1. The ESports Generation
ESports is no longer the niche realm of gamers. This emerging sport involves professional players, teams, and leagues competing in games like Counter Strike, League of Legends and Call of Duty, investment from big names in major U.S. sports, and growing interest from sponsors. Cutting edge brands including Mountain Dew, Mercedes – even L’Oréal -- want in on the eSports action. Earlier this year, media firms and brands alike flocked to a NewFront event dedicated to eSports advertising opportunities.
Brands know the core Millennial and GenZ eSports audience is less likely than any to pay attention to commercial breaks, pre-roll ads or other standard ad formats, which is one reason they aim to reach them through esports-centric branded videos.
More recently in 2018, Red Bull launched its Before This Was a Thing animated video series featuring eSports players and personalities. In one video, Red Bull tells the tale of Fighting Game Community commentator Samantha "Persia" Hancock’s Chinatown bus riding travails during her early tournament days.
“ESports is a future area that illustrates the social change taking place towards the digital world, one we take very seriously and support,” Bettina Haussmann, senior manager sponsoring, product placement and motorsports at Mercedes-Benz, told Marketing Week in May 2018.
In conjunction with its presence at the ESL One tournament in Genting, Malaysia in January, the luxury auto brand created new video content as part of its global ‘Grow Up’ brand campaign, but with an ESports theme.
2. Immediacy and Connection through Live Video
Great branded video storytelling doesn’t always have to be about big budgets and high production value. Sometimes it’s scrappy, off-the-cuff and live. With platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Periscope enabling live video capabilities, live video consumption is growing, as brands from the worlds of retail to pharma take advantage of the trend.
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s June 2018 Live Video Streaming: A Global Perspective study, more than two-thirds -- 67% -- of consumers across the globe have streamed live video content. In fact, the ad industry trade group found that 47% of survey participants said they stream more live video content now than they did a year ago.
And it’s not all about watching the ball game, either. While 31% of the study’s respondents said they use live video to catch sporting events as they happen, 30% watch live tutorial and how-to videos. And around a quarter of them – 24% – said they view live videos from online celebrities and influencers.
From live business conference coverage and interviews to in-depth product demos or fun live shopping sprees, there are myriad opportunities for brands to employ live video, whether they aim for an impromptu Facebook Live moment or a more elaborately prepared live event.
J. Crew often uses Instagram Live video to connect with fans of the brand and offer short-term deals. The apparel brand regularly delivers exclusive offers to consumers who click through special Instagram video links that are valid only during a brand streaming event, providing an incentive for followers to check-in with the brand on Instagram often so as not to miss out.
Live brand tie-ins with video influencers are another way to go. Department store Kohl’s, for example, partnered with fashion and beauty vlogger Judy Travis of ItsJudyTime to highlight its Black Friday sales through Facebook Live video. The makeup-obsessed influencer shopped with her mom, showed off her holiday haul, and included links to all the items she purchased. Kohl’s came alive again with a live video workout in conjunction with LA-based workout brand Tone It Up.
Live extended-stream video events are an option for brands that want to provide in-depth education or immerse audiences in an experience. Take GE, for instance. The brand highlighted its Relax, Refresh, and Reveal LED light bulbs through a three-hour 360-degree livestream during which its host spoke with creators about how GE lightbulbs facilitate their creative process.
3. The Lives Behind the Brands
Our individual human experiences form the foundation of some of the most gripping stories. So, it only makes sense that brands have latched onto that core truth in their narrative video. Brands such as Lulemon, Whole Foods, and REI have excelled in producing ongoing video content that spotlights the people who engage with their brands and products and their real-life experiences.
Lululemon’s Ambassadors series has highlighted an array of individuals who represent the spirit of the brand -- from cyclist Taylor Phinney and pole vaulter Melinda Withrow to strength trainer Dusty Breeding. Though the brand hasn’t forgotten its roots; it also has featured interviews with a long list of yoga practitioners and enthusiasts.
While the bulk of video content from Whole Foods is focused on food and recipes, the brand took a different direction through its Stories from the Field video series. The grocery chain focused on the people behind the products in its stores such as the founders of specialty vegan condiments brand Sir Kensington's, and the farmers at pork farm Thompson Farms. A short-form documentary spotlighting community activists in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood went even further outside the box.
Another food industry brand, yogurt maker Chobani recently launched a video series highlighting its incubator program which supports food startups such as small beverage businesses Pique Tea and ginger beer maker Farmer Willie’s.
Like Whole Foods, REI has produced its share of recipe videos such as the one showing how to make veggie chili while camping. Yet among the outdoor gear and lifestyle brand’s most riveting videos are the ones in its REI: Presents series. There, viewers experience slice-of-life stories about female wildfire fighters or ultra-long-distance racers told amid lush natural settings of destinations like Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region and Grand Teton National Park.
Rather than simply marketing and selling products or services, by connecting the brand to the natural interests of consumers – athletics, the great outdoors, community activism -- these people-focused stories can help establish a more organic and possibly even deeper bond between audience and brand.
4. Tantalizing Food and Media Brand Pairings
Hey, people love to eat, so it stands to reason that they also get pretty excited about watching videos featuring stuff to eat. Indeed, food-themed content drives video views for brands.
Companies as diverse as food storage products maker Reynolds and Chipotle Mexican Grill have invested in producing branded video content. Reynolds Kitchens offers up short and fast-paced videos featuring sandwich wrapping solutions or demos for cookie baking and slow cook pulled chicken tacos using its parchment paper and slow cooker liner products. Quick-serve Mexican restaurant Chipotle recently launched a series of light-hearted videos detailing the history of ingredients used in its menu items such as rice and avocados.
We’d expect to see endemic food brands investing in eating-centric video fare; however, the aroma of video views has enticed media brands to the food-themed video table, too. Mobile-first millennial-aimed outlet Tastemade excels by producing recipe preparation video content of consistently high-quality aesthetics. In addition to publishing striking instructional videos for Colorful Fruity Jello Desserts or Blackened Salmon with Avocado Salsa accompanied by the recipes themselves, Tastemade also has produced videos featuring cooking personalities from across the globe.
Big-name media brands like Time Inc., BBC and BuzzFeed are turning up the heat on their food video efforts. Time, Inc.’s MyRecipes.com launched its video-heavy Well Done brand in 2017. Along with time-lapsed recipe demonstration videos like the one featuring decadent Loaded Fried Ravioli Nachos, Well Done also features a variety of fun series such as Cool, Mom, which spotlights a regular mom as she attempts to recreate latte art or bento box lunches.
Others jumping on the food video gravy train are BBC, whose BBC Good Food provides how-to videos for making meringue dessert pavlova or vegetable soup. BuzzFeed’s BuzzFeedNifty videos reinforce the rapid-fire editing style and list-icle approaches common to oft-shared social content in its Fun Food Hacks videos such as “9 Easy Campfire Meals” and “6 Creative Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthy.”
Smart brands understand the power of social video for connecting with their target consumers. These trends are reflective of the fact that brands who create great content are listening and effectively tapping into the lives and interests of their followers.
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FROM TREND TO ESSENTIAL
The Data-Inspired Branded Video Explosion
The digital video landscape evolves at a breakneck pace. As hungry audiences immerse themselves in video content, brands and media firms leap in with both feet. ICX Media, your partner for data-inspired branded video storytelling, explores this rapidly growing category, what propels it, and the trends and brands to watch.
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