Tom Greveson11/03/2020

6-minute read

The importance of video as a key marketing and conversion tool is ever increasing but as with the proliferation of any content, the market can quickly become crowded with audiences growing disinterested. In order for brands to differentiate they need to engage on a deeper level. Personalisation enables deeper and more meaningful audience connection, which is why more and more leading brands are using personalised video as a vital part of their campaigns to generate interest, engagement and action.

Personalisation takes video marketing to the next level by putting specific, tailored content right in front of your audience. As well as including their name, it’s also possible to insert bespoke footage to really make a connection. In this blog, Revolution Viewing’s Video Personalisation Expert Tom Greveson (CEO) explores smart new ways to connect content and audiences. It includes examples of personalisation done the right way and is divided into three key sections:

Best use of data to engage
Real-life examples
A few things I’ve been wowed by

Best use of data to engage

I’ve always been passionate about video and its power to disseminate a single well crafted message to the masses. Organisations today hold more information about their customers than ever before, which is a fantastic opportunity to differentiate and make video even more engaging. Using that data can inform video personalisation – tailoring messaging to the interests of the individual. This represents a powerful shift in the way we increase audience retention and conversion.

I’m often asked by clients, ‘how do we make our data work harder for us?’ Well, a good place to start is to list out the data sets that you have, your marketing objectives and key messages. Then, think of ways to marry these up, using the data you have to make sure these objectives and messages resonate with your audience. How can it make your messages stronger, more interesting and more memorable?

We’ve produced some of our most engaging content to date for universities, using the data they hold for their prospective students. I’m using universities here because I’m very familiar with the sector and it’s where some of our best examples come from. It goes without saying that these ideas are transferable (or that with data sets from other sectors we would be able to push innovation even further).

Neon sign reading 'data has a better idea'

Here are some examples of data we’ve used to take university marketing to the next level:

Postcode – your personal journey

In a video for the University of Salford, we opened with a personalised scene that was informed by postcode data. Determined by postcode, the opening sequence depicts the approach journey to the university via road from the North, South, East, West; or from Manchester International Airport. Many of the video recipients would have made that exact journey to the university to attend an Open Day and will be likely to make that same journey should they choose Salford as their place of study. We produced videos for 14,000 recipients for the University of Salford (dispatched as links via email) and the feedback we have received suggests the video had the intended effect of being relatable, familiar and interesting.

Phone number – SMS trigger

We broke the fourth wall in an exciting project with Edge Hill University. Towards the end of the video, one of the students indicates to the viewer that they have sent an SMS message via phone. In real-time, this triggers an actual SMS to arrive on the viewer’s phone to correspond with the on-screen content. This is an incredibly powerful way to reach out to audiences but also one which must be handled sensitively as there’s a risk of ‘creep factor’ with this approach (hence our other blog post: Personalisation: creepy, cool or naff)! From focus groups with prospective students, we have found that the creep factor reduces if there is a clear reason for the message being sent. In many cases it’s worth the risk, as it can be a great trigger for a call to action.

Screenshot of SMS in video
This SMS appears onscreen within the personalised video. When the message appears in the video, it triggers a corresponding SMS to be sent to the viewer’s mobile phone.

Hall of residence – your future home

In a project that we delivered for Nottingham Trent University (NTU), the university knew which hall of residence their applicants would live in based upon the course they would study. We used this data to make a video starting with students moving into that specific hall. Recipients were likely to be familiar with ‘their’ hall from an Open Day or from having seen images as part of their application. Aligning our video content with their frame of reference was an effort to increase familiarity and avoid jarring and disengaging viewers by introducing footage of someone moving into an unfamiliar place. 26,000 recipients received a unique video.

Subject specialism – your future study space

Most of our university clients are keen to showcase their facilities. Many of these campus locations are relevant to all, for example Students’ Unions or libraries. We will often film generic footage of these spaces (to be included in every version of the video for a campaign) and then use our video personalisation system to insert scenes that match an applicant’s chosen subject. Content personalisation helps to ensure that your audience remains constantly engaged with what they are viewing, increasing viewing retention and reducing early audience drop-off.

In a video we made for the University of Salford, at 00:51 the content cuts away to subject-specific footage for each recipient. This image displays stills from four iterations of the video (clockwise from top left): Business Studies, Music & Performance, Aeronautical & Electrical Engineering, Sports Science.

First name – it’s all about you

I’ve left this until last as using first name data is not a particularly new or ground-breaking innovation. We’ve all most likely seen first name personalisation multiple times. The reason we may have all seen multiple examples of it, though, is because it remains an effective way of connecting with audiences and retaining interest.

In the NTU video I mentioned earlier, as well as showing a specific hall of residence, we also featured first name personalisation throughout. This was informed by some findings from our primary research programme. When we tested a personalised video with a student focus group, we found that although they were not particularly wowed by the appearance of their name, they liked to see it. Students also reported that they paid closer attention to the video as they were keen to spot when their name next appeared. We placed their names on objects relevant to the scene to ensure that it was congruous with what they were watching.

A few things I’ve been wowed by

There are some fantastic examples out there of people using personalisation in all the right ways. Aside from the university examples that I’ve shared above, here are a couple that I’ve been really impressed by as I’ve been considering how we can continue to push forward creatively with personalisation.

Nike – Outdo You

In their Outdo You video, Nike use data from a fitness tracker to summarise a runner’s year. The first hook, of course, is the recipient’s first name (I told you – it’s not innovative but it works) and where they live. The video then uses statistics from the recipient’s fitness activity to tell a story. It concludes by offering a fitness challenge to the viewer. Presumably this is one of a number of potential challenges determined by activity to date.

Two screenshots from the Outdo You video
Two screenshots from the Nike Outdo You video. As well as first name, they used data from a fitness tracker to tell a story

Barclays – Personalised Lending Video

Barclays open their video with (surprise, surprise) the recipient’s name onscreen, but the real showstopper for me in this video is that the recipient’s name is also audible. Stick with it for 6 seconds and you’ll see (hear!). It’s a bit more work to personalise audio in this way, which is perhaps why we don’t see it so much, but it helps Barclays to connect with their audience and it contributes well to the overall feel of personalisation. It also makes me smile to think of the poor actress sat in the sound booth spending a day reciting hundreds of names! The rest of the video continues with personalised content and it’s worth a watch but for me, the audio is the standout element of this example.

Some examples from the Barclays video – but you really need to watch it, the audio is the innovative bit

So what is the future of video personalisation? It’s the synergy we can achieve by combining rich data and rich media to produce something meaningful, memorable and deeply engaging for our audiences. In a crowded marketplace the audience members won’t hang around and absorb your message if they have to pick through the irrelevant information to find the relevant. So capitalise on your customer information and merge this with brilliantly creative video production and your videos will succeed in standing head and shoulders above the rest, acting as a key differentiator for your brand and engaging and converting like never before!

The RV blog is published monthly and covers a range of topics. This is our second on personalisation – click the button below to see the full list of previous posts.