When “Good Enough” Web Video is Great

Many companies worry about video quality and spend a fortune on slick production.  While you should always aim for the best possible results, sometimes good enough is more than good enough.  Very often, the simple and genuine communication trumps the sophisticated.

How a Cheaply Produced Web Video Wins

Take the example of Tino Gagliardi, a candidate for President of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians union in New York City.  Though rich in ideas and enthusiasm, Tino and his team were low on funds. They wanted to produce a YouTube video so they could present their values, ideas and plans directly to union members.  The problem was they had almost no money. Merriam Associates shot the video in Tino’s apartment, complete with room echo, street noise, and the occasional howls of a cat angry to be locked in a back bedroom. We worked on a shoestring budget with no lights , no audio equipment, no editing budget, and no time. Still, Tino was still able to get his message out there in less than a day for pennies on the dollar.

Tino’s very basic video contrasts with the high production values of the competing campaign.  Tino’s opponents, the Concerned Musicians, spent richly to shoot high quality visuals and taped speakers in a professional studio.  The result is a much nicer piece.

Web Video:  Content More Important Than Quality

If you define success by slick production, Tino lost.  But success in marketing rarely is defined that way. What matters in marketing is always the content itself.  Who was telling a better story? Who was more believable and motivating?

The major issues of the Local 802 musician’s union election were inaccessible leadership and misuse of union funds.  Members felt that the Concerned Musician’s union leaders were not listening and were angry that union leaders were spending union money for personal expenses.  The fancy video made union members wonder if union funds were used to produce it and it made the candidates seem as aloof as ever.  In this case, slick production backfired.

Tino’s video got almost twice the number of views per day than the competing candidate’s. He won by a landslide, and his slate of allied candidates won 19 of the 20 open positions—and he did it with a mediocre, yet genuine, relevant and believable video produced for almost no money at all.

Spending Thousands Vs. Spending Millions on Video Production

This same relationship between expensive production and genuine simplicity can be seen by comparing two recent Super Bowl ads.  Budweiser spent well over a million dollars to produce the technical masterpiece “Bridge is Out” commercial.

By contrast, Google can’t have spent more than $1000 to produce a commercial of mostly screen captures and off-the-shelf sound effects.

Both commercials consistently made the top 10 best lists.

Don’t purposely shoot for the low quality of Tino’s video.  Do the best you can with the resources you have. But don’t let lack of resources prevent you from doing anything. Expensive videos are not always the best videos.

Web Video: Preparing your Message

Kayla Schwartz, speech and presentation coach, and media trainer, talks about preparing your web video message.

When thinking about the content of your video, it is important to consider goals, the needs and interests of your audience, and your central theme: your main message. All communication has a purpose. In your video, make sure you tell your audience what action you want them to take and why they should take it. You’ll need to involve your audience and speak to their values if you want to motivate. Be vivid, specific and personal.  Say “you”, not “they”. Remember, you are speaking directly to someone, not talking in the abstract. It pays to write your ideas down and spend time to distill them into the most concise and targeted form you can. That way, you’ll get the greatest possible benefit from your video statement.

Web Video: Preparing Your Delivery

Kayla Schwartz, speech and presentation coach, and media trainer, talks about preparing to deliver your web video message.

While your message is the foundation of your communication, how you deliver it impacts its effectiveness. Here are five things to focus on when you deliver your message:
1. Connect with your audience. The person watching your video should feel you’re speaking directly to them.
2. Body language counts. You always want your behaviors and your physical self to be consistent with your words. Be open, relaxed and natural, or you may appear dishonest. People will feel uncomfortable while they watch you.
3. Use your voice.  Vary pacing and tone.  Don’t speechify. Aim for a conversational, personal, direct style of speaking so your inflection naturally modulates according to how you feel about what you’re saying.

4. Don’t forget to breathe and pause. The first thing that goes when we’re nervous is our breathing. Speak slowly enough that you have time to breathe in between sentences. Pause in between ideas. It not only gives you a chance to breathe, but it adds weight to what you say, and provides structure to your talk.
5. Practice practice practice! You want to be entirely comfortable with what you’re saying so you can look and feel most confident.  If you do nothing else, run your communication by yourself or in front of someone else three times before you go to the shoot.

Once you’ve prepared your content, your physical self and your delivery, you can be your most effective, powerful communicator – in any setting.

Web Video: Thinking About the Visual Presentation

Kayla Schwartz, Speech and Presentation Coach, and Media Trainer, talks about the importance of what the audience will see in your video.

Your setting matters.  The environment of your talk enhances the message you are conveying. Pick a place that is relevant to your message.

Similarly, the way you look impacts your message.  You want to appear open and honest, so don’t hide behind a desk or a lectern.  Don’t use closed in or nervous body language.  Allow your body to be as natural as possible.

Look your best.  Get a close shave. Powder down the shine on your face. Don’t wear jarring patterns. White or black are too harsh for video, so wear medium tones. Avoid jewelry that visually distracts or making jangling noises.

Attention to these details adds value to your message. Your visual presentation will add credibility and relevance to your message.

Ten Ways Web Video Is Different from TV

With the growth of Web video, more and more companies are considering adding video content to their Web sites and using Web video in marketing.  Beware of charging blindly forward without a good understanding of what works on the Web and how Web video is different from video for television.

TV vs. Web: The Differences
1.    Time warps on the Web: Thirty seconds on TV translates to eight seconds of Web video. That means you have to be succinct—short beyond short. Make every second count.

Web Video Must Be Short2.    The Web is still technology constrained. TV producers often don’t understand the impact of file size and compression algorithms. Shooting busy backgrounds, pans and zooms increase your file size. They make it hard to compress your video without creating weird and undesirable visual effects.  Watch out for ISB standard sizes, too. You can end up with gorgeous cinematography that simply doesn’t work online. And by the time your video is shared, reposted and bounced around a few times, you’re footage will lose resolution any way.

3.    Welcome to the smallest screen. Web videos play on the tiny screen—especially on laptops and handheld devices. What is fine on a television is too busy for Web video.  Don’t try to cram too much eye candy into such a small space. Use simple shots.  Direct the attention of viewers to what is important. Zooming around and special effects will make your viewer queasy and confused.

4.    The finger is on the trigger. The computer mouse is dramatically faster than the TV remote. You have to grab attention fast.  And you have to keep grabbing it until the last frame is done.

5.    Web video is intimate. People are watching your video inches from their faces, not from across the room. TV is a guy shouting at you from a stage. Web video is a guy sitting right in front of you, talking directly to you.  Flashy production that breaks that intimacy is counter-productive.  Shoot close up and create a close feel.

6.    Content Trumps Glitz. Quality content doesn’t mean slick production—it means engaging and rewarding content. Slick production can sometimes come across as inauthentic, especially if you offer more glitz than content. If what you offer is relevant, entertaining or educational, you’ll get viewers—even if your production quality is mediocre.  That’s why the viewership* of  “Charlie Bit My Finger” dwarfs that of the 2010 Super Bowl—and is still growing. Viewership of “Charlie Bit My Finger” is even higher by tens of millions when you include re-posts and variations on the original.
Engaging Web Video Is About Quality Content Not Quality Production

7.    Web video is simple. One idea per video. Get to the punch line fast. If you have three ideas, do three videos. Three focused sixty-second videos are better than one three-minute video. People will check the length of your video before clicking on it to see how much time they have to invest to get your point.

8.    Web video is social. TV is all give and no take.  Web video should be part of the conversation. Allow comments. Let people share your content.  Make sure you have text to accompany the video to enhance search, to sell people on what your video is about, and to reinforce the points made in the video.

9.    Web video is non-linear and non-programmable.  Television producers and broadcasters have traditionally controlled, when, how, and in what order content is viewed.  Web video is non-linear—viewers can meander wherever they want, whenever they want.  Produce video that supports viewer wandering and doesn’t try to fence people in.

10.    Audio is more important than video. People accept, even expect low quality video on the Web.  They will not tolerate poor audio.  With high quality earphones on their heads, people will click away from poor sound far quicker than they will with blurry or low-resolution video.

Web Doesn’t Know TV; TV Doesn’t Know Web
In most cases, you’ll find limited resources to help you produce Web video.  You can hire television specialists who don’t understand the Web or Web specialists who can’t even white balance a video camera. Given the scarcity of specialists with mastery of both video and the Web, it helps to know some basics yourself.

Renaming Proxios: CEO Talks About the Process

Fast growing, innovative companies can sometimes outgrow their brands.

“Our name became constraining,” said Frank Butler, CEO of Proxios, a fast-growing company using cloud computing technology to create affordable and reliable alternatives to traditional in-house information technology and phone systems. “Our old name Super-Server did not have broad appeal and it was dated.”

Merriam Associates gave this company a new identity that better fit their reputation and future aspirations. Our research showed that their competitors were all saying the same things and using the same colors, in the same way. Plus, in talking to customers and prospects, we found what truly made them special. Over and over, customers talked about how responsive the company was in understanding the intricacies of each business, in customizing solutions to fit, in answering questions quickly, and in resolving problems.

“We always thought we were a technology company. What we discovered in this process was that customers could not care less about technology,” Frank continued. “What they want is results. They could care less how we do it.”

Informed with that insight and a solid creative brief, we considered hundreds of concepts and tested dozens of candidates through our proprietary process. We recommended the name Proxios because of its deep meaning that is directly relevant to the promise the company makes to their customers.

Proxios derives from the Latin word “proximus”. That word has many meanings including “nearness”, “closely connected” and “close relationship”. The variant “proxios” literally means “freely”. We felt the word perfectly summed up the value proposition:

  • ­A close relationship with clients
  • ­Keeping them closely connected to applications and data no matter where they are
  • ­So that they are free of the headaches and risks of running their own information technology systems

The name is just the first step in creating a brand. We designed a new logo that raises the company above the visual cliches so common to the category. And to tell the Proxios brand story, we wrote copy and designed a visual system that unified the look of all the company’s marketing communications pieces. The new Proxios brand gives the company a solid foundation for fast growth and national expansion–and the stature of innovative and responsive company.

Frank concludes, “It was a remarkable process. It had a magical effect on our company.”


More naming resources:

Naming How-To:

Naming Mistakes
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy

Companies and Products:

MSNBC vs. msnbc.com and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio

Additional Naming Materials:

Merriam’s Guide to Naming available at Amazon.com
Naming in general

Six Keys to Script Copywriting for Video

Writing for Web video is not like writing for print. No one sees your words; they are heard, not read. That has important implications for structure, style, word choice and more. Read these key tips for effective Web video copy.

Write for the Ear
Use simple language. That means short, simple words (“use” is much better than “utilize”), short sentences (no dependent clauses and multi-word phrases where a single word will do), and common vernacular (no jargon and formal business, technical or legal language). Avoid tongue-twisters—read your copy aloud because some phrases don’t look hard to read, but turn out to be a bit hard to say. You don’t even have to use full, grammatically correct sentences. Often a phrase will do.

Write to for Eye
Think about what people will see on the screen when the words are being spoken. If you can’t think of what is on the screen during a particular sentence, re-think your writing. A long still visual over a long, complex sentence will create a boring video. If your scripted words do not match with scripted visuals, you have a problem.

Write Before You Shoot
Write the best possible script you can before shooting your video. That will give you a strong basis for gathering visuals. For instance your script might say “Joe’s company turned the corner in 2009…” and then plan to shoot Joe in his car turning into the driveway of his corporate headquarters. Carefully read through each line of your script and think about what to show on the screen to compile a shot list.

Rewrite After You Shoot

No matter how carefully you plan, your actual shoot will most likely leave you with both less and more than you planned. You might not be able to get a shot you thought you needed. You may find you had the opportunity to get a shot you hadn’t considered. Look through your raw footage and compare it with your script. You may need to make adjustments to account for missing shots and to take advantage of great shots you had not considered.

Write Engagingly

A dry corporate report may earn at least a passing glance, but people will click away from a dull video in less than a second. Write in sound bites. Use wit. Be surprising and provocative, creative and quotable.

Write One Idea Per Video
Aspiring advertisers quickly learn that a brand can only stand for one thing and that an ad can only convey one idea. Web videographers are advised to heed that same advice. Web videos must be short and focused (see the other articles in this video series for more video tips). If you have three ideas, don’t make one long video, make three pithy one. You can’t easily skim through a long video to find the 35 seconds you really want to hear. A series of focused videos lets your audience identify the content that best fits their interest and go directly to it.

And one last step before you are done–go back and shorten the script more!

Heavy Equipment Branding

While buying a steam roller is very different from buying a can of soda, brand still matters. We talked to heavy equipment operators at work sites around the Chicago area to gather their opinions about construction equipment brands.

How Do the  Brands Compare?
Caterpillar and John Deere are the dominant brands. While competitors have multiplied and chipped away at market share, Caterpillar and John Deere are still highly regarded across many types of equipment, scrappers and backhoes in particular. Brand loyalty in this category is not as strong as it used to be. Economics is the key driver; total cost of operation on a job dominates brand evaluation.

John Deere is seen as having the best price to quality relationship and earns the affections of most of interviewees.

Caterpillar is viewed as the premium brand with that is more expensive, but usually worth the extra expense.

Japanese brands are often mentioned for specific types of equipment. Operators said that the Japanese equipment has comparable features to Caterpillar or John Deere. For certain types of specialty equipment, Japanese brands, specifically Takeuchi and Hitachi were considered superior for fine control.

Terex still has a way to go in terms of quality and durability, particularly with respect to their transmissions.

Brand Preference Factors
Operators consider a number of factors when evaluating brands including the purchase price, the cost of ownership, durability in the field, maintenance demands, the “feel” during operation, and resale value. Operators use brand as short hand when discussing the complex interplay of all these factors.

Though these products are too big to sit on a shelf, heavy equipment brands are every bit as influential as consumer product brands.

The Untold Health Care Reform Narrative: Blame Pharma

Merriam Associates Insight On-the-Street went out to discover what people think about the debate on health care reform.  We wanted to see if there is a consensus among regular people who are not taking active part in the debate.

What we heard is rather different from what is reported on the news.  Away from the fun-house mirrors of town hall brawls and political posturing, people have only a general understanding of the issues and confusing claims and counterclaims coming from all sides. Surprisingly, the primary scapegoat is the pharmaceutical industry—something you don’t often hear reported.

No Consensus on Health Care Reform
While we went out to hear the current public consensus, what we found was no consensus at all.  We heard vague opinions, dubious facts, no real understanding of the proposals on the table, and highly politicized, polarized views.  People disagree about what is wrong with the system, how the reform process should be conducted, and what would be the ideal fix.  People support finding a way to cover the uninsured and are well aware of the role powerful special interests play in influencing a complicated situation. Some see value in competition, while others distrust the profit motive.

People Are Satisfied with their Health Care and Don’t Hate Insurance Companies
As brand experts, we were particularly interested in opinions about the brand reputations of their insurance companies.  As one of the whipping boys in the debate, we expected strong opinions about health insurance providers. Instead, people are satisfied with their health care choices and don’t really think about their insurance providers. People had trouble even recalling what company provided their insurance and no one had an opinion about any company, good, bad or otherwise. We asked for horror stories about how the system is failing people and no one had one.

The Untold Story: Blame for Pharmaceutical Companies
There is a big loser in the blame game, however, and that is Big Pharma.  Regardless of where they stood on the political spectrum or what they thought of reform, people point to the drug companies as the top culprits for what is broken in the current system.

Far From a Good Solution
If good policy comes from sound consensus, we are far from a good solution on health care reform.

On The Street – Authentic Opinions
We talk to people at random and in context–no artificial focus group rooms, constricted questionnaires, or reporters with an agenda.  We capture off-the-cuff opinions that are not premeditated, baited, censored, or influenced by group think.  Our unobtrusive cameras and a non-judgmental interview technique puts people at ease and gets them talking, sharing what is genuinely on their minds.