A Brief History of Video Marketing

I think it’s pretty common for people to think of video—and certainly cinema—as considerably older than it is. We can trace the first ‘films’ to the 1890’s, but even this timeline is absolutely tiny compared to the lifespan of so many other forms of media.

Opening Credits

From the 1890’s innovations (the kinetoscope and kinetograph, devices that “would become the predecessor to the motion picture projector”) to Lumiere brothers’ cinematographe, “a lightweight film projector that also functioned as a camera and a printer… lightweight enough for easy outdoor filming” that allowed the Lumiere brothers to “take well over 1,000 short films, most of which depicted scenes from everyday life.”

Of course, give an audience “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory,” and they’ll want “Trip to the Moon”, a widely popular, thirty-second 1902 film that began to show audiences what the medium could do.

There are plenty of major landmarks along the way from there, but for the sake of our focus on video marketing, we’re going to fast-forward about a hundred years of cinema.  When, exactly, does video enter the picture?

Int. YouTube, 2005

The answer here depends on our definition of video, and mine here relates to widely-shareable, almost-exclusively online content, shot on digital and viewable via YouTube and other easily-accessed platforms.  With this in mind, we can start with YouTube itself, where the first video was posted in 2005.  It only took a few months for Nike to leverage YouTube for the first video viewed a million times. 

By 2006, SEO was clearly on Google’s mind, buying YouTube for $1.65 billion.  From there, there’s some hedging on the advent of video marketing proper, but Biteable’s assessment that “Video marketing entered the mainstream around 2010 and it wasn’t until about four years later that it became truly accessible for those on smaller budgets.” 

Video Marketing: Rising Action

From there (circa 2014) and onwards, video marketing has only grown in use and efficacy.  By 2021, Hubspot findings shared by Biteable showed that 72% of customers preferred video when learning about a products or services, and that almost half of internet users sought out a video relating to a product or service prior to going to a store.

The power of video marketing, from barely existing just a decade ago to driving major business outcomes in a few short years, has yet to wane.  Besides the clear audience preference for video marketing shown through HubSpot’s statistics, data shows that “a website is 53 times more likely to reach the front page of Google if it includes video.”

That’s because, as Forbes’ William Craig articulates, video continues to be the most engaging medium for customers available.  “It creates an immediate, real and authentic route of interaction and connectivity with audience members, who can often provide reactions and comments in real time.”

To stick on Craig’s last point for a moment—this real-time feedback can provide invaluable business insights, foster a community, create a great portal for gathering opinions, use cases, and more from your customers (for free), and allow your brand to speak back to its audience.  This kind of dialogue creates the personal connection that leads to customer retention, especially when it is robust and inclusive of offers, contests, giveaways, and any other proof of gratitude and attentiveness you can provide.

Authenticity Above All Else

Craig’s point, though, is not that this back-and-forth summarizes the popularity of video—it’s that authenticity explains the historic rise and full-speed-ahead continued growth of video marketing.  He explains that “…trust remains intrinsic among consumers” and that they “trust the experiences of others.” 

While suggesting diligent employment of your video assets across the platforms your customers most frequently visit, Craig’s final points are reassuring on the ease of entry into video marketing: “Keep growing, and don’t be afraid to experiment.  Just do it with honesty and transparency.  Your brand’s authenticity is what makes you stand out and draws in customers.”

Authenticity has always been a strength of video and film, since the first images of workers leaving a factory enthralled audiences simply because they were seeing real people, moving and interacting realistically.  Modern moviegoers expect a little more than believable walking from their entertainment, but the principle of authenticity remains central.

Video marketing isn’t ancient, but neither is the motion picture.  Cinema is old enough to have generated a massive and arguably permanent interest in the medium, however.  It’s also old enough to have created the expectation that audiences most rely upon: authenticity.

Video marketing is a natural evolution of cinema as it meets the decentralized world of streaming and YouTube, and one that follows similar guidelines.  Be real.  Meet your audience where they are.  Open a dialogue with the consumer.  Employ relatable characters and stories.

Often when people talk about authenticity, they say things like “I’d rather they tell me the unpleasant truth right away—at least I know where I stand with them.”  This is the cautionary element of authenticity: people can recognize false authenticity quickly, and would rather be immediately disgusted than tricked.

Dedicated to the Lumieres

Luckily, authenticity is not hard to fake.  It’s the real thing!  So remember the innovators that have come before you, the trends and benefits that have driven video marketing to its current heights, and think about how you can harness the approach to drive business results on your own. 

When both history and data converge, the conclusion is hard to ignore—and here, it’s simply that authentic video marketing can transform your initiatives.