Video on Command: Engaging Today's Consumer

by Rick Petry on May 29, 2015 3:00:00 AM Digital Marketing

VideoonCommand-470x313-1-058101-editedOne of the reasons the direct marketing game is so much fun is that it provides instant gratification. A marketer puts up an ad and an offer, then waits for the phone to ring and the shopping carts to fill. But with the predominance of the Internet, that equation has changed. Once a consumer’s curiosity is piqued, they will often go on the hunt, armed with a second screen, to seek more information that empowers them to make an informed purchase decision. It is no longer adequate to simply ask for the order by posting one’s call to action on a microsite. As Sean Fay, founder and CEO of ENRG Digital, a division of Envision Response Group, advises, “We have to use online video in new and innovative ways. We can’t just recycle the same information. We have to provide good content.”

In Fay’s world, that may mean producing as many as 20 different videos for a product. “You need an expensive video and some not-so-expensive videos—and lots of them,” he says. What Fay means is that the advertising broadcast on television must feature professional production values to impart feelings of desire and confidence; such advertising is what compels a prospect to have a second-screen experience to begin with. Then, it is incumbent upon the marketer to produce a variety of online content that helps inform, educate, and overcome objections.

Such content might include deeper testimonial stories, demonstrations, or “open-the-box” experiences a consumer can expect to have upon receiving the product. Whether the ad itself should be a :60, 2:00, 5:00, or a long-form infomercial is predicated on “whatever is required to get the job done, so that they are motivated to have a second-screen experience,” Fay says.

Online video offers marketers distinct advantages. For one, the broadcaster does not dictate the length of the communication; it can run as long as is necessary to communicate the message. “People are busy,” Fay explains. “You have to cut to the chase and give them the information they seek as efficiently as possible.” The content itself need not necessarily be slickly produced. Since user-generated content (UGC) has become commonplace, why use a three-camera set-up if a cellphone video may be all that’s required? The key for the marketer is to cover all of the video bases throughout its content and distribution platforms to ensure it appears and remains in what Fay calls “the buyer’s path.”

Some of the most popular YouTube videos involve product reviews in the form of “unboxing,” or the unpacking of purchases with running commentary. One such product reviewer, the anonymous DisneyCollectorBR, who specializes in showing off the contents of Disney toy bundles, has more than a million subscribers and more than 1.5 billion views, ranking just behind Katy Perry in popularity. And that begs the question: Whom do you want to control your message, third parties or you?

Another enormous benefit? Diverse online video content also allows a marketer to identify what matters to the consumer. For example, you can determine which testimonial or demo resonates most profoundly by monitoring click-through rates and average times spent with a given piece of content. Fay advocates gleaning such insights online before moving to broadcast, which is often more expensive and less forgiving. “You can learn a lot online to help improve your chances of a successful product launch while you earn some initial revenue,” he says.

And to combat the practice of consumers shopping in the store aisle, or “showrooming,” Fay experiments with QR codes in brick-and-mortar settings. With a sweep of a finger, prospective buyers can easily access relevant product video content on their Androids and iPhones. There’s no cost to play the content, and no need to harass the store manager to ask questions—just a nice big QR code baked into your approved point-of-purchase display.

If the balance of power in controlling communication has indeed shifted from marketer to buyer, videos are clearly powerful weapons of influence. But it isn’t the marketer who wields these tools, it’s the consumer. As the Internet evolves from a largely text-based canvas to one that relies increasingly on sight, sound, and motion, marketers must think of their video assets in ever more expansive and creative ways. “We’re storytellers—short storytellers,” as Fay puts it. “Our campfire may now be a cellphone or tablet, but engagement is still what it’s all about. So we’d better engage.”

Rick Petry is a freelance writer who specializes in direct marketing and is a past chairman of ERA. He can be reached at (503) 740-9065 or online at and @thepetrydish on Twitter.

The above post was adapted from the column “Dish With Rick Petry” published in the March/April 2015 issue of ER magazine.

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