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The case for single-pointed video content

Stop giving mixed messages!

People involved.

Brands are producing more content than ever, but are they getting enough from it?

Welcome to the second post of Pause for Thought, a series to challenge your approach to branded video and offer practical tips to increase return on marketing investment.

In my intro post I spoke about why markers overestimate their own video performance and get caught in the trap of producing ever more content. Today, I want to talk about messaging.

In particular, the pernicious impulse to shoehorn multiple messages into branded videos.


Giving mixed messages

I know it comes from a good place. It seems harmless, if not helpful, to squeeze in a few extra benefits or reasons-to-care. Just an odd sentence here or there. Yet however well-intentioned, this unassuming habit can seriously sabotage contentROI.

I hope to convince you to get clearer about your messaging and to limit yourself to one message per video. I’ll also suggest some ideas for how to break the habit, the next time you produce a branded video.

Single-pointed video

The Single-MindedProposition (SMP) lies at the heart of the marketing arsenal, featuring in almost every creative or content brief. Often a single sentence, sometimes a single word, it captures the most important thing you want to convey in your content.

In my experience, most marketers already understand the value of the SMP. They just don’t think the rules apply to video.

Imagine making a static outdoor display ad. Knowing how rapidly people would whiz past the billboard, we’d naturally channel our efforts into communicating a single message, probably accompanied by an eye-catching image and a prominent logo.With such a small window of opportunity, focus makes sense.

But video feels different. Longer for starters, from a few seconds to many minutes. Rich with creative possibilities; sound, music, speech, moving image and animation.With such a dynamic medium, surely we can weave-in a few more messages?

Yet in focusing on the medium, we forget the reality of the viewer experience.

Overestimating viewer attention

Content creators are understandably biased. By the time we upload a video we’ve already fought for budget, written the brief, pored over concepts, bought media, storyboarded, casted, sourced locations, shot, edited, colour graded, added captions and designed thumbnails. We’ve also taken a deep breath, shown the boss and edited some more.

Such incredible attention to detail contrasts wildly with the paucity of attention and effort exhibited by the average viewer.

The content marketer: *Pores over their masterpiece frame by frame*

Viewer 1: *Scrollspast*

Viewer 2: *Scrollspast*

Viewer 3: *Watches for 3 seconds*

Viewer 102: *Watches the whole thing, while simultaneously scrolling, cooking and drinking a glass of wine.*


In this context, getting one message across is a worthy achievement.

Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon, who coined the term The Attention Economy, said that ‘Wealth of information creates a poverty of attention’. With viewer attention scattered across multiple devices and endless sources of content, we simply cannot afford to scatter our messaging.

It’s like trying to get someone to play frisbee when they’re playing football. Our primary goal is for them to catch the frisbee. Throw five and they won’t catch any.

Here’s a notoriously singular messaging example from Klarna:

(This ad was so hypnotic that they produced a 4-hour superloop!)


Information vs messaging

Singularity matters in long-form videos too.

Let’s take explainer videos for example. Explainers (AKA How-to-Videos) are one of the most popular forms of branded video, created by 73% of marketers according to a recent study. Good explainer videos tend to receive much more focused attention than brand advertising. They offer rich, relevant and often technical information to viewers, providing more detailed information about products and services.

The key thing to remember is that that having a single message doesn’t limit how much information you include. It just means that all the information should support your core message.

For instance, if your core message was ‘It’s easy to set-up an online account’ your explainer video might demonstrate how to open an account, thereby conveying how easy it is. The challenge for the content marketer would be to resist the temptation to add extra messages about account features and benefits, which would likely make the whole thing feel more complicated.

The best explainer content also sets clear expectations about what the viewer will learn from the video – and then delivers on this promise.

<Potential to insert an example here – or ideally a good example and a bad example on the same topic?>


How to break the habit of multiple messages?

If I’ve convinced you to cut down on mixed messages, here are some tips for how to ditch the habit:

  • Clarify your content strategy

Picking a single message becomes much easier if you have a robust content strategy in place. At the very least, identify your core audiences and map out their journeys. Ask yourself where your video will sit and which action it should drive. Get this straight and you’ll be off to a good start.

  • Add a core message to your brief

It might sound basic, but do ensure that your content brief contains a core message orSMP. It should be no longer than a sentence. Resist the temptation to develop creative without nailing this first! To stay on track, remember to refer back to the brief at regular intervals throughout content development.

  • Ask yourself: What isn’t your core message?

This can be a fun and useful exercise in content workshops. Jot down a list of messages that should not be included in a particular video or series, then use this as a checklist when critiquing copy or developing storyboards. You can also review old content and note down all the superfluous messaging that crept in!

  • Protect your boundaries

I’ve noticed that even when a core team agrees its message, videos can get hijacked later in the process when other stakeholders see the video. Prepare your arguments ahead of time so you can defend your decisions and keep out extraneous messaging.

Next time you create a video, may it be laser-focused!

<CTA regarding the content series>

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