The Conflicts in Video Storytelling

We listened to a very interesting podcast this week from Inside PR about The importance of conflict in video storytelling which really resonated with us. As we work on larger videos here at LEWIS with our in-house production team we certainly appreciate the importance of engaging with the audience. The messages discussed in the podcast are very true for all kinds of storytelling where you want to engage the viewer, be it a presentation, a campaign or in this case a video.

Cameraman on a mountain

Conflict is a word that often conjurs up images of fighting or negativity. Another way to look at it, however, is that it is just something to be overcome. Do you want to be known as a company that overcomes things? Especially when it comes to things that your customers care about? Most companies would say yes, but brands can sometimes be too conservative or even scared of the notion of conflict. If you find that your video content isn’t getting picked up then it could be because it was too vanilla or too ordinary. There was no conflict there to engage the user and make them feel invested.

The podcast discussed how conflict is one of the fundamental elements of storytelling along with hook, context, build and resolution. It’s a universal truth of life that we will have conflicts. Decisions to make. Adversity to overcome. Mike Edgell, Video Creative Director at 76BrandFilms had some tips for how brands can use conflict and stated that “there is a way to inject conflict into all kinds of content without damaging the brand.”

  1. Safe conflict – Find a challenge that the organisation can overcome. Avoid large controversial conflicts if you don’t think you will be able to overcome it or if the viewer might not like it.
  2. Empathy – Align with what your customers want to overcome. The recent Real Beauty Sketches video from Dove took an insecurity about beauty and turned that conflict into what the customer was thinking. “Don’t start with what the organization wants to talk about. Start with what the audience fears, wants and cares about.”
  3. Consequence – There has to be some risk involved. Even Disney films often deal with subjects related to death. The risk of death can be a very powerful way to get the audience invested but another way to look at that is the absence of life. Find out what your customers can’t live without and focus on that in a more fun way.

Some of the most shared videos of 2013 had some element of conflict. The Volvo trucks Van Damme splits video has the conflict of danger. Will he hurt himself? The Ram Trucks Farmer video has huge conflicts of emotion. A farmer who sits up all night with a new born colt and then watches it die. The universal truths and the highs and lows of life. The WestJet Christmas Miracle video solves the stresses of holiday travel and makes it enjoyable. And in the same video the WestJet employees are overcoming a race against time. Two conflicts in one video.

We certainly agree that conflict is very important. When coming up with a concept for a video you could consider the following steps.

1. Identify what challenges your customers may have
2. Find a conflict that can represent this with empathy for your customer
3. Choose your level of consequence. The conflict can be made safer or flipped (listen to the donut example on the podcast) depending on the amount of risk/impact you desire
4. Build a narrative around this conflict
5. Shoot your video

If we want to get our audience invested then we need to make them care. We can’t just sit on the fence. Not many people will want to watch that.

Why not go and listen to the original podcast here.

(this blog post originally appeared on the LEWIS 360 Blog)

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