People love video.
According to Video Brewery, 100 million internet userswatch video online every day, and Cisco predicts that by 2019, 80% of online traffic will be video.
But marketers should love video too - and not just because it’s so popular.
When it comes to online marketing, videos can make the difference between selling a product and not. According to a survey by Animoto, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it.
What are the benefits of using video over other kinds of marketing? Our brains respond differently to video compared to static text or print, making video an especially effective way to communicate a message.
Here are a few psychological reasons why humans love videos, and a few ways you can use this knowledge to create more meaningful and effective videos.
1: Videos Grab Attention
The human attention span is limited, and as a culture it only seems to be getting shorter.
What’s that -- you just saw a Gmail pop-up? You heard a Slack notification? You felt your phone buzz?
Within a few seconds of reaching boredom, we are on to the next thing.
A video captures attention more compellingly than text or pictures alone. Our brains notice and perceive movement within a few milliseconds, before our thoughts can catch up.
In early human existence, detecting motion helped us quickly sense danger and predators. For modern, technologized humans, the quickness of motion perception is why those autoplay videos on your Facebook feed are pretty effective in slowing or stopping your scrolling. Movement draws our attention.
When creating marketing videos, the goal is not only to grab attention, but also to keep it. In 2015, marketing PhD Thales Teixeira put together a useful table about optimizing advertisting strategies according to typical level of viewer attention for each viewing context.
To maximize attention benefits, videos need to be short. Decades of applied cognitive psychology research suggests that, even when we are trying our hardest, sustained human attention only lasts about 20 minutes. That’s why our minds begin to wander when that darn office presentation lasts too long, or when a movie becomes too monotonous.
But for online videos, our attention span is so much shorter: about a minute. We are habitual scrollers. With the internet providing endless content, videos need to be rather engaging to command our focus.
Here’s how to keep viewers engaged:
Keep informational videos to less than a minute. Entertaining videos can go just a little longer.
Put important stuff in the first 10-20 seconds.
Be specific about what you are trying to say; viewers asking “what’s the point here?” won’t stick around.
Provide new information in every shot, or every few seconds.
Keep the whole enchilada short! Sometimes less is more.
2: Videos Are Easy to Understand
One reason why videos easily capture attention is because watching them requires very little mental effort. Deep down, we are lazy creatures. Our brains don’t like to work harder than necessary, and reading and listening both take more effort than watching a video. 1,2 Videos make things easier by giving us multiple sources of visual, auditory, and verbal information at once.
Our brains process images within about 100ms, whereas it can take a few seconds to read a sentence. That means we can actually process visual information a few thousand times faster than reading text. Visual information is a heck of a lot easier on our cognitive systems. Our brains love shortcuts.
Here’s how to present information in a video so that it’s easy to understand:
Be clear about your video message. If you leave too much opportunity for people to misunderstand your message, some viewers will inevitably take the easiest interpretation, even if incorrect.3
Briefly provide an outline of the most important information upfront, and then summarize that information again at the end of the video.
Consider providing some text in a video to emphasize key points from the narration. We learn better when our brains receive both verbal and visual information.4,5 (This also ensures viewers can still understand muted videos on social media feeds!) Digiday reported that as much as 85% of videos on social media are watched without sound.6
3: Videos Add Emotion to a Message
Human brains also love video because videos can make us feel emotion more intensely. Whereas text and images are strictly visual, video provides multisensory, vivid experiences.7 With video, we see and hear things over time, creating an experience and an instance in our memory.
Rich sensory information from music, narration, and visuals can be emotionally powerful, which is exactly what marketers want because an estimated 80% of human decisions are driven by emotions.
Videos can prompt complex feelings like empathy by triggering mirror neurons -- neurons that fire when we see another person perform an action. Our brains are mirroring what we see, meaning we can feel the feelings of people or characters. Activation of mirror neurons is strongest when we are watching a person in real life or in a video, meaning videos can help us relate to a message.
To assess what emotions viewers feel when watching your video, you can conduct research with interviews, surveys, or a platform like Dumbstruck, which can easily collect facial analysis data. Testing videos with Dumbstruck enables you to see how your viewers actually feel when watching your video, and provides you with insights that will help you change the video so that it elicits the response you want from your audience.
Bonus Benefit: Videos increase the chances of your content being shared
The likelihood of people sharing a post increases for video content. Videos receive much higher shares on average than other types of content, usually because they’re more entertaining than a blog post or static infographic, so we are more likely to pass it along as a useful or interesting piece of information.
Video is no longer an option for businesses looking to grow. In today’s digitally-driven consumer arena, video is essential part of your marketing strategy. It’s a great way to emotionally connect with your audience, which is exactly what you want. Consumers who connect positively with a marketing video are more likely to remember your video and make a purchase later.
To really benefit from marketing videos, you should focus on creating short, meaningful video content. Make sure your marketing video is attention grabbing, easy to understand, and makes an emotional connection with your audience.
Not sure if your videos are making the right impact on your target audience? Or if they could be driving more sales? Test your marketing videos with Dumbstruck to get data on real viewers’ emotions in real time, and learn how to make your videos more effective with your target audience.
 Chapanis, A. (1965). Words words words. Human Factors, 7, 1-17.
 Kintch, W. & Van Dijk, T.A. (1978). Toward a model of text comprehension and reproduction. Psychological Review, 85, 363-394.
 Booher, H.R. (1975). Relative comprehensibility of pictorial information and printed words in proceduralized instructions. Human Factors, 17, 266-277.
 Paivio, A. (1969). Mental Imagery in associative learning and memory. Psychological Review, 76, 241-263.
 Appiah, O. (2006). Rich media, poor media: The impact of audio/video vs. text/picture testimonial ads based on browsers’ evaluations of commercial web sites and online products. Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 28, 73-86.