In 2020, it became abundantly clear that video is a critical communication tool. Brands used it to give updates to customers and stakeholders while consumers used it to make purchase decisions and pass the time at home.
Marketers, for their part, used video to reach prospective customers in the digital spaces where they were already spending their time, primed to engage with dynamic content. And while the advertising industry already knew that video was important, that point became especially clear when most methods of face-to-face communication were eliminated.
In short, the video landscape grew and expanded in 2020 in ways that are unlikely to be reversed anytime soon. Here are seven of the changes we’ve noticed and what they mean for your video marketing strategy in 2021 and beyond.
1. Lower barriers to entry
The first change we noticed here at Lemonlight was that the events of 2020 made video marketing more accessible by smaller brands, late adopters, and other groups that skipped video pre-2020.
The main explanation here is that the sudden shift at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many teams—including video pros—had to adjust quickly and sacrifice on production value to make video work remotely. And while the production value has steadily increased with additional months at home, audiences are more tolerant of small glitches, less-than-professional backgrounds, personal interruptions, and low-quality audio or visuals than they were pre-pandemic.
This gives your brand an advantage if you’re late to the video game. Before 2020, brands that were just getting started with video content often struggled with perfectionism, not wanting to dive in for fear of audiences nitpicking the quality. That’s just not the case in 2021. If you’re still waiting for the perfect time to launch a video marketing strategy, that time is now! Audiences are more understanding than ever before.
One effect of the lower barrier to entry for video content is that video use is, unsurprisingly, increasing. In Hubspot’s 2020 “State of Marketing” report, video beat out all other options (including email, blogging, and infographics) for the most-used type of marketing content. Expect even more teams to hop on the video marketing bandwagon throughout 2021.
2. Emphasis on video-first social media platforms
This trend isn’t quite unique to 2020—we began to see the rise of video-first social platforms years ago (remember Vine?). However, 2020 accelerated this shift in a major way.
For one thing, TikTok exploded in use in 2020. It seems like a perfect storm occurred for TikTok to really take off; consumers were looking for new ways to pass time during early stay-at-home orders, content creators who were laid off or furloughed from other jobs had time to try something new, and short-form video is engaging without requiring too much mental effort or focus. It’s no wonder, then, that TikTok had an estimated 850 million+ downloads and $1 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.
Beyond TikTok, we’ve seen other shifts in platforms leaning towards video this year. Notably, Instagram Reels launched as a direct competitor to TikTok, but other platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn also became more video-centric. Many sites’ algorithms began prioritizing video content in 2020, incentivizing content creation from those who really want their messages to travel.
Back in 2017, Mark Zuckerberg shared his vision for Facebook to become a “video-first platform,” and it seems many other platforms are following suit. In 2021, this trend is far from over. We’re likely to see continued emphasis on video content across platforms in the coming months and years.
3. Increased value perception from consumers
It’s no surprise that consumers enjoy video content. However, 2020 made it clear that video is even more valuable to consumers than we might have thought. In the absence of in-person communication, brick-and-mortar shopping, and in-office work, video has had to pick up all the slack. And with few exceptions, it’s done so brilliantly.
While many of us may be tired of Zoom meetings and webinars, video undoubtedly made 2020 more functional—and bearable. Consumers have been able to enjoy virtual happy hours, shop at home with AR video try-on features, live stream workout classes, and generally accomplish so many other tasks that we might already take for granted. The fact is that video makes many of these remote challenges less challenging, and consumers are starting to recognize the power that video holds.
4. Focus on edu-tainment content
Edu-tainment content is exactly as it sounds: content that’s equal parts entertaining and educational. Many of today’s teachers are already experts at this concept. They find ways to bring engaging content into the classroom (or virtual classroom) so that students naturally want to pay attention to what they’re seeing. Then, the educational message is more likely to stick in both the short-term and the long-term.
In the last year, we’ve seen an increase in branded edu-tainment videos. There are two shifts happening here simultaneously. First, brands aren’t afraid of sharing educational content that doesn’t quite have a sales-driven call-to-action. We’re seeing an increase in content that’s purely informational and built for the awareness stage of the purchase funnel rather than using video strictly for driving conversions.
Second, talented content creators are able to share their expertise about a wide variety of topics in a way that’s visually appealing to viewers. TikTok, for its part, is a gold mine of edu-tainment content. Creators on the app tend to have a strong grasp on basic video production skills (and if not, the app makes it simple to pick up the basics). So, using video as the means for communication, creators are able to reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of viewers as they share niche information that they’re passionate about. The authenticity shines through for viewers, who can tell that the creator is knowledgeable and excited to share about their area of expertise.
Brands are likely to continue to experiment with edu-tainment content in 2021, and edu-tainment content will continue to account for much of TikTok’s charm. If your own brand hasn’t considered creating edu-taining video for 2021, now is a great time to start brainstorming.
5. Increased time spent watching video content
Unsurprisingly, the events of 2020 led many people to engage with more video content than usual. Nielsen studies show that home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched globally. Wyzowl also found that compared to three years ago, today’s consumers are watching an average of 7.5 additional hours of video content every week, bringing the new total to a whopping 18 hours.
These stats have a few implications of their own. First, consumers are becoming more video-literate, recognizing the possibilities that exist with video tech solutions like AR video content, shoppable video content, and other interactive video options. They’ve also come to expect certain features out of video content, like closed captioning that makes videos accessible without audio.
These stats also means there’s a captive audience in digital video spaces that’s constantly ready for new content. In many ways, consumer demand for great video content has never been higher, which means the stakes are higher for brands and content creators that forgo video in their strategies. Time will tell whether that’s a defining factor for brand success in the coming years, but it’s definitely possible that brands without a video presence will be left behind.
6. Changing video demographics
The demographics of consumers who are streaming video content are also changing. Nielson research also found that streaming is “no longer a young person’s game,” with consumers 55 years old and above making up 26% of the streaming audience, up from just 19% in 2019.
Despite that finding, older audiences are often still ignored in these digital video spaces. Brands and marketers may wrongfully assume that their target audience online will consist primarily of Millennials and Gen Z, but that’s just not the case anymore. Brands that make the pivot to include older audiences in their video efforts will likely fare better than those that don’t over the next few years.
7. Increased streaming competition
Finally, as we all know, streaming competition continues to increase. If you’re feeling like every network, platform, and niche is creating its own streaming subscription service this year, you’re not alone. It became clear a few years ago that this outcome was likely, but the reality is more confusing and overwhelming to most consumers than we might have expected.
It’s too early to tell what this competition will do to the streaming market, but many consumers who abandoned their cable subscriptions will find that the one-off streaming service bills start to add up quickly when you stack a few together. Some argue that we’re just rebuilding the cable model in a decentralized way, and that in the end, most people will end up more or less back where they started.
For the advertising industry, this shift just means it’s more important than ever to be intentional about content choices. Over-the-top (OTT) advertising is gaining traction among brands that want to reach streaming audiences, but the competition will require ads that are creative, aligned with the platform and audience, and memorable to make an impact. Wyzowl found that 92% of marketers feel that the level of noise and competition have increased in the last year, so we’ll see how that plays out over time.
These seven changes show just how much the video space is changing over time, and how the events of 2020 accelerated those changes. We’ll see what 2021 does to the video marketing landscape, but we have no doubt that we’ll continue to see positive trends for years to come.