3 Common Video Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Every brand needs its own unique strategy

Did you know brand recall increases when viewers see an ad on TV AND streaming? Download "A Practical Playbook for Multiscreen TV" to learn more.

I got my start in advertising by accident. I never went to ad school or film school; I made videos on YouTube that went viral, and brands started reaching out.

I’ve worked with brands big and small, and I started to notice that many brands—especially the less established ones—would make the same mistakes with their video strategy.

What works for Apple and Nike is not what works for everyone else. Even though we all know that intuitively, we still get seduced. We see the splashy campaigns, the trade pub coverage, the awards, and we start to crave videos like that.

But for most companies, that is the wrong strategy because you most likely don’t have the brand awareness that Apple or Nike has. You don’t have the budget that they have, either. So you need to think about your video strategy differently and spend money more wisely.

Mistake No. 1: Spending too much on the video production budget

Usually expensive things are better quality than cheap things, so you would think that if you spent more money on your video, you would get a better-performing video.

What works for Apple and Nike is not what works for everyone else.

When we do our shoots, we bring out the expensive cameras and film crew but we also have an iPhone shooter getting low-fi footage. When we run split tests, over and over again we’ve seen that footage shot on the iPhone performs best. Sometimes it performs better by a lot. We’ve seen the iPhone video outperform the expensive RED digital cinema camera by a difference of millions of organic views before.

Why is that?

Because when people are scrolling through a social media feed, they’re all trying to avoid ads. Too much polish; it looks like an ad, and they’ll skip right over it. But if it’s shot on a smartphone, then it looks like something their friend might’ve made, and they’re more likely to watch it.

You’ll still want a certain level of polish and professionalism for the videos that go on your website or run on TV, of course. But challenge yourself to shoot something with a smartphone and test how it performs for your Instagram and Facebook ads.

Myth: Expensive is better.

Reality: You’d be surprised how often cheap outperforms expensive.

Mistake No. 2: Chasing the creative idea instead of the simple one

Most brands need videos that will ultimately help them increase sales. But too often, agencies are motivated differently; they want splashy creative work that makes their portfolio look good. The work that wins awards is often not the work that drives sales.

Creatives fall in love with their ideas and forget about the product they’re meant to be selling. They spend so much time on the creative angle that by the time they get to the product message, most of their viewers have moved on to the next video. Your viewers are scrolling quickly across their feeds and you have less than three seconds to make your point.

I’ve definitely been guilty of making this mistake myself. After all, it’s much more fun to make creative work. And there is some room to be creative, just make sure it doesn’t sacrifice the simplicity of your product message. Here’s a challenge: Come up with a visually eye-catching idea that tells the product message in less than three seconds.

Myth: You have to come up with the latest greatest creative idea.

Reality: You have less than three seconds to make your point, so keep it simple.

Mistake No. 3: Focusing only on making your brand look good

One of the most common mistakes I see marketers make is that they try really hard to make their brand look cool. It’s understandable; if you’re pouring all this money into video, of course you want your brand to look good.

But that’s not how you make a video that people want to watch and want to share.

People share things because it makes them look smart, clever or funny by association. Because sharing lets them signal something about their own personality or beliefs.

So instead of focusing on how to make your brand look good, think about how to make your customer look good for sharing the video. That’s how you get people to talk about your brand.

Myth: People will buy if I make my brand look good.

Reality: People will buy if I make them look good.

Adweek magazine cover
Click for more from this issue

This story first appeared in the April 8, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.