Video camera facing an actor on a set for a video shoot.

What Makes A Great Marketing Video TRULY Great?

The following article is adapted from a speech presented at: TMC x ODV Present: Thinking Outside The Frame.

For the past five years, you've undoubtedly heard - "video is the highest-performing type of content".

Well, at least 90% of marketers said it's given them a positive return on investment.

So, just add some video content to your campaign, and BOOM, your business is a huge success... right?

Not quite.

This overlooks one very important truth:

Not all videos are equal.

There are videos like this one that consist of static shots with talking heads who cause information overload.

Still frame from a 'boring' video

And then there are GREAT videos like this

Clearly, the second option is far better at keeping an audience engaged (which is one of our ultimate goals with video marketing). But why is it better?  What really makes a great video TRULY great?

It all comes down to clarity and creativity.


The definition of clarity is "the quality of being understood". To help you do that well, here are three tips that will get your message across effectively.

A great video requires a singular message

It should be no surprise that a great video first requires a strong, single message.

When we have a product or service that can do so many good things, it's tempting to feel the need to tell people about all of them. This is a key mistake that many brands make, because in trying to say everything, you end up saying nothing.

Here's an example of a product that has heaps of really cool features. Have a quick watch:

Now, how many features do you actually remember? For most, you probably zoned out in the first 10-20 seconds.

There were 11 features mentioned in that video, but you'd be lucky if you remembered two.

Brands that invest in videos like the one above are causing their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.

When you try to say everything, people will hear nothing. But say one thing? People will hear everything.

Take Apple, for example. In a lot of their advertising, they'll only focus on one feature at a time.

We know Apple's products have heaps of cool features thanks to mass levels of brand awareness, but in this example, they've based their video on one key message - long battery life.

A great video focusses on how the product/service will help people survive and thrive.

People also want to know how a video can help them survive or thrive. Our brains are naturally geared to prioritise messages that will help us do these two things.

For example: You walk into a big conference room. Do you count how many chairs are set up? Unlikely. Do you glance to see where the exits are? Probably. Because in case of an emergency, that is information that will help you survive.

Too often we lead with messaging like those seats - messaging not relevant to survival or 'thrival', if you will. This could be messaging about the internal values of the company, or perhaps a founder backstory. All good messages that help paint a fuller picture of your brand, but for people who have never encountered your brand before - where's the value? Why should they care?

Here are some messages that brands can focus directly related to surviving and thriving:

  • Conserving financial resources
  • Saving time
  • Building social networks
  • Gaining status
  • Accumulating resources
  • The innate desire to be generous
  • The desire for meaning

Take Coca Cola for example. The product doesn't necessarily help you survive or thrive on its own (some might argue quite the opposite), yet through their marketing, Coca-Cola has strongly associated their brand with feelings of togetherness, social bonding, and belonging. We've seen this in a number of their campaigns which feature something along the lines of a bunch of happy beach goers having the time of their lives while drinking a bottle of coke. At its core, they're trying to play to the consumer need/want of building social networks.

Any brand can do this effectively - it's not just reserved for the big boys.

The customer is the hero of the story. Not your brand.

Too often, brands make their offering the hero of the customer's story: "Our product will change your life because of X, Y, and Z." But this approach does the opposite of building trust and brand love. Instead, it makes the customer feel as though the brand doesn't have their best interests at heart. They become suspicious of the brand's marketing efforts and ultimately of the product itself.

A lot can be achieved by switching the order around.

When we position our customers as the hero, and our brand as the guide, we start to become a known and trusted resource to help our customer/hero overcome their challenges.

In this video from Samsung, the phone is the hero. They're telling you that if you buy this phone, you'll be cool and envied by your peers. While this is an attractive proposal for some, it lacks the deeper emotional connection that advertisers need in today's age of advertising.

Apple has a different approach. They recently released a video centred around accessibility. The heroes in this video are the people featured, and the iPhone is the tool that they use to overcome their challenges.

You decide which is more effective.


Obviously you need a LOT of creativity to make a video great. To narrow it down, we've picked out three of the most powerful ways to leverage your creativity to make an epic brand piece.


Humour makes us feel good! You can't deny that almost every human on the planet loves a good laugh. Knowing this, we like to inject it into our videos wherever we can! Humour can take a relatively mundane concept and make into something ridiculously engaging.

Exhibit A: Watch this video we made for a brand that sells seat covers.

In a study from Oracle Fusion Cloud Customer Experience (CX) and Gretchen Rubin, 91% of people said they prefer brands to be humorous, and that 90% of people are more likely to remember an ad if it's funny. But what's really interesting is that only 20% of brands report using humour in their advertising.

Why? Well, we asked a group of marketers this very question, and we got responses like: "humour isn't professional" or "our brand is serious and doesn't suit humour". While yes, in some cases, humour isn't appropriate, it's definitely far more usable than you might think.

Comedy is like fire.

You can have a video with a raging bonfire-amount of humour that in the right circumstances (outside, away from trees, and on a still night) hits perfectly. You can also have a small, tasteful, candle-flame amount of humour. Using the candle-flame approach, you can use tasteful humour to make potentially serious topics far more memorable.

An iconic example of this is the "Ghost Chips" ad from Clemenger BBDO for the New Zealand Transport Agency.

For context, NZTA wanted young men to be able to tell their mates not to drive drunk without feeling awkward or ‘soft’, and without using creative that would ultimately scare people - which had not been an effective strategy in the past. Instead, they injected the concept with humour, and the video hit nearly 1M views in two weeks (which was huge for New Zealand in 2011). The video clearly resonated with its target audience like never before, as the number of under-17s caught drink-driving went from 630 in 2007 to 305 after the campaign was released in 2011.


From childhood fairytales to Saturday night murder mysteries to the latest tabloid about your favourite Kardashian, we are all suckers for a good story. Stories are also a powerful way to invigorate and emotionally engage your audience, helping them to connect with your brand on a more personal level.

In a crowded marketplace, storytelling sets you apart from competitors. Your video's unique story can become a key differentiator, helping you stand out and be remembered amidst a sea of marketing ads served to your future customers online every day. Whether your video is more conceptual or script-heavy, story will always be paramount.

When we script our videos, here are three key questions that often help us get started:

  1. Who is the hero and what do they want?
  2. Who or what is opposing the hero getting what they want?
  3. What will the hero's life look like if they do (or do not) get what they want?

This isn't the be all and end all of good storytelling, but it is a simple way to check that you've included all the key elements of a good story. If a story can't answer these three questions, it won't connect with your viewer.


The final thing all great videos contain is an attention-grabbing hook or hooks. In a video, a hook is the moment that makes people want to keep watching. They can be visual gags, shocking story beats, or comedy - basically anything that grabs the viewer's attention.

This ad from 2023 uses a great series of hooks to keep you watching! Notice how the same hook is repeated multiple times to keep your attention to the very end.

On social media, you have about three seconds to grab someone's attention before they decide your video is boring and they continue death-scrolling. So, your first hook is your most important one and should happen at the very, very beginning.

Once you have caught their eye with your first hook you will have their attention for about 10 seconds. In that time, you want to add in another hook that will keep their attention for another 10 seconds, where you then place yet another hook and so on.

Do it right, and before they know it, the person will have watched the entire video and enjoyed it. High watch-through and completion rates are often a tell-tale sign that an ad is effective.


Now that you know what makes a great video truly great, go out there and get brainstorming. Don't be afraid to think big, and tap into those creative hooks, stories, and laughs, so long as you don't distract from the singular message that will help your customer, the hero, survive and thrive.

And as always, if you need someone to help you capture that creative spark, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

New to video marketing?

The ODV Ultimate Video Marketing Handbook
Download our ultimate marketing handbook to help kickstart all of your wildest marketing dreams.