No, “91% Of Consumers” Don’t Want More Video Content

I thought we went through the pivot to video and the associated damage it’s done to media and business already, but evidently marketers have decided they’re not done milking this fabricated trend. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that video marketing is both very expensive upfront and has a colossal markup, which means it’s incredibly lucrative despite often having very dubious returns for small businesses.

You know, with all due respect.

For a long time I’ve been very critical of the alleged surge in interest in “video marketing.” This stems from a mid-2010s trend known as the “pivot to video” where media companies heavily invested in video content, allegedly due to rising demand from consumers.

This turned out to essentially be based on a lie Facebook was peddling at the time – back in 2019 Facebook ended up paying $40 million to settle a class action law suit alleging that Facebook heavily fudged its video data in order to position itself as a competitor to YouTube. 

The problem was that a lot of publishing, media and printing companies picked up on this story and, taking the word of the original sources, started insisting that video marketing was essential for businesses – and plenty of companies sank exorbitant amounts of money on expensive professional-quality videos or video campaigns regardless of whether or not there was an actual benefit to it. 

COVID, unfortunately, seems to have injected some life into this trend after video consumption blew up while everybody was in lockdown.

I’ve been noticing a term going around suggesting that “91% of consumers” actively want to see more online video content from brands. Having been down this road before, I started doing some digging.

Like every hype-saturated term that sounds incredibly impressive in order to generate FOMO but makes very little sense the more you think about it, it’s a very nebulous statement with no actual context behind it. What context is “consumers” being used in? Everybody on Earth? The world population is around 7.8 billion people. Is this statement inferring that 7 billion people want to see more online video content from brands? What were the variables being controlled here? What sorts of videos were being discussed? Were people asked what sort of videos they’re actively seeking?

The source that kept popping up turned out to be a survey called “State of Video Marketing” which comes from a video marketing company – which should immediately raise a few red flags considering these are the companies actively working to convince you of the merits of video marketing in the first place.

In some contexts, it does work! If you have a visually oriented product or if you want to show up in search results as an expert in your field, it makes perfect sense. Except the ideas that are being implied are that video marketing 1) Works for everyone and 2) Consumers are eager for you to get started with video marketing.

The first one is something we’ve gone through so many times but I’m going to repeat it again: No public facing marketing tool works “for everybody.” If it did, everybody would get results from it regardless of industry or business size.

The second one is especially pertinent because the idea that consumers are going to actively go out of their way to watch your business video content is optimistic to the point of naivety. You’re competing with peoples’ actual entertainment they get on these platforms, and I’ll be candid – in all likelihood you’re just not that interesting.

Consumers have also been trained by this point to ignore commercials. When they go on YouTube or TikTok I guarantee they’re scrolling directly past the paid sponsored videos, and they’re certainly actively hoping that you start putting out video content.

It’s also worth mentioning that these sorts of surveys tend to skew towards the effectiveness of video marketing for big businesses because they have huge audiences of millions of people – not to mention the types of colossal budgets needed for video marketing savvy enough to actually be effective in the first place. What works for Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM is not going to work for small businesses because the audience just isn’t there. Not only that, but you could make the convincing argument that Coca-Coca has an existing audience that’s just leveraging video marketing effectively.

Even if your small business video blows up, virality does not correlate with sales or money. Small businesses by definition are niche businesses with specific audiences, especially localized businesses dedicated to serving a specific town or municipality. You might see a spike in traffic on your website for a while but the correlation doesn’t exist even if you have an e-commerce store. When you don’t, if you’re a plumber in Louisiana do you really think random people watching a viral video from New York or California are going to have a reason to call you?

Take, for example, the famous and celebrated America the Beautiful ad from Coca-Cola. It’s an amazing ad, but beyond the slick production value it had Coca-Cola’s brand name behind it in the first place. Would it have made such an impact if it were produced by a small business? It’s very doubtful, and it’s why it’s so dangerous to talk about “video marketing” without actually contextualizing it. What works for big businesses will not work for medium-sized businesses, which will not work for small businesses, which will not work for businesses of different types or different industries. Context matters.

Which leads us back to the idea that “91% of consumers” want more video content. How did they come to this conclusion? The original post helpfully links back to their original survey deep dive which helpfully informs the methodology:

We gathered the video marketing statistics below by surveying 967 unique respondents in late 2023.

Yes, you read that correctly. Based on a survey of less than 1,000 people, the implication here is that 91% of consumers want more video content. Not only that, but all of these “trends” in video marketing, where video marketing is going to be an “essential part of the digital landscape” are being pitched based on an objectively tiny number of respondents.

The other part of the surveying that got a laugh out of me was this nugget:

88% of video marketers see video as an important part of their overall strategy – slightly down on recent years, but still higher than when we first asked this question in 2015.

So apparently, an overwhelming majority of video marketers see video as an important part of their work. I look forward to the survey about how web developers see HTML as a part of their work.

I know the rebuttal already: “Maybe it’s still profitable though!” There’s an entire section called ROI that goes into this in more depth:

60% of video marketers quantify ROI through video engagement such as likes, shares and reposts.
42% of video marketers quantify ROI through customer engagement and retention.
40% of video marketers quantify ROI through video views.
39% of video marketers quantify ROI through brand awareness/PR.
32% of video marketers quantify ROI through bottom line sales.
28% of video marketers quantify ROI through leads/clicks.

So just to be clear – the only metric where more than 50% of video marketers identify a positive ROI is through likes or shares – a metric that’s absolutely meaningless other than looking good on a report because social upvotes do not correlate with sales or money. Hell, less than forty percent of video marketers even associate ROI with brand awareness and barely thirty even associate them with sales directly.

So apparently, consumers want more video marketing while a third of marketers are only seeing money directly from it.

My intent isn’t to dunk on this company or even this specific study. The intent is to point out that most marketing “trends” are absolutely meaningless to follow because they only work for businesses where they’re predisposed to work – if it doesn’t make sense for you to have video marketing, then what’s the point?

Use what works for you. Not what “the masses” are allegedly using, because these sorts of talking points vastly simply human behavior – usually in order to sell you something.