Visual campaign strategies can be boiled down to five key attributes which can be utilized to have the greatest impact on viewers. I will be exploring these attributes and sharing some examples of videos exhibiting each attribute.

I recently attended a conference where my favorite brand campaign video of 2016 was used among other examples of successful brand campaigns on YouTube. At the session, YouTube’s global expert of branded content strategy, discussed some of the top videos and the best approaches to video campaign strategies. There were four major attributes to these successful campaign strategies with one bonus attribute.

Key Attributes to a Successful Visual Campaign Strategy

  1. Evoke emotions
  2. Encourage and/or model reactions
  3. Craft different length videos for different appetites
  4. Transcend the language barrier
  5. Be Authentic


#1 -- Videos that evoke emotion

Some of the most successful visual campaign strategies are those that are engineered to tug on your emotions. This can be inspiring, empathizing and ultimately memorable. Can you remember the last time a commercial made you feel strong emotions? Can you remember what that commercial was? Recall that video and think about how it made you feel, as well as what was most memorable about it. Things that make you “feel” have the highest “memorable potential” as memories attached to strong emotions (especially those that compel you to the point of tears or goosebumps) are most likely to be stored in your long-term memory. Therefore, having the greatest influence on the viewer.

Successful Example #1:

Rule Yourself – Michael Phelps, Under Armor (11.4 million views as of 10/2016)

In the Under Armour ad, there is a perfect match up here. Michael Phelps closing out his career at the Rio Olympic Games and a well crafted video showing the physical sacrifices he made in his career. For me, this video is inspiring and motivating. Whenever I watch this video, I feel ready to take on that next challenge or make some aggressive progress towards one of my personal goals. To me… that is effective motivation.

Successful Example #2 (although more controversial):

The Scarecrow by Chipotle (16.8 million views as of 10/2016)

The Scarecrow ad was launched as a campaign strategy supported by a mobile game that reinforced the concept presented in this original spot. This is my second favorite ad of all time. Although this was a successful campaign, it was politically problematic which demonstrates why it is important to have a balanced approach, unless your intentions are to be thought provoking. Controversy aside, this video hits all the marks of a successful campaign video. Like the Under Armour ad, it provokes strong emotions and slowly builds up your emotions throughout the ad (we’ll talk more about building on emotions next). The challenge with this ad was that Chipotle really woke the beast, that is the food industry, with this campaign. Before this campaign they had their “Meat Without Drugs” PSA style video which was slightly less controversial as it was focused on antibiotics in the meat industry. The new campaign also points to processed foods and GMOs, which is an extremely delicate topic in the industry and was met with much criticism. Some brands can survive this practice of being thought provoking, while others can’t afford to create enemies. The caution here is be very careful when trying to be thought provoking. Is this going to unite your core audience (or potentially expand that audience) or is it going to alienate that audience? The key here is to be intentional with your decisions and think through potential unintended consequences.

Successful Example #3:

Czego szukasz w Święta? | English for beginners (13.7 million views as of 10/2016)

English for beginners is my favorite ad of all time. English for beginners takes you on a journey of emotions and slowly unveils the story throughout. It will make you laugh and get the goosebumps. I teared up quite a bit the first time I saw this video and still get the chills after having seen it many times over. This video is the perfect blend of storytelling (narrative), evoking emotions and utilizing multiple emotions to take down your emotional barriers. Laughter is the easiest emotion to provoke in an authentic way and is the first step to having someone be open to displaying additional emotions. Chances are, you will remember this advertisement for a long time after enjoying it. This is a video I use when teaching public speaking on how important empathy and emotions play in influence and impact.

#2 -- Encouraging Reactions with Reactions

Michael Phelps reaction to the Under Armor Clip (1.2 million views as of 10/2016)

Modeling reaction for the audience is a common technique in public speaking. The speaker models the behavior they want to see in the audience. In this case, the reaction of Michael Phelps, and his then fiancée Nicole, stimulate reactions from the viewer. In a sense, it also solidifies the emotional impact and authenticity of the video. Also, take note of the scarecrow in the Chipotle campaign modeling reaction for the viewer on multiple occasions. The scarecrow is encouraging reaction with reactions.

#3 -- Different lengths for different appetites

The meal, the snack and the bite

YouTube’s global expert of branded content describes video strategies that work best as those that have been crafted from the “meal” backwards to smaller portions: the “snack” and then the “bite”. Meaning, the longer form video should be the seed of the campaign. Typically “the meal” is 60-90 sec or more. Then work on the “snack”, 10-30 sec and then lastly the bite, which is under 15 sec. An example of this is the Aussie (hair product) campaign (roughly 8 million views). The Aussie strategy was really focused on the concept of tackling the issues their users can relate to. They close the videos by presenting their product as a solution using engaging and creative methods.

#4 -- Transcend the language barrier

The most successful “global” branded story telling videos are those that transcend language barriers. The Scarecrow from Chipotle and the Rule Yourself Under Armor campaigns would both fall under this category as well. These videos convey emotion and understanding without a single word. Transcending the language barrier is pretty much a bonafide requirement to go “viral” now. The alternative is providing translations. However, this can reduce your success if you have to produce multiple videos to achieve the translation, as you are dividing up your viewership with multiple videos. Having one video with many views is much more powerful than many videos with mediocre views. For me, when I am looking at analytics, I am looking for 3 primary signals:

  1. Velocity. How quickly has the viewership increased?
  2. Watch time. How engaged are the viewers?
  3. Total Viewership. Gives overall scale.

Another personal favorite

An explainer video that utilizes some visual campaign strategies

The REI’s Co-op membership video delivers the story of how REI was founded and explains how the Co-op works. It establishes the foundation of the company and its ethos while inviting the viewer to join as a member.

#5 -- Be Authentic

Being authentic is such a crucial key to a successful campaign strategy that I felt it necessary to include here. If someone lacks authenticity, it is easy to identify. Avoid inauthenticity at all costs.

If you have other tried and true methods or attributes to visual campaign strategies post a comment.

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