expectations for the video itself

This problem is a little easier to deal with, and something we handle by coaching clients through the film making process.

Still, it’s worth mentioning: a $500 video looks like a $500 video, a $10,000 video looks like a $10,000 video. A $500 video is not going to have that amazing chopper shot, or the dynamic production value, or even the well-organized narrative that requires (sorry to say) time and money to develop.

Similarly, a video shot in your office will not make it look like Donald Trump’s office.

That said, we do the best work we can at any budget, and try not to concern ourselves overmuch with the number on the balance sheet. A cheaper video doesn’t mean a less artistic or genuine one. It’s the feeling behind it that matters.

But it does matter that we manage expectations. There won’t be bullet-time Trinity kicks or slow-mo flying pigeons if all we’re trying to do is sell ice cream. That might be disappointing, but at least we have ice cream… Which is what we came here to talk about…

 

What was I saying?

Ice cream is good.

Happy storytelling.

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Perception is Everything

It’s why we wear a suit and tie to the interview, why we get our hair cut or do our makeup in a certain way. Perception is everything. And while our outward image has little to do with our value as people or companies, it has plenty to do with our chances to demonstrate that value.

Consider this website for the ghostwriter Andrew Crofts. It’s one of many if you Google “ghostwriter” — better than some, worse than others. Actually, the site itself doesn’t look that good. But there’s something else I want to draw your attention to: the video on the homepage. It may take a minute to load, but watch a little when it does, and think about the impression it makes on you.

The interesting thing here is that the content of the video doesn’t matter. Crofts could be talking about his latest project, his favorite place to write, or the top 10 reasons to start on your book. The point is that it looks good. The video is professionally done, and so makes its subject look like a pro. I don’t know anything about Crofts’ work or writing style, but I see that video and my perception is: “this guy’s the real deal.” If I needed his services, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire him.

All great marketing materials can work like that. They don’t have to be overtly salesy (or overtly anything). They can be clever, funny, scary or dramatic. But they should reflect real thought, effort, and investment. A well-thought out slogan or a well-edited HD video shows the world you care about what you’re doing and saying. It legitimizes your operation. It’s your company’s suit and tie.

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