According to a study released by Cisco a few months ago, video is set to command an estimated 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2019. As a result, we’re seeing a maturity in video delivery systems, such as Vimeo on Demand (released in Nov. 2014), YouTube (rumored to be developing a SVOD service) and Adobe’s new interactive shoppable video experience. How well the monetization of video content at this level will work is unclear (we know it works at the top end of town with Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and now Google) however, one thing we do know is that as bandwidth barriers decrease, video is staging an all out onslaught on marketing channels, and we’re even seeing traditionally slow adopters like the finance industry jump into content to create deeper engagement, better lead generation and a stronger branding presence.
But is video content winning? And what is it about audiovisual content in particular that drives deeper engagement? It is my belief that it has to do with neuroscience and human nature, and a little publicized study done in Italy in 2006. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
NOTES FROM A 10 YEAR OLD FILMMAKER
When I was a 12-year-old, my friends and I used to make martial arts videos with a VHS camcorder and charge admission for the neighbour kids. The videos we created were poorly choreographed, albeit enthusiastic attempts to recreate scenes from the Karate Kid. We used trick editing techniques, bats hitting watermelons to create more dramatic sound effects, and tomato sauce for blood. This was before the Internet, before the content revolution, and certainly before every 10-year-old kid in the world had the ability to create their own video masterpieces with an iDevice.
What I’ll never forget, is the thrill of watching those 10 or 12 or (in our most successful film) 22 kids file into the darkened garage of my grandparent’s home in Seattle to watch our latest masterpiece. I would stand at the front corner of the room and watch their faces, waiting for the inevitable whoops, laughs and cringes that accompanied each scene. Learning what worked and what didn’t. Hoping to create an even better film the next time.
There are a long list of directors who have admitted to sneaking into screenings of their films, just to watch the reaction of the audience. Orson Welles. Alfred Hitchcock. Steven Spielburg. And recently, Ben Affleck.
So what does this have to do with video as a superior marketing vehicle? And why, as a storyteller, am I now obsessed with neuroscience, economics and the study of human behaviour?
WHAT CAN MONKEYS TEACH US ABOUT CREATING BETTER CONTENT?
In 2006, the neuroscientist Christian Keysers took part in a study done on primates, and they were able to scientifically prove that there are special cells in the primate brain that cause us to feel empathy. These cells, which they called ‘mirror neurons’, caused monkeys to feel the same thing they saw another monkey feeling. Naturally, they extended their study to human subjects and found the same things… that as human beings, we are hard wired for empathy, and we seek out experiences that connect us to one another in an emotionally fulfilling way.
USE STATS TO SNEAK INTO THE ROOM WITH YOUR VIEWERS
My 12-year-old self was obsessed with watching the reactions to my film as are many Hollywood directors. But as content creators, we can now use analytics to virtually sneak in and watch the viewing experience of our audience, and help us fine tune our message. My favourite are the retention stats, where you can see where your viewer exits the video experience. We can learn a lot by watching our viewers behaviours, and fine tuning our content as we go.
SO IS VIDEO THE SUPERIOR MARKETING MEDIUM?
Whether we are looking for a product or service to solve a problem, wanting to inspire or humour ourselves, or just wanting to reassure ourselves that someone else has felt the same as we have felt, we seek out content that allows us to see our human counterparts experiencing something with the hopes that we will have a deeper experience with it ourselves. We know video content does that at a higher rate than all other content, because it actively involves more than one of the senses, and drives an empathic connection with the audience by activating mirror neurons to drive deeper engagement with the message.