Will Video Kill The Written Word?

Video-first is now the standard mindset for brands


Ask just about any digital marketer what their chief concern is in the coming few years, and a vast majority of the responses will involve video content in some way. Since download speeds on both mobile and desktop hit a point at which video content was a genuinely viable marketing tool, the use of video by brands and users alike has skyrocketed. And, as a result, the former are now piling marketing budgets into the production of video content, which has many wondering whether written content will survive the shift.

The advantages of visual content are clear. If a person hears information, they are likely to remember just 10% of it three days later. When visual stimulus is added alongside that information a person is likely to remember 65%. The book in which that study appears, John Medina’s Brain Rules, uses the example of a white wine taste test, in which the world’s expert wine tasters described a dyed white wine as a red. Brands have been tapping into the visceral power of sight and symbolism for decades, but the proliferation of video content over social media channels offers marketers an opportunity to take this even further.

Anyone with a Facebook account will know that video content is already king. 64% of marketers expect video to be their dominant strategy in the very near future, according to Nielsen, which is unsurprising given that the average consumer with the internet watches some 206 videos every single month. Video content allows brands to tell stories quickly, with a higher level of audience engagement, and with more scope for creativity than simple text.

Also, crucially, video content has become incredibly cheap to make. Gone are the days of needing a studio, professional camera operators, lighting experts, etc - today, even live content can be pushed out through a mobile phone at a quality most smartphone users will accept, and editing can be done using free software. Because seemingly everyone’s doing it, and it’s relatively cheap and easy to do, expect to see video content continue to proliferate as more and more brands become producers. Cisco projects that, by 2019, 80% of all global internet traffic will be made up from videos.

This might sound like a nightmarish scramble for engagement, and it will be difficult for brands to be heard among the noise. There is something of a formula for video content on Facebook, in particular: landscape video with subtitles and often large lettering above and below the video itself to give a scrolling user a reason to stop and pay attention. Mediocre content is all too often accompanied by clickbait-like headlines as brands attempt to snatch engagement from otherwise idle users. This is where quality of content will become important. Vying for space on a news feed is one thing - and some publishers are incredibly good at creating shareable content that grabs attention immediately - but having return users for whom your brand is the go-to for content is the holy grail for digital publishers.

There is also the potential for users to look for alternative forms of content once video reaches a certain point of dominance. A scroll through a Facebook News Feed can already be fairly exhausting - the majority of content was once user-generated and largely picture-based whereas, now, autoplayed and subtitled videos produced by brands are the norm.

BBDO New York’s EVP and director of strategic partnerships, Bob Estrada, said: ‘Being more strategic requires a shift on the client side. The client has to think about video first, not just channel first. You can overproduce content or you can do testing and learning. You have to be agile in market, create all the different assets, look at it quickly, respond and throttle up when it’s appropriate.’ When this video content is informed by, or coupled with, locations data, seasonal data, user behavioral data, etc., it can be extremely effective.

There is still space for written content, though. Video is easy to consume and can connect with its audience on an emotional level, but reading requires far more active involvement from the brain. The process of reading a piece of content requires a far greater attention span than passive watching, and therefore engaging written content is more difficult to produce than engaging video. A piece of well-targeted written content could also stand out among the seemingly endless stream of video which bombards users daily. Ultimately, the choice of whether to commit to written or video content comes down to the product itself, the target audience’s preference and the quality of the brand’s editorial team.

And despite video’s dominance, written content marketing is still on the rise. The simple distribution methods of blogs, email blasts, and social media channels have sent the value of written content skyrocketing. Ultimately, brands should probably be doing both. Video is unlikely to put an end to the written word on social media, but it will overwhelmingly crowd it out in the next few years. Any brands that can find an audience to properly engage with written content in a world of subtitled videos, though, will reap the reward. 


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This Week In Digital - 31st March 2017