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The power of the moving image is undeniable and has often been cited as a key influence over audiences.

Whether it’s a political story to tell, one that encourages viewers to donate to a charity or one that sparks a generation to dress in a particular style, according to Forrester one minute of video is worth 1.8m words.

We recently won a PUMA Creative Impact Award for a film I executive-produced, “The End of the Line”, a documentary film which reveals the impact of over-fishing in our oceans. The award made me pause and think about the lasting impact the moving image can have on audiences.

But what makes a film so influential?

Hollywood movies may influence the sale of merchandise and trends in filming techniques like 3D, but the key influence to measure video is the behavioural change it has on audiences. From Bowling for Columbine to Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners series; these videos create a lasting impact on the viewers. 

Even smaller series such as the recent Great British Bake Off can influence audience behavior. Since the series aired Marks & Spencer has reported sales increases of up to 20% in baking ingredients, while John Lewis has seen a 15% increase in sales of muffin trays and cake tins.

Also, Lakeland reported sales of icing bags, piping equipment and muffin cases have increased by a third in the past year, while those for vintage-style tins and stands have more than doubled.

The Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation carried out research on “The End of the Line” which found a strong influence on consumer habits. Channel 4 analysed the lasting impact it had on businesses and the general public in changing their perceptions to marine sustainability. Since its release over a million people have now seen it, and researchers calculated that for every person who saw the film, 510 knew about it. 

It may be that influence is driven by an emotional connection. Video is a platform that provides a multi-sensory experience – a visual, audio and emotional experience all rolled into one. It’s much more engaging than text and still images and viewers are able to react to video in their own personal way, sharing with their friends via social media and even interact with it.

If this is the case then ‘Cat falling off sofa’ and ‘Baby laughing’ could pull the heartstrings enough to make them influential videos. A recent article in the FT analysed the influence of “memes” or “a unit of cultural transmission. Essentially, this means a contagious idea,” or in marketing speak, a viral campaign.

The article discussed the launch of a book called ‘I Am Maru’ featuring 95 pages of photographs of a cat called Maru, doing what cats do best. It began with YouTube videos posted of Maru playing in cardboard boxes but in August this year, “three weeks before its publication date, it was the number one cat book on Amazon UK.” Maru effectively influenced consumer behavior.

It’s interesting to think about the films that have influenced audiences and how many of them have involved a key protagonist; from Michael Moore to Jamie Oliver, from President Obama to even Maru the cat featured on YouTube. While brands are moving closer to becoming media companies; why are they not producing more influential videos?

Brands' CSR strategies are becoming increasingly important as consumers demand more transparency and a higher level of ethical conduct from a brand. The Carbon Trust recently revealed that 61% of people are more likely to buy from companies with good reputations.

A fantastic example of an influencing CSR campaign is Nike who earlier in the year launched its Better World campaign, a programme that through the acquisition of data can help the industry as a whole better understand its impacts and prepare for future trends like climate change, food and material shortages, and escalating oil prices. Using a video campaign created with recycled Nike ads the brand explains and influences not only its consumers, but peers within the industry.

Brands want to convince consumers to come back to them and create a level of awareness and recognition in an entertaining way. You have to create something that is memorable, whether in an emotional sense or the important subject matter it’s about.

Video has the ability to change people’s behaviour; done effectively and you define your brand position and remain firmly in your target audiences mind.

Chris Gorell Barnes

Published 4 November, 2011 by Chris Gorell Barnes

Chris Gorell Barnes is CEO of Adjust Your Set and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also follow him on Twitter

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Nick Stamoulis

"Video has the ability to change people’s behaviour; done effectively and you define your brand position and remain firmly in your target audiences mind."

Couldn't have said it better! I think the biggest issues brands have with video marketing is that they think they needs a million views for it to "count." A video doesn't have to go viral to be a success. As long as you reach the right people it can do it's job.

almost 5 years ago

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