"Of all the arts, the most important for us is the cinema"

- Vladimir Lenin

The leaders of the Russian Revolution were fascinated with the power of film as a propaganda and educational tool for a largely illiterate population. The reason for this was the medium’s ability to inspire emotion among groups of people. This nascent awareness of the emotional power of video (and willingness to use it) has grown into a fully-fledged video content marketing industry that helps organizations strategically engage with their global audiences.

Russian director Eisenstein - creating strong narratives with film
Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 – genius filmmaker of the Russian Revolution
One hundred years on, film/video remains the most potent tool available for generating emotion in a dispersed audience. It’s the ability to move us that makes good cinema completely spellbinding, and why, historically, TV advertising has been so lucrative. We are moved because we empathise directly with what happens to the characters on screen.
 
Storytelling is an essential tool in any corporate communicator’s arsenal. It’s when it’s combined with the natural properties of film that it becomes the most powerful communication tool available to us - and that's why video is so important in marketing. But video is most effective when used to portray human emotion. Let's dive into the science to unpack why it's so incredibly powerful.
 

Empathy

ˈɛmpəθi/

noun

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Empathy is a key evolutionary skill. It’s fundamental to our ability to form cohesive social groups. It allowed our forebears to benefit from not having to fight sabre-toothed tigers literally alone. It allows us the same benefit, metaphorically speaking. When we see or hear about people experiencing specific emotions, we’ve evolved to feel those same emotions. For example, if we see someone who’s suffering from the cold, we feel a little of that suffering. This makes us more likely to offer a jacket, blanket or space by the fire. These emotions assist the survival of the species, and are part of our intrinsic need to seek out experiences, understanding and companionship. These are fundamental elements in what makes us human.

The mechanics behind empathy have long baffled neuroscientists. To begin with, it was assumed that the emotion was as a result of a logical, mental interpretation in order to predict other people’s actions. Then, in the early 1990s, Italian researchers studying the brains of macaque monkeys made a breakthrough. They discovered that the same area of the brain lights up in monkeys that are just watching their fellow monkeys reaching for food as in those who are doing the reaching.

Casual FIlms - emotion in video resonates strongly with audiencesThis led to the discovery in the brain of what are called ‘mirror cells’. This profoundly changed our understanding of neurochemistry. These cells allow us to understand other people’s actions, not by thinking through what they are doing but by directly feeling the emotion that they are feeling. When you see someone frown, for example, your frowning mirror neurons fire up too, creating the sensation in your own mind that you associate with frowning. You don’t have to experience what the other person is experiencing to make them frown; you feel the emotion directly and effortlessly. That’s also why many of Red Bull’s extreme sport videos leave us feeling so exhilarated.

Professor Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, studied brain scans in order to understand the chemical basis for empathy. She found there are two types of empathy at work, which are illustrated by where they occur in the brain. The first and more advanced type is what she calls ‘mental empathy’. This requires the viewers to think outside themselves – to mentally put themselves in the other person’s shoes – and think about what they may be experiencing. The second is called ‘embodied empathy’. This is a more intuitive and primal empathy, which you might experience when watching someone get hurt.

Natalie Portman in Black Swan has a key lesson for video content marketingNatalie Portman in Black Swan

As part of her studies, Prof. Hendler showed Aaron Aronofsky’s film Black Swan to a number of subjects, while monitoring their brain activity. I watched this intense psychological thriller on a very bumpy flight in what was the most potently dramatic cinema experience of my entire life - but that's another story. As Natalie Portman’s character experiences hallucinations at the depths of her psychosis, the audience develops – temporarily – the same brain chemistry as a genuine schizophrenia sufferer. Watching a film of someone with a psychological illness effectively gives the audience the symptoms of a psychological illness.

This makes video an important tool for marketers. What better way of illustrating the refreshing nature of your beer than by transporting your audience to a hot desert and then showing some bottles sticking out of an ice bucket, complete with condensation? The advertisers are generating the perception of genuine thirst and potential refreshment for the audience. This fact explains the continued value of video as a tool to persuade and influence, and suggests video content marketing is here to stay.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Carl W. Buehner
 
Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle  

This power is illustrated in full gut-punching style in this film for Breast Cancer Now. Watching this it is impossible not to feel some of the pain and anguish of Chantelle and her family. It is impossible because we are biologically designed to feel these emotions. Through the skilful use of film we can construct an experience for the viewer which pulls their emotions in different ways. Think of the terror of the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, the romance of Lady and the Tramp, the fear of Jaws.
 
All effective video communications rely on this attribute, even information-heavy corporate comms should have a dash of emotion. If there isn't room for a bit of human emotion in your comms, you shouldn't be using video as the medium. That said, communications without emotion are not worth communicating as no one will remember them, because emotion is essential to forming memories. Recruiters have already learned this lesson. When creating enticing content about business culture, recruiters will highlight the emotional benefits of working for their company — read this guide to learn more about creating winning recruitment videos.
 
Roche - LeanSixSigma

Roche: LeanSixSigma - no matter the subject, animation is a great way of communicating information as it allows the addition of character and emotion effortlessly.

Anthropomorphic empathy

A strange quirk of this empathy is that we have a tendency to project emotions, motives and thoughts onto the characters that we’re watching. It doesn’t even need to be a real person in order to elicit this effect. To empathise with a character, we just need to be able to attribute what we perceive as human emotions and objectives to them. Once this has taken place, we immediately and unconsciously decide whether we a) like them, and b) can trust them. It’s this quirk that allows animation to work.

Whether we’re looking at a duck, a ball or a collection of pencil lines on the screen that make up a drawn character, the effect is the same. We do find it easier if the item has a semblance of a face. The more like us the characters are, the easier we find it to empathise with them. The concept and ridiculousness of this is brilliantly illustrated in Spike Jonze’s lamp ad.

IKEA - Lamp (2002, USA)

Spike Jonze, The Lamp for Ikea

There are other things that a filmmaker can do to increase the amount we empathise with a subject. For example, we’re also programmed to empathise more with children or those with childlike characteristics. Characters that are small, have big eyes or have a cuddliness to them (i.e. that are cute) are more easily relatable. We feel more is at stake in their survival and so care more about their concerns. This is our base programming at work – human genes working to secure their own survival. Music also has the effect of increasing the level of empathy with characters that viewers feel, because it adds to the illusion of their own vitality and personality.

But video, and your video content marketing strategy, could simply be the finer details of a much larger campaign you’ve got in mind. As a full-service video production company, we offer a wide range of corporate video production services to make achieving your business goals through video that much easier. Now that you know why it works, it’s time to use it!

Whatever you are trying to achieve with your video project, it really helps to start off on the right foot. You can make sure you do this by taking a quick look at our handy guide to writing effective briefs. You can download it here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

Contact Us

 

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner

      Popular Posts

      Brain power

      Why is video content marketing such a...

      Oxfam Awesome Brand Videos

      Five Awesome Marketing Video Examples...

      Recent Posts

      Marketing video production: 10 Reasons...

      Recruitment video services: 10 Reasons...

      Related posts

      5 Tips On How To Make A Marketing Video...

      Going Remote with Bloomberg in a...

      The lasting effects: video production...

      John and Kendall Antonelli, filmed remotely for GoDaddy

      Remote Filming + COVID-19 Safe Sets

      How much does video production cost?

      New Fire Website Strap 3