As managing director of video marketing strategy agency, Hurricane, I have over 20 years’ experience creating engaging content, first for the BBC, and now for leading brands maximizing the opportunities of social media. In my opinion, now is the time to get ahead of the competition and add 360 degree content to your video strategy.
There is a lot of chatter about 360 video at the moment with everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Nicola Mendelsohn throwing their executive weight behind it. But for busy brand managers looking to put time and budget into the most effective areas, is this tech really the one to go for?
Well, let’s take a look at Facebook 360 which is a relatively new feature offering a great deal of potential for brand engagement. It allows brands to create immersive 360 degree video content in which they set the point of view, while users control the perspective with a VR headset or controls in their browser. Take this example promoting the Honda Civic at the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross which shows how visceral and immediate 360 marketing can be.
We dare you not to feel at least mildly thrilled by that. This video cuts rapidly enough that the novelty isn’t lost, and is part of an overall campaign surrounding a key event in Honda’s marketing calendar.
360 video—the next big thing?
Google has recently carried out a side-by-side trial of a 60 second 360 video ad and a standard format video as well as full-length versions. The ads ended in a specific, measurable call to action, were unlisted and unpromoted and only appeared through in-stream campaigns or peer-to-peer sharing.
They found some interesting results. While the 360 version had a lower view-through rate, it had a higher click-through rate, along with more views, shares and subscribes. There was a 46 percent higher view count of the full-length 360 video than on the standard full-length version. People who viewed the 360 video were more likely to share it copying the URL into messaging apps. As a result, the 360 ad was more cost-efficient as its cost-per-view was lower when organic and paid views were added together. People who do engage with 360 like it, as seen through their interaction with CTAs, engagement with the brand, and sharing with others.
When it comes down to it, 360 video is powerful because it combines two routes into immersion and engagement. The first-person exploration potential of Google Street View—still a powerful tool for wandering through familiar and unfamiliar places, nearly 10 years after launch—meets the emotional storytelling potential of an intimate smartphone-based video.
What makes 360 especially effective is that viewers (or perhaps ‘users’ is a more appropriate term) influence what they see and can take direct control of the narrative, or point of view. Psychological studies have shown that people feel more affinity to things that they control (part of the theory of the extension of personal self) and this programming of the human mind helps 360 connect on a deeper level than normal video.
So what exactly can brands do with 360 video?
At its most basic, 360 video allows brands to put viewers and users inside an experience—looking over the shoulder of a point-of-view character. This video by Frontline puts you in a rural village in South Sudan on the brink of famine.
Immersing viewers into the reality of daily life for people displaced by the war, surviving on food drops and U.N. support, it evokes a sense of realism and empathy that is difficult to ignore.
Meanwhile, this example from Google adds an almost game-like aspect to the video content, using perspective and movement to create a kind of puzzle—where is the camera, what is there to see, how can I move it to find out what’s happening in this scene?
This video demonstrates that 360 isn’t a gimmick. It has to be harnessed through creative filmmaking that encourages users to interact and offers some reward for exploring the 360 degree world it creates. By the time users have watched this through, they’ll know how to turn the camera so they can see the brand logo at the end.
How can brands get the most out of 360 video?
The key to success with 360 video is to make content that plays to the strengths of the tech, whilst not being overpowered by it. Start with the best practices of all video marketing: a focus on your core message, target audience, and visual strengths. From here, no matter what you create it will add to your brand story in the right way.
In addition, it’s important to think about how the content will be viewed. Facebook 360 works better with some phones than others; you can get started with any Android phone or tablet that’s come out in the last two years, but Apple devices are harder to pin down. Facebook claims anything newer than an iPhone 4S will work, but there are underlying issues with Apple’s code, including a long-running bug in Safari that prevents Facebook 360 videos from working in the browser.
360 is an exciting new tech among an ever-growing arsenal of tools for brands. Its key strengths are the depths of immersion and levels of engagement that it gives. It is certainly not for everyone, and it’s not for every brand, but it is worth considering and can really deliver results.
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