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Video Killed the JPEG Star
How I completely changed my brush business through video.
*Note: this is part of a series. You can read it on its own, or start at the beginning.
On the eve of the release of my first ever set of digital brushes (Kyle’s Ultimate Brush Set for Photoshop, April 2013), I had an idea: instead of using the traditional method used by most of the brushmakers before me to advertise a set of brushes – JPEGs displaying each brush stamp along with an accompanying brush stroke – I could add a little something extra and spend half an hour recording my screen in Photoshop while drawing with each of the brushes to show them in action. Then, I could advertise the brush collection with the aid of a timelapse video of this screen recording. (Continued below the image)
Most of you reading this, if you know anything about digital brushes and how they are advertised, are probably thinking to yourselves, “Duh!! Of course a video is a better representation of a digital brush than a static image. Video allows a potential customer to see the subtleties of texture, variation in line width, and other qualities that can only be captured in the act of drawing! Everybody knows this and everybody does this.”
All true. But remember, this was a decade ago. Everybody did *not* do this. At the time, I had not seen a single other person using this method of advertising brushes and believed I was the first. I was not, of course. Great brushmakers like Alex Dukal had thought of this video idea a few years earlier than me, though I had not seen these videos at the time. In any case, video ads for brushes were very, very rare. And it made all the difference in the world because it left all the guesswork out of the equation for my customers when it came to expectations for how a brush would behave when it was used with an average stylus and tablet. Images can be faked, as we know. Or they can be cleverly manipulated to appear to create marks that are simply impossible, given the limitations of any software’s brush engine capabilities. But a video gives you the whole honest story (or used to) and in the case of brushes, video can make the difference between a bookmark-for-later and a buy-now. (Continued below the image)
As with any first attempt at something new, my video was lame by today’s standards. It was two full minutes long (a Lord of the Rings of brush videos when compared with the modern 15-second TikTok vid) and totally silent. But, it did what it was designed to do and ultimately moved a lot of brush packs for that first collection. It wasn’t long before I allowed myself to take my own advice that I had been sharing for years with students about letting your unique personality drive your brand and your creations; and so, the videos for my next few sets were very different. They were shorter and punchier, had a sense of (corny) humor, included narration, and were more ‘viral-ready.’ Of course, this also meant that they took much longer to record and edit. But the difference they made was well worth the effort. Every time I posted videos that showed the brushes in action, I got a bump in sales. The correlation was obvious. (Continued below the image)
A casual scroll through your Instagram feed tells you that video is a key sales tools for almost any product or brand out there. So, how can you make it work for you? Here are three things I think you should consider when deciding how to take advantage of video when advertising your own brand, product, or service:
Are you using video to tell a different story about your brand, or tell the same core story better?
Who is the audience for your video content? Is there overlap with the audience you reach with the other formats you use (written, static, audio, etc.)?
Which production quality suits your brand or personality: high quality DSLR with pro lighting, transitions, etc. or gorilla-style iPhone video that looks spur-of-the-moment and unpolished? What about tone? Serious, funny, bit of both?
Breaking these down, the first question about the story you are telling is essential to nail down before you tackle anything else. Spend some real time on working out one or two important messages you want a viewer to remember clearly after viewing your video and design everything else around this messaging (preferably in writing!) before you hit, ‘record.’
Second, understand your audience. Every brand is different and you may have an extremely specific demographic for yours, or a much broader one. If the former, you probably are aiming for your video content to capture the attention of all of your customers. If the latter, you may have groups in your audience who have no interest in watching video on TikTok or Instagram and prefer to just read ‘quieter’ content you create for promo purposes. Figure this out before you get to filming.
And finally, production quality: you can experiment here for different platforms and see what sticks. The beauty of using video for social media content is that you can get some real world feedback on what interests your current and potential customers, so if a glossy video with nothing but gorgeous product shots doesn’t rack up views, you can try something less sophisticated that includes a casual you in the frame and see what happens. If you notice some traction, keep going with that formula on that platform for a little while to see if the trend continues. And don’t be afraid to mix it up and try two or three different approaches simultaneously. Remember, if you solve the first part (the story/message) and the second (who is this content for?), you can experiment confidently with how you want to communicate in this format. For example, to support my Lines of Zen meditation app, I have been trying multiple different video ad styles, but they all center around the same simple message: “Find your Zen in just five minutes a day through meditative drawing.”
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Video completely transformed my business. If you are not already experimenting with it, now is the time to give it a look. If nothing else, you’ll learn some new skills and come to understand your own brand message more clearly– I guarantee that much.
Next week, I’ll share a personal story about risk and reward. More specifically, I’ll explain how someone as risk-averse as myself was able to overcome my fear through a proven method I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy. It could work for you, too.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share this far and wide - it means a lot. And if you have something to say, please share it in the comments section below.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, Ciao for now.
Resources for You
I can’t stop watching (and learning from!) James Gurney’s plein-air painting videos.
My Comics Kit for Photoshop is coming soon - stay tuned!
Like everything he creates, Roman Muradov’s latest experimental animation is wonderfully original and creative. Enjoy.
Florian Schommer’s illustration work will surprise and delight you.