Why consumer brands must think like media companies in 2023

Spend any time around young adults, and the meaning of ‘video-first generation’ becomes clear. For this cohort – whether shopping, catching up with friends, or just relaxing – video content is the way they make sense of the world.

In fact, a global survey of 16-to-34 year olds shows they’re more likely to visit a social network, like TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, than a search engine for information about brands. For Gen Z, average time on social media is now 40 minutes more per day than time spent watching broadcast or cable television.

It’s just the latest evidence that consumer brands can only thrive if they begin to produce video content in earnest. But there needs to be a break from standard video ads – brands must think like media companies, and figure out how to create video that engages, earns trust, and, most importantly, stays in the mind.

The trouble with old-school ads

If, like me, you came of age before the millennium, TV ads from your childhood have stayed with you. Remember jingles? Or ads where the same character appeared in every commercial? And whether it was a car, cologne or coffee, there was always the heavy hint that the product would turbo-charge your sex appeal. 

Consumers today are done with all that. While they have a natural affinity for video, they’re also discerning – and repulsed by anything inauthentic. Sales and marketing teams are grappling with other factors, too, that are making it harder to guarantee their bosses that an ad spend of x will deliver a return of y. 

Here are just some of the headwinds hitting brand advertisers now:

Huge competition for consumer attention

Your target customer isn’t guaranteed to be watching TV or listening to radio anymore – there’s a huge range of places they spend their time, with social media reigning supreme. And while social networks let brands advertise, your budget must be spread across a range of destinations to reach your target. Plus, social media have non-traditional ad methodologies, including influencer marketing and detailed audience targeting that brands need to understand.

Privacy controls make precision-targeting difficult

Even for brands who’ve mastered the targeting allowed by social media, those controls are becoming diluted. Privacy regulations (as well as ad blockers) increasingly make it difficult to reach your precise audience, or anyone at all.

More advertisers than ever vying for eyeballs

Years ago, when there were just a handful of TV channels, only big-budget brands could afford to advertise. Now, the vast amount of available ad inventory means there’s also an explosion of competition from brands new and old.  And consumers struggle to retain what they see – a ‘noise’ factor that makes it harder to be memorable.

Think like a media company to create video they’ll remember

Thinking like a media company begins with loosening the approach to video as a whole. Be willing to experiment, as the most successful consumer brands have done. A glance at TikTok shows that engaging, often hilarious video is being produced by young content creators using nothing more than their imaginations, a great grasp of story, and the on-board editing tools, which are becoming more sophisticated by the day.

Realize, too, that consumers are willing to watch video that doesn’t feel like slickly-produced, big-budget content. Your customers have grown up enjoying amateur unboxings of Barbie dolls on YouTube – not everything has to feel studio-quality. Remember that BBC interview with a suit-wearing pundit whose toddler marched into frame behind him? Its sheer authenticity is what made it go viral.  

Memorable video can be a mix of “produced” and candid content: rehearsed pieces to camera, as well the out-takes, or other content that pulls back the curtain to let viewers see behind the scenes. Above all, it’s important for your video content to find a way to connect with consumers, because you need them to believe in your company as well as your product. 

Could you put together a video that tells an anecdote about how you got into business? What about the mission of your company? Is there a story or a craft heritage behind your products? 

Could you create a show where you demonstrate your products being used in context? Brands like Patagonia do this beautifully – as well as supporting the creation of stunning documentary films. Context can provide some of that all-important story around what you offer, and story is what will connect with consumers and make you memorable.

Interactive video: what’s now and what’s next

At Axonista we’re probably best known for video commerce solutions we provide to powerhouses like QVC, and a key element they’re bringing to the fore is interactivity. Making video interactive allows consumers to act on the feelings inspired by your content

If they’ve just viewed a video about the heritage of your company, and they’re browsing your products, how will you field those questions? In the future, AI tools and chatbots could help – and even  answer common questions about color choice, size, or substitutions. 

Interactivity also means giving your consumers a voice: could you host a live shopping event where you take questions from the audience and allow them to be part of the show? This kind of interactivity is already standard practice for giants like QVC, but any consumer brand can begin now on their interactivity journey. You just need to brainstorm ways that you can open up your video communication with consumers to be a two-way conversation, not an old-school, one-way broadcast.  

The future of consumer advertising is authentic, video-first, and open to conversation. How will your brand take this forward?

Claire McHugh is CEO and co-founder of Axonista, the video innovation platform. Reach her at https://twitter.com/clairemchugh or https://www.linkedin.com/in/clairemchugh/