This bad news is something all marketers have already heard and accepted:

Consumer attention span is super short, which makes it super challenging to engage them.

And yet, the good news is also here:

Attention span is evolving, which means you have the instrument to move the needle and win those bloody battles in the endless war for customer interest and loyalty. This instrument is a combination of compelling narrative and stimulating visuals we all know as video storytelling.

Competition is super high and game-changing these days. Everyone makes videos. Tons of guides on video marketing and storytelling are available and even baby brands want to bite off a piece of this trend in the hope of gain. At the same time, consumers spend 100 minutes each day watching online videos, which makes them oversaturated, emotionally intelligent, and therefore super hard to impress with your video stories.

If you want to win this war, it’s time to go the extra mile with video making.

Below are the five elements of video storytelling able to make your brand message stand out. Let’s get a new angle on them for skyrocketing user engagement for even more effective marketing results.

Hero

You’ve heard about the hero’s journey technique coming from narration and classic storytelling, haven’t you? It’s the main character of your story, someone who is authentic and (what matters most!) relatable to your target audience.

The insight to remember: Never make your brand a hero of your video stories! Given the hero-obstacle-resolution scheme of marketing storytelling, your brand should be a resolution.

Case in point from movies: Back to the Future

Why do you think it’s a 17-year-old teenager Marty McFly, not a genius time-travel machine inventor Doc who is the hero of this story? It’s a simple matter: Much more people can relate to a guy enjoying music and trying to solve his school/family problems than to a physicist obsessed with time-traveling.

And yet, Doc becomes a “resolution,” that very element helping Marty overcome the obstacles on his way.

Case in point from brands: Nike Run the Night

How often do you hear them mentioning the brand name in video ads? Nike’s storytelling is not about their product but the people and mission behind it; that’s why their videos resonate with millions of users across the globe.

The brand tells stories of real people, those dreaming and willing to win. They are heroes; Nike serves as a resolution helping them to make this dream come true.

Context

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the core principles to remember in video storytelling. Two reasons:

  1. The human brain thinks by images, perceiving them 60,000 faster than text.
  2. Most people (92%) watch video content on mobile devices with the sound off, making video creators think of alternative instruments to communicate a message and build a comprehensive composition in consumers’ minds.

To overcome this challenge, make the context work on you in video stories. Help users understand what happens in your video without words. (As you’ve probably noticed, the above video story from Nike had no text at all.)

Visual components like colors, filters, and the overall environment are your best helpers to trigger desired emotions from the audience. In other words, show your USP rather than tell about it.

Case in point: GoPro Fireman Saves Kitten

No text, no product demonstration, no talks about cool features their product has; just an emotional story everyone remembers. (Thanks to the product used in context, by the way!)

The basics of color psychology can help you create context, evoke specific associations from the audience, and convey a particular message. Maybe that’s the reason why most of the latest blockbusters are orange and blue?

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The insight to remember: Consider your target audience’s experience and cultural background before choosing color filters and other details for your video stories. Different people perceive them differently.

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Music

First, the question:

What association do you have in your head once you hear The Imperial March?

Is it Darth Vader? Oh, you don’t say!

Music can trigger the audience even more than words or colors in your video story. The suitable compositions can communicate emotions and create powerful associations; they make people link your message to their life events.

The insight to remember: When adding music to videos, choose compositions depending on the mood you plan to communicate to the audience. And consider the copyright, especially if you’re going to create a video for YouTube, to avoid blocks for intellectual property rights violations.

Focus

Yes, details help you build context: background set, a hero’s clothes, accessories, a green screen (if you use one) — the audience pays attention to everything that helps build associations and takeaways.

But there’s a catch:

Too many details in your video will get viewers disoriented, frustrated, and lost in a story. (It’s because of 200 cognitive biases the human brain uses to protect itself from information overload and the too complex world around us.)

To prevent that, you need to show them where to focus.

In order to do so, arrange a set of your video story the right way: Consider the rule of thirds (here goes its video explanation from the Every Frame a Painting channel):

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The insight to remember: Structure your video stories with their core part centered for viewers to understand their most essential elements. Online video makers are the tools to help with that.

Surprise

Do you know that users watch more than a billion hours of YouTube content every day? No wonder they are super hard to hook and engage with your videos today. But guess what?

Most users are still waiting to be surprised when watching a story. It’s about returning to that childhood feeling when mom reads a fairytale, and we wait for something unexpected to happen. To engage the audience with your story, you need the element of “wow,” “aww,” or even “wtf?” in it.

Like a purple cow among other “standard” ones on the Alps meadows (You’ve guessed the brand at once, haven’t you?):

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Or a giant panda appearing in unexpected places and terrorizing people who don’t want to eat cheese.

Or a girl who suddenly turns out to be a vampire in the above video story from Nike.

Anything your audience doesn’t expect to see can be an element of surprise in video storytelling: a color, a random character, a tragic moment (let’s face it, no one expected to see Ned Stark killed in the first season of Game of Thrones series), etc.

So, here goes the rule: combine the incompatible.

The insight to remember: The element of surprise in your video story should be unexpected for users but yet relevant to your brand.

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And now, here’s a question for the most attentive readers: What was the cheese name in said panda ad?

Takeaways

Video storytelling works. More than that, now it has become the only way to engage users who watch hours of videos daily and want to see more video content from brands. Marketers understand that they must be ready to spend their resources on video promotion and sure-fire strategies that would help them win over a particular audience.

So it’s time to unsheathe a secret weapon and make alternative video storytelling practices work for you: Surprise your audience by considering visual and sound effects to trigger an emotional response; and remember to structure videos so the viewers can understand their core message.