5 Instances of What Not to Do in a Video Marketing Campaign

A misstep could end up with an audience feeling isolated and confused

Video marketing is about more than just following best practices; it’s also about avoiding some of the most common mistakes. History is littered with painful marketing blunders, especially when it comes to content that’s as sensitive and complex as video. Luckily, there’s a simple way that you can avoid making most major video marketing mistakes, and it all relates to understanding your audience.

Despite video being a very complex medium, there are still mistakes that many companies make over and over again. And these aren’t small companies—they’re large global corporations. A few of the most common video marketing mistakes include the following.

Throwing money at your advertising

In 2018, Squarespace’s Super Bowl ad shot its advertising budget on an inscrutable Keanu Reeves production, leaving their audiences more confused than intrigued. Comparatively, take a look at this low budget animal shelter ad that almost immediately went viral. Though it didn’t have a budget, it understood its audience. At its core, video marketing is about relating to your audience. If you don’t have the right message and you don’t trust your audience, millions of dollars aren’t going to save you.

You don’t need a lot of money to create a great ad. You just need to be earnest. Think strongly about the message that you want to send out to your audience and whether or not you’re remaining true to your company’s mission statement.

Insulting your audience

Apple learned this lesson well during its tablet marketing campaign. A young girl races through her day with her tablet, using it to do everything from design new fashion to keep in touch with her friends. At the end of the seemingly unobjectionable commercial, her neighbor asks politely, “What are you doing on that computer?” “What’s a computer?” the child responds, which immediately enraged 90 percent of the audience, who now feel old and attacked.

At its core, video marketing is about relating to your audience.

Apple made a really common mistake: They didn’t think about their core demographic enough. If they had done enough focus testing, they would have realized that the millennial audience they were interested in wouldn’t associate themselves with the child but instead the polite neighbor. With that reframing, it becomes less about an inspirational child and more about a purposefully obtuse brat.

Trying to insert yourself into hot-button topics

Pepsi was nearly boycotted after it attempted to publish an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner at a protest against police brutality. They didn’t understand that the new protests were specifically against violence caused by the police and that their advertisement would appear to be promoting this violence rather than discouraging it.

When possible, it’s usually best to avoid current events and controversial topics; public sentiment regarding these issues can change quickly. The temptation is there to capitalize on the energy related to current events, but that energy can quickly turn into something negative. If you do want to talk about current issues that may align with the core values of your company, you need to do your research.

Not considering other audiences

When Bud Light launched its new #UpForWhatever campaign, its commercials were filled with its tagline: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” A great tagline for the demographic they were shooting for: male adrenaline junkies and partiers—but not a great tagline for, it turns out, most women.

That’s why marketers need to test their commercials outside of their core demographics, too. Otherwise, they can get tunnel vision and may not be able to notice things that are outside of their culture and focus.

Failing to add a call to action

Even large businesses can make this mistake. In the 2018 Super Bowl, Stella Artois delivered a confusing ad that integrated a charity appeal with their own advertising and included a celebrity spokesman. The audience was left wondering exactly what they were supposed to do, as they had been made aware of the charity but left to their own devices.

A call to action needs to tell the audience exactly what they should do next. While big brands like McDonald’s can create “awareness campaigns” (campaigns that just remind the audience the product exists), smaller brands have to direct the audience to a specific action. This can include checking out a website, calling a number or visiting a brick-and-mortar location.

As you can see, these mistakes all have one thing in common: They didn’t keep the audience in mind. Ultimately marketing is all about trying to display a message to the audience in the clearest and most memorable way. When this fails, the marketing fails.

At the same time, it’s also important to note that large multinational or global companies have made many of these mistakes. With all of their resources, marketing research and experience, they still couldn’t entirely avoid video marketing mistakes. Everyone will make mistakes from time to time. and most of them can be recovered from. You just need to pay attention to what your customers are saying.