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The future of marketing is playable

Call it the Facebook effect or Snapchat syndrome – mobile devices are changing viewers’ expectations for media consumption


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When Rudolph Zallinger illustrated the March of Progress in 1965 – the iconic visual representing the evolution of man from ape to homo sapien ­– he didn’t know what his work would represent to entrepreneurs like me. I see his illustration and I see an opportunity to rethink the very way our cultural storytelling stands.

In the last year, internet consumers have been living through the literal hyper-speed evolution of visual media. Video, once accepted as a format that lived exclusively in the confines of a rectangle, now takes on shapes that might seem akin to our 1980s television sets. But in fact, this March of Progress has no limits.

Call it the Facebook effect. Snapchat syndrome. Whatever your quippy cultural reference, it all comes down to the same thing. Our mobile devices are changing viewers’ expectations for how media is consumed and created. Much in the way that VCRs made home movie viewing ubiquitous and Netflix invented the very concept of binge-watching, our mobile devices are actually changing the form and shape of how video media is created.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers found in their 2016 internet trends survey that 90 percent of smartphone users hold their phones vertically. And in our Mighteor 2017 Survey on Mobile Video Viewing, we found that 58 percent of all respondents had seen a video in the last 30 days that was vertical in format. However, perhaps the biggest indicator of this wave can be seen in younger generations, with 74.9 percent of millennials having seen a video in a vertical format.

Even more alarming, three-quarters of them, or 77 percent, stopped watching a video because it “looked bad” on their smartphone.

As media increasingly gains digital real estate in taller formats - we have to ask ourselves as business owners, marketers and communicators, what that means for how we deliver content to the video hungry masses.

Imagine this: A production company is setting up for their first day of shooting for another ad campaign. Near their set, sits many massive monitors in “video village.” Their production designers nearby putting long rows of product next to each other for a wide scene.

Weeks later, the company puts the footage into post-production, where editors and colorists will make their mark on computer screens as wide as their desks – their eyeballs filled with the massive reflections of their work.

But when that media ultimately gets seen – it is handheld. Headphones plugged in. The device most likely being held by one hand, in a tall orientation. The visuals that cost thousands of dollars to create aren’t standing up to the way they are consumed.

It would be easy to blame this phenomena almost entirely on smartphone manufacturers who made the decision long ago to cater to phone calls versus entertainment.

But truly, this is a moment of opportunity - one where the ape finally stands tall with no curvature in the spine. There are no limits to where we can go.

This is not for lack of appreciation of the content on behalf of audiences, either. Arguably, the hunger for more content is even more profound. Women are driving this mobile viewing en masse.

In our survey, we found that women preferred viewing video on mobile devices more than any other method, with 80.8 percent choosing mobile over television or laptop and desktop viewing. Smartphones alone account for 52.8 percent.

So what does that mean for you? And what can you do about it?

  1. Think outside the horizontal framework. Users are increasingly interested in new shapes of video.
  2. YouTube isn’t the only game in town. It’s worth taking the time to invest in Facebook video - whether it be Live video or adapting your existing content to display for maximum impact on the Facebook News Feed.
  3. Embrace micro-content. Short, quippy 15 second videos of your leadership on Snapchat make people feel closer to your brand and help to unlock the potential for communicating directly with customers and stakeholders.
  4. Integrate video into all social platforms. From Twitter to Instagram, there are opportunities for using video in every part of your social media marketing. And in all sizes.
  5. Talk to your digital creative team about thinking tall. Maybe there is a story within your organization that is actually better told with height. Framing a conversation with them about how they can dream up ways to use video in new sizes will unleash all kinds of new potential.

It’s time to shed our perception of what media looks like. For decades, what fit inside the box was a matter of obsession. For the first time in history, the very shape of that player is up for resizing.

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