Cognitive Load Theory: A Different Approach towards Video Content Creation

Maneesh Madambath
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The case for video content for brands is a well documented idea. As a brand manager seeing an awesome video by another brand is probably a good enough research report on why your brand needs one. Cracking your video strategy online can be a huge advantage for your brand and it goes beyond just views.

This brings me to my first point.

All videos need not be viral.

Fundamentally, brands make videos to increase awareness of their product/brand. So it's natural to want as many people to watch the video as possible. This however, puts a lot of pressure on the medium and its performance is measured on a single metric – views.

And this single point makes a lot of us take the wrong decision about what broadly our video strategy should be and at a bare level on what a video should communicate. The initial instinct is to make something people would want to share - something interesting, than something relevant.

Pretty soon we realize humour (which drives most of what's interesting and engaging) is a hard nut to crack and before the final product comes out, and an insane number of brand guidelines make their way into the video before the core message does. The result is a video which is hardly a visual stimulant to an action in favour of the brand.

Your video strategy can be beyond views. Here's an insight -

A study by the OPA found (although some while back) that amongst users who watched a video ad online in a 30 day period -

  • 46% of people take an action following a video.
  • 26% looked for more information about the subject of the video
  • 22% visited the website named in the ad
  • 15% visited the company represented in the video ad
  • 12% purchased the specific product featured in the ad

These statistics by itself doesn't amount to enough data to make any decision on my own, but it is indicative. It is indicative of an approach that we can perhaps take for our video strategy.

A time for Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load theory

can perhaps be the reason more people watch movies than read books (the books are always better, 2 states being an exception), but that's just my assumption.

This theory is usually applied in learning environments and is the basis to improve efficiency of training programs and in general doesn't have a lot to do with branding and advertising. However, it deals with how our brains process information with the intention of retaining information. For instance do video clips and visuals help in better retention when learning. That aside, I also carry a biased notion that social media marketing is a close relative of human resource management.

An interesting part of CLT and its study was seductive detail hypothesis, which essentially said that interesting but 'irrelevant' details in learning hampers learning and retention. Our brains find it distracting and harder to process the core information with the distracting details coming with it. Appropriate visuals on the other hand with a narration can in fact reduce the cognitive load.

Don't Try to be What You Are Not

The idea to take home here is that, in the pursuit of views don't hack your core message. If you build your video strategy aligned with what your overall digital marketing objectives are, it can deliver you better business results in terms of brand retention and a more relevant action. This is possible when the video is authentic, i.e. true to your brand and has a core message to give out. It will lead to actions that are more in line with your marketing objectives.

As a case in point, last week my brand made public this video we'd been working on.

We had been trying to succinctly show the value of Klip with a video since the time we launched it. We tried on our own, explored other video vendors, but till the time one of our own users came on board to do this, we couldn't get something out that we were completely satisfied with and what was aligned to our overall marketing efforts. We have documented the whole story behind this video here.

Our efforts were in part driven by the observations made above as much as the story we wanted to tell people, that our brand is about them.

To conclude

There's no debating the fact that a good video that hooks people enough for them to share and make your video go viral is a good goal to have. However, the point of this post is to give you a different window to look out from and form your strategy. The video business can become an expensive affair both in terms of time and money to get a quality product out and there's no conclusive co-relation between the exposure it gets and the business it drives.

Therefore, perhaps it will be better for you to experiment with more authentic videos whose objective is the translation of its brand message than its reach, and see how it is translating into some form of business goal. With cheaper and more engaging channels of video becoming available this is the time to experiment on this approach.

The points I used from the OPA study and the Cognitive Load Theory was more indicative of possible approaches to take, and by themselves don't validate (or invalidate) my conclusions. If you want to use them for your decisions I would recommend a deeper study on them.

Viral brand manager Making Video Content increase awareness of their produc Different Approach Cognitive Load Theory