The Medium is the Message, and You Are the Medium

You’ve probably all heard Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote “the medium is the message.”

When we think of his use of the world “medium”, we usually associate it with print, radio, television and cinema.

But ultimately, we humans are all the original media, and stories are the original messages - they are the way we have traditionally shared our knowledge and experiences, our lessons, our hopes, dreams and fears.

Before we connected on the web or sat in front of the television or radio, and even before we had the written word, we listened to the storyteller. We came together, and gathered around a fire. We sat, absorbed in the experience, as the storyteller gave context to the world around us, and made sense of the experiences we all share as humans.

We were the medium. And even today, with all our technology, when that medium is another human being, the message becomes all the more powerful.

To bring it back to McLuhan’s proposition, the power isn’t only in the story we tell (the message) it’s also due to the fact that we are telling the story.

We are sharing ourselves and our experiences, and immediately we can all see that we are more similar than different, that we are not alone in our experience, and that there is a great power in releasing these stories into the world.

By taking the stories outside of ourselves and sharing them with others, we can change the world. I truly believe that.

As a video producer, that’s what I love about my work. I get to help people share their stories, and my goal is always the same: to allow the viewer to see themselves in the story, and connect with it emotionally. When that happens, we can inspire change.



Using Video in Your Online Sales Process

The role of video in our online experience continues to grow and evolve. Just one example is Facebook’s introduction of auto-play video previews in the newsfeed; it’s a clear indication that video, as a medium, attracts a response and increases the likelihood of engagement. It communicates on a more emotional level than text or images. It also implies entertainment, as people associate video with recreation, not work.

This is why marketers are embracing video, and its use as part of the online sales process is exploding. We’re seeing more businesses and organizations replacing text, white papers and product documents with video, which allows them to connect with their audience on a much deeper level.

But it’s important to remember that video is, by nature, a more passive medium than text and requires less concentration to absorb, so it’s important to be strategic when delivering the video content, so as to hold viewers’ attention and ensure the information you’re presenting is resonating.

Thankfully, there are now a number of techniques and supporting technologies that all businesses can use to take advantage of video’s capabilities as a marketing tool. By using them on your website, you’ll be able to guide prospects down a strategic path as you introduce your product, its benefits, its features, and its pricing, while tracking each prospect’s position in the buying cycle. These techniques require the development of multiple videos, each armed with a specific task, and an effective way of tying these videos together to ensure viewers stay on the path.

The process of developing this strategic path is part creative and part technical. Creative techniques used within the video will compel the viewer to watch the next video in the series. Devices such as “cliff hangers” or introducing a question that begs for an answer are commonly used techniques to urge viewers to keep watching. Combine this with easy-to-implement technologies such as automatic loading of the next video into a video player or a call-to-action link at the end of the video, and you’ve got your path.

Planning the Path

Of course, before you build your video path you need a plan. For many, a video path can follow a traditional marketing funnel approach to sales and lead generation, starting with an introductory video at the top of the funnel, a deeper education in the middle of the funnel, and ending with a rationale or justification for purchase at the bottom of the funnel.


A Top-of-Funnel video introduces the viewer to your brand and builds their interest in what you have to offer. As with all first impressions, creating the right emotional response is important.

Videos at this level could include an animated explainer video (if your product or service is complex), a culture video that introduces prospects to your people, process or positioning, or even customer testimonials.

Most businesses see the value in a top-of-funnel video, and most businesses stop at this point, and rely on text and images to do the rest of the work. However, video has extraordinary potential when used through the rest of the buying cycle.


Once the initial impression has been made and you’ve successfully held your viewer’s attention, you can deepen their understanding of your product or service with some mid-funnel videos. These videos are about educating your viewer, helping them understand your value beyond the emotional level, and more on the rational level. Recorded webinars, product tour videos, and demos are all examples, allowing the viewer to build their understanding of the product’s value.


The bottom of the tunnel is all about justifying the decision to purchase, and clearing up any questions, hurdles or hesitation. Videos explaining product categories or levels, pricing, or other frequently asked questions are a good idea at this stage. It’s still important to maintain the emotional connection with the viewer, even at this late stage, ensuring that the tone, feeling, and message is still consistent with your brand. Credibility and trust are crucial at this point, but of course that’s where video really shines.

As mentioned, there are a number of techniques and technologies that can guide the viewer down the path, including creative devices (cliffhangers, questions, etc…), automatic loading of the next video, and call-to-action links that prompt the viewer to click, thereby loading the next video in the series. And there are also services that enable you to track a prospect’s progress down the path, many of them integrating marketing tools such as Salesforce, ExactTarget and MailChimp.

As video’s use grows online, it’s important for marketers to adapt to consumer behaviour and preferences. With some planning and adoption of new technologies, video can be a powerful component of your online sales process.


How Faces, Conversation, and Relationships Can Transform Your Business

There’s no denying the fact that social media has revolutionized the way brands and businesses communicate with their customers. To see evidence of this, think about the language we use to describe the business-to-consumer interaction. We’ve gone from transactions to relationships. What was once an advertisement is now a conversation. Marketers and ad people use words like personality, culture, and dialogue. As weird as it sounds, the rise of social media has led brands and businesses to act, think, and speak like people.

We are, of course, still in the early days of this shift, and there are many mistakes and missteps being made as brands navigate this new territory of acting more human. However, there are some important lessons we can learn in terms of how brands and businesses present themselves to the public on the social web.

One important lesson is that consumers have unprecedented power in this relationship, and they know it. The average user on Facebook has over 250 friends with whom they can share details of the relationship and experience they’ve had with a business, both good and bad. Companies like McDonalds and United Airlines have felt the sting of social media, as a result of both online and real-world interactions.

This shift in power between brands and consumers has led some brands to become more transparent, others to become more guarded. Gary Vaynerchuk’s 2011 book The Thank You Economy is a good primer on this phenomenon.

Another lesson is that video is playing a huge role in communication on social media. While video doesn’t have the immediacy of a tweet or a post, it does act as a great catalyst to getting dialogue going. It is also giving businesses and brands a face, a voice, and the ability to stir emotions (again, human qualities). And while video and film has always had these abilities, the way in which they are now being used has changed.

With traditional linear media, brands used commercials and carefully scripted videos to put a face to their business, a face that usually wasn’t their own as they carefully managed and controlled their image. Today’s audiences, particularly on the social web, are seeking a more authentic experience. A more human experience.

They want to see and meet the people behind the product, and get a sense of the culture. They also expect to get some form of reward for their investment in time. This could be entertainment, inspiration, or education - whatever it is, it’s got to add value to their lives in some way. There’s got to be a payoff.

Consumers have never been more powerful, and word-of-mouth has never been more effective (or potentially damaging); we’ve got to keep that in mind with every point of contact we have with customers and clients. That includes our marketing materials.

We can forget about trying to be something we’re not, or making promises we can’t keep, because now there’s nowhere to hide. Let people get to know you and what you’re all about. Use video to put a face to your business, and describe what makes your business unique in your own words. Don’t be afraid to show off your culture and your people, and let your clients and customers get to know you.

And lastly, think of ways you can add value for your audience. Can you entertain them, inspire them, or educate them through your videos or content? Are they likely to share it with their friends and networks?

These lessons can be applied to any business using the web or social media as a marketing platform, not just the big brands. And while we’re certainly seeing a shift in the way marketing is being executed, things aren’t getting more complicated, they’re actually getting simpler. Social media is bringing us all back to basics, back to being human.



How to use Facebook Video for Content Marketing

Facebook can be an incredibly effective platform for reaching a defined audience. In fact, other than Google, I don’t think there’s a better one out there. The ability to target your posts or ads not only based on the location and demographics of your target audience, but on its interests and behaviours, is incredibly powerful.

But before we dive into Facebook’s proficiencies as a marketing communications platform, let’s get some of the basics out of the way. Here are four simple tips every organization should keep in mind when using Facebook to distribute video.

Tip 1: Get Personal

Facebook is all about making and strengthening connections with people, and that applies to organizations too. Whenever possible, use Facebook video to show the human side of your operation.

Get in front of the camera. Introduce yourself and your team. Keep it natural. Remember that Facebook is primarily a place people go for entertainment and connection with friends and family, so save the scripted corporate video for LinkedIn (actually, don’t bother with a corporate video at all).

You may feel a bit vulnerable, but aim to connect on a human level and show off your organization’s personality, charm, and quirks. We’ve all got them. That’s what makes us human.

Tip 2: Upload to Facebook

This is a bit more on the technical side, but one very important tip when using Facebook is to upload your video directly to Facebook, rather than pasting a link to YouTube on your Facebook page.

Why is this important? Facebook is investing seriously in video right now, and they’re competing directly with YouTube. Their news feed algorithm is prioritizing video uploaded natively to Facebook, which means more reach for you, and a much higher chance your video is going to be seen by your audience.

So by all means, continue to upload all your videos to YouTube. But do a separate upload to Facebook, and build up that library of great video content.

Tip 3: Get Moving

When Facebook introduced videos that start playing automatically in the News Feed, it opened up some incredible opportunities for marketers.

The auto-play feature brings your Facebook content to life – the movement and motion of video is a huge draw, and Facebook is reporting way more engagement now that videos automatically start playing in the news feed.

Another valuable feature Facebook has introduced is the view count, which everyone can now see. Not only does this give marketers a quick way to see how well their video is performing, but it also helps people discover popular videos.

Remember – motion and emotion are two huge reasons why video should be a major part of your content marketing strategy. As Mark D’Arcy, chief creative officer for Facebook’s Creative Shop, said, “We are only just starting to unlock the potential of sight, sound and motion in a feed-driven world.”

Tip 4: Think Mobile

Facebook’s strategy with video is to think mobile first, and now more than 65% of video views are on mobile. So how does this affect your content marketing?

One thing we always ask a client when we’re planning a video is, “Where is your audience when they’re watching your video?” Are they at work or at home? Are they watching it at a live corporate event or from the comfort of their couch? The answers to these questions have a huge impact on how we develop a video. Length, script, tone and visual cues all change based on where we think the audience is watching the video.

That’s why the surge in mobile views is important. Facebook users have short attention spans, and as we see an increase in mobile views, that attention span is going to get shorter. That doesn’t mean the video content can’t have substance; it might just mean that substance is spread across four 60-second videos instead of one four-minute video. It means we have to develop visual hooks to get attention as the user is scrolling down their news feed.

By thinking mobile as we’re developing video content, we’ll avoid the trap of producing videos the way we did in 2005. Things have changed, and your audience is moving.

I hope you find these tips useful. I’ll write more about using Facebook as a marketing communication platform in a future post, and I’ll explore its ability to promote understanding of complex subject matter and drive behavioural change.

Can a Video Trigger Behavioral Change?

Changing behavior is never easy. Ask any dieter, smoker or chronic email checker – habits are hard to break. Our brains are designed to recognize patterns and repetition, and they actually reward us with feelings of comfort and security when we fall into familiar patterns. Conversely, when we try something new, our brains often create feelings of anxiety, stress or frustration. To make things even more challenging, our behaviors are often the culmination of a number of habits and patterns, many of them years in the making.

So can we really expect to inspire behavioural change through something as simple and impersonal as a video?

Create Self-Discovery

A key technique in using video to drive behavioral change is to create a moment of self-discovery, or insight, within the viewer. The viewer should see something in the video that resonates with them on an emotional level, something they identify with personally. This could be seeing themselves in a character in the video, or identifying with a situation.

Provide a Lesson

Once the viewer identifies with the story, the video must provide examples of how changes in behavior have impacted the character or the situation, ideally including examples of effective and ineffective behaviour and the consequences of that behaviour. This lesson should inspire an initial desire in the viewer to think and act differently themselves.

But having that initial desire isn’t enough. Having the understanding that a behavioural change is necessary is very different from making the change itself; we’re seeking action here. To create action, we need to develop triggers that remind the viewer of their initial moment of self-discovery, and create an opportunity for reflection upon their own behaviour once again.

Depending on the viewer, this process make take time and may need to be repeated before it leads to action or any long-lasting behavioural change. It isn’t typically achieved by watching one video, which is why traditional training videos aren’t as effective as they could be.

So, what’s the solution? How do we create these triggers and opportunities for self-reflection through video?

Trigger and Repeat

This is where technology comes in. Nearly all of us are walking around with portable video players in our pockets, capable of connecting us to information, and notifying us when more information is available. This nearly ubiquitous technology is, many experts believe, inherently addictive itself, as people can’t resist that familiar vibration when new information is available. Mobile devices are an ideal delivery mechanism for videos that serve as triggers and inspire behavioral change. They present us with an incredible opportunity.

Through videos on mobile devices, we can leverage the power of storytelling and emotion to develop understanding and self-discovery. We can connect with the viewer through a social network, an app, or an email subscription, and deliver follow up videos that serve as triggers, reminding them of the insights they learned and the benefits of behavioural change.

These trigger videos should be short and relevant, convenient for the viewer to access and digest. We can develop any number of these triggers, and make them valuable, rewarding, and entertaining for the viewer. We can make these triggers available on-demand, or even schedule them to be available at specific times or situations. We can even use geo-location to make them available at specific places.

And, if we’re successful, these trigger videos will lead to behavioural change.

So whether the goal is changing attitudes, propagating a public health message, changing habits, or training your staff, the use of videos on mobile devices is an opportunity worth exploring.


What is Content Marketing?

Content is a pretty boring word without much meaning. So let’s give content some context so we’re all on the same page.

Content, as I see it, is measurable value. It is value that can be watched, read, listened to, experienced and shared. It is value that demands attention and is sought out. 

The primary goal with content marketing is to develop a relationship with an audience based on the value you can offer. That value can be knowledge, insight, education, or even entertainment, and it is offered freely. That value turns into trust, and that trust converts prospects into sales.

Content marketing can take many forms. Articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, tutorials, white papers, and e-mail newsletters are all excellent ways to distribute content.

So how does content marketing differ from advertising?

Content doesn’t interrupt you while you are watching your favourite television show, and it doesn’t make you wait for 10-seconds before it gets out of your way so you can read an interesting article. Content is consumed very differently than advertising, and must be developed differently. 

There are, however, many attributes of advertising that can be applied to content marketing. The power of storytelling, persuasion, great creative, branding, and emotion - all of these qualities of effective advertising can be applied to content marketing with great results.

Advertising can work, and if you have the budget and the right creative, it can be a great way to build awareness and reinforce branding. But there are other options. If you’ve got a unique product or service, if you’ve got a story to tell, if you’ve got something that a defined market will respond to, there are better ways to reach that market than mass media advertising.

I heard entrepreneur and writer Seth Godin being interviewed on a podcast a few years, and he said it very well:

“Advertising is a price you pay for an undifferentiated product for the masses. Marketing is the way you avoid paying that price.”

The Business of Fitness: How CrossFit, SoulCycle and MovNat Use Video to Build Loyal Communities

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, most of which are centred around fitness goals, diets, and dreams of six pack abs. Gyms are packed, competition for the treadmills gets heated, and hot yoga studios get even more sweaty.

And by mid-February, things get back to normal and you can once again find a locker in the change room.

While many fitness facilities build their business model around the January membership surge and inevitable drop, there’s a new crop of fitness movements that seem impervious to the February slump.

Fitness businesses like CrossFit, SoulCycle and MovNat have built huge followings around a unique experience and a distinct culture. They’ve transcended the gym and have become lifestyle companies, supported by virtual communities on forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

With CrossFit approaching 10,000 gyms around the world, and SoulCycle exploding in popularity despite its $34 class fee, these businesses are clearly doing something right.

So what’s the hook? A large part of it lies in these organizations’ ability to create a unique and rewarding experience both in the gym and outside of it. They encourage new friendships and community, things many of us have a hard time developing on our own these days.

They encourage human experiences. They inspire positive emotions by helping members accomplish goals, and experience personal triumph and exhilaration. When members have failures or set-backs, they are built back up through support within the communities, both in the real world and online.

These organizations also place a huge emphasis on video in their marketing and community-building. They use video for branding, storytelling, demonstrations and workouts, testimonials, and instructor profiles. Their videos inspire viewers and create emotion, making them ideal for sharing on social media. According to Karen Nelson-Field’s new book Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, videos that feature personal triumph are more likely to get shared than nearly any other emotional device.

When you watch a MovNat video, you immediately get what they are all about (natural human movement) and what you can expect from becoming part of the MovNat community. We see lean, strong men and women climbing trees, lifting logs and rocks, and having a great time doing it.

When you watch a SoulCycle video, you experience the nightclub-like atmosphere of a class, the infectious personalities of the instructors, and the addictive rush of the workout.

CrossFit’s videos connect the community with WODs (Workout of the Day) and highlights of members’ triumphs, from Nicole’s first “muscle up” to Mike’s “clean and jerk PR”.

These organizations are successful because they’ve created tribes. They’ve made their customers feel like they belong and they are supported. They know how to show off their unique culture, they make it look like fun, and they keep them coming back through a strong community and the power of habit.

These are lessons every business can apply. These are resolutions worth keeping.

Strong Emotions, Dancing Babies, and the Science of Video Sharing

What makes a video go viral? Does our existing knowledge of advertising and buyer behaviour hold any relevance in the social web? Does it take kittens or babies on roller skates to get people’s attention these days?

Dr. Karen Nelson-Field’s new book, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, answers these questions and backs it all up with over 2 years of original research, 5 different data sets, and around 1,000 videos in her study.

The bottom line? Emotional responses in the audience drive the sharing of videos online. The stronger the emotional response, the more likely it is to get shared. 

According to Nelson-Field, a Senior Research Associate with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia, videos that draw a positive emotional response in the audience are 30% more likely to be shared than those which elicit strong negative emotions, such as shock or anger.

A strong emotional reaction not only gives a campaign additional reach, it also promotes retention. Audience are more likely to remember a video that elicits a positive emotional response.

So which positive emotions are the safest bets to aim for? While most of the advertising world seems to be focusing on humour (watch this year’s Super Bowl commercials for proof of that), Nelson-Field recommends exhilaration as the best emotional reaction to aim for within the video’s creative.

Exhilaration has a higher recall rate than hilarity (65% of all exhilarating videos tested were recalled, as opposed to 51% of humorous videos), and fewer marketers are using the exhilaration as a creative device. The energy drink Red Bull is a great example of the appeal of exhilarating videos, and they’ve built their brand around this powerful emotion.

One finding in the book that is particularly interesting is the lack of a connection between sharing and the level of branding being used within the video.

Nelson-Field explains that the average social video has less than 1/3 of the branding of an average TV commercial, and typically only reveals the brand after at least 30-seconds.

However, her studies suggest there is no relationship between how much sharing across the social web a video achieves and the level of branding used within. Also, the study suggests that overt branding has no impact on a video’s ability to illicit an emotional response. This is counter to the industry’s conventional wisdom, which suggests removing branding or keeping it to an absolute minimum will facilitate sharing.

If Nelson-Field’s findings are correct, there lies a great opportunity for marketers to leverage the social web for branding by increasing the brand’s presence within the video, rather than shy away from it. People share branded videos for the same reason they share non-commercial videos: it’s all about emotion.