Deconstructing the Narrative Video: Everything You Need to Know

Does your company have a story to tell? We know it does, and video is one of the best ways to tell your story online. But with all the different styles and types of videos available, how do you know which one’s right for you?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth at least 1.8 million. That means, in just a minute or two, you can communicate a story that’s 1.8 million words long, along with all the emotions, memories, and sentiments that that video brings.

And if your goal is to tell your brand’s story, a narrative may be the way to go.

What’s a narrative video?

A narrative is essentially just a story. It uses classic storytelling elements, including characters, conflict, and a resolution, to communicate a sequence of events that should resonate with the reader. A narrative video should do the exact same thing using beautiful, moving images.

Narrative videos should be no longer than three minutes. While other narrative videos exist that are much longer (like movies and television shows), a narrative video used in your marketing efforts should be short and to the point. Viewership and attention span drops dramatically after one minute, so try not to go too much longer than that or you could lose the bulk of your audience.

Let’s learn a little more about the crucial elements of a narrative video.

Building Character

Your entire video narrative will build around the experience of your characters. Whether you focus on one single character or more, this person will be the one telling your story and the one the audience will either empathize with or rally against.

Depending on the story you’re telling, you may want to focus on a single hero character, who goes through this narrative journey on their own (or despite those around him/her), or a cast of characters who together discover their quest and resolution. In either case, use your script and your images to personify this character and make sure they can strongly convey the emotions you want your story to tell.

Realizing Conflict

Once your character is introduced, start presenting the conflict. What challenge or obstacle does your character face? How does this affect their life? This conflict will ultimately be solved by your company’s product or service — but the viewer doesn’t know that yet. At this point, they should be empathizing with the problem and wondering how it will be solved.

Be creative with how you approach exploring conflict in your video. You only have a short amount of time, so you might be tempted to quickly explain your conflict with straightforward narration. This can work, but don’t forget the other elements that can help you communicate conflict: body language, facial expressions, graphics or animation, point of view, changes in color filters, music, and more.

Exploring Quest

Your character knows the problem now, and needs to find the solution. Their quest, or the journey they take in finding your company, should mirror the experience of an average consumer. It shouldn’t be too difficult, since you don’t have a ton of time to tell your story and you want your viewer to associate the ease of the quest with your brand. Make the quest clear, simple, and rewarding.

Remember, you don’t have to be literal! The quest won’t necessarily mean researching online and downloading an app, or physically walking to a store to purchase something. The quest can be as metaphorical as you like. It could be a CEO building his first prototype. It can be a mother talking about her experience breastfeeding at her mommy and me class. It could even be a person testing various other products and being unhappy with the results. Be creative! Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and imagine the journey you’d take before finally finding your product.

Finding Resolution

Finally, there’s a resolution! This should be the climax of your video and should wrap up any loose ends you’ve built throughout your narrative. Literally, the resolution should be your product or service, but figuratively, this resolution should leave the viewer feeling content and relieved. It should spark interest in your product and create positive associations with your brand.

Are there different types of narrative videos?

Yes! While all narrative videos tell an important brand story, there are different perspectives you can use to tell that story. The perspective you use will affect the tone, voice, and message of your narrative.

First Person Point of View

When your main character is telling their story in their own words, that’s a first person point of view. You’ll hear them use words like, “me,” “my,” and “I.” This point of view lends a more personal feeling to your narrative, as the main character is explaining something they went through directly. That gives your narrative more credibility since your character is speaking for you. This is perfect for testimonials, stories of discovery, and day-in-the-life videos.

Second Person Point of View

Second person point of view is used less often than first or third person. Generally, it addresses the viewer directly with words like “you” and “your.” Narrative videos in second person often break the fourth wall, that invisible wall that separates the actors or characters in your video from the viewers. You might use it to ask the viewer a direct question or invite them into your story, helping make it more relatable. This point of view works great in industry or educational videos.

Third Person Point of View

This is probably the most common perspective in narrative videos. Third person point of view is omniscient and all-knowing — there may be a narrator telling the story, or no narration at all. References to characters will be in the form of “he,” “she,” or “it,” or more likely, will not be referenced directly at all. Think of this point of view as the silent observer. You’re watching a story unfold, and the characters you’re watching are unaware of your existence as the viewer. This is perfect for brand videos, commercials, product videos, and more.

When should I use a narrative video?

Narrative-style video can be used at any point in the marketing funnel, whether you’re hoping to attract new customers, engage your audience, nurture your prospects, or delight your customers. What matters most is knowing what the goal of your video is and who your audience is. This will dictate the actual content of your video.

Typically, narrative videos work best when initially introducing your brand, which means your viewers are unfamiliar with your company. Use your narrative to introduce a problem to the viewer that they didn’t know they had. This allows you to also introduce your product as a solution for the first time.

Narrative videos can be used lower in the funnel, as well, but the conflict then becomes more decision-based.

These videos might feature testimonials where the character is an actual product user, or before and after videos that highlight the effect your brand marketing had on an individual. But remember — narrative videos should always tell a story, so be strategic in how you use testimonials or other kinds of video at this stage.

Don’t forget, there’s also lifestyle, mini-doc, and animation style videos. Learn about them, too, and see which is right for you.

Need help telling your brand story? Let our experts guide you and help you develop your narrative ideas so you can tell your brand story in the best way possible!

Laura Cueva

Laura Cueva