Updated on February 10, 2020.
Promotional videos come in many shapes, from conventional TV ads to appeals for non-profit fundraising. They might even show up in film festivals disguised as short films, only to reveal in the last few seconds that there’s something you can buy or an app you can download. The purpose of a promotional video is apparent in the name but the methodology is not nearly as obvious.
In order to receive the greatest results from your promotion, you first need to decide what your goals are. Everyone is selling something, even if your “product” is an emotional connection to a cause. Who is your audience? Where will people see your video: online or on TV? These are important considerations to take in before you write a single word. If you hire a production company, they will ask you these questions, along with many others, to determine the best places to start.
Why have you chosen to make a video instead of, say, a radio spot? “Enjoyment of video ads increase purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%,” according to Unruly Media. In less technical terms, if people like your video, people will remember you and will likely buy what you’re selling. No matter who you’re appealing to or where they’ll be, there are 5 universal traits that successful promotional videos share. Below, each of these traits is explored in more detail, and you can see examples of videos that have led to a successful campaign.
1. Don’t Discount Production Quality
You don’t need to bankrupt your small business buying the most up-to-date equipment, but your audience should be able to see and hear what you’re saying. How many poorly crafted commercials have you seen that make you immediately write off the whole company? People might not admit it, but a poorly made video is going to make you lose trust in a company’s standards, the same way you might react to a poorly designed website.
A production company’s job, in addition to helping you come up with an idea, is to make your promotional video look and sound excellent. Animation is another great way of doing this. If you can’t afford to send a crew on location with a bunch of equipment, try illustrating your idea. It might work even better for what you’re trying to say. Either way, you don’t want to settle for less. It’s better to make a simple, polished video than to make a big explosive one that looks awful.
2. Be Entertaining
Creating an engaging promotional video is much harder than it sounds. Remember, right off the bat, someone is probably watching your video because they have to. It’s either on TV during the commercials, or maybe it’s a pre-roll ad before a YouTube video. If you’re not in that position, and someone is voluntarily watching your promo, you’re even more pressed to keep their attention since they can stop at any time. There are several ways to do this, and you’ve probably seen examples of them all before.
One way is to tell a story. Give your promo something resembling a beginning, middle, and end. If you can hook people in the first “act,” then they will be interested in seeing how your story ends. On the same note, creating characters that viewers can connect with will create an attachment the same way a movie or TV show would.
Another successful way to entertain in a commercial is to make ‘em laugh. Short-form comedy works on almost every single social media platform, from Vine to YouTube and beyond, so your short, funny promo video might give you viewers in a slot reserved for entertainment.
3. Include Compelling Visuals
Video is a visual medium. It might seem obvious, but there are plenty of video concepts that work on paper but then don’t work on camera. A talking head video might be perfect for Apple, but if you’re not making and selling new iPhones, then you probably want to approach your project from a different angle. Give your viewers a reason to keep watching instead of looking out their window when your promo video is playing.
You chose to make a video, so you must have something you want to show people. Are you selling a product? Show us an impressive demo. Are you explaining something to the audience? Consider integrating animation. Here’s a great example of a video that shows us the product in action instead of just telling us about it:
4. Keep It Short
You can’t presume that people have a few minutes to spare. It’s better to assume that people are going to tune out as soon as they can, so try to appeal to them in the shortest amount of time. Short attention spans aren’t something new, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is making promotional videos that cut to the chase. How many commercials have you seen that seem to drag on for hours because they’re repetitive or long winded?
Making sure your promotional video is engaging and informative is a great way to make it feel shorter. Some videos will run for five minutes because they’re compelling. But only some brands have rare opportunities to produce long, engaging videos. If there’s any risk that won’t work for you, then giving yourself a time limit is a safe bet. There are several social media platforms that have strict time limits. Why not try your hand in making a video for your followers?
5. You’re a Human Being
Don’t let statistics write your promo video for you. Knowing what works is important, but remember that your audience doesn’t care about all the market research you did before making your video. What people care about is other people. That means your audience wants to see a promo video that has a human touch. If you paint by the numbers, people will notice.
So far, we’ve highlighted videos that strive to make a human connection. Even the Disney Vine, which is quick and simple, shows some thought and a sense of humor. If you’re not going to be funny, be dramatic. If you’re not going to be dramatic, be mysterious. Give people a sense that your brand has a personality and people behind it. That authenticity will read on screen and people will connect with your message.
Here’s another excellent example of a human story. It’s about people, but more importantly, it shows that the creative talent involved probably knows a thing or two about what growing up is all about. We as viewers (and as humans) can surely connect on that level.