Learn From Netflix: Why “Orange is the New Black” Totally Works

A colleague of mine has been buzzing about her latest gig for the past few months now.

Her email announcement that she landed a role on a new series created by the one-and-only-one, Jenji Kohan was super exciting both for her career and for me (yay! I’m officially one slice of Kevin Bacon away from Jenji Kohan herself).

The second part of that announcement was that the series was being produced and self-distributed by Netflix to exclusively be available on – Netflix; this part of the news was interesting, somewhat perplexing and I wondered if my friend would have a job after she wrapped shooting.

Now, however, we see that Orange is television and narrative storytelling history in the making.

A Fast Lesson in Distributing Original Programming

We’ve seen some Netflix original programming done before and quite well I might add.  House of Cards, was the content provider’s first original series and the revival of Arrested Development, which originally aired on FOX for three seasons, was a move to capitalize on an established fandom.  Orange is the New Black, although greatly different from these two programs, is the combined result of what made both House and Development work.

The reported budget on House of Cards was around 100 Million, according to this Forbes.com article. The network used analytics of subscriber activity to know that their customers would indeed check out a Kevin Spacey starring political drama produced by David Fincher. This number crunching and market research is nothing new for Hollywood; Q-Star ratings have been a mysterious method of evaluating blockbusters for sometime now. Netflix, however, had one thing working in their favor – they could deliver the content right to the viewer verses blockbuster which still functions under the “if you build it they will come” theater distribution model.

So, Netflix spent the dollars, set out to produce something that was for sure going to be streamed and delivered something stellar. I mean how could something touched by David Fincher that birthed performances between Spacey and Robin Wright not be wonderful? Seriously.

With House, Netflix established themselves as a distribution platform that could work for original programming and not just a platform where audiences are watching outdated content that may or may not be new to them. There was just one thing that Netflix had to ask themselves: how long would it take for Netflix to gain more subscribers from their original programming?

Which led to them asking the smarter question: how could they obtain an untapped audience without breaking the bank on marketing dollars?

Easy answer here folks. Find a series that has a large fandom that is currently not being fulfilled. Enter: Arrested Development, Season 4.

Arrested is a show that drives transmedia fandom. The cult following that ensued from the three seasons on FOX made Arrested a true “social” series with fans discussing its’ past and future on blogs, making up stories for characters and in some instances posing as the characters themselves.

There was no question that the fans of Arrested would chatter and cheer over the announcement of a 4th season on Netflix. (That’s kind of the whole point beyond “fandom” they live in the same world that the Bluth family does). The distribution channel reportedly grew its subscriber base by 600,000 when they announced the revival.  A good number but arguably not enough; but that was OK because Netflix executed the alley-oop just right, what was coming next in the world of original programming for them was the slam dunk. .

And then, Jenji Kohan parted the red sea and released all episodes of a first and original season at once…. 

This is a move that Netflix has made before – all episodes, all at once. There is been a lot of debate over whether or not this model works or hurts. I think that the correct answer leaves us in too much of a gray area but there are certain instances in which releasing all the episodes at once “works.”

Orange is the New Black is one of those instances and here’s why:

1. Jenji Kohan is most known for her ground-breaking, critically acclaimed series WEEDS. I definitely signed up for Showtime just to watch it and I definitely cancelled my subscription after the series finale. But if I need my fix I can still watch the series on Netflix..

Yes, Netflix has been able to analyze the analytics over who was watching WEEDS; a show with a female anti-hereo protagonist, that was watched by not only women but men as well.

2. It is funny yet has its truthful moments, this is provided because Orange’s cast of characters live within a very, very specific world. That world is the prison system. It is one that you and I don’t live in but one that when we enter into “fandom-land” translate into transmedia-like properties, for example: “Red’s Cookbook”, an online Orange themed store called the “commissary,” beauty tips from Laverne, stretch of the day with Yoga Jones, Catch the Chicken Facebook game, etc. you get my point. (BTW if you are a representative of the Netflix marketing team you can reach me at amydepaola [at] mac [doc] com, should you want to develop my ideas.)

3. A show in a female prison and therefore a 90% female cast is something to talk about.

How many of us have peered inside a women’s prison before? Not many. The majority of content out there that focuses on the prison system is focused on men. Mean men. Dramatic men. There is SO much to talk about here. We are seeing content we’ve never seen before. Releasing all the episodes at the same time has had the complete opposite effect. Ever since the series aired its’ hashtags and reactions from viewers have been crowding my newsfeed, on Facebook and on Twitter. I argued just the other day with a friend of mine that that was absolutely genius. Having the content there all at once allows fans to reach the point of obsessive, they, we are ultra-consumed by the show’s content.

It is a different kind of social chatter that is occurring when the series is available all at once to viewers. Unlike the social chatter that I see crowd my newsfeed on a Tuesday night before the new Sons of Anarchy. This chatter is not only an announcement that “I can’t wait for it to come on” or “yay, it airs tonight” or “can’t wait to have a glass of vino and watch it tonight,” the conversation is about the content within the program:

“Did she really see the chicken” appeared in my newsfeed.

“Did Bennett sleep with her mother?!?!” Also appeared in my newsfeed.

Why? Because we are ultra-consumed with something when we are given the opportunity to experience it all at once. That is how you tap into audiences imaginations, by inviting them 100% into the world. (See: Walt Disney and the Magic Kingdom).

What Happens Next?

Rumor had it, way back when, that Orange was going to be produced by Netflix but was possibly going to be sold off to a more established original programming network for distribution.

Lucky for Netflix that did not happen. In fact the series has been greenlit for a second season and another excited email popped up in my e-mail earlier this week announcing the start of production on season 2.

Orange is the New Black not only set the standard for Netflix but is going to change the landscape of original programming – and possibly episodic narrative programming as we know it.

____________________________________________________________________________

Stay tuned from more insights on Netflix from ZoomTilt’s Community Manager, Amy DePaola and follow her on Twitter.

10 Key Measurement Metrics for Video Marketers (Part 2)

In the first installment of 10 Key Measurement Metrics for Video Marketers, we looked at earned media views, content sharing and subscriber and sign-up conversions.  In this week’s post we’re going to explore three more key video analytics data points for marketers and advertisers: (A) click-through rates (CTRs) and referral traffic, (B) audience retention (view-to-completion), and (C) social conversation.  Let’s dive in.

4. CTRs

Marketers we talk to seem to be split about 50-50 on whether to track CTRs and referral traffic from videos as a campaign metric.  On one hand, it’s worth asking the question of any digital marketer – “why wouldn’t you want to track clicks?” – considering how focused many are on email, call-to-action button and social media post CTRs.  The flip side however, is that measuring referral traffic and CTRs from video tends to be challenging: primary social video hubs like YouTube and Vimeo offer very limited native click-tracking support. In the full-service version of our video A/B testing tool ZoomTilt Analytics, video experiments can be customized to track video click-through-rates for videos where YouTube annotation links have been added.  ZoomTilt Analytics can also estimate and compare CTRs for any type of video by capturing closed-loop audience data, but doing so currently requires additional custom client integration.

Video A/B Testing Software

If you’re not using ZoomTilt Analytics, there are still a few options to track CTRs on your video.  One option is using trackable links (like bit.ly) within YouTube annotations then calculating your CTR manually with bit.ly’s analytics data.  For enterprise customers using Brightcove or Wistia for video hosting, both platforms also offer click and conversion tracking insights on individual video call-to-actions within their respective analytics reporting.

Overall it’s helpful to monitor and A/B test video-specific CTRs, as well as track video referral traffic from YouTube and other content hosting destinations.

5. Audience Retention (View-to-Completion)

Video Audience Completion

One of the best video measurement metrics is, of course, audience retention or the video’s view-to-completion percentage.  The higher the average, absolute percentage, the more engaging, relevant and/or enjoyable the content is to audiences.

What’s a good baseline view-to-completion benchmark for branded video? One data set from Tubemogul indicates that, on average, only 15-25% of skippable online video ads are viewed to completion. In most cases, when viewers are allowed to skip pre-roll, they’ll jump ahead to the content they want to watch.  When video viewers are forced to watch ads, additional data indicates 85-95% view-to-completion rates for long-form videos and 65-70% completion rates for short-form (<5 minute) videos.

Since social video and branded entertainment is clearly the right content strategy in digital video, our view is advertisers should be sure to open their content to choice-based viewership and evaluate content traction with people who can freely skip or share it.  Audience retention rates won’t be as high as forced pre-roll or mid-roll ads, but that’s exactly the point: content marketing should be pull-based because of its value, not push advertising that’s forced into audiences viewing sessions.

When it comes to measuring view-to-completion, we see a new layer of valuable data emerging in demographic and audience-profile-specific retention data, a key feature within ZoomTilt Analytics.  For example, a branded entertainment spot aimed at working mothers might have 100,000 views and an overall view-to-completion rate of 30%.  That’s directionally helpful to a marketer, but it would be great to know what % of those views came from working mothers and what their subsegment-specific audience retention rate was.  Was it higher than the mean? Lower versus the mean? That’s a critical campaign insight that deserves to be tracked.

6. Social Conversation

Another metric we recommend video marketers track is the volume of social conversation around their video (where, at the risk of repetition, it helps to develop content worth talking about). Generally, the best places to track conversation is in comments sections (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, blogs where the video has been embedded) and on Twitter.  Generally, our baseline recommendation is to measure three conversation dimensions:

  1. Total number of comments, responses or social mentions for your video or campaign
  2. General sentiment of comments (positive, negative or neutral)
  3. Distribution of comments across owned media properties and other channels (is your content most discussed on your YouTube channel? more popular on Facebook? Why might that be?)

By understanding (and participating) in the dialogue around your video, as a marketer you have another great feedback tool to measure what works or doesn’t work with different audiences. Moreover, by encouraging your viewers to take a follow-up action by including a call-to-action that incentivizes user-generated content responses or conversation, you can help amplify your message and brand experience well beyond your own content.

=======================================================

In next week’s Part 3 we’ll continue our discussion of key measurement metrics for video marketers, looking at viewer sentiment, redemptions and the viewership distribution curve, so stay tuned!

Instagram Video or Vine: Why Not Both?

Vine vs Instagram Video

Image credit: Matt Nazaro

In the biggest user divide since Apple and PC, the showdown between Twitter’s Vine
and Facebook’s Instagram Video has prompted heated conversations about which
service reigns supreme for branded entertainment. However, as a marketer, you don’t necessarily need to get caught up in the debate, since both platforms offer unique benefits for content marketers and advertisers looking to start conversations with customers and prospects around engaging, sharable video.

Overall, online video engagement is booming as users rush to view, create, and share “viral” videos and clever branded content with friends and family. It’s no surprise, then, that social video sharing has seen massive growth across all devices.  For marketers, both Instagram Video and Vine present an opportunity to distribute branded entertainment in a short-form, packaged format most consumers are actively participating in and seeking out.

Already, brands have begun to take advantage of Vine and Instagram Video, two of the
most popular social video sharing apps. Though technically these services are
competitors, you don’t have to choose a side: both platforms have their advantages and short-comings, and both can be leveraged in order to connect with consumers cross-platform in interactive and authentic ways.

Vine

Key features:

  • 6 seconds
  • Loops
  • Embeddable for easy sharing
  • 13 million+ iOS users & ~1 million Android users

Consumer attention spans have never been shorter – particularly when it comes to intrusive and uninteresting content.  When use properly, six seconds can be more than enough time for a company to create unique, sharable messages for its fans and social media followers. With Vine, sending a clear, creative and succinct message is imperative. But remember, less is more.  Keep the video simple and avoid bombarding
fans with too much information in the short clip.  Moreover, Vine’s intrinsic loop function makes the app particularly suited for repetition-friendly content like animated GIFs, memes and recurring sequences.  There are also great opportunities for brands and agencies to incorporate Vines into contests, product launches, sneak-peeks and helpful tips, hints and informational content.  At the end of the day, if your brand has a large presence on Twitter, Vine is a must.

Instagram Video

Key features:

  • 15 seconds
  • 13 filters
  • Editable
  • 130 million current Instagram users

Yes, you have a few more seconds of story-telling time with Instagram Video.  Nonetheless, make sure your clip captures viewers’ attention early on so viewers don’t drop out early. Filters and editing ability allows more creative freedom, but don’t abuse it. Again, simplicity and creativity are key. If your company already has a large fan base on Instagram, use video features to broaden brand awareness, improve your messaging to mobile users and engage your social media followers with richer content.

Ultimately, Vine and Instagram Video both share benefits video marketers shouldn’t ignore. In particular, both services are optimized for search engine indexing with the ability to use hashtags and tag individual users. Brands can search for user-generated content and monitor the ways fans share or respond to specific branded content campaigns, messages and hashtags.

Since Vine and Instagram Video have natural distribution channels through their respective parents Twitter and Facebook, distributing content is relatively cheap across both platforms.  Moreover, with branded Vines are shared four times as often as branded online videos, and branded content making up four percent of the top 100 tracked Vines, there’s evidence to suggest short-form video users are receptive (or, at least, more agnostic) to creative branded messaging.

As a marketer, if you aren’t already using Vine or Instagram Video, it’s time to
start.  Keep it simple; send a clear, effective message; don’t be afraid to experiment; and amplify the consumer-brand conversation through innovative social video.

10 Key Measurement Metrics for Video Marketers (Part 1)

Digital Marketing Measurement

Campaign measurement and metrics tracking is a must for digital content marketers. But, unlike other brand communication and advertising channels like PPC/SEM and blogging, where success is typically dictated by clicks and follow-on signup or purchase conversions, a common core objective in video marketing – particularly social video marketing – is to create content that encourages a strong enough emotional connection or response from a viewer that leads them to (1) share the video, (2) display a more positive affinity toward the brand, (3) explore additional brand properties (potentially further down the conversion funnel at a destination like a landing page or e-commerce store), or, even better, (4) perform some combination of all three. In other words, social video typically reaches people outside or at the very beginning of the typical inbound marketing funnel, a place where identification and attribution analysis can be most challenging.

As a result, video marketing success must be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively (with a heavy emotional component to the latter). Because of this, and with a goal of clarifying some common video marketing misconceptions, we’ve put together a practical guide to help digital marketers get started measuring the results of their video efforts.

1. Earned Media Views

Although a simple view count is the typical conversation starter when it comes to video performance, outside of directionally indicating content quality an impression count, total views are primarily a vanity metric that convey more symbolic significance than bottom-line results. In fact, probably the single most important thing a video view count establishes is social proof (or lack thereof) that the video might be worth looking at. All other things equal, from a consumer psychology standpoint, a video with 1,000,000 views will get a viewer’s click over a video with 10 views simply because of the perceived “potential interestingness” the higher view count conveys.

Why? For starters, views can be paid for. While there’s nothing wrong with this practice (in fact, quite the contrary, we actually encourage reasonable video distribution spending to help effectively seed marketing videos and help quality content get discovered online), the simple fact is that anyone can get a million views on their video with a large enough budget backing it. Second, a high number of views can still translate to low engagement from a minutes viewed and viewer retention standpoint if the video has a high, steep drop-off rate during watch sessions.

Our recommendation: Track your video’s absolute earned media (e.g., non-paid) video views from social media and search engine referral views.

Earned Media = Total Views – Owned Media (views from your website, Facebook page, etc.) – Paid Media (CPV or other promoted views)

If 20% or more of your video’s total views aren’t coming from earned media from social and search, you aren’t reaching audiences beyond your existing follower base, and it’s likely you should explore improving both the quality and the discoverability of your video content. Videos that are shared are 3 times more likely to be watched and are watched 3 times longer than a video that a user finds himself.

2. Shares

Over half a million branded videos are shared every 24 hours. What kind of share rates is your brand getting?

Based on ZoomTilt research and branded content performance data we’ve observed, a quality baseline share rate for social video is approximately 0.25%-0.50% direct shares (from the player or player-embedded page, excluding re-shares from social networks) as a percentage of total content views. In most cases, even smash hit digital video ad campaigns only see circa 2.5% direct share rates.

Be sure to track how your content is being shared. And, just as importantly, consider and try to benchmark why your content will be shared during the creation.

Why do people share things online according to the New York Times?

Psychology of Social Sharing

3. Subscriber Conversions

As marketers, we all recognize the importance of subscriber lists. In many cases, email lists are the backbone of web commerce companies like Fab, Karmaloop, Birchbox and Rue La La. Video marketing is no difference: there’s much less value in a one-time view or share than a subscriber who sticks around for more.

In fact, if you’re using a hosting provider like Wistia, you can even capture email conversions within your video player:

Wistia conversion

However, with the bulk of social video activity happening on YouTube (and driven by shares of YouTube embeds on blogs and social networks), YouTube channel subscribers is a critical metric for the ongoing success of your video content marketing efforts.

An interesting case study example is “The Beauty Inside” video campaign by Intel & Toshiba. Released as an interactive web series, “The Beauty Inside” reached close to 7 million YouTube views and 14 million Facebook page interactions, according to Intel. At a high level, clearly a success, particularly in light of the fact that a concurrent Toshiba laptop campaign running through Best Buy saw sales increase from 200 units a week to 900 units a week during the campaign’s early release.

But one place the “The Beauty Inside” campaign seems to fall short is cultivating YouTube subscribers. As most social media marketers know, a Facebook page like just isn’t what it used to be (more specifically, it’s about 10% of what it used to be), so getting high Facebook engagement from a social video campaign is nice, but less impactful than adding new YouTube subscribers. Moreover, because Intel and Toshiba released “The Beauty Inside” on a special branded channel titled TheBeautyInsideFilm, the 16,000 subscribers they collected don’t subscribe to Intel or Toshiba’s YouTube pages, which TheBeautyInsideFilm doesn’t even bother to link to. In some way, while insulating the artistic integrity of “The Beauty Inside” from overt branding, both brands sacrificed their opportunity to build their YouTube subscriber base – a mis-step in our view.

Our recommendation: pay attention to and encourage subscriptions (channel, email) within your social video campaigns. Building a robust subscriber list on YouTube is one of the best ways to drive recurring brand engagement with your video content.

=======================================================

In next week’s Part 2 we’ll continue our discussion of key measurement metrics for video marketers, looking at click-through-rates (CTRs), view-to-completion, and more, so don’t miss out!

Introducing ZoomTilt Analytics

Today, we’re pleased to announce the beta release of ZoomTilt Analytics – a self-service software tool for A/B testing videos to help users identify and optimize their top-performing video content. The goal of ZoomTilt Analytics is to help businesses and video creators:

  1. Make better, more audience-targeted videos by compiling feedback and data from real, relevant viewers;
  2. Make smarter decisions about what videos to create, how to edit them and how to release them; and
  3. Increase video marketing return on investment.

The trial version of ZoomTilt Analytics, which allows experimenters to easily set up and run video A/B tests from YouTube, is now available as a free service on ZoomTilt.com. In addition, our ZoomTilt Analytics Premium service now gives brands, agencies and media companies the ability to create and customize video A/B tests around specific target audience profiles and marketing metrics.

We’re very excited to share ZoomTilt Analytics with you, we have plans to introduce lots of new features and capabilities, and we welcome any feedback or questions you’d like to share with us. Interested in learning more about the benefits of ZoomTilt Analytics Premium for your business? Contact us today to get started.

Check out the video below for a demo of ZoomTilt Analytics in action:

5 Lessons on the Future of Video from Mary Meeker

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer’s rockstar, internet-trend-watching analyst Mary Meeker has just released the 2013 edition of her annual internet trends report at the Wall Street Journal’s D11: All Things Digital Conference.

And while Meeker focuses the bulk of the report’s attention on sound, mobile and wearable tech, the 2013 Internet Trends Report also gives a big nod to the importance and evolving presence of video in the digital landscape. So without further adieu, here are 5 key lessons on the future of video courtesy of Mary Meeker (with some analytical interpretation via ZoomTilt).

Lesson #1: Mobile isn’t just a “second screen”

We are moving beyond an era where your smart phone is just the thing you use to Tweet during TV commercial breaks. The majority of mobile device use occurs somewhat counter-intuitively within people’s homes, the average phone user checks social media on their phone nine times per day, and mobile as a share of total internet traffic is showing exponential (not linear) growth.

Mobile Internet Growth

Lesson for the video community: If you work with digital video content, expect your content to be consumed (and hopefully shared) via mobile. Whether it’s a Twitter Vine or longer-form content, mobile is not just a second screen – in many cases it is a primary screen, so make sure (1) your content is discoverable on mobile and (2) anticipate the viewing experience on a small screen (potentially with poor audio and a time-constrained viewer). See also ReelSEO’s great article on 5 ways to optimize your video for mobile viewing.

Lesson #2: YouTube is a social network (and a big one, at that)

In addition to being a subsegment of the world’s largest search engine, YouTube is also the world’s second largest social network. YouTube is also demonstrating user growth at rates much higher than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

YouTube is a social network

Lesson for the video community: try actually being social both within and outside of YouTube. On YouTube: be active in the comments feed, comment on other videos you like and response to comments and messages about your own videos. Outside of YouTube: network and collaborate with other creators to formulate great original content, help get your work more exposure and get better economies of scale with audience-building.

Lesson #3: Short-form video is exploding in popularity

In large part thanks to the momentum of Twitter’s Vine, Meeker points out that short-form video creation and consumption is growing rapidly:

Twitter Vine

However, short-form video presents both a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge. Because of the format, successful Vines must be immediately and impressively visual, and the medium makes telling a story, developing characters or provoking audience emotional engagement highly challenging. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of vines get very low engagement, with few views and even fewer retweets. By comparison, the Vine’s that break through and achieve a degree of viral lift typically showcase highly clever, thoughtful cinematography optimized for the animated GIF-like repetitive format.

Lesson for the video community: despite what your agent or agency might tell you, Vine isn’t the holy grain for your branding, social media or content creation needs: it is a tool, and one that must be used wisely. Think your audience really wants to watch your Vine? No, your audience would rather sit down and watch a full-length episode of Mad Men with riveting plot development, so if you’re going to start cranking out Vines do your best to get creative with it and experiment.

Lesson #4: America does not equal the internet

One of the most awesome lessons from Meeker’s presentation is just how international the internet has become. Compared to America’s 244 million internet users (at a population penetration of 78%), India already has 137 million internet users at a population penetration of only 11%. Meanwhile, China boasts 564 million internet subscribers, while Brazil is coming on strong with 88 million web-connected people. Also, interestingly according to Meeker, we don’t share as much content on the internet as other cultures:

US social media sharing

Lesson for the video community: Think about an international audience when you’re creating and distributing digital video and look into things like foreign language programming or captioning on your YouTube content, both areas where Machinima typically does a great job.

Lesson #5: Content is becoming more democratic (and, thereby, more competitive) than ever before

Wondering why nobody’s watching your videos? Well, it might be because of this, but it probably also has something to do with the fact that 100 hours per minute of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute. Talk about a flood of content that’s showing no sign of slowing down.

Damn Thats a Lot of Video

Lesson for the video community: be really deliberate about the content you create a give people a compelling reason to watch it. The best type of content to achieve this is video that creates value for the viewer – ideally a combination of emotional value (e.g., funny, exciting, shocking) and relevant information value.

Learn anything else from Mary Meeker’s presentation? Agreed or disagreed with anything we wrote above? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments below or give a Twitter shoutout to @ZoomTilt.

10 Reasons No One Watches Your Brand’s Videos

Business Man Game of Thrones Meme

Content-loving customers had better take note, because you just leap-frogged blogging and slide deck-styling all the way making a video for your brand. “Video? Isn’t that the future of marketing and like 60% of all internet traffic?” You’re damn right it is, and now your content marketing prowess is on full display to all your customers and social media followers, not to mention a billion monthly YouTube users. WIN. That’s right internet – we’re uploaded, we’re discoverable and we’re in the game with a titanic 88 views in week one. And people, 88 views is just the beginning, because by week two we’ll be making waves with triple digit viewership, am I right?

It saddens me to say that in ZoomTilt’s line of work, I seem to have this exact same conversation on a weekly basis:

Brand: We want a viral video. None of our videos are getting good viewership and we’re spending a lot of time and money on them.

Me: Well, what kind of videos are you making right now?

Brand: Pretty much all documentary-style testimonial interviews and really slick, artsy, color-corrected videos of beautiful, waif-ish people walking down dim hallways showcasing our product.

Me: Would you consider experimenting and cross-testing different types of video creative? Maybe something more relevant to your target demo that’s funny, or edgy, or surprising? Perhaps with memorable, strongly-defined characters? We can define success metrics and perform deep data-gathering and predictive A/B testing on each one.

Brand: Oh no, no, no. We could never do that. Characters? We’re not GEICO, we don’t have a Gecko… the brand IS the personality. Besides, we can’t be a funny brand or an edgy brand, we’re an elegant, sophisticated, reliable, precision-engineered brand whose experience must translate like a haiku told upon the shore of a placid lake. So what can we do like that that’s going to go pretty viral..?

Stop. Video marketers, 95% of you need to re-think your approach right now, because that one competitor who gets it is smoking your PR and inbound marketing efforts. So let’s cut the small talk and get you started with our field-guide of key video marketing pitfalls to avoid. If you’re making videos for your brand and no one is watching them, here are the ten (10) reasons why:

1. You don’t really know your audience. Knowing who your audience is (say age 35+ working mothers) isn’t the same as knowing their media consumption habits and what content resonates with them – you need to understand both.

Let’s start with a typical customer video from a mainstream, mom-oriented consumer brand:

Ok, darling and highly likable Mom? Check. Solid brand that knows how to do fun video creative? Check (*ahem* Old Spice Guy *ahem*). Video that will inspire anyone to share your message or watch more? Complete miss. Don’t get us wrong, there are great opportunities out there in user-generated content, but why would a mom watch dozens of nearly identical informational testimonials for the same product? And why does Pampers, a globally-recognized diaper brand, feel the need to flood its YouTube channel and crowd out its more premium content with so many different iterations of the same bland, product credibility-builder video that doesn’t create informational or emotional value for their customers? Why would a diaper-buyer watch multiple minutes of this type of video content rather than simply executing a 15 second Google search to quickly skim a credible blog review on the same product? Your customers’ time, convenience and content consumption autonomy are highly relevant to your digital content strategy – respect them.

Now let’s take a look at some of their professional creative:

Strong start here too – who doesn’t love cute, happy babies with bed-head? But ouch, only 6 likes and 3 dislike? What gives?

Well, to summarize the entire campaign message: “if your baby pees or poops itself and doesn’t get changed, it won’t be happy (or have great, disheveled hair) like these happy babies.” What’s new, insightful or interesting about that message, one that more or less restates the same biological principle mothers have known for decades, if not centuries? Sorry Pampers, we already know your diapers are probably a little bit better (and a little bit more expensive) than some of the other brands sitting next to you on the shelf, your single layer of additional protection isn’t boosting brand lift or getting anyone to retweet this.

Want to know who gets motherhood? Fiat gets motherhood:



2. Your content doesn’t create value.

A lot of marketers think successful branded video content needs to have professional, $10,000-per-minute-and-up production quality. It doesn’t. Nor does it even necessarily have to be funny or shocking, although that usually helps. But one thing your content MUST accomplish is value creation for the viewer, which can be either informational value, emotional value or both, like these:



3. Your content generates a low-valence emotional response.

72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so if you make something average it will get skipped and ignored. If you create something on the far end of the spectrum that generates high viewer emotional arousal, audiences will engage with and share your video.

Right (creative) way to make a marketing video for your pizza business:

Wrong (traditional, uncreative) way to make a marketing video for your pizza business:


4. Your video content doesn’t have hooks early and often.

Again, when you create content, your content is competing for attention against an ocean of entertaining video, great music and informative blog articles. You don’t need to perform an epic jump from space like RedBull, but be sure to hook viewers’ attention early and often to avoid drop-off and defection to other content. Nice job Pepsi:


5. Your content has no story arc.

Both of these videos feature heavy men’s business apparel product placements. Which do you think had the better digital campaign return on investment (ROI) and repeat viewer engagement because viewers wanted to know what happens next?

Story:

No story:


6. No one found your great video.

Unfortunately, successful video content marketing isn’t just creating great content, then putting it up on your YouTube page, blog and facebook feed and moving on to the next thing. Videos live and die by discovery, and you need to get a broad audience (and, for that matter, the right audience) looking at your work. I wrote a pretty comprehensive introductory explainer to getting more views on your video here on Quora. Check it out and feel free to leave comments or feedback if it was helpful or you disagree with any of my core points. Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistakes as Cybergeddon.

7. You didn’t test your video(s).

Traditional video content marketing – particularly branded entertainment – can be high-reward, but also moderate risk. Even with significant investment in seeding and paid media, big branded content efforts can crash and burn because the creators missed their audience or couldn’t quite pull it together on execution. At ZoomTilt, our branded entertainment media buying process is closely-integrated with video A/B-testing, so that not only do advertisers get to compare multiple creative variations based on the same brief or campaign objective, but they can also make data-driven predictions about targeted audience engagement and content virality prior to committing their full production spend. Test your videos, don’t just pull the trigger on a $300,000 media buy because your 24 year old intern down the hall who wears skinny jeans thinks they’re epic.

8. You’re not amplifying or complementing the conversation.

During prime time, up to 60% of the conversation happening on Twitter can be related to TV. Yes, successful TV shows can create global hashtags in real time. While digital isn’t at that scale and more fragmented, it’s also not as ephemeral here-and-gone as a TV ad, and that’s a big opportunity for marketers to capitalize on. Create companion content, connect your videos to product promotions or product launches, integrate hashtags and then measure it all. Entertaining storytelling is a huge catalyst for social media activity and engagement, so don’t silo your videos from your overall social media marketing efforts.

9. You’re missing the long tail.

Just like search engine optimization (SEO), strategically targeting the long tail (and long tail keywords in your video title, text description and metadata) can pay off big, particularly when your video has little relevant competition but really strikes a chord with a spirited niche. Get it right, and next thing you know your content gets picked up on Mashable and your sales go through the roof. Just ask the OraBrush guys:


10. You’re the 1,000th brand to hop on a content-competitive trend.

Don’t go head-to-head on replica content with Fortune 500 marketing giants (unless you yourself are a Fortune 500 marketing giant) if you can’t bring something really new, fresh and novel to the table:

This wins (#JeffGordonisonFire):

This doesn’t (#sorryHubspot):


The difference a little creativity and the scale of your audience reach [a solid celebrity cameo that doesn't bust your budget usually doesn't hurt either] collectively make on the success of your content cannot be understated.

Now let’s go out there and make successful branded videos people love.

Video and Death by Demographics: SXSW

This year’s SXSWi was again amazing, despite the long lines and the lack of sleep that pervade everything. I was particularly inspired by a session I attended on Monday Morning called “Death by Demographics: Killing Off Your Ad Budgets” with Ann Zimmerman from WSJ, Joe Magnacca from Radio Shack, Todd Morris from Catalina, and Bonin Bough from Mondelez (Oreo). Bonin was the highlight of the session, making jokes that had the whole audience in stitches. But as someone immersed in the branded video realm, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a final conclusion about video that the panel didn’t get to.

The brilliant theory that was the focus of the session was the idea that demographics — the bedrock of advertisers for decades — don’t work that well anymore. A thirty-eight year old female might be a small business owner and a twenty-five year old male might be a stay-at-home dad depending on their background. Bonin called it “culture vs cluster”, explaining that the culture of the person you are marketing to is far more important than their age, gender, and other demographics.

Brand advertisers have much better data at their fingertips nowadays than they did in the heyday of demographics. Consumer chatter on social media, purchase history, and other trackable metrics can shed much better light on what individual consumers want. The job of the marketer is to use that information to create a relationship with the consumer, to create content that is relevant to the consumer.

The panel did talk about video media, and their take on it was that traditional television advertising was a necessary evil. TV ads aim at demographics, you can’t track them, you have no idea if people skipped or ignored your ad, but when you combine television advertising with more targeted marketing you can increase the overall ROI across those platforms.

The panel also talked about how well video fits the culture model. Video is inherently cultural — more cultural than any other form of marketing. And yet they are still relying on demographics in video. Why? Because that’s all they think they can get with broadcast television.

Online video provides brands the opportunity to specifically target the culture of the people who buy their product. And by the very nature of entertainment, those people are ten times more likely to share entertaining videos with other people in their culture than any other piece of marketing material. Clearly, the next step for brands that are marketing by culture instead of demographic is to use video the same way.

Some brands have already done an excellent job of creating video content that marries their brand with an emotional, cultural message that viewers flock to: BMW’s The Hire series, Degree’s The Rookie, Kmart’s First Day, Intel’s The Beauty Inside, and my favorite, Hell Pizza’s Deliver Me to Hell. I’m looking forward to the next great video stories coming, not from Hollywood, but from my soon-to-be-favorite brand.

The Medium is the Message for Web Series

The first advertiser-supported web series was Scott Zakarin’s The Spot, way back in 1995. The fictional Real World-style show took full advantage of the Internet’s ability to draw in viewers on several platforms. The characters blogged before there were blogs, posted photos and videos, and e-mailed with viewers, who would discuss the show and give feedback on thespot.com.

With ZoomTilt heading to SXSW as one of eight Entertainment tech startups, it’s clear that the world of web entertainment is expanding. So much so, that most web series sink in the sea of series. How can viewers like you find content like ours?

Sure, there are The Streamys, The Webbys, and all kinds of Fests; but how do we find the shows of our dreams? With the Internet comes a wide array of niche audiences. Web series must break away from the streamlined Hollywood plots of preexisting TV shows by getting creative and getting weird. The key is to do what you can’t do on TV, by avoiding overdone plots and also taking advantage of the world that entertainment now lives in. Whether people are watching it from a mobile device, their computer, or their plain old tube, a web series will succeed when it is coupled with strong viewer engagement by offering “extras.”

This is a huge part of what makes web entertainment so enticing – the immediacy and interactivity of it all. People want it how they want it, when they want it. What if you didn’t have to wait and tune in next week ever again? Netflix has decided to see what happens when they release their own entire web series at once. This may work for Netflix, but for most independent filmmakers and small production companies, maintaining an engaged audience over time and spreading a series to several different social networking sites is crucial to the success of a new show.

It’s one thing when companies like Netflix and Intel launch online TV, but the bulk of web series are being created on a tight budget. Despite the cheap and quick nature of the Internet, a web series will only take off with an original and well-developed story line. Getting original ideas in motion is necessary. ZoomTilt reaches into the pool of independent filmmakers to produce fresh content for brands. Another collaborative website, The Republic, hosts the Reddit Comedy Project, allowing the audience to crowdsource the premises and rank the pitches.

RedditComedy

In the words of media mogul Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” Sure, you can take a TV show and distribute it on the Internet, or take a web series and slap it on the television; but the success of web series today relies on originality, quality, and maximizing the interactivity of the Internet.