With a plethora of content available at our fingertips from online networks, over-the-top (OTT) platforms, and other sources of streaming media, brands are finding themselves constantly locked in an intense battle for audience attention. The global attention span has been steadily decreasing over the years, with a study by Microsoft
concluding that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds — shrinking nearly 25% within a few years.
In a marketer’s arsenal, there may still remain a haloed role for the indulgent, complex narrative of a video-based commercial delivered over linear TV programming or digital channels, but with audiences surrounded by an endless stream of content, every click, scroll, and swipe has become too fleeting, yet too precious of a commodity to waste.
This is a new reality that brands must come to terms with. Evolved, high-touch media-driven engagement strategies call for frequent doses of sweet and snappy brand-led content, but it cannot be mistaken for or substituted with overtly promotional sale pitches.
For the most part, scepticism towards branded content has been at an all-time high, with consumers second-guessing the authenticity and intent of brands involved. It is no surprise that bets placed on these one-time tactics — filled to the brim with not-at-all-subtle call-to-actions for customers to buy, subscribe, enroll, download, and so on — have backfired.
Simply put, even in the mere seconds that we now have with our audiences, the importance of building a brand and crafting a cohesive narrative remains more vital than ever.
How then can marketers pack a punch in their short videos, incorporating all the necessary elements of today’s definition of entertainment and engagement into the few precious moments they have on users’ screens?
Harnessing the power of storytelling in shortform videos
It is no secret that a good story has the ability to not only convey brand messages in a compelling, easy-to-digest manner, but also create powerful emotional connections with customers. In the realm of shortform ads, however, the question lies in how these tales can be compressed without taking away too much from the experience. A joint study
between TikTok and WARC reveals some of the best ways brands can start doing this:
Adding a sprinkle of relatability to the mix
Depicting highly relatable situations can do wonders in helping audiences make quick connections to what is happening in the video. These moments — be it the feeling of anxiety when studying for a test, the butterflies that accompany a first date or the frustration of waiting in the rain — can be used to set the context from the get-go, whilst getting viewers emotionally invested in familiar situations that they have likely faced time and again.
These can also take on a deeper level through the integration of sociocultural factors, including narratives around filial piety or well-known traditions on what to do during special occasions that have been passed through generations.
Putting your brand front and centre
Having these few precious seconds to tell your story means that it is even more crucial to drive and ensure brand recall. This means putting your brand on the centre stage within the first 0–3 seconds of the ad, whilst incorporating at least four additional brand cues like your brand colours, logo, mascots or product into the rest of the video to amplify the impact.
Real people, real impact
What are stories without people? After all, the faces featured in these shortform videos are oftentimes representations of the target audience and what they aspire to be or achieve, so it is unsurprising that the use of real people has led to a 9% increase in watch time.
Collaborating with the right creators, especially in a world where more people are looking towards key opinion leaders (KOLs) to affirm their purchasing decisions, is key to making stories come together in a quicker, more accessible fashion — especially if audiences are already familiar with what the chosen KOL stands for.
Makeup and cosmetics brand Maybelline New York
, for instance, brought a series of creator collaborations to life on TikTok by tapping on creators beyond the beauty field and including those known for their entertaining and comedic content. This helped set the tone for their campaign to make their Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara appear more accessible to the everyday user, whilst injecting a greater sense of fun and carefreeness into their story within less than 30 seconds.
Viewers could immediately form a connection with the product, supercharging their campaign to reach over 28 million video views, driving a 12% product awareness uplift and 4.9% sales uplift which was 76% above the Nielsen AU FMCG benchmark.
No rules against breaking it down
There’s no need to feel trapped under the perceived ticking pressure of shortform videos. If a message feels too complex to be captured within a single video, brands should feel liberated to explore episodic storytelling that breaks these stories into a series of interconnected ads. These also help to build suspense, as viewers eagerly wait for the next episode to unfold, leading to a 16% increase in watch time.
Innovative app Koiniwa did this to a tee by rolling out videos on TikTok with consecutive storylines portraying a vivid narrative of two players whose avatars have been digitally matched to play online games together while getting to know each other through a series of questions. Throughout these episodes, the campaign’s message of the simple act of playing a game could lead to users getting a date was reinforced and amplified as the story unfolded. This will-they-won’t-they kept users hooked, with Koiniwa achieving 1.3 times higher of ROAS.
Bringing videos alive with the sound of music
Music plays an invaluable, complementary role in bringing videos to life. In cluttered and competitive environments, sound can stimulate positive brand associations and capture audiences’ attention, even if they are not looking at their screens. Notably, 60% of ads tested with music in the forefront whether through a dedicated jingle or a deeply immersive or booming track proved successful in driving viewability, according to a creative elements meta-analysis in the 2022 TikTok Marketing Science study conducted by MetrixLab.
Another key tip that might come in handy would be to explore different genres that best suit your brand and the story you want to tell. The same TikTok Marketing Science study also found that between 55%–56% of ads that used hip hop or EDM within their videos were successful in driving purchase intent.
Optimise your ad strategy
Last but certainly not least, the best way brands can make the most of their shortform videos is to leverage the sophisticated targeting tools within platforms to ensure they are targeting the right audience. With TikTok, this includes leveraging the platform’s five key optimisation pillars:
Audience: Know who you are targeting and ensure your context resonates with that group. Analyse the segment targeting and finetune as you go.
Bids and budgets: Be aware of how the ads bidding system works as it can make a lot of difference in how your ads perform. For instance, increasing the bid could directly boost your ad ranking and increase the delivery.
Creative: Build and refresh creative content so that it is relevant to the platform. Highlight reasons-to-convert and include clear call-to-action within.
Destination: Ensure CTAs, including landing pages, are all implemented correctly, aligned with the creatives and loading seamlessly.
Campaigns that take this strategic approach are far more likely to yield fruitful results on TikTok and contribute to the brand’s overall success on the platform. With these strategies in their arsenal, brands looking to leverage the power of shortform video are well-positioned to unlock a world of opportunities and achieve remarkable growth.
TikTok has collaborated with specialist information, data, and analytics company WARC in outlining insights for brands of all sizes to drive a long-term performance plan on the platform and foster bigger impacts on their consumers. Explore their joint study, When Entertainment Meets Effectiveness, to discover how you can maximise your marketing strategies on TikTok.