When you make a technology marketing video to educate buyers about your solution, even if your audience is eager to learn, there’s no end of stimuli out there competing for their attention. Here are some ideas on how to make surprisingly effective technology marketing videos.
Acknowledging this, eLearning professionals try to build as much variety as possible into their courseware. The objective is to make the subject you’re teaching the most interesting stimulus in the environment.
Surprise! This really helps people learn
The part of the brain that eLearning targets is amygdala, the region that responds to interest, surprise, attraction, and motivation. The general idea is to lob new stuff at this part of the brain more or less continuously in order to to keep the synapses firing and to form new connections. If the incoming information coming in is not new, the synapses relax, and no learning takes place.
The amygdala alsohelps to contextualize the new stuff with what the learner already knows.
Knowledge transfer is the aim of most of the videos we make. When you begin an explainer video production project, the “knowledge” you want your prospect to take on board resides in the minds of subject matter experts — salespeople, product managers, marketers and engineers. Some subject matter experts (e.g., salespeople) are invested in the success of the video. Others may resent having to invest their valuable time in a marketing initiative that’s not central to their real job.
We like to keep our “interviews” short, informal and conversational because what we’re really trying to discover is, not how a solution works, but how it’s best explained. Here are a few questions you can ask your SMEs that will help make the knowledge transfer go smoothly.
What do people have the most trouble understanding about your solution?
This question helps to focus the conversation on learning needs and away from video content. It can help in structuring the explainer video production content, too.
What do you think should be the three most important takeaways from this video?
This article describes how to create effective marketing videos using eLearning techniques. It’s reasonable to assume that viewers choose to watch technology marketing videos not to entertain themselves but, rather, to educate themselves. Like most adult learners, they are result-oriented and hope to learn something they can apply, on-the-job, right away.
I’ve been exploring tips and tricks shared among eLearning professionals, to look for ideas that will help us create more effective videos for our technology solution provider customers.
According to eLearning expert Dr. Joel Gardner, the fundamentals of instructional design haven’t really been improved upon since you learned how to add and subtract: Tell-Show-Do-Apply.
Here are some ways this model can help you create an explainer technology solution marketing video using eLearning tricks.
Tips for opening the video: the “Tell” strategy
According to Gardner, the first component of good instruction is the Tell strategy: you tell the learner what she’s going to learn.
Why consider cognitive psychology’s theory of “cognitive load” when you are trying to produce top explainer marketing videos? We’re currently starting work on an overview video where the objective is to help re-position a well-established software brand. The company has crafted a positioning statement comprising a dozen discrete concepts that, taken together, convey what the company stands for, who should use their software, what it does for them, and why they’ll like using it.
Consider cognitive load when you’re designing top explainer marketing videos
It’s natural to think that an overview should present a complete picture, and that the task in this instance is simply to make sure that our video ticks all the boxes in the positioning document. This should not be difficult, as the positioning statement uses only about 80 words to express the ideas the company wants to put across.
On the other hand, these ideas are supposed to get viewers to look at the company in a new way — in other words, we’re asking viewers to learn something new. Asking them to learn a dozen new things is asking quite a lot.
Learning is a matter of processing information in “working memory” to fit existing patterns (schema) by which it can be stored in long-term memory. Our working memory is pretty limited, so it’s important not to overload it.
Total “cognitive load” consists of:
the complexity of the information itself (“intrinsic load”), plus
the amount of information that is not relevant to learning — decorative elements, non-relevant animations, etc. (“extraneous load”), plus
elements like examples and exercises that assist information processing (“germane load”)
Think about how your videos transfer knowledge — instead of how they represent your solution. It’s good exercise and will make your videos stand out.
We’ve specialized in writing and producing short videos to support technology sales for many years. Now that we’ve entered the Age of Bite-Size Learning, we find that we can take advantage of learnings from the eLearning community to help sharpen our focus and develop new approaches.
Light bulb moments
Bite-size learning is analogous to high-intensity exercise, which has been shown to produce better results faster than endurance training. People learn in short bursts — light bulb moments — better than they do by continuous effort, because concentration is hard to maintain. How many light bulb moments can be crammed into a short video?
Engagement and learning should be the goal of interactive video marketing
In a recent LinkedIn discussion of content marketing, a commenter noted that “there’s not a lot of demand” for interactive video marketing. That’s been my experience, too. Clients for our short videos get interested in call-to-action buttons, chapterizing long videos, even quizzes and branching, but they don’t follow up.
Why marketers don’t do interactive video marketing
Demand Metric recently released a Brightcove-sponsored report on interactive video. Participants were Brightcove partners and customers, many of whom are large providers of video (broadcasters, publishers, big companies in healthcare, travel, etc.) In otherwords, a savvy survey sample. But, even among this crowd, a third of respondents asserted that their reasons for not using interactive video are:
Don’t have the budget
Don’t have the skills
Don’t understand how it works
And 25% admitted that they don’t understand the benefits.
The 1970 New York Transit Authority graphics standards manual widely considered the standard-setter in this peculiar genre. Shown here are standards for space between characters in in subway signage. See the brilliant reproductions at http://standardsmanual.com
Most companies we do business with publish comprehensive graphics standards manuals setting forth guidelines akin to those in the classic New York Transit Authority manual of 1970.
These manuals set rules for trademarks and logos, typography, advertising, and web publishing. Many provide guidelines and PowerPoint templates for presentations. Some attempt to provide a visual language of images and diagrams relevant to specific technology solutions and customer business drivers.
Why no standards for marketing videos?
But I’ve never seen one with standards for marketing videos, or any sort of motion graphics. (I’d very much like to, if you know of any.) It’s not hard to think of historical reasons why this should be so, at least for technology marketers.
Marketing videos are relatively new tools and are still viewed as exotic or luxury items in some companies
Video production tends to be ad hoc, as in “Hey, we need a video!”
There are all kinds of videos — webinars, demos, testimonials, slide show recordings, etc.
Every “producer” has his or her own aesthetic preferences and ideas about who the intended audience is, and what they’ll respond to.
There’s a lot of turnover in marketing departments. Producing a video that looks different from what your predecessors created is a high-visibility way to make your mark.
In developing marketing videos, we usually start with a script — that is, words on paper. This is a sensible and congenial way for technology marketers to work, since most of us spend a lot more time dealing with text in various forms than the do with video.
But the spoken words of a video script needs to be looked at differently from the way you look at written text. It’s easy to overlook how every single spoken word will increase the length of the video. If they’re the right words, spoken persuasively, they’ll also add to the video’s meaning and its success. Wasted words add length, even as they subtract from the message.
1. Count the words
Every word adds to the length of a video. That’s why it’s so critical to make every word count. “All the logistics” takes up about 1 second.
Many smart people who write well have trouble converting the number of words they write to the length of time needed to say the same words aloud. If your aim is to write a video that’s 60 seconds long, your first draft should contain about 125 words.
Yes, you can say more words than that in 60 seconds. I, myself, normally speak about three words per second when reading aloud. But if you listened to me — or James Earl Jones, or Scarlett Johansen, or anyone else — rattle on about a technology solution at 180 words per minute — well, you wouldn’t listen. No one would.
Sentences need rhythm. Viewers need time to absorb what is being spoken and the visual storytelling. If you want to keep your message short and understandable, you need to be an implacable word counter from the get-go.
2. Talk the talk
Another consideration marketers are apt to overlook is that the narrator needs to talk the way people talk. Industry jargon may be a big plus. On the other hand, marketing-speak,
In a short essay commemorating the recent 100th anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity, Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson describes how Einstein depended on visual thought experiments to advance his own thinking — before he could advance the rest of ours. Science and technology ideas are almost always easier to explain to ourselves and others with visuals. In technology marketing videos, we might consider storyboards as being the rough thought experiments that lead to productions that can change how people think about your solution.
For one thing, misconceptions are easier to catch in storyboards than in text. Here’s a scene in the script of a recent video of ours. Visuals on the left, narration on the right. Seems clear enough.
Here’s an early storyboard visualization.
You’ll notice that the original script describes things being
When we first started producing 2-Minute Explainer videos for companies in 2004, we resisted the idea of putting music in technology marketing videos under the narration. It seemed sufficient to “bookend” the video with music in the opening (usually a “logo spin”) and closing. It seemed to us that if you’re trying to explain a serious concept like Business Intelligence or Service Oriented Architecture, the background music makes the video less serious and more commercial or “sales-y.” And background music can become tiresome after a couple of minutes.
Sales pitch or explanation?
On the other hand, if you’re making a straightforward product pitch, particularly one that runs only a minute or so, well-chosen music can significantly enhance the viewing experience. For example, here’s a sales pitch where the overall tone of the narration and visuals is casual and whimsical. It seems to need music.
Here’s an example of a fairly serious and technical video we created for Cisco which did not use music. The version on the left is straight narration. The narration in the version on the right is backed by some fairly serious music (Prelude in F-Major from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier).
No music. This rather technical Cisco explainer video doesn’t really need music.
Narration + Music. (music is a sample of royalty-free music from AudioJungle)
Why make a video, anyway?
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