MIT SMR Connections
MIT SMR Connections is the custom content creation unit within MIT Sloan Management Review.
In this Q&A, Jennifer Griffin Smith, chief marketing officer of Brightcove, discusses the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on today’s marketing landscape, shares examples of effective use of video for business goals, and offers insights on future trends.
This conversation has been edited for clarity, length, and editorial style.
Q: What are some of today’s most important marketing trends? What is, or what should be, at the top of marketers’ agendas right now?
Jennifer Griffin Smith: Connecting with our audiences, no matter where they are, is the most challenging goal for marketers right now. Customers are still not back in their offices, and with the overcrowded digital landscape, it’s hard to connect with the right people at the right time to get your messages across. Working remotely is likely to be one of the only constants in our future, and in-person events will be challenging to organize for large audiences for years to come.
Because of our new remote reality, digital marketing is more important than ever before. But it’s a crowded space. How many pop-ups do you get every time you search for something online or want to read a news article? As marketers, our challenges are to create messages that resonate with our audiences and to find new ways of getting their attention and strengthening our connection.
Q: What makes video a unique marketing tool?
Smith: Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text form, according to [online advertising company] WordStream. Just like in a movie, if it’s a great story, you won’t forget it. Not only do your customers retain your message, but marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.
We work with many media companies, and we help enterprise companies act more like those media companies. They can now entertain and educate their customers with branded video in a whole new way. For example, with Brightcove CorpTV, you can create corporate TV, a Netflix-like channel that will recognize your customers and serve them your company content based on their past viewing habits. Brightcove CorpTV is our “always-on channel,” and we’re working with customers to build their own channels. So that’s an example of a totally new marketing medium, a way of getting your message out to customers that I believe we all need to think about.
Q. How do people figure out when to use video rather than other approaches to marketing?
Smith: We spend a lot of time discussing when video is appropriate and what kind of video is best, depending on what you want to achieve. But it can often be used to complement other content. For example, if you have a white paper, why not do a short video intro to the topic to get people engaged, along with a five-part summary? We try to do that within our company. When I send out a message to the entire company, I tend to create a video on my phone and send that out. It’s fast, engaging, and impactful.
Q: Could you provide some examples of successful video marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Smith: We have many examples of different industries using video to stay connected and reach new audiences during the pandemic. For instance, many sports and arts and entertainment customers simply couldn’t put on sporting events or live concerts and shows during the pandemic. Imagine a symphony orchestra using video to stream a concert to their viewers, for example, or a major football team using video to show behind-the-scenes interviews with the players. These organizations found opportunities for connecting in ways that they could never have done if they were in the stadium or a concert hall, and this is a new business model that will continue for them.
Another great example is South by Southwest [the music, film, and technology festival held annually in Austin, Texas]. Their whole business was an in-person event, and due to COVID-19, it was canceled in 2020. Now, of course, when they started on the virtual angle for 2021, they just wanted to do something. They never said: “Hey, we want to get the same number of people through the door online as we would have in person.” They said: “Can this even work?” They found that it did work because they had multiple channels; they didn’t have just one. People were popping in and out of different kinds of content. And now, their content strategy is far greater than it ever was before. They’ve been able to expand their reach. They had people globally who attended who might never have come in person.
Q: How about using video for training and internal communications? What trends have you seen in those areas, either before or during the pandemic?
Smith: We have a lot of very well-known fast-food retailers as customers. They use us for training, not just for employees, but for their franchisees, too. Then there are corporate organizations using video because all-hands calls and town hall meetings and company meetings have changed so much. One example is our customer Akamai, which has 9,000 employees in 40 locations; keeping them connected with video all-hands calls was critical.
The pandemic also brought a sense of equality to every employee despite where they were based. In the past, if you were, say, in a subsidiary in Asia when your CEO is based in California, you probably felt less connected than the people there in person during every company meeting. Well, that’s changed, because now the CEO is just like us. With virtual events, everyone is equal, and everybody’s getting the same information.
There is an equality-and-inclusion message that’s emerged from doing things remotely through the pandemic. We need to consider and focus on continuing that when we start going back to a hybrid working model, because if you end up with some people back in the in-person situations and others not able to be close by, that divide is created again.
Q: Where is video headed? And what other considerations do you believe today’s marketers should keep in mind?
Smith: There are many exciting aspects of video innovation. Imagine a world where video interactivity is completely standard, where live interactivity in e-commerce will drive greater choice for the customer and quicker time to sale for the supplier.
Imagine a world where corporate marketers don’t need to run A/B testing on best-performing campaigns because artificial intelligence and machine learning make recommendations on video content for audiences based on their previous interactions, where companies can serve up the most appropriate advertisements for each audience during a video. And imagine a world where real-time translation into 15 different languages for one video can happen at the click of a button.
But success involves the right mindset as well as the latest technology. For instance, we’ve been conducting research and discussing with CMOs the positive impact that video platforms and technology have on their ROI.
And I recently heard a quote from a global technology company CMO that resonated with me. She warned against thinking that what we have right now is good enough because “good enough” is the enemy of innovation. That is a big challenge for marketers. You’ve got so much to do, and it’s so busy, and you think, “Ah, that’s OK, that’s good enough.” But that’s not going to get you where you want to go. You’re not going to outgrow your competitors with “good enough.” So keep challenging yourself to innovate.