Small budget, big impact: How to create video on a shoestring

Creating engaging video content does not have to break the bank. Here’s how to make the most of a small budget.

Piggy bank shoestring budget

Video is understandably an attractive medium for brands – it’s creative, gets the message out and stylishly shows off products and services in action.

Take Ted Baker, for example. Last year, the brand teamed up with with film director Guy Ritchie to launch a short video that allowed consumers to click and buy featured products. It even launched its own video series using Instagram Stories in March.

Campaigns like this require the type of budget that most smaller brands can only dream of. And as marketers are under ever more pressure to prove their worth, taking a savvy approach is never a bad idea.

Managing any kind of campaign or production can be daunting, though, especially when trying to do it on a smaller budget. Brands need to make sure they achieve the right look and feel, while at the same time making a big impact.

With that in mind, Marketing Week has lined up some straightforward tips to make the most of a small budget when making video.

1. Fail to prepare = prepare to fail

While this might seem slightly superfluous, it is easy for brands to dive straight into filming without any consideration of the video’s message, timing or desired outcome. Planning ahead means the project will be less likely to go over budget, helping brands avoid expensive reshoots and wasted investment.

READ MORE: How to devise an effective video strategy

Brands should firstly define their goals and what they want the video to achieve. Clarity on the video’s key messages will ensure marketers stay on track.

Each piece of video content should also include a call to action, which acts as an instruction for the viewer and helps to provoke an immediate response. If the goal is to drive traffic to a website or sign people up to a newsletter, then define this at the outset and build a call to action into the video that looks to achieve this.

“For example, if you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, your call to action could be something as simple as including a clickable hyperlink at the end of your video,” says Dror Ginzberg, CEO of online video creation platform Wochit.

Is your video meant to be lighthearted and funny? If you don’t know, then your audience won’t know either.

Dror Ginzberg, Wochit

“As with any form of marketing, you need to define a clear brand style, or build upon your existing style. Is your video meant to be lighthearted and funny? If you don’t know, then your audience won’t know either.”

Another important starting point is audience identification. Much like you’d never release a product or service without undertaking market research, the very same principle applies to creating and distributing video content.

“There are a host of tools available which can help with audience identification, but if you’re short on time a really quick shortcut can be researching and analysing your competitors’ video output. The chances are they are likely to be going after the same audience and this approach can help you to identify your target audience quicker,” Ginzberg adds.

Finally, it’s also worth considering what the video is for. If content is pinned on a time-limited issue, such as an event in the news, brands need it quickly and therefore won’t have time for a big production.

READ MORE: How Benefit made a big impression with £3,000

Conversely, if it’s a video that will sit on a corporate website for 18 months, it must look polished as it will represent the brand for a significant period. In this instance it’s almost as important as a brand’s above-the-line activity.

“If a video is for a social campaign – a ‘how to’ video with an unknown potential audience for example – then it should be executed quickly and cheaply, but you should definitely consider a refresh with a larger budget if it proves to be popular,” says David Hughes, managing director at marketing agency Hogarth Worldwide.

2. Location, location, location

Brands don’t necessarily need to spend a large sum of money on the location to create an impact.

“For our Christmas 2016 campaign, we used a dilapidated period building in York and only had to make a donation to the local conservation trust in order to hire it,” says Julia Munder, international marketing manager at luxury brand Maxwell Scott. “It turned out to be an incredibly atmospheric set. The hidden-gem locations are out there, you just have to go out and find them.”

It’s also never been easier to create a makeshift in-house studio, says Tasnim Bhuiyan, head of social content for RYOT UK and Tumblr.

“Is there a spare meeting room in your company? Make it into your video studio. If you have great editors in-house, you can paint the room with green screen paint or you could simply dress the room depending on your topic. Buy some rolls of coloured paper or wood-effect lino and roll it on the floor. You can even get a mic pretty cheaply too,” she explains.

3. Be resourceful

This leads to the next tip, which is all about thriftiness. Be it your phone or a professional DSLR camera, making video has never been more democratised, with influencers shooting quality video straight from their bedrooms with little kit or money.

“Some of the most viral pieces on the web have come from a shaky phone camera, simply documenting a funny moment or a touching, authentic interaction. The main question every video maker has to ask is “why would anyone share this?’,” says RYOT’s Bhuiyan.

Video shot on a smartphone can be just as powerful as a high production film in some scenarios, so don’t rule out user or employee-generated content.

Jess Taylor, Cancer Research UK

For charities, shelling out a hefty sum for video content can be hard to justify. Brands like Cancer Research UK therefore have to be resourceful, according to Jess Taylor, the brand’s foundations and partnerships senior manager.

“We encourage teams to create their own video content using mobile devices with internal training to support. Video shot on a smartphone can be just as powerful as a high production film in some scenarios, so don’t rule out user or employee-generated content,” says Taylor.

READ MORE: When to use video – the ultimate guide

4. Go the extra mile

Re-editing past video footage is a cost-effective method of getting more bang for your buck – don’t avoid using footage just because it is old.

“A decent film editor can freshen up video with new music, clever grading and by working with the frames from a different angle to produce something completely new. We recently achieved this for a YouTube video ad, using old footage shot in Italy from 2014,” Maxwell Scott’s Munder says.

“We find that filming a ‘behind the scenes’ style video at our biannual photo shoots is an efficient way of making the most of the shoots. These types of videos work well in today’s market as the current trends swerve towards portraying your brand as a ‘real life’ business, focusing on the people behind it to drive intrigue.”

Investing properly in creative could also drive organic engagement – thereby saving money on media spend.

“Every piece of content we make earns at least 28 organic views for every one that’s paid for, and those organic shares are far more value than anything paid for. Think about how much attention you pay to something your friend shares, compared to something served to you in an ad,” says Joe Wade, managing director of creative content agency Don’t Panic.

He urges brands not to waste money on loads of media spend, and instead create video that works across different channels and includes hooks for broader audiences will make a little money work harder.

“It’s subtleties, like having an awareness of what’s trending and joining an existing cultural conversation, that make it more likely your video will get shared – it becomes more relevant,” he says.

5. Avoid common pitfalls

As with any marketing tactic, there are pitfalls marketers should stay clear of. Some brands create a piece of video content just for the sake of it, while others take a one-size-fits-all approach, whereby they’ll place one video on every social media platform.

To avoid these problems, make video social media ready. In practice, this means personalising video for the chosen social media platform and understanding each channel.

READ MORE: From ‘stories’ to livestreaming – the newest video formats for brands

“In order to personalise, consider adding text subtitles within the video in the audience’s native language. This is particularly effective for Facebook videos as the platform is currently set up to mute autoplay video. Also, have you made it easy for a viewer to share the content by providing links and share buttons? If not, your content – no matter how good it is – might hit a dead end,” says Wochit’s Ginzberg.

It’s also important to identify each social media platform’s optimal video format. The horizontal video aspect ratio that was once the gold standard for social and online video has been proven less effective in engagement than vertical and square videos, especially thanks to Snapchat.

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