6 Ways Successful Videos Use Stories

storytelling in video

In October of 2014 iNature Skincare, a small skincare company, sought to increase visits to their website and grow recognition of their products. They sponsored a video called “Comfortable” proposed by an independent filmmaker.

It was a gamble.

The video went viral, with over 4 million views on YouTube in the first two weeks.

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The video has now delivered almost six million views, is embedded on over 268 sites (now 269), and enjoys tens of thousands of likes, shares, subscribers and tweets.

iNature reached out to us shortly after the video launched. They were not seeing a consummate increase in sales on their website. Four million views had not turned into a windfall for them.

What happened?

Story is Powerful

We use stories in our writing when we want to engage and move our readers to action.

Karl Jung believed that our collective unconscious contains the seed of stories universal to us all from the moment of birth.

Fairy Tales follow similar story patterns, regardless of the culture or era they are told.

Tapping the power of stories in our marketing messages is powerful, so powerful it can overshadow our products, as it did iNature.

What is story and how can we weave it into our videos?

1. Conflict

A story is a journey. The most rudimentary is the journey from conflict to resolution. The players can be almost anyone or anything. The conflict can be internal.

Conflict sets up a desire to find resolution, provided we find the conflict relevant. I think that this is why the most effective testimonial videos begin with, “When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure it was for me.” We get engaged when we relate to that moment of indecision, that moment of conflict.

2. The Unexpected

Story can foil two areas of our brain that keep our messages from getting through.

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Pierre Paul Broca discovered the part of the brain just in front of your left ear that stores shortcuts for information. Most notably, the shortcut for the familiar and known is to ignore the input.

When Broca’s area gets stimulated by the unfamiliar, it reaches out to an are of the brain discovered by Carl Wernicke. This part of the brain associates what we see and hear with our memories to give meaning to them.

3. Resolution

Resolution is the moral of the story. It’s the destination in which conflict is put in perspective and we can rest knowing we have seen the end.

If the message is relevant – like a story – Wernicke’s area tells Broca to pay attention. The resolution cannot be predictable. It cannot be irrelevant.

The following video doesn’t tell a story in the way we think of stories. However, it includes the unexpected, a conflict and a resolution. It contains the basic arc of a story in a non-traditional way.

https://youtu.be/sk7A56KVNBY

Unexpected + Relevant = Salient

Broca is clearly woken up at seeing sets of twins dressed identically, sitting in a large room with wires running out in front of them. Wernicke becomes interested when the conflict is setup.

Chewing gum may not have a social stigma attached to it after all. Really?

This video uses humor to drive to the resolution, in which we learn that 73% of surveyed preferred the gum chewers.

4. The Brand or Product is a Character in the Story

This is hard. How do you cast your product or brand in a role in your video? It isn’t enough to be the sponsor if you want the story to be associated with the business.

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Beldent does this in it’s Almost Identical video above. The product makes a brief appearance, but it is a crucial one. The gum makes the test possible.

The product doesn’t always have to make an appearance, but needs a role. The Chrysler 300 has a supporting role in the following Vine, but it is the device that makes the conflict – and thus the resolution – possible.

Let the 300 HP of the Chrysler 300 do the talking w/ Kenzie Nimmo . #300Seconds

5. There is a Way To Continue Participation

A clear call to action and a way to continue participating is key to successful videos.

Here is a story video with all of the elements we’ve discussed.

https://youtu.be/dOXERZBUA1A

The Unexpected occurs when Ken tells us that he paints on paper towels.

The Conflict is setup when Ken tells us that he doesn’t have much “runway” and is in competition with his famous father.

The Resolution is provided by the makers of Bounty when they setup an art showing in Chelsea.

Bounty clearly plays a role in this video as canvass for Ken’s work.

Finally, it is clear that the makers of Bounty wants us to continue sharing about this on Facebook. There is a hint that there might be more stories to explore.

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I think the folks at Bounty produced a beautiful story, but it’s missing a final element.

6. Something to Cement the Story into Memory

Emotion, Humor, Twists, Anticipation: these are the things that will cement the story into memory.

Beldent used humor to cement it’s message.

Bounty tried to use sentimentality to bring the emotion.

iNature Skincare’s Comfortable video delivers on this level, with a twist, humor and the kind of optimism we can only learn from children.

https://youtu.be/f0tEcxLDDd4

What is Missing?

If the Comfortable video delivers on the emotional component, why was it not more successful for the sponsoring brand?

If any element is missing, a video may not deliver success to the brand or product.
If any element is missing, a video may not deliver success to the brand or product.

In my opinion, the Comfortable video failed its sponsor by not including the brand as a character. In the story of the woman who struggled with acne and eczema (1:14), would an iNature product have been too obvious? Perhaps.

The other element missing is the call to action. iNature gets a thank you from the filmmaker, and their website is listed.

iNature Skincare didn't have a strong call to action.
iNature Skincare didn’t have a strong call to action.

However, this link is not clickable. The call to action “Check them out here:” doesn’t tie back to the film. iNature is a sponsor, not a character in the play.

What are Your Favorite Video Stories

We all can relate to the journey from conflict to resolution. Tell us in the comments which videos you like that contain the six elements:

        

  • The Unexpected starts the ball rolling.
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  • Conflict is necessary.
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  • Resolution is desired by our brains.
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  • The brand or product should be a Character.
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  • The viewer should be given a say to Continue Their Interaction.
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  • Emotion, Humor, Anticipation, Twists cement the experience in the mind.

 

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Post Signature

Brian Massey is the Founder and Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences. He is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses were developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker and writer.

  • Jessica

    Nice Article Brian!

    I would definitely keep all your points in mind while creating a video for my client. I liked your 6th point where your said you need something to cement the story in memory and that thing is emotion. It can be humor, twists, anticipation, anger anything, until and unless you don’t trigger emotions, people are not going to remember your story.

    • The last part, adding emotion, humor, etc. can be the hardest part, especially for business video. Miss the mark and the other components have to work extra hard.

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  • Before I search my brain for great videos, I want to share the reason I think so many videos fail. (My experience only, of course.) You nailed the fact that all great videos require these six points. But I think the most dangerous, most overused point is Resolution. It seems that 99% of all corporate/branded videos start with resolution (here’s what we’ve created/made/solved/fixed) and they never deviate from that story. It’s ALL resolution.

    In short, the story is about them, them, them and not the consumer, consumer, consumer. It’s why ESPN’s 30 For 30 series is so popular (maybe more so among critics than Neilsen), but the best ones tell a powerful story, with conflict, unexpected twists and resolution. The trick for marketers is to mine those stories that are honest to the brand that is presenting them (which takes wizardry on occasion).

    Thanks for the nuggets!

    • I couldn’t agree more. Once we know the ending, we stop paying attention to the story.