Jun 28, 2018

The Evolution of Digital Video Marketing

Written by Sadé Council

From the advent of television commercials in 1941, video has been a powerful tool in marketing products, businesses, and services – it capitalizes on the ability of visual storytelling to captivate consumers’ emotions and stimulate their psyche in a more impactful and lasting way.

Videos are able to quickly establish a level of brand trust by showcasing relatable stories using authentic messaging. It’s said that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see video become a key component of marketers’ digital strategies.

In 2017, Internet video traffic made up 69% of all global consumer Internet traffic. The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. It is estimated that by 2019, internet video traffic will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic.

In this article, we’ll dive into the history of video in digital marketing, cover major platforms like YouTube, as well as the evolution of video on social media platforms, the role of mobile, and the rise of live video and ephemeral storytelling via platforms like Snapchat. We’ll also discuss how new technologies have influenced how brands are capturing videos, highlight best-in-class brands, and speculate on how we can expect video marketing to evolve in the future.


It’s impossible to discuss video’s role in digital marketing without first mentioning YouTube. Prior to its launch in 2005, videos weren’t all that prevalent on the internet as a whole, much less in a brand’s digital marketing strategy.

Aside from a possible video on a brand’s owned website, video just wasn’t a priority for brands. They were expensive to create, and consumers didn’t really have the technology (i.e. high-speed internet, smartphones) to consume the video content that was being created. When YouTube arrived, however, people finally had a platform to not only consume video but also create and upload their own videos to share widely. And with the growing prevalence of webcams and the improvement in mobile phone cameras and connectivity, YouTube soon became THE hub for video content online.

It didn’t take long for Google to realize that YouTube had now become a searchable library for visual content; being the premier internet search engine, it was a no-brainer for it to purchase YouTube in 2006. Soon after, brands began syndicating their existing brand content and creating video content with YouTube in mind, with YouTube eventually playing a pivotal role in their SEO in campaigns.

In 2007, Google began to allow brands to buy ad space on YouTube in an effort to monetize the platform and to provide more measurable ROI to brands; this then fortified the business case for brands to prioritize content specifically created for the YouTube audience.

Brands also began to see the power of inviting consumers to create and share their own content – 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations above all forms of advertising. What’s more, brands have seen up to a 28% lift in engagement when consumers are exposed to user generated content (UGC), most likely due to its relatability and hyper-authenticity. UGC is also a very inexpensive strategy to obtain a large volume of content. A great current example is the #ShotOniPhone campaign by Apple.

Facebook and Livestreaming

At this point, the value of digital video was becoming clear. Social media platforms like Facebook not only began to allow users to upload video, but they also slowly optimized their feed algorithms to weight YouTube links and video posts more heavily, thereby increasing the visibility of video content in their services. In December 2014, Facebook began rolling out functionality for business pages to pin (“Feature”) a video to the top of their videos tab.

In tandem with optimized video content, livestreaming also started to gain in popularity. However, while platforms like UStream (now IBM Cloud Video) had very high viewership figures, they also had a large gap in usership between amateur streamers and professional broadcasters. Here again, Facebook saw an opportunity, and in 2015, it launched Facebook Live to compete with the likes of Periscope, another streaming service which was acquired by Twitter earlier that same year.

The exigent nature of livestreaming created a resurgence in “appointment viewing” in a world where consumers can access video content on demand. Brands started promoting ‘going live’ in the same way as network channels do with primetime TV shows…because brands realized that the stakes were high for live content viewership.

If you wanted consumers to tune in to your livestream, you need to ensure its worth their while. American Express did this with tremendous success with their “UNSTAGED” livestream concert series. The key tenets of any good video marketing campaign, or any marketing campaign for that matter, is that you provide value to the consumer by either entertaining them, inspiring them or being helpful. Do any of these, and your content becomes that much more resonant… and shareable.

The Mobile Boom

Video creation and consumption on mobile devices also rapidly increased as phones got smarter and faster. YouTube now has over a billion users – almost one-third of all people on the internet – and each day those users watch a billion hours of video, generating billions of views with more than half of these views coming from mobile devices.

Suddenly, everyone had the ability to tell their stories on video and to become an ‘influencer’ – YouTube creators started receiving record-breaking viewership and engagement, motivating brands to partner with them for product/service reviews, unboxing, tutorials, and general brand integration.

YouTube soon began to invest in studio spaces to cultivate more creators and share best practices. Creators filming in YouTube Spaces have produced over 10,000 videos, which have generated over 1 billion views and 70+ million hours of watchtime (as of March 2015).

Snapchat and the Rise of Ephemeral Videos

But what if you didn’t want to produce long form videos and just wanted to document your day while on the go? Enter Snapchat. Snapchat ushered in a new wave of storytellers with its unique UX; it was mobile-only, only required a phone number to register, and made the videos posted ephemeral. This was a game changer as it gave users the freedom and flexibility to post more frivolously.

Snapchat popularized vertical video and enabled its users to easily customize their videos on the spot with drawing tools, stickers, geo-filters, and more – essentially crafting a playground for amateur video producers and making storytelling fun and accessible. Snapchat put consumers back to the fore, relegating brands to their Discover tab before later integrating ads between friends’ Stories and allowing Sponsored Lenses and Custom Filters. Facebook quickly followed suit by launching the Stories feature on Instagram and later on Facebook as well.

Second Screening

Just as video content continued to become ubiquitous in marketing and day-to-day life, so too rose a behavior called “second screening”, or the act of using a mobile device whilst watching TV. In 2017, an estimated 177.7 million US adults – 70.3% of the total population – engaged in second screening, and that number is expected to rise to 187.3 million by 2019. A disproportionate amount of second screened content is unrelated to what’s being watching on TV, which creates a challenge for TV advertisers as they are battling with viewers being distracted from commercials by whatever is on their mobile device, be it social media apps, articles, or shopping.

Some brands saw second screening as a blank canvas to create amazing related content to keep users engaged or simply as an opportunity retarget users with personalized ads based on what they just saw in a commercial or show. For example, during Super Bowl 2017, an estimated 73% of viewers were using a second screen. Budweiser capitalized on this with their #GiveADamn ad with Helen Mirren, which was accompanied by a Twitter campaign that donated $1 every time someone tweeted an auto-generated tweet with the hashtag #GiveADamn. Shazam also does a great job of finding innovative ways to optimize the second screen experience.

Innovations…and the Future of Video

Over the years, brands in general have had to continue to find ways to raise the bar with regard to video marketing – whether through production quality, or the way the content was captured, brands have had to find unique ways to surprise and delight consumers to retain and increase viewership.

For instance, GoPro have the fortune of being able to leverage their own product to create stunning commercials and ancillary content to showcase the value of their design and the quality of their technology.

Drones became commercialized, making drone videography in-demand, and 360° cameras allowed brands to offer deep immersion to consumers and empowered viewers to control their own viewing experience. Consumers can now enjoy immersive digital brand experiences, leading to an increase in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offerings.

So what’s next for video marketing in 2019 and beyond? My guess is simply more views, more livestreams, and more AR and VR. I’m excited to see if Snapchat will be able to eclipse the usership of Instagram Stories through new, innovative functionality (seeing as they still have the monopoly on Lenses and geo/custom filters).

In the interim, it would behoove brands to ensure they’re at least applying the key tenets of video marketing by weaving entertainment, inspiration/aspiration, or utility into their storytelling the way best-in-class brands like Nike, P&G, Red Bull, Geico and KLM have done year in and year out..

Sadé Council
Sadé Council

Sadé is a digital marketing strategist and brand storyteller with over 10 years' experience helping brands to build relationships with online influencers, grow their social media communities, create engaging content, and improve their overall digital footprint. During the course of her career, she's worked both agency-side and in-house with leading global brands such as American Express, L'Oréal, Diageo and Coca-Cola.

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