Can smartphone video really enhance your brand? Really though? REALLY?
23 April 2021
by Nico Jones
At Captain, an extended version of our tagline goes something like this:
‘We help you plan, direct and perfect smartphone video content that engages your audience and enhances your brand.’
Reader: I’d forgive you for assuming that it’s marketing bullsh*t, especially the last two bits. ‘Engage your audience. Enhance your brand.’ But we didn’t just razz that down on the back of a beermat one evening – we gave it a lot of thought. Probably too much, in fact.
But can we back it up? We deal with audience engagement in our 3 Golden Rules, but how exactly can user-generated video enhance your brand? And does the world really need another article on this subject?? Let’s find out…
First up, let’s quickly pin down what we mean by ‘brand’ in this context, because depending on who you ask, it could be a billion different things. BrandING can certainly cover the design of your logo and website, but these days, in the simplest terms most would agree that a real, full-on ‘brand’ is about how a company makes its customers or workforce feel. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. But it’s still important, whether you’re a one-person endeavour, or a huge multinational.
Annoyingly, you can’t decide what your brand is with a few brainstorming meetings, and an email from head office. Literally every touch-point that someone has with your organisation forms their opinion of your brand. The nature of every phonecall, delivery protocol, status update, grievance procedure, email signature font, meeting-biscuit-consistency, toilet-roll-weft; they all relentlessly stack up to form someone’s cumulative perception of what you’re all about. And no-one can tell you what that perception is other than that person themselves!
With that in mind, no single video is going to be able to accurately sum up an organisation’s brand. But at Captain we’re adamant that user-generated video will enhance it. Firstly, because UGV is at its very best when it’s focussed on people, and secondly: it’s relatively simple and cost-effective to make loads of it.
We’ll come back to why people are important, but for now let’s hone in on point two, because that’s where some unexpected potential lies. Of course, making a ton of video content for the sake of it isn’t automatically a great idea, especially where smartphone video is concerned, so how can frequent content really make a difference? For the answer, let’s look at the idea of themes in storytelling.
I know I know: the idea of storytelling is pure marketing marmite, but the fact is: as soon as you’re making videos, you’re telling stories whether you want to or not. The only question is whether they’re good or bad. So let’s dive in…
Any great film, book or play is invariably ABOUT SOMETHING. The person who wrote it had something to say about the world or the human condition (I KNOW I KNOW) that they felt was important, something they had to get out. This viewpoint makes up what you’d call the theme of a story. There can be multiple themes to any story, and a lot of it can be subjective, but here are some examples…
Lord of the Rings: Any person, no matter how small, can defeat any evil, no matter how big.
The Godfather: You can never escape your familial responsibilities, no matter how hard you try.
Training Day: Does effective law enforcement come at the expense of equality in justice?
Every single scene and character in a decent story tends to examine its central theme; it hammers it, stretches it out, breaks it down, builds it up. The heroes will usually fight FOR the theme, the villains will usually work AGAINST it. There really shouldn’t be anything in the story that doesn’t somehow contribute to that dynamic of focussed push and pull. By the end of a good story, writers usually resolve things one way or the other. In the best examples, they effectively pose a large question, present their evidence over the course of the story, then ask the audience: ‘Well? What do you reckon?’
So what does any of this have to do with your video content?? Well, if you’ve got all your ducks in a row, then you might be able to distil the essence of your company right the way down to a single theme. I know I said that was impossible earlier, but this isn’t your brand exactly, and it’s not necessarily something you’re going to shout about or write on a wall somewhere. That said, some larger companies are little more forthcoming with their themes, which can be derived from their company purpose, or mission statements…
Apple: Creative exploration and self-expression is worth empowering.
Brewdog: People should be as passionate about craft beer as we are.
Nike: Anyone can be an athlete.
If you’re curious, Captain’s theme is ‘People deserve to believe in what they’re seeing’. We don’t shout about it too much (not yet anyway: watch this space), but it’s a central touchstone that informs pretty much every decision we make, and every bit of content we put out.
So…try it. Think of your brand as the theme of your story. What’s the point in your existence? What’s your viewpoint on the world? Why are you even here? It might be tricky, but once you’ve got one that resonates, it’s done. Now think of every single piece of content you put out there from the perspective of that theme. Play around with it, ask interesting questions of it, push it, pull it, have fun.
And here’s where user-generated video really comes into its own, because as we pointed out above, it’s at its best when focused on people. Be they your colleagues, clients or customers, as soon as someone appears in any of your videos, they’re characters in your story, and if you think about your content in the right way, they can do exactly what characters in blockbusters do. If you ask the right questions in the right scenarios, and get authentic responses, they can argue the case for your theme, and your audiences won’t even know it’s happening. And because you can make regular content with ease, you don’t have to be heavy-handed and do it all in one go! The fine detail of your theme can evolve; it can be nuanced, multi-faceted, and you can examine it from infinite angles, strengthening it each time.
When used with a bit of panache, user-generated video can ensure your brand won’t be a static thing, painted on a wall to be glanced at and ignored: it will be reactive, vital and alive. Now, if that isn’t enhancing your brand…I don’t know what is!
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