Video production and branding
For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the way our lives are becoming more and more documented through photos and video. Kids are growing up these days having the whole process filmed and photographed. It surely must be having an effect on our self image and culture wide identity. The effects this new era is having on brand identity is even more interesting. Once the realm of high end brands, video production is now defining businesses and companies at all ends of the spectrum. A two minute promotional video can say more about a company’s core personality, mission and purpose than a whole website of information. It seems that within the next 5 years, pretty much every business on the planet will have a video presence online. I wonder what effect this will have on the world of business and it’s relationship with the general public. It brings up ethical considerations and encourages companies to be clear about what they stand for. Video production is an incredibly powerful medium. It can promote transparency, trust and authenticity but it can also allow deception. The optimist in me would like to think that this new world of online video will create a world full of openness, honesty and integrity. Branding is about creating desirable associations in the mind of the customer. When all businesses are doing this through arguably the most powerful medium in the history of influencing, what kind of world will we live in?
How does video convey personality?
At one end of the corporate video production spectrum we have on-screen presence. Talking heads, interviews, video testimonials. It’s hard to lie on video. Even the most media trained can look cagey when they’re not being open and honest . The best performances in front of cameras are usually genuine and unpretentious. Honesty and integrity invoke trust in the viewer. This is highly desirable where so much of business is conducted online in an otherwise faceless world. Putting yourself in front of a camera whether for personal branding or just offering value and information to people is becoming a prominent force in marketing.
Brand identity isn’t all about an on screen presence of course. Video production offers a unique opportunity to express that sometimes intangible core personality that forms the heart and purpose of the brand. Corporate video production inherits a century of storytelling to draw upon from the colourful history of filmmaking. The combination of moving image, sound and music is one of the most powerful platforms to express from.
How do the big brands use video production?
Brands that have been the most notable in video advertising have managed to tap into basic human values to which we all aspire. Leaving ethics aside for the time being, campaigns that have been effective have tried to attach themselves to positive human emotions and virtues. Coke with their happiness and togetherness campaigns, Benetton with social responsibility. I’ve seen quite a bit of video advertising that has come out of Asia recently that has gone for serious emotional and inspirational themes. This 3 minute commercial about the virtues of kindness indirectly sells Thai life insurance. It’s had a huge 27 million hits on youtube.
Nike in their long history as a major brand have produced many brilliant pieces of video advertising most of which channel the warrior archetype. They communicate through video often on a seemingly huge budget, universal, inspiring themes of courage, excellence, honour and teamwork. Emotions and virtues we’d all like to foster. They’ve made ads that look like scenes from high budget Hollywood blockbusters and enlisted the sponsorship of some of the world’s biggest sports celebrities. They’ve managed to tap into cultural paradigms. Take it to the next level directed by Guy Ritchie looks like something from a Prodigy video.
The one I’m choosing for a link here is one of the simplest yet most powerful. The actual video production side of this commercial could have been done for just a few thousand pounds. Well within the marketing budget of most small businesses.
One of the great classics of video advertising is Apple’s 1984 commercial.
Through a one minute scene directed by Ridley Scott and likened to Orwell’s 1984, a heroin breaks free of her captors and hurls a sledgehammer at a huge big brother screen. The insinuation is that the release of the Macintosh computer was saving humanity from conformity. It tapped into a fear of an IBM dominated future though the original concept was apparently intended for the Mac to symbolise the idea of empowerment and originality in a world where computer technology was controlled. However it’s read, it gets to the heart of Apple personality.
After a subsequent decade of video advertising concerning the merits of portability, personal use and computer specs Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the mid nineties and unveiled the ‘think different’ campaign. Ad agency Chiat/day who had dreamt up the 1984 ad over a decade earlier came onboard. Together they realised the public wanted to know who Apple are and what they stand for. This was not making boxes for people to get their jobs done. The core value for Apple was the belief that people with passion can change the world for the better. Honouring the people that think different and move the world forward. The campaign was also read as a reaction against IBM’s think campaign. This video is Steve Jobs introducing ‘think different’ in 1997 and giving an inspiring talk on marketing and core brand values. Attaching the Apple brand to such influential cultural figures as Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Lennon and Dylan was a bold move but it worked as it was in their brand identity. The Apple brand went from world leaders to near collapse in the early nineties and then to superstardom. Some see the brand identity of the underdog as questionable in the modern day.
How will this new era of video production affect the world?
Attaching brand values to human emotions and values through the powerful medium of film and video production throws up ethical concerns. On one level companies and brands that stand for and uphold noble human virtues sounds like a good thing. If every company on the planet took a philanthropic interest in the fate of humanity we’d have a better world right? Some people feel manipulated by brands capitalising on our emotions in this way. Bennetton benefitted but felt the backlash from the controversial advertising campaigns of the eighties. Blogger Allan Kortbaek concludes that Bennetton in their more recent mature and consistent approach to advertising are doing some good by confronting dominant views on diversity in society. If companies practised what they preach and followed through when attaching brand values to such lofty concerns it seems a positive move. Whether the world of business can altruistically strive for the greater good or exploit and manipulate through advertising is dependant on the public’s ability to moderate. We have surely become more discerning consumers of video in our 10 year exposure to youtube. My hope is that the transparency that video affords will make a world where trust and authenticity is paramount. As for branding through video, things become more murky. There is no doubt that video production will become an essential component of most companies corporate identity. It is already the biggest driver of traffic on the internet. Brands that fly the flag for noble causes and follow through altruistically should be commended. When they step out of line it is up to a proactive and empowered public to moderate through social media and the internet.