The Single Biggest Mistake Companies Make in Video Brand Awareness Campaigns

For someone to become aware of your brand, they should primarily become aware of the product, right?
After all, that’s what you’re selling isn’t it? What’s the point of making people aware of your brand if they aren’t going to buy your stuff right away?
This mindset literally flushes millions of dollars down the drain on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, this is the talk that permeates a lot of PR board rooms and Business Development meetings. And the end result is often a piece of content that was meant to make people aware of your brand, but instead, drove them away.

Because what everyone seems to be missing is that business, at its most basic level, is a transaction between two human beings. Both parties with wants, needs, fears, loves, and riding the rollercoaster of life.
When you speak the language of products, you’re not speaking to people, you’re speaking to their bank accounts. And, unfortunately for all of us, bank accounts can’t make buying decisions. The people that own them do.

So our job, in brand awareness, must be to win them over first.

Win hearts and minds first, and then move them down the funnel to become loyal customers. Trust me, the ROI is wild when you shift your focus in this way.

So what’s the biggest problem with most brand awareness campaigns? They focus on the product, not the person – the wallet, not the person that bought they jeans it lives in.

Forget About the Product, But Not the Customer

Often there’s a disconnect going on here on either the creative/mission side and the ad buying side. I wrote at length about mistakes made on the ad buying side here.

But today I want to tackle the creative/mission mistake that is often made, because if that isn’t right, it doesn’t even matter how the targeting works in any paid traffic scenario.

The first thing we do when we start working on a branded content campaign for any company we work with is flesh out their avatar in an intensive way, instead of being hyper-focused on what the company is selling. After all, what comes first, the product, or the problem? The problem comes first, that’s why the product was created in the first place. And the problem is felt/created by the human being/avatar. The product does not exist without this person, so we need to figure out exactly who they are first.

Here’s an example of the unique method we’ve developed for fleshing out customer avatars, this is the exact grid we fill out for every new branded content campaign we work on:

This is an exercise that usually only direct response marketers bother with. But when you ignore this information in a brand awareness campaign – who exactly are you bringing into your funnel?
Notice that almost none of this focuses on the product, it focuses on the person. And everything that comes out in the last section of this exercise (paint points/wants/needs) helps us figure out who these people are and what they’re interested in.
And here’s the secret – it has very little to do with your product!
Think of the product like the summit of a mountain that you’ve spent all day climbing. What are you going to be most impacted by and resonate with – the day-long, challenging, character-building climb? Or the 20 minutes you spent at the top of the mountain when you were done.

The climb of course! The journey is more important, just like the customer’s life journey that led them to the problem you are solving with your product.

That is what you want to speak to, empathize with, and create your content around.

What does this actually look like?

I executive produced a campaign with Toyota about a year ago in conjunction with the Paralympics. It was a 7-episode social video series we shot in Switzerland in the lead-up to Pyeongchang.
I can say with utmost confidence, we weren’t talking about cars in this series, we were talking about stories, about people.
Toyota was in the midst of creating a global campaign both with the Olympics and Paralympics called “Start Your Impossible,” as they were targeting a segment of the car-buying market that was adventurous, forward-thinking, and cared about people and the world.
Through a series of profile and explainer videos on the human stories of athletes, we were able to get their target audience (and the top of their marketing funnel) thinking about Toyota as a trailblazing brand that cares, rather than a company that sells cars.

The human, not the product. Here’s an example of one of those videos:


It’s hard to think of a better example than what Dove did in 2013 with their Real Beauty campaign.
As I often say when I teach this campaign in my advertising and PR college classes after we watch the video – THIS COMPANY SELLS SOAP!
If you haven’t seen it – the video features a number of women who agree to sit for two sketches. One made from the way the women describe themselves, and the other made from a stranger’s observations of the women.
As we moved to the climactic scene – where the women saw the two sketches side by side – the emotional impact was enormous. As you can imagine, the sketches portraying the way they thought of themselves were much less attractive than the sketches drawn from an outsider’s descriptions.

Here’s the video:

The message? We tend to have a much more negative view of ourselves than the rest of the world does (I’m getting emotional just thinking about it right now!).
Notice the staggering lack of soap in this piece of content (which, by the way, got 68.5 million views on YouTube).
The lesson here from a PR/Marketing perspective is clear – focus on the human element, and you win. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

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Matt Johnston and Allie Bloyd