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Brands Are ‘Pivoting to Video’ — and This Time, It’s Working

Published on Mar 19, 2024

Brands Are ‘Pivoting to Video’ — and This Time, It’s Working
Liam Berry
Liam Berry studioID

See what’s brimming beneath marketing’s surface. Explore ‘The Deep End’ — a periodic column brought to you by studioID’s Strategy Group.


Why the last great ‘pivot to video’ in media failed, why it’s different this time, and what brands can do to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Remember the pivot to video? It was the last time folks in media made an industry-wide push to invest heavily in audiovisual content. And, no, it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page because it went well. For creatives and executives alike, it was disastrous. Writers lost their jobs, leaders relied on meaningless metrics, and advertising clients felt cheated because they were lied to

With that decade-long debacle behind us, you may wonder why so many brands and publishers are once again investing in video. Because, this time, it’s working.

Why Did Video Fail Last Time?

More than anything, the last pivot to video failed because people didn’t want to watch them. Of course, there were other factors, too. 

Misleading Metrics

Advertisers were misled by viewership numbers and pushed media companies to create more videos so they could buy more video placements. Based upon those same misleading numbers — and the wealth of advertisers knocking down their doors — media execs saw a goldmine and seized the chance to lead this new movement. 

But where did the misleading metrics come from, exactly? Under pressure to make video the new ‘it’ format, both media companies and their platforms, like Facebook, lied through their teeth about video performance. Tactics involved overstating multiple key metrics, including counting views from people who engaged with a video for just 3 seconds or more. 

Yes, companies like Facebook (now Meta) were exaggerating view counts by nearly 900%.

Platforms had a big incentive to lie, but so too did the media executives who had put so many resources behind the pivot to video. As Slate said, “It was Facebook’s lie, but it was also the lie of every media company that pivoted to video on the pretense that it was somehow a better way to deliver their content.”

It was particularly brutal because budgets and staff for written content were gutted to help offset the intensive start-up costs of running a fast-paced video operation. The result was a wave of Now This–style short-form video content that was a poor substitute for what it had replaced. 

News summary videos, ranging from inane to inaccurate, became the new standard content type on platforms like Facebook, with dozens of companies aping the style of NowThis. 

Blinded by the Buzz

Media executives fully hit the panic button, assuming video would replace written content in the same unforgiving and swift manner that TV had replaced radio. However, thanks to persistent consumer habits and how the internet ultimately evolved, this ousting never came to fruition. People love video — but they love written content and audio content, too.  

If only media execs had taken a moment to learn from what actually happened with radio.

Hype around ‘the death of radio’ rose to enormous proportions, yet stations and broadcasters persisted for decades after calls of their demise.

Sure, podcasts did swoop in to become the next beloved audio format. Yet, radio still lives on today. 

But the narrative around web video was too strong to ignore. It made execs blind to the fact that different audiences demand different styles of content, even covering the same topic. So, companies who cut budgets for written content and pushed loads of money into short-form web video ended up with too much of something that had too little demand. Even more jobs were lost. Widely covered and catastrophic, this phenomenon was akin to a media version of the Dotcom Crash. 

🎥 Related Reading: 5 Short-Form Video Trends for Share-Worthy Content

So, Why Is This Time Different?

Just like the Dotcom Crash, the pivot to video was a compelling concept that was rushed and botched via a flurry of unwise investment. In the first pivot to video, media companies (incorrectly) assumed that:

  • Video was — or very soon would be — the preferred format by the majority of their audience

  • It would be easy and cheap to make short-form video content that their audience would enjoy

  • The visual nature of the format would lead to naturally higher engagement rates

As it turns out, all of those things would eventually be true. They are now. 

In fact, in our 2024 Content Marketing Predictions survey, 71% of marketers forecasted ‘short-form videos for social media’ would be their most successful format this year. 

This time, the hype is real. Video’s resurgence is due to innovations in technology, formats, production styles, and cultural shifts pioneered by social media content creators and platforms over the past two decades. Brands now have the resources and the roadmap they need to succeed in video in a cost-effective way. 

Democratized Access

Much of that success is due to the rise of video-first platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Not only did these platforms democratize video editing access and skill, but they conditioned media consumers to expect and enjoy video content. Through trial and error, content creators worked out the kinks of formatting, length, style and found production efficiencies. With the rise of short-form giants like TikTok, audiences are also primed to expect certain types of low-cost, more casual video formats. 

This simple production set-up outperformed highly produced, glossy videos to become a top performer for IBM Technology. Its style and presentation mirror that of successful independent YouTube creator videos.

In 2024, it’s projected that the average internet user will spend almost 100 minutes per day watching videos online. 

So, not only are audiences predisposed to the format, but creators are everywhere and know how to make successful content. The tools needed to shoot, edit, and publish video are abundant, cheap, and accessible to most marketers. With a generation of talented young video editors coming into the workforce, it’s never been easier to find someone to help your brand succeed in social video.

The Secret for Brands: Don’t Pivot to Video — Expand to Video

How can your brand learn from the lessons of the past? Don’t cut out written content or other formats in favor of a video strategy. Instead, take advantage of the democratized access to video-creation tools to expand your messaging to include video when possible. 

Start with the lowest-hanging fruit:

  • Cut existing webinars into bite-sized clips

  • Film video calls and podcast recordings

  • Utilize simple editor apps and platforms like the TikTok editor or Capcut if your brand isn’t in a position to invest in more formal video production 

♻️ Related Reading: How to Repurpose Content for Social, Email, Sales Outreach, and Beyond

Video was once an expensive and risky undertaking. Now, it’s neither. Just like how WordPress gave everyone the chance to launch a blog, new audience expectations and editing tools give every content team the chance to be a video team, too. 

Of course, there’s still a place in marketing for glossy video content and formal production, but it doesn’t need to be the only way you do video. Especially when your audience demands daily touchpoints, that type of video strategy is too costly (not to mention poorly aligned with audience expectations to begin with). 

How to Build a Low-Risk Video Content Strategy as a Brand

You still need to focus on having a content strategy that aligns with your audience, positioning, and purpose. And if you’re producing great written content and virtual events, then you should be able to expand your practice into video without straying too much from what brings you success already.

A strong video content strategy should be conscious of that. If you’re considering expanding to video as a marketing team, here are some questions you should be able to answer:

Where Does Your Audience Watch Content About Your Brand’s Key Topic Areas? 

For example, if your audience is made up of purchasing directors, they may want to watch videos about supply chain on LinkedIn. But perhaps they’re less likely to seek the same topic out on TikTok or Instagram.

To figure this out, try looking at successful companies in your space who have solid engagement on platforms like LinkedIn and YouTube.

Note which types of video content perform well:

  • Is it informational/explainer videos?
  • Tactical how-tos?
  • Thought-provoking interviews with captions?
  • Influencer-led reviews/discussions? 

You can also do your own independent social listening research by searching professions or topics on platforms like TikTok to see what’s popular.

Remember: creating valuable video content is half the battle. Without the right distribution, your strategy will fall flat. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a multi-channel approach. Video can be utilized across social platforms, within written assets, across gated content, sales resources, and more.

🎧 Related Reading: The Power of Social Listening to Drive Conversions

What Types of Videos Perform Well in Your Vertical? 

This can vary widely. In the robotics industry, videos showing the products in action are hugely popular. However, accountants aren’t necessarily interested in watching accounting software in action — they’d likely prefer a human-led video talking through the results.

Beyond style, consider length. Short-form videos are all the rage (and rightfully so), but don’t discount the value of long-form video content. For dense, industry-specific content, long-form videos like webinars or YouTube series may have a place in your video strategy. And of course, you can cut these long-form videos easily into short-form videos to play to both sides of the spectrum. 

🎨 Related Reading: 4 Visual + Design Trends Shaping Content Marketing in 2024

What — and Who — Are Your Resources? 

You might be a brand with a ton of internal experts who can wax poetic on key topics for brief, TikTok-style takeaway videos. Or, you might have tons of animations that could be cut up into interesting Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts. 

The top two traits consumers report as important for an engaging video are clear messaging/storyline and authenticity.

Think about recruiting employees — both within your content team and across your entire org — to be featured in videos. Ask yourself: who’s both a premiere expert in your topic and naturally engaging and comfortable in front of an audience? Who’s got a lilting, non-monotonous voice? Engagement can hinge so heavily on even the most minor details, so choose your subjects wisely. 

More and more, videos are trending toward authenticity. Today’s audiences connect with video content that feels real, and even informal at times. Think about the informational and visual resources you have and plan your content around that.