Don’t be generic (or tragic) like this brand video

These days, a company’s brand is just as if not more important than its products. And, a trend has emerged where we are seeing a whole lot more brand advertising in videos designed to emotionally connect consumers, wherein companies small and large don’t really attempt to sell anything. They just hope viewers will connect with their company, values, purpose, and their brand.

Influential and highly emotional storytelling can connect audiences locally and nationally for nearly any brand if there is a strong message behind it. By eliciting feelings in viewers, brand videos can encourage increased sharing and maximize earned media. With the flexibility of online video, a company has the opportunity to create a story around its brand and share it with the world. And, consumers are definitely watching brands’ storytelling videos – since 2009 we’ve viewed branded videos more than 19 billion times. A study by Visible Measures says “of those 19 billion views, audiences themselves generated 3.4 billion views by copying, re-posting, or even making parodies of the original.”

So, what’s in a brand video? Is it an exciting and inspirational instrument used to relay a company’s purpose? Or has it become a collection of stock footage?

Well, stock image and video company Dissolve recently compiled every single cliché described in Kendra Eash’s satirical poem This is a Generic Brand Video published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Although an unusual self-promotion, the video pretty accurately describes the kinds of signifiers that we often see fill brand videos for companies, coupled with music and a strong, yet familiar sounding narrator. The truth is this video is tragically funny and anyone who works in public relations, marketing or advertising needs to see it.

I especially like the line, “Also, we care about the environment, loosely.” Check out the video.


This Is a Generic Brand Video from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, as this parody video portrays, a trend has developed where companies are simply slapping together stock footage in all kinds of media – random shots of scientists, environmental scenes and extremely diverse and overly happy people.

One reason could be because creating original content is expensive and time-consuming. But companies should not view this as an instruction manual. Brands don’t have to use vague words, synonyms for progress, high speed trains or time lapse footage of a busy city at night. Believe it or not, there’s a ton of research that goes into realizing a company’s brand positioning – brand strategists really don’t just randomly choose words from a list.

So, what can we learn from this?

I think we can all agree that a good story should be at the heart of your brand and the video used to convey it. It should be captivating and communicate the overall message and positioning of your brand’s purpose. It should excite and inspire the viewer, and motivate them to think twice about your brand. It should not rely on just creative execution. While stock footage can visually support what you are trying to get across, when all’s said and done, it’s the message that you want to resonate, not necessarily the visuals. If you start with a strong concept that directly reflects your company and brand, you can’t go wrong.

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