Here’s why overstuffing your video content will kill its potential

Ham and cheese.
Tuna and mayonnaise.
Salmon and cucumber.

Not only is this the strangest way I’ve ever started an article, but it’s also a surprisingly great starting point for looking at a huge problem within video.

(Stick with me on this)

In any shop, take a look at the shelf full of sandwiches. Over time, retailers have perfected the combination of ingredients to make the selection of sandwiches just right. Each sandwich has a range of ingredients, the majority of which customers are hugely fond of, but if customers like them why not make the ultimate sandwich? Surely one big sandwich with ham, cheese, tuna, cucumber, mustard, egg mayonnaise and lettuce would be the most popular sandwich of all time?

But of course, it’s not. It would be disgusting, and you’d stop eating it pretty quickly.

The same thing happens in video, every day. We serve up content that is crammed full of different flavours. The only creative thinking that has gone into it is how to best to squeeze all these elements in. The only thing that results in, is the viewer taking the first few bites, and giving up pretty quickly.

Many of us have been guilty of making video campaigns jam-packed with just as many ingredients as the “ultimate” sandwich. To me, this is a real problem, because overstuffed video content can kill any potential success out of a campaign.

How do we over stuff?

– With key messages; a video brief includes far too many threads of information to ever fit into one meaningful experience for the viewer

– With duration; video briefs sometimes come to us with the duration already set within the objectives. When this happens, the expectation has been set that this video will be overstuffed before even making it.

– With audiences; often video briefs come to us that require one single video to satisfy UK and U.S markets, with three or four audience personas within that. If we try to please everyone, we’ll surely please no-one.

Why do we overstuff? 

I see the mechanics of overstuffing on a daily basis. Working in large brand teams on campaigns that include lots of moving parts is really hard work, but there are some elements that I think are making marketers jobs harder, not easier.

a) Fear. I have seen many brand teams come to us feeling pressure thing to commission just one video, and that single video is their only shot. Their single spin of the wheel. Fear plays a big part of this. Brand teams might be scared of the unknown, or scared of missing an opportunity. So with fear playing a part, the safest option for a video campaign sometimes results is one video, in one place.

b) Committee pressure. We all know that brand teams wish they had the final say on everything, but there’s always a collaboration with others. From Product, PR, Sales, CEOs, Board of Directors, there’s always somebody who has a good reason to add one more message or element to a video campaign. This is a critical moment because brand teams have to decide whether to please their colleagues or superiors or stick to their instincts and please the viewer.

c) Trying to please everyone. When brands have audiences across different demographics, blending B2B/B2C, multiple territories etc it can be a pretty high-pressure position to be in. Whatever video content that needs to be made, surely has to completely satisfy everyone right? But if we try to please everyone, I truly believe we satisfy nobody. Vanilla Ice cream is a perfectly lovely flavour, but I wonder if anyone would choose that flavour if it was their last meal? It’s a mass pleaser, not a mind blower. So trying to please everyone is actively turning your back on what video does best, delivering a distinctly meaningful moment with a viewer.

But what do viewers actually want?

To me, audiences are looking for a meaningful connection. Through video, they want the emotive side of communication. They want re-assurance, enlightenment, empowerment. They want to feel something in their chest, not their brain. Even in a more serious, conversion driven scenario, video is the tool that tips users over the edge because of feeling, not logic.

The whole viewer journey with a brand is a battle between logic and feeling, and video must be left to do what it does best, feeling. When we overstuff, we add layers of logic into a space that is sacred for just one thing, making a meaningful connection with a viewer to prime them for the rest of the brand relationship.

So if we know that viewers want an authentic emotionally inclusive experience with a brand, we see how overstuffing with messaging, duration or audiences is a completely counter-productive method for brand loyalty. By sanitising and overstuffing, we’re saying to our audience “Get in line”, we’re saying “You’re just a viewer”. We’re not being creative with a brand anymore, we’re just getting creative with how to cram more in.

So what can we do?

Pick a human, pick a feeling, and protect that at all costs.

To create meaningful brand experiences with video, we need to think about the human on the other side of the screen. What do we want to make them feel? How are they viewing this content? How long do we have with them?

Then, the challenge with any video campaign is to try to reverse engineer the video objectives and work back to identify one single feeling to prime the viewer with. It could be a feeling of empowerment, an inspired feeling, a feeling of inclusion, a feeling of momentum. When we’re dealing with one single feeling, with one single human on the other side we have a much higher chance of the content resonating in an intensely meaningful way. The alternative? Thousands of viewers that felt that the content wasn’t for them, and switched off in the first ten seconds.

Some examples of using a single feeling:

Here’s a recent campaign for the University of Nottingham, with the brand team, we were looking to deliver a single feeling of momentum. We didn’t want the viewer to understand every fragment of the world-changing research at the University, we just wanted them to feel like there was a pulsing heartbeat that drove that work, and that happened at Nottingham.

Here’s another example, for Wattbike, the world leading indoor cycling brand, we wanted to give the viewer a feeling of belonging. We wanted to show them that there were people just as crazy as them, just as obsessed with performance. We wanted to show that they belong in the Wattbiker tribe, and that was our single feeling with our mini-manifestos.

Next steps

So we know that serving up a sandwich with too many ingredients is bad for business, and we know that overstuffing video causes the same disgust. Next time you’re faced with a video brief, take another look and ask yourself; are we overstuffing with messaging, with duration or with the audiences?

If you’ve ever overstuffed a campaign, or want help de-stuffing, always happy to have a chat, get in touch

Neil Rostance
Posted by Neil Rostance
Partner & Creative Director
Neil is Creative Director of Fat Free, passionate about leading clients towards meaningful moments through video. Neil's specialisms are in concept development, content strategy and creative direction at Fat Free.
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