Who doesn’t love a good promotional video production? My phone consistently pings into life with links to great promo video content. So often in fact that you’d think the entire workforce of video production crew in Manchester spend more time deep diving the internet for the finest video content than they do creating it. I get sent links to wildly varying styles of promotional videos; from 15 second, zany, viral promos to 10 minute, branded, narrative mini-docs and a plethora of productions in between. They are all pieces of great promotional video production for different reasons. Reasons that may be tricky to readily identify.
What Makes a Great Promotional Video?
We may not know exactly what makes the very best promotional videos so great, but we all know quality when we see it. Here are some of the contributing production elements that I’ve noticed about the best promotional video productions I’ve been sent recently. Spoiler alert! There are great promotional videos included in this post! Huzzah!
Brand Awareness Through Video Production
Promotional video, in its widest definition, is intended to market a product or service or raise awareness of a brand. Within that enticingly loose remit there are endless video production possibilities that allow production companies to create content that does not necessarily conform to the usual constraints of a 30 second Television Commercial (TVC). Runtime itself is huge variable in promotional video production. Generally hosted online with a view to being shared on social media, promotional video can be any length that the filmmaker desires, so long as it does its job. A great example of flagrantly flouting the 30 second rule in promotional video is the branded mini documentary.
A branded mini documentary is a video piece in the documentary form that follows a subject or narrative just as any other documentary would, generally over 2 – 10 minutes. The documentary subject can be loosely or directly linked to the brand that is promoting or not linked at all other than by a catchy tagline. The notion of a branded documentary promotional video production is to create content that the audience genuinely cares about watching and invests in, while the brand piggyback on that positive and genuine connection with the audience.
Credibility Via Creativity
Our Head of Production, Matt often talks about “credibility via creativity”, the idea that a brand or business showing creative flair and insight directly translates into an audience believing they are a credible and desirable brand. This makes a lot of sense.
If a brand creates promotional video content that you love, then you know that the people at that brand have a similar creative taste as you do. They find funny the same things you do; they’ve told a charming story that you would want to tell. They are cool, edgy, hilarious and handsome just like you are! You begin to recognise yourself in the brand. Now you’ve recognised yourself in a brand, that brand now represents you, and so organically their products and services are something you would naturally and instinctively be interested in. Artistic flair, whether or not it is intrinsically linked to the tangible offerings of the creator, is attractive. How many entirely ineligible bachelors, who happen to play guitar, have you seen struggle for romance?
This is not to say that brands who create promotional mini docs are masquerading their failings as brands with artistic prowess, this is just to stress the point of how alluring a display of creativity can be. In fact, the best branded mini docs come from brands that are so strong that they could, and do, wow us with incredible TV commercials but who also choose to create brilliant promotional content. This reaches a new audience who may not typically engage with traditional advertising.
Award Winning Video Campaigns
The below example comes from Stella Artois, a brand with stellar form in the world of TV advertising with a strong history of Cannes Lions Gold Award winning campaigns including 2002’s Reassuringly Expensive campaign. In 2010 Stella Artois commissioned filmmaker Malcolm Murray and creative agency Mother NY to create a piece of promotional video that was a world away from the glossy, chic, stylised TVCs they have become famous for.
Up There is a 12-minute documentary that gets promotional branded content just right. The focus is clearly on the content and not the branding. The documentary showcases the soon-to-be lost art of hand painted advertising, following the last few crews of artists who paint billboard scale advertisements directly onto the side of huge buildings. It’s an endearing story that is as emotionally provocative as it is informative.
Manchester Building Art
It is inspirational to hear of 10-year apprenticeships learning from a master of a dying art and fascinating to learn how the art itself is crafted. Especially for those like me who have seen the huge building paintings around Manchester and wondered quite how they manage them. Unlike the building art around Manchester City centre the crew in the documentary are not painting forlorn figures found in the Northern Quarter or the striking street art near Spinningfields. They are painting vast yet subtly placed advertisements for Stella Artois. Making the brand an ever present but undoubtedly secondary character in a narrative that woos you beyond considering this to be a piece of promotional video production. I don’t care or even notice that it is essentially an advertisement, it’s just a great watch. Thirsty work though.
Content First, Brand Second
At the opposite end of the branded content scale but still a very effective series of promotional video productions is the ludicrously haphazard and hilarious Will It Blend? This series of viral videos takes the same approach as Up There in creating content that they know an audience already desires for their branding to be applied to. However, they choose an entirely different audience in the disposable world of YouTube videos. They also do away with all subtlety. In fact, they openly spoof the pretence of branded promotional content by presenting their content as parody vintage infomercials for their product. Blendtec, the brand behind Will It Blend?, produce these videos and host them on their own YouTube channel. In each video a different object such as a glow stick or a football are placed in a signature Blendtec blender as we find out “Will it blend?”
Showing a deep understanding of the content that is consumed online, these promotional videos have become a massive viral sensation. This has opened up cross-promotional advertising opportunities where other brands will collaborate on the videos to have their products blended in a Blendtec blender by the famous host of the videos, Tom Dickson who is also the founder of Blendtec. Apple had an iPhone X blended to promotes the devices release. An Amazon Echo has been blended to promote Amazon Prime Day promotions, which included a sale on Blendtec blenders. The football mentioned above was blended as a promotion with Real Salt Lake soccer club featuring some famous footballers.
In Your Face
These promotional videos, unlike Up There, are not intended to subtly promote a brand. They are intended to be an in your face reminder of Blendtec. These videos are so popular that they will pop up on your feed as suggested viewing. I had never heard of Blendtec before Will it Blend? Now I find myself saying the host’s catchphrase as I finish blending.
I also find myself wishing I had a Blendtec blender every time I’m not satisfied with my food processor’s liquidiser function. “If it can blend an iPhone it wouldn’t have this much trouble with a bit of ginger” I think to myself. That is the triumph of this series as pieces of promotional video content. I have recognised their brand; I have recognised my own self-perceived hilarity in their sense of humour, and I have begun to desire their product as something more suitable for me. And learned who Blendtec people are and decided that I am also a Blendtec person.
Increase Sales with a Video Campaign
These blender videos have been running for around ten years and sit alongside genuine blender recipe and demo videos that Blendtec also produce, have already seen a spike in sales and have driven a huge expansion of Blendtec’s operation. However, one can only presume that the true dividends of this campaign will be reaped when the generation of 16-year olds that will have been watching and sharing these videos for a decade by the time they come to buy their first blender will have only one brand in mind, a name synonymous with high power blenders. Will It Blend? is a series of ironic infomercial promotional videos that could ensure that Blendtec becomes a brand that transcends the product. All vacuum cleaners are called Hoovers. All search engines are used for Googling. And I see a future where all iPhones are Blendtec’ed!
The final promotional video I have chosen is a piece that sits somewhere between the above two. Just over 2 minutes in duration, it is a mockumentary style so carries the wit of Will it Blend? but with the subtlety of delivery of the genuine documentary Up There. It has ever-present branding and parodies a common promotional video form, the client testimonial video.
Client Testimonial Video Spoof
The concept is that a promotional video production company is making a client testimonial video to talk about how someone uses business messaging software, Slack. The client in question however is the video production itself, who have become the reluctant subject of their own production.
The video pastiches the client testimonial style of promotional video and its common tropes. This works brilliantly as the video is able to extol the virtues of Slack without us feeling like they are contriving to do just that. There is only one scene where someone delivers a perfect soundbite about one of the brilliant features of Slack in a cheery upbeat manner. In the very next shot we immediately hear the Director’s voice – “Let’s try one a little less goofy” and the person who delivered the soundbite looks crestfallen. It’s a clever moment as we have learned about the great feature of Slack, we have learned that they are funny just like us and we have learned that all of those other client testimonial videos that we’ve seen from other brands are actually quite goofy, which is something Slack would never be.
Hip Talking Heads
The video features talking heads of actors who play the staff at the production company who are making this promotional video cut to b-roll of them using Slack to produce this exact same video. It’s a meta-joke that allows Slack to make a client testimonial video and deliver all of the messaging of a traditional client testimonial video while positioning themselves as a hip brand that would never actually make a client testimonial video. With all of the features being used with a comedic, ironic twist.
We see messages going back and forth on screen asking “where are we on the Slack script?” the response “coming along nicely” a third person messages “make sure you show me doing my magic trick”. Almost a full minute later in the video we see someone deliver an earnest message about how they love one of Slack’s feature rounded off with them quickly doing a magic trick before the shot cuts away. At every turn a neat soundbite teaches us something impressive about Slack and is then undercut by a joke. It’s a hilariously choreographed on screen battle between the messages that a marketing department wants in a video and the writers and filmmakers who want to make something cool.
As a piece that I’d describe as a maturely crafted medley of all of the takes that would usually end on the cutting room floor, it’s clear that this video came from both a marketing department and production company that know exactly what needs to be said and appreciate the value of finding new ways to say it.
If you want your promotional video production to make the audience recognise themselves in your brand, or if you want to find more videos of things being blended contact me or Groundbreak Manchester HQ today.