The Hottest Video Trends for 2021
Within the past decade alone, we have seen numerous video-marketing trends appear just as quickly as they disappear. Best marketing practices as seen on TV, as well as in social campaigns include the spokesperson. The day-in-the-life. Crowdsourcing. Animation. Funny ha-ha comedy. What are the strengths to each strategy when reaching specific consumers?
That question is answered by discussing the concept of audience “persona" — Diving deeper beyond a blanket demographic (i.e. “millennial”) and really describing your ideal target audience. What do they do for fun? What do they wear? What do they watch? And as we move further throughout the year, what are the best marketing practices to use to captivate your consumers?
THIS YEAR'S TOP VIDEO TRENDS
Here are some of the best video-marketing techniques and video's hottest marketing trends of 2021 that will play a vast impact in the future of video marketing:
- Disappearing stories
- Personalized messages
- User-generated content
- Feature-length documentary marketing
- Post minimalism and the rise of the unicorn
In 2011, Snapchat introduced "disappearing" messages to the world, proving that there's long-term demand for short-lived social content. Initially, marketers (like myself) brushed this app aside as a form of texting for teenagers. How could organizations possibly use a platform of vanishing ads for large-scale, expensive campaigns? Now, a decade later, brands embrace ephemeral marketing as a quick and, yes, meaningful way to connect with users, fans and the community.
But how did this happen? Disposable marketing goes against everything that we've been building towards, right!? It's not carefully curated. It's not permanent. And that’s kind of the point.
Being fast, being hasty is now the same as being authentic. Sure, there's a time and a place for well-produced, carefully-crafted video content (and when you have that time and place, please call us!). But for everything in between -- for all those little day-to-day moments -- ephemeral content keeps your users engaged with your brand.
After turning down a $3 billion offer from Facebook (and a reported $30 billion offer from Google!?), Snapchat continues to walk the fine line of protecting its users from its businesses. As CEO Evan Spiegel said last December, Snapchat is making modifications to separate the "social" from the "media" and clearly isolate branded content from your personal feed.
But Instagram Stories (launched in 2016) takes a completely different approach. As Instagram COO Marne Levine pointed out at a recent conference, users are searching for brands that have meaning to them. The stigma of selling out has largely been replaced by people who just want to follow organizations that they like. Instagram's brand-friendly approach is almost making it too easy for companies to consider their platform.
If you're not yet doing it, THEN START DOING IT. It's easy. Be timely and post often. Go behind the scenes. Put out a poll. Add doodles. Give your brand standards a break and have fun. Whether you hire an expert or empower a post-millennial marketer to take over your company’s IG account, the age of ephemeral engagement is here. And we're happy to talk about how your snaps and your stories play a larger role in a healthy video marketing diet.
Four years ago, for Facebook’s 10th anniversary, the social media giant gifted everyone with a personalized video that summarized their very existence (on Facebook). The custom compilations pulled popular posts and photos from your timeline and allowed you to customize various elements before sharing it with your friends. Was this cheesy? Yeah, kinda. Was this unprecedented? Absolutely. Did this shake us, a video production company, to our very core? You have no idea.
The effort was an engineering feat, instantly generating hundreds of millions of individual videos without crashing the whole friggin’ platform.
And even as FB has evolved this service since 2014 (including yesterday's Friends Day superlatives), the notion of “personalized” video has been slow to catch on in the general video marketing world. Until now…
Video platforms like Vidyard (our preferred video hosting partner btw) are investing in the personalized video trend, allowing sales and marketing teams to connect with thousands of customers with video content that is slightly more, well, personal.
The mechanics: We produce the core message with specific touchpoints or “moments” that will be customized based on data that you collect from inquiry forms or email list registrations — information like your name or your interests or answers to specific questions.
After the user completes the survey, event registration, donation, etc., they’ll receive an email containing the personalized video. Something that will grab their attention and standout among the marketing noise.
The technology does not have to be limited to greetings or “thank yous.” Humana uses SundaySky’s SmartVideo platform to provide its members with video updates on their health care statements, offering a personal touch to a service that’s often super impersonal.
With personalized videos, Vidyard touts increased click-through rates by 4.5x, keeping viewers watching videos for 35% longer!
This trend is already in the market. Maybe you’ve already received a personalized video! Did you scream at your computer and say, “How do they know my name!?” Or did you roll your eyes and go “Umm. No.”
The concept of user generated content or "UGC" is not a new one. In 2009, Burberry launched The Art of the Trench campaign to invite its customers to upload photos of them wearing the brand's chic products. With this campaign, Burberry said "We like young people and young people like us!"
In 2010, Target pledged to make massive donations to education. To kickoff the initiative, it asked students applying to college to submit videos of themselves opening their acceptance letters, leading to an iconic (and super fun) commercial. With this campaign, Target said "We support students and students support us!"
In 2014, Starbucks challenged customers to design a new cup and upload entries with the tag #WhiteCupContest. Three weeks later (with 4,000 posts!), it selected the winner. With this campaign, Starbucks said "We value our customers and our customers and value us!"
As a marketer, you're probably thinking "These are great ideas! But I'm not Starbucks. I'm more like no-bucks." And that would be a very funny joke. But this trend is gaining momentum because the technology is making it easier for users to share high-quality content and for organization's to find and integrate that content into established marketing strategies.
But where do you start? GoPro embraced an interesting model of "contestification." In 2014, it announced the GoPro Awards, daring users to submit their best photos and videos for a chance to be recognized in an all-star gallery. GoPro buys the rights for the best shots and then uses them almost exclusively in their commercials.
When looking to promote DC Public School's new study abroad program, we actually invited the students themselves to tell the story, physically equipping them with cameras (GoPros, of course). Collecting footage from a dozen different countries, we saw the global experience through their perspective. This allowed us to produce a more informed and more intimate promotional piece for donors, parents and and the next class of world-traveling students.
Do you already have an established fanbase posting content that you could leverage? The ability for marketers to find and curate material is only getting easier with new technology like Stackla. These platforms allow you to sift through, secure permissions and repost some of your favorite fan-made content.
UGC works because it makes a brand look less corporate and less scripted. It works because it allows a company to connect with its community and show that its confident enough to let the general public define its image. It works because it plays to a fan's need to be recognized, potentially transforming casual posters into lifelong brand ambassadors.
In 2013, Dove released its Real Beauty Sketches commercials, triggering a social dialogue among the public about the definition of "beauty." At a glance, this type of marketing seemed counterintuitive or just plain bonkers for a brand that makes personal care products. But this campaign (actually a successor to the first viral hit Evolution way back in 2005!) exposed a new way of marketing. It turned decades of advertising beauty products on its head. It was honest.
Since then, docu-style advertising has become an expectation. It's not officially the Olympics until P&G makes you think about your mom and cry. We, as consumers, now want to feel something when watching commercials. We want to see a story with real people and we want to make a connection.
And this feel-good / feel-bad / feel-something approach leaked into every part of the corporate marketing world. We've worked extensively with organizations to put real people front and center in their recruitment campaigns. Don't tell me about the perks of a specific profession -- show me an actual person who loves their job and is also, like, a normal human being. This episodic "day in the life" model works for any industry, including:
But this storytelling technique is documentary-inspired. What about producing actual full-blown documentaries? Like, actual movies! Thanks to Netflix, this film genre is making a much-needed comeback (don't you dare call documentaries boring!). In 2018, we foresee both short-form and feature-length documentaries becoming a powerful new tool for brands to put emotion and story before product and function. />
But to go "total documentary," you're not just watering down or masking your organization's messaging behind a compelling story. You instead need to find a story that reflects your brand's core identity, even if the story seems counterintuitive at first.
Stella Artois produced a short documentary about an artist who hand-paints billboards in New York City. It has nothing to do directly with beer, but it reinforces Stella's commitment to craftsmanship (and, naturally, the artist's featured billboard project was an ad for Stella).
American Express produced a documentary about the costs of being poor in America. But you'll be hard-pressed to find any mention of AMEX or its services. The film trusts that viewers will be impacted by the story itself and decide for themselves that American Express understands the problem and is part of the solution.
MorningStar Farms debuted "The Veg Effect," a doc-series about that focuses on individuals committed to eating more veggies to make the world a better place. While MorningStar Farms isn't endorsing a vegan or vegetarian diet so specifically, but it is looking for profound stories to get people eating more veggies!
While we're a short-form, promotional video kinda shop, we're actively exploring documentary marketing with our partners. This spring, we're excited to debut a new film telling the gripping tales of four stroke survivors. We'll have more information on this very important project soon. />
This trend may be the hardest to talk about, as the word "design" can stir strong opinions from both the design-enabled and design-less. But like all good design, we seek to reveal the motivations behind specific choices. We're not here to acknowledge what's on the surface -- like what color is hot in 2021.
In 2007, UPS launched its famous "white board" commercial with a really chill dude drawing delivery concepts with a brown marker. This ad would forever change the landscape of corporate videos, igniting what we refer to as the "white board industrial complex" or a period of time when every brand, mother and child made at least one dry erase video. In hindsight, no one is proud of these videos, but we all did it! More importantly, this era exposed a real need for the "explainer" video.
Emerging from the recession, organization's were hungry to tell a story of economic impact. Leaning on a clean, infographic aesthetic, vector-based videos emerged. And it was a beautiful thing. Using flat shapes with limited palettes, moving infographics proved to be an enduring trend where the most complex of concepts were boiled down to an individual icon. These videos could be driven by narration or play silently with kinetic typography. Our motionographers still excel at this style, effectively explaining some pretty interesting stuff.
Like the economic worth of the steel industry.
How state banks are regulated.
What is the Internet of Things (iOT)?
Or talking about a new training program.
But as we entered a post-vector world, viewers expected more from their animations. How about using the medium to express a playful or emotional message? In 2012, Chipotle released a short film that touted their sustainable farming practices. They didn't do this with markers or infographics. They did this with adorable "Little People"-style farmers being consumed by modern-day Big Ag practices. The somewhat haunting story was a bonafide YouTube hit and ushered in a more evocative way of communicating with video.
Using animation to tell actual stories (not just statistical ones) allows marketers to move beyond the limitations of live-action. For A Dream of Safety, we transported viewers to the wild west of union construction before zero-injury policies were put in place. Tying our visuals to the testimony of one man, we could conjure up illustrations through his memory. We could exaggerate and dwell on his account and make something that was ultimately less precise but more meaningful. More memorable.
With the rising popularity of YouTubers using a DIY style, other more design-respected platforms like Instagram started to embrace a similarly hasty and intentionally amateur motif. With Instagram Stories, users can instantly and somewhat ironically scribble silly expressions overtop boomeranged loops of dogs doing cartwheels. While you're at it, you can drop the perfect emojis to punctuate your point. These are choices that people make. Every day.
In 2017, Apple cemented the trend (as it usually does), by providing iPhone users with "stickers" to quickly and colorfully express a thought while also proving your mad pop culture skillz. This trend manifested in a more produced fashion, leading to "surrealist mixed-media," a term that our Associate Creative Director Tiffany Lewis just coined for this post. Videos are no longer simple. Or minimal. But embrace a messy "more is more" approach.
For a collection of punchy event "bumpers," we embodied a seemingly chaotic montage of visuals. But beneath the surface experience was a carefully calculated bombardment of video and graphic elements. Inspired by a trippy video for the Red Bull Music Academy, we gave our viewers credit to absorb and understand like and unlike imagery while creating an overwhelmingly visceral experience.
For a follow-up event, we traded spastic cuts for calmer introductions, blending or "compositing" live-action and totally digital assets into one seamless render. We played on elements that are real, but remixed them into something that is fresh. And that's what's ultimately exciting about this moment in time. More than ever, we can be self-aware. We can be self-referential. Be it 8-bit retro, the 80s, unicorns, you name it! We can give viewers an opportunity to put things together and be surprised.
HOW TO CONVERT CONTENT INTO A STORY
Still not sure how to utilize these hot video trends and convert your content into a story with video? The key is to utilize video storytelling and video strategizing.
Video storytelling has many qualitative powers and can help your brand accomplish several goals.
- Tell a Unique and Compelling Story. Don't sell your message short. If there's a story worth telling, enlighten and surprise your audience with original video content.
- Demonstrate Subject Matter Expertise. There's no better way to show authority by making a video that discusses a relevant topic to your industry. Comment on a current event or visualize a complex concept. Be creative.
- Entertain and Educate Audiences at Scale. Show the world that you're willing to be emotional or have fun. Forget about your logo and make something that's real and authentic. People might just share it.
Of course, there's already plenty of videos on the web. How do you punch through the noise and intelligently integrate video into your communications strategy? Consider the following.
- Content Curation. Find and repost videos related to your business or industry. The Aluminum Association didn't miss a beat when sharing Weird Al's music video “Foil” on their Facebook page. Show off your meme-literacy and post often!
- Community Creation. Invite the world to create and submit original video content. GE hosts a 6 Second Science Fair tumblr campaign that has kids and adults directly interacting with their brand in quirky and unexpected ways.
- Original Content. And when a story is significant enough, find the resources and talent to produce an original video.
TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CREATING CONTENT
“Content shock” is the premise that as online content (video included) grows exponentially, the capacity of the human mind and a 24 hour day to absorb it are fixed. The gap between the growth and the capability creates the “shock.” There is no suggestion of any downturn in the enthusiasm for digital content in the near future which means the burden on the storyteller grows. Video is a great way to cut through the clutter if you just go back to basics. Keep these tips in mind when creating content:
- Who is your audience? Be specific!
- What do you want them to do, think or feel? Have some fun. Content doesn’t always need to be serious, humor helps a message stick and always makes it fun to share.
- How do you tell an authentic story that has viewers saying “I never thought of it that way before?” Here’s a trick. Think about the exact opposite of your traditional message and use that for inspiration.
CREATE A VIDEO USING ONE OF THIS YEAR'S TOP VIDEO TRENDS
Do you have an upcoming video project but have exhausted all of the typical video techniques? At LAI Video we're ready to help you with your next project using one of this year's hottest video trends!