Too Many Brands Expect Viral Video Magic

Vidyard CEO Michael Litt argues for more data, more strategy, more content and bigger budgets

Branded video presents a huge opportunity for marketers to capture and persuade a target audience. However, I continue to see companies make critical mistakes with online video content. 

It seems every company wants to replicate viral video initiatives, but they lack both the money and the creative agency to reach the goal. There are simply too many unknowns. Most brands have a restricted budget. And far too often I see brands planning for the Hail-Mary video project without an effective distribution and analytics strategy in place.

The way I see it, companies make four main mistakes when it comes to brand videos.

For one, they fail to focus on building a message over time. They also typically don’t produce enough content. More often than not they don’t have a plan. And lastly, most brands seeking viral magic fail to use basic analytics and insights to improve the process and drive more engagement.

Modern marketers are obsessed with the big play. That is, the single campaign that, when executed perfectly via a mixture of wit, intensity, timing and luck, brews media attention, consumer interest and millions of dollars in sales.

Unfortunately this focus on a one-hit-wonder can leave budgets and morale in a dire state when it inevitably goes wrong. I call this the Super Bowl Effect.

The Super Bowl is a massive event. This year’s game averaged 108.4 million excited fans. And with companies spending approximately $3.8 million per ad spot, there’s both high risk and high reward for brands that partake. The problem is that marketers get the idea that every brand video they produce has to have the same effect as a Super Bowl ad.

That said, companies are placing an enormous amount of pressure on a five-person content team to create next quarter’s biggest viral video, only to feel let down when the results don’t meet their expectations. The team expends enormous energy creating a complex video, but end up missing the mark. The goal shouldn’t be to create a Super Bowl ad, or a viral video. The goal is to deliver a tailored message that guides customers to your brand over time through smaller, strategic releases.

Then, they expect social media to just make a video spread. But social marketing doesn’t rely on one single tweet or Facebook message to drive results to the bottom line, it’s about a consistent flow of links and sound bites that satiate your audience and drive interest in your brand through your culture and mission statement. This same mentality can be applied to video marketing in a model that I call narrowcasting.

The theory behind narrowcasting is that not everyone in your audience is the same and therefore the need for variety in your content is key to success. You simply can’t place your entire focus on a single video to drive the type of awareness that is essential to building your brand. The best video marketers are producing content on a scheduled and regular basis. 

Thus, consistency and frequency are key. We live in a relentlessly noisy world. Everyone is competing for attention via every form of content marketing imaginable. The important point here is that, just like you wouldn’t create a single tweet, you certainly shouldn’t create a single video.

Each video you produce and distribute to your audience offers a portal into their interests and behaviors. How many times has each viewer watched the content? What sections did they re-watch?

Many companies are concerned with the ROI on video marketing. Traditionally you could post your video to YouTube and hope to make an impact, but now it’s all about the metrics and learning about exactly who your audience is.

The data you can collect about your video content can be used to inform the video production process and ultimately, to tell a better story in future content.

Smart marketers need to be looking to video platforms that give you great feedback from your audience and viewers. The best platforms can integrate with current marketing automation programs and can help you identify which of your leads and/or customers actually engaged with the content and for how long.

This type of data is vital to the entire sales and marketing process at your organization. It’s impossible to get this kind of granularity out of any other medium.

With this in mind, I highly encourage you to avoid the creative agency for now and produce your first few pieces of content on your own. Create a schedule, produce the content, analyze the results and practice, practice, practice.

That’s the secret to a strong video marketing playbook. 

Michael Litt is the CEO and co-founder of video marketing/tech firm Vidyard. He can be reached at