Digital dilemmas: Online video

In the first of a new series, our digital expert answers a query with a guide to video success online.

Brands are enthusiastically commissioning video as a form of digital content. How should marketers ensure success in this new discipline?

Online video has the potential to be any brand's sharpest weapon in the marketing armoury. We've long known the power of the moving image to amuse, move and persuade us. Now brands are once more attempting to harness that power, often by creating videos that are specifically useful for people near the moment of purchasing decision. However, fewer brands are making video content that we would seek out purely for the pleasure of watching. That's a worry, because without an audience that really wants it, content is a waste of time and money.

Learning from broadcasters

We think brands using online video can learn from the masters of regular, diverse and gripping content - broadcasters. Put bluntly, broadcasters make stuff we want to watch. How do they do it, and what approaches can brands borrow to make their content more wanted, watchable and effective?

1. Start with the audience

Broadcasters don't have consumers or customers. They have audiences. Calling your target an audience makes you think of attracting and entertaining them, not interrupting them with your message. It makes you start with the question "What do they want to watch or interact with?"

2. Get an editorial positioning

How is your content going to be different from your competitor's and, over time, instinctively recognisable to the audience? Make sure you have an editorial positioning - a unifying thought or attitude that will act as a commissioning brief and make your content distinctive.

3. Tell a story

Us humans, we love a yarn. So make sure that you tell a good story to hook the audience in. Narrative is as essential for documentary films as it is for any Hollywood blockbuster. (Think about the story in an episode of Grand Designs, for example, or a factual feature like Searching for Sugar Man.)

Whatever your brand is doing or has done, it should be possible to convey that as a story, whether it is planned at the outset or engineered in the edit. Either way, don't just give the audience a montage.

If you want your online video to really grip your audience and be shared widely, it is time to start acting like a broadcaster.

Red Bee is an entertainment and content marketing agency working with brands (such as Barclays, Hyundai and Waitrose) and broadcasters (eg the BBC, UKTV, NBC Universal).

For both types of client we define brand and editorial positionings, design brand identities and create and produce digital and video content marketing.