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The science behind engaging your audience through video

The science behind engaging your audience through video Priscilla Groves

Consumers are 64 to 85 percent more likely to make a purchase after watching a video, which means if your business isn't currently realizing the opportunity of the medium, it should be. Why is this? Because of science, or to be more specific: brain science.

The look, feel, and sound of video works in harmony with our easily distracted brains. This has a lot to do with the fact that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual and 40 percent of nerve fibers are linked to the retina.

So if your company wants to ensure content immediately engages audiences and builds lasting connections, you need to be sure it has plenty of brain appeal.

The science: Your brain on video

To get brain-friendly marketing right, an understanding of the science behind it is crucial.

The first thing businesses need to know is that the cognitive functions we use to read text and watch videos are completely different. The second is that our brains are programmed to minimize cognitive effort and will therefore choose formats that offer the easiest route. Now, add to this that video is 60,000 times faster to process than text, and it is clear video is almost always going to be the best way to grab consumer attention.

And that's not all. Images are not only filed in your long-term memory -- good news for brand recall -- but they also reach the area of the brain that deals with emotion, the medial temporal lobe. When watching a video, we quickly link emotions to the content and, when combined with our tendency to tune out the real world while watching something -- known as dissociation -- this makes video messages the most direct path to deep emotional impact.

So, the big question: how can you create video content that uses this connection to engage?

Tap into emotion

Video does more than stir up emotions in connection with images; it also triggers an impulse to empathize with the people we see on screen and put ourselves in their place.

This process -- the mirror-neuron mechanism -- basically makes video the ideal vehicle for storytelling. It connects with a fundamental instinct to mentally replicate the actions we see others perform and experience the feelings expressed in a story as if they were our own.

This means as long as the message is personal, intriguing, and relevant, it has the potential to make a deep and lasting impression. But it doesn't have to be serious. In fact, a fun video that offers a form of interaction is one of the best ways to stand out and link your brand with a feeling of positivity.

Take for example, BuzzFeed's "How to Make Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Balls" posted on its tasty channel earlier this year. The video tapped into personal taste and the joy of creating sugary snacks -- and as a result it achieved 8.3 million views in just four hours. 

Keep it punchy

In the year 2000, we could pay attention for 12 seconds. Today our attention span of just eight seconds puts us behind the goldfish. Is this a sign of our multi-media, instant-access times? Highly likely. Is a bad thing? Not if marketers are smart with content.

Videos need to spark consumer interest in the first second if they are to make any impact. Content must be short, snappy, and to the point -- and the imagery needs to be eye-catching. Think Mad Men-era billboards with the power of digital motion. Ultimately, the golden principle for marketers to follow is: no intricate product specifications or company histories, just a concise script that cuts straight to the "why this matters."

Jargon is the ultimate no-go. Just because you understand sector acronyms, doesn't mean your audience will. The content of your video should be simple, effective, and -- above all -- useful. A good guide to follow is the rule of four: the problem, the solution, how it works (briefly), and an unmistakable call-to-action.

To guard against boredom and blandness, try drafting a script first -- starting with a core concept and working through the four stages in turn. Simple yet effective.

Play with color

The human brain is also highly sensitive to color. Blue for example, is considered the color of trust, while yellow evokes feelings of optimism. Red creates urgency: good for sales, bad for safety products.

Moreover, research shows that 62 to 90 percent of product decisions are made on the basis of color alone. So the lesson is: don't choose your favorite shades; pick the colors that match your audience, brand, and marketing goals.

The brain is an incredible pattern recognition and analysis machine. We have capacity to identify and find meaning in all kinds of patterns, both visual and social, and we also find them appealing -- ergo careful color selection within a well-designed pattern will make sure your video graphics are a winner.

There you have it. Video is more than a collection of enticing images that keep us enthralled, but the brain's preferred method of processing pretty much anything. You've heard the science behind its power; now go put it into action before your customers lose interest.

Priscilla is an award-winning copywriter with 8 years of experience in the ad industry. Her entrepreneurial career began in 2010 when she founded an online voiceover marketplace, which led to the creation of video production studio Piehole.TV.

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