Luke Hale is a managing video producer at one of the largest, most trusted, and most admired companies in the world, but I’m not allowed to say the name of that company on this show because Luke is not authorized to speak for that company in the media. Luke also created and runs Masters of Engagement, which provides video strategy consulting and education.
There is one pitfall related to video marketing and corporate storytelling that almost every marketer falls into. If we can avoid this one pitfall, we are going to make it further than 90% of our competitors. By avoiding this pitfall we will be able to earn much more attention and follow-through from our story.
Engagement Loop in Super Mario Brothers
If a potential customer sees a video thumbnail image and wants to know what’s in that video, they are usually going to click play. When that person pushes play on one of our videos, an engagement loop is opened.
When Mario begins the first level of Super Mario Brothers, or any Mario game, the first thing he learns is that Bowser has taken the princess. That becomes one engagement loop Mario has to complete if the player wants to complete the game.
This also happens when someone clicks to watch our videos. They’ve opened an engagement loop for some reason, and they are there to close it.
Then there are other engagement loops within Super Mario Brothers. Mario also has to get to the flag at the end of each level and raise it up the pole before he can eventually get the princess back. In Mario Brothers, when Mario finishes one engagement loop on the first level, the second level (or engagement loop) immediately begins. Likewise, our videos can have multiple engagement loops. When we close one loop in our videos we need to immediately open the next engagement loop.
If our viewers see something interesting on a thumbnail and they click to watch the video, but discover we’ve misled them or we’ve resolved that conflict immediately, then there’s no reason to watch the rest of the video. The engagement loop is already closed.
As a result when we put our plot together, we have to figure out how to open engagement loops. And, we have to reward the audience by closing those loops, but if we close a loop and haven’t opened a new loop, there’s no reason for the viewer to continue.
Without Conflict, We Don’t Have a Story
Within storytelling, we usually use conflict as an engagement loop. So, when a viewer comes into our video, he or she needs to hear about the conflict, and that’s what 90% of corporate storytellers avoid completely. They say, “I want to represent my brand in the most positive way possible. We’re not going to talk about conflict.”
But, without conflict, we don’t have a story.
We have to have the courage to keep the conflict in the story because we cannot have a heroic Luke Skywalker if we’ve removed Darth Vader from the video.
Luke Hale has lost some big corporate deals by leading with conflict too early when the company was not ready. Businesses don’t always call back if they think you want to focus on conflict. Instead, what we need to do is start by understanding the client’s business, understanding what their audience needs help with, and set their brand up for success as the mentor.
When we have access to engagement level analytics, we can identify and analyze the points of abandonment in the video, the times when viewers stopped watching the video. Then, we can go watch that abandonment point in the video to see if we have closed engagement loops without opening a new engagement loop. When we find places we have closed a loop without opening a new one, that is often where we see abandonment.
4 Steps to Discover and Leverage the Conflict
Here are the four steps to discover the conflict for your video, and to leverage that conflict to tell an engaging story:
1. Find the Shared Enemy – We need to ask ourselves, “What is the shared enemy of my audience?” The answer to that question identifies the conflict. Conflict is critical for storytelling. If you don’t have conflict, you really don’t have a story.
2. Tell the Story of Overcoming – We then have to figure out how we can show someone overcoming that challenge.
3. Create a Hero – We then make that person who overcame the challenge be the hero (or the Luke Skywalker) of our story. Many companies want to put their brand as the hero. When we watch great movies, we have empathy for the hero. We don’t want people to have empathy for our brand. Instead, we want to make our customers the heroes of our stories. We do this by showing customers using our services to overcome their challenges. The hero doesn’t make the transition at the beginning. Instead, they are going through conflict. Then, at the end when the journey makes that transformation, the audience wants to make the transformation with them.
4. Be the Mentor – Position the business as Obi-wan Kenobi, the mentor to guide the hero through their journey. We want potential customers to feel that we can effectively guide them through their challenges and help them make the transformation to become the hero.
Aligning our Videos with Problems the Viewers Want to Solve
Video storytelling should focus on conflict and resolution. For example, if our business is selling servers, our first inclination is mistakenly to give the viewers all the specs and features of the servers. However, our audience really doesn’t care. They want to know about the problems we are going to solve for them.
So, we should use the first 2/3 of our timeline to focus on the conflict and people trying to overcome that problem. This shows our audience that we are aligned with the problems they are battling against.
Then, we can show the resolution, or solution, and how the product solves the problem. But, unfortunately, most video marketers will lead with the solution without first developing the conflict. That is an engagement nightmare. That’s how we lose an audience.
This framework is not the only way to solve this engagement loop problem. Another strategy is “Jenga Storytelling,” which is successfully used in some YouTube storytelling. With this strategy, the video storytellers show the viewers a quick peek of the end result of the video process at the beginning of the video. This could be the craft project completed or the pool filled with jello. This way, the viewer knows the amazing end result of the video to open the engagement loop, and then they are motivated to watch the video through to the completion to see how it was accomplished.
How to Not Fall on Your Face With Video Production
Luke was producing a piece of media for a major brand with an essentially unlimited budget. The video ended up being the cornerstone of the brand’s marketing efforts for a prolonged period of time. The video production was all shot at the highest level one would expect if they were representing a top brand of this size with an unlimited budget.
When we have an unlimited budget, we feel like we want to make an unlimited impact. It’s devastating when that project gets released into the wild and we realize it’s a complete dud. Luke feels this is the most devastating thing ever. The client didn’t get a return on their investment because the media was brand-centric instead of audience-centric.
We always have to think about how we can have empathy for our audience. We should ask, “Why are they coming to our brand?” and “What is the benefit they want to receive?” We should not ask what message we want to share with our audience, but instead, we should ask what message our audience wants us to share with them.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to start with content that has low production cost and create a ton of it. Then, find out what content resonates best with the audience. This way we will have the information we need to decide where to put our production resources. That will lead to much better results for the brand.
The Hidden Advantage of Live Video
As a video producer, live video can be very frustrating. It’s hard to make a live video of the same quality as one we have time to edit well. But, there is a hidden advantage of live video. Because it is live, we are forced into authenticity. This authenticity and the chance it gives viewers to see us unfiltered or polished is what draws them in. Live video also creates urgency. People show up and stick around to watch live video because their opportunity to consume the content is disappearing moment by moment. To really harness the power of live video, we’ve got to put it out there live. Live video with chats or polls can allow the presenter to get live feedback and close that engagement loop immediately, giving the audience what they are asking for.
The Power of Vulnerability
In Luke’s Master’s of Engagement course, one of the lessons involves dancing on camera. The emotion that we all feel when we’re about to dance on camera needs to be incorporated into our productions. It creates a powerful feeling of vulnerability and authenticity, which then results in credibility and audience enjoyment. Vulnerability creates authenticity, which people crave.
(Credit: Luke Hale Master’s of Engagement course)
Calls to Action
Calls to action are too easy to make nebulous, and we have to simplify them. Too often in video, we rely on metaphors. We need to not hide the call to action in a metaphor. If you want your audience to clearly take an action, then you need to clearly articulate what that is. Simplicity goes a long way when making a powerful call to action. Some people are afraid of clear calls to action because they feel they are too “salesy.” But instead of being salesy, clear calls to action can be an opportunity for clarity.
Thank you so much Luke for sharing your video marketing stories and secrets with us. Here are some of the key takeaways that stood out to me:
1. We need to open engagement loops in our storytelling and then reward the audience by closing those loops.
2. When we close a loop, we need to immediately open the next loop to keep our audience engaged and reduce abandonment. (Post-production note: Luke let me know that we need to actually open a new engagement loop before we close an engagement loop.)
3. Without conflict, we don’t have a story.
4. The four steps to discover and leverage conflict in a story are: (1) Find the shared enemy, (2) Tell the story of overcoming, (3) Create a hero, and (4) Be the mentor.
5. Our video marketing should be aligned with the problems our ideal customers want to solve.
6. We should not ask what message we want to share with our audience, but instead, we should ask what message our audience wants us to share with them.
7. The best way to avoid making expensive videos that don’t resonate with our customers is to create a ton of low-cost content, and then focus on creating more of the content that does the best.
8. There is a hidden advantage of live video. Because it is live, we are forced into authenticity and urgency.
9. Vulnerability creates authenticity, which people crave.
10. Simplicity and clarity go a long way when making a powerful call to action.
Connect with Luke Hale
To learn more about Luke and his video strategy consulting and education, please visit:
Here’s a link where you can get a great discount on Luke’s Masters of Engagement online workshop for an insanely low price:
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