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5 Daring Rules of Video Storytelling to Make You Win

Okay, you’ve heard the bad news:

Our attention span is short, which makes it close to impossible for marketers to hold consumer attention.

But the good news is on its way:

Attention span is evolving. So the recipe for our engagement is the combination of stimulating visuals and a compelling narrative.

What does it have to do with marketing?

In 2019, consumers prefer watching a 2-minute video rather than reading a 2,000-word text to make buying decisions. More than that, 64% of them say that a video makes them more likely to buy. What does it mean for marketers?

A new round of video storytelling growth and a new, even bloodier battle in the endless war for customer loyalty.

We know that storytelling is a must for an effective marketing strategy. We know how to use it in short, 15-second videos. We know most tricks to make your brand videos stand out.


To win the war, not just a battle, we need to bite more than we can chew. What about some extra, darer rules of video storytelling to impress your emotionally smart and oversaturated consumers?

Storytelling for 2019

Here go five:

1) No words

Having regard to the above (attention span, content shock, info oversupply), “show don’t tell” principle works in 2019 like never before. Put it to the fact that over half of video content is watched on mobile devices with the sound turned off, and voila:

You don’t need words to tell your video story to consumers.

Trigger emotions by visual components. Show your USP rather than tell about it. Hook people with context. They need to understand what happens in your video story with the sound off.

Brands that have been around for a long time take the most out of this trick. Just to name a few, Apple’s video to announce iPhone 6s launch was with no words but visually demonstrated the advanced functionality of a new device:

Sounds matter here too, but a viewer still can understand the story behind this video when watching it with silent mode.

Or, take a look at the video story from GoPro:

Creators don’t tell about GoPro here. They don’t show a camera, they don’t talk about its features, and they don’t even mention the brand here. No promotion, just an amazing story that everyone remembers: holistic, covering the three-act structure that is a classic of storytelling…

… And yet showing how their product can be beneficial.

2) Let colors speak

With no words, consider alternative components to communicate your message to the audience. Context, in particular.

Your instruments here are colors, fonts, filters, and the overall environment you create in a video to translate a message. Background music speaks volumes here, either. (Thus, we don’t need to hear words or see that black bucket on Darth Vader’s head to understand he’s coming, do we? The Imperial March says it all.)

Storytelling in 2019

However, you can use that black bucket for own videos as most people associate it with evil and power. Similar to a black color in general. That’s how the context works.

NB! Consider your audience demographics and cultural background when choosing a context for video storytelling. What works for Baby Boomers won’t work with Millennials, and what wows Americans won’t impress the Chinese.

You’ve got the point, right?

Color is your most powerful weapon here. As you know, each color conveys a particular message, and brands use color psychology to reflect their positioning. It works for video storytelling too, differentiating your content from competitors’ and influencing your audience’s mood.

That’s why McDonald’s is red, Facebook is blue, and most modern movies are… orange and teal.

Storytelling for 2019


3) Give them a hero

Guess what’s even more boring than talking a lot?


It’s talking about yourself. For your video stories to win the consumer loyalty war, give the audience a hero to relate to. And it’s not your business but someone behind it: you, employees, or — the perfect choice — your customers.

Case in point:

Why do you think millions of young adults were attached to The Twilight Saga despite its art nothingness? (Sorry, fans, I go by IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings here.)

Bella Swan is the answer. The audience relates to her, associating themselves with the traits of this character: courage, hope, independence, acceptance. More than that, we all are familiar with the problems of a young adult in school.

Storytelling for 2019

And that’s the reason why Marty McFly is the hero of Back To the Future, not Doc. How many people familiar with the physics behind time traveling do you know? I bet they are far fewer than teenagers enjoying music, video games and trying to solve (or escape from) their everyday problems.

A palmary example in marketing is Nike. Their videos aren’t about selling snickers but telling stories of real people. Those willing to change their life, those who don’t stop and “just do it,” those who dream and win. They are heroes.

Sujan Patel, the owner of Right Inbox and co-founder of Mailshake, nailed it in his article:

Sujan Patel
Owner of Right Inbox

Nearly everything Nike does is accompanied by a backstory, and their website is rife with them. And yet Nike doesn’t just tell its own stories: the company is pretty passionate about giving others a voice, as well. Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a story.

Nike’s video storytelling is not about products but their global mission: resonating with people, appealing to emotions, and showing how the brand can make a path to your dreams to come true.

They don’t even mention the brand name in commercials, c’mon!

4) Add the element of surprise

Let’s recap a dictionary:

“Element of surprise: the unexpected or surprising character of something.”

Like a purple cow on the Alps meadows, — five seconds to you to name the brand here! — or a giant panda terrorizing people in the market, office, or wherever they don’t want to eat the Panda cheese.

Or, Ned Stark killed in the first season of the world-known series…

Sorry, just unburden my mind.

But whatever element of surprise you choose, stay creative and make sure it’s relevant to your brand.

Most people are still waiting to be amazed when watching or listening to a story, like as they were in childhood when moms or dads read them bedtime fairytales. That golden element of “awww,” “wow,” or “wtf?” is what makes the audience take a closer look at your video and pay attention to your message.

5) Focus

Sometimes, details help to build a context. But lots of details get the audience disoriented, confused, frustrated, and eventually lost in a story.

A human brain is lazy and has around 200 cognitive biases to protect itself from:

  • too much information
  • too complex world around
  • the necessity to be quick
  • the necessity to remember a lot

For all that, 85% of people believe they are less biased than others. (Sad, but they are wrong.) Show them where to focus, arranging the visuals of your video story the right way.

First, understand the rule of thirds. Framing your videos like that, you’ll give some extra depth to a story.

The rule of thirds


Then, watch this excellent explanation of how it works in video storytelling. Created by Every Frame A Painting, it demonstrates the focus by the example of Drive:

In a nutshell, structure your videos so a viewer could understand its most important elements. Keep videos short and clear, don’t tell anything in a minute if you can do that in ten seconds. Or, better five.

Add action.

Teach them. Answer their eternal “so what?” question.

And once you deal with that — you win.

About the author: With 7+ years in marketing, Lesley Vos specializes in sales copywriting and storytelling. Currently associating with Bid 4 Papers, she’s also a regular contributor to many publications on business, marketing, and self-growth. Feel free to find more works of Lesley on Twitter.

5 Daring Rules of Video Storytelling to Make You Win in 2019

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