What Pixar’s Storytelling Rules Teach Us About B2B Marketing Videos

December 7, 2021

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Meisha Bochicchio


Toy Story. The Incredibles. Finding Nemo. Even if you haven’t seen these movies, you’ve at least heard of them. Pixar — the studio behind those blockbuster animated films — has earned 23 Oscars and more than $14 billion in box office revenue.

What can Pixar’s success teach us about creating stellar B2B marketing videos? Former Pixar artist Emma Coats clued us in when she famously Tweeted her “22 Story Rules” back in 2011. The secret is actually in the title itself: Every project should tell a compelling story in order to grab an audience.

In B2B marketing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your audience as faceless corporations, devoid of human emotion. And yet those companies are run by people — and people love a good story.

Applying Pixar’s rules for storytelling to your video marketing can help you take your results … to infinity, and beyond! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) Here are a few of our favorites from the full list:

1. Consider your target audience

Pixar Rule: “You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.”

This one sounds simple, but it’s a little harder to do in practice. It’s paramount that you remember that your video content isn’t for you — it’s for your customers (current and future).

Say you’re a big fan of director Martin Scorsese. Would it be cool to throw a Taxi Driver reference into your next B2B video? Sure — you know you’ll love it, at a minimum. But will that truly resonate with your audience? If your prospective customers are, say, makers of cheery children’s clothing, a Taxi Driver reference would probably send them scurrying away pretty quickly.

That means that before you start planning your video, you have to first know who your target audience is. Then you can begin crafting a message that is going to be specifically interesting to that persona, even if it’s not aligned with your personal interests.

By all means, have fun when you make marketing videos — just make sure your viewers are going to have fun, too.

2. Narrow your marketing message

Pixar Rule: “Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.”

It’s tempting to want to do it all, but simplifying is best. Choose one value proposition for each video marketing campaign. Trying to squeeze too many messages into one B2B video will dilute its effectiveness and potentially confuse viewers.

Maintain a singular focus so your audience can follow along. If people think your video is about one topic, but then it shifts to something different, they’ll stop watching.

Besides, you’re working with a limited time frame (more on this later), so really homing in on one aspect of your product or service will maximize your results.

Your business may have several value propositions — that’s great! You should make marketing videos for each one of them separately. You can even create a template for each value proposition that you then use to make future video ads.

3. Start your video with the end in mind

Pixar Rule: “Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.”

You need to know where you’re going in order to know if you got there. When you create marketing videos, you need to first identify your goal: Do you want viewers to visit your website after watching? Do you want them to share your video on social media? Or would you like them to become customers right away?

Creating the right content for these goals requires you know what stage of the marketing funnel your viewers are in. For example, if they’re just hearing about your business for the first time, a tutorial or demo video probably isn’t going to grab their attention.

For top-of-the-funnel prospects like these, a brand video with a Call to Action (CTA) to watch another video or visit your website makes more sense. Save your product videos for your middle- or bottom-funnel audiences, as they’re more likely to be primed for this information and possibly use it to make a purchasing decision.

Knowing what steps you want your audience to take after watching will help you decide what type of video to make.

4. Use metrics to hone your video marketing strategy

Pixar Rule: “Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.”

While the goals we just discussed involve what you want viewers to do after watching your videos, you should also set goals for your overall marketing efforts. This will help you collect data so you can iterate and do better in the future.

It’s just a reality that your first video probably won’t be perfect but if you know how you missed the mark, you can measure and optimize your marketing efforts. For example, are you trying to generally increase brand awareness? Improve your email marketing or landing-page conversion rates? Create new customers?

Metrics are the way you measure your progress. For example, looking at the number of views will help you understand how many people your B2B message is reaching. Another metric you can use involves monitoring how much of your video people watch; the longer they’re watching, the more your content is connecting with people.

Say you look at your video metrics and see a steep drop in engagement within the first few seconds. You could try to make the beginning of your next B2B video more exciting or more tailored to your persona and see if that mitigates the dropoff rate at all.

5. Don’t be afraid to take risks

Pixar Rule: “Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.”

You can’t be all things to all people. That can be a difficult pill to swallow (particularly for small businesses), but trying to appeal to everyone with your B2B video will make you seem bland and cause you to pale next to your competitors. In other words: Playing it safe won’t help you stand out.

Don’t be afraid to be creative or express an opinion, especially when you’re making brand videos that show your customers who you are and what you stand for. Will you alienate some people? You might — but not every person is your ideal customer! Think of it as a calculated risk to reach the people who you really want to connect with. Taking (measured) risks like this and producing high-quality videos that showcase your competitive edge or unique culture will help you cut through the noise and build trust with the right audience.

6. Focus on your customer’s pain points

Pixar Rule: “What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.”

Your B2B buyers are real people with real problems. Don’t use your marketing videos to simply tell folks your products and services are great. They need to know more than that. Successful content marketing shows your potential customers you understand their pain points — and explains how your products and services can help resolve those specific problems.

Say, for example, that your company builds state-of-the-art printers. You might want to create a B2B video that talks about the excellent printing quality or efficient use of ink. Those are great features, but what is the value to the viewer? Why does this matter?

Your content will be stronger if you go deeper here. Think about it: How do your printers solve your audience’s problems? Does the high-quality printing help them close more deals? Will the ink efficiency prevent them from having to spend thousands of dollars replacing cartridges? Focus on what matters to them, and you’ll draw more people in.

7. Keep your marketing videos short

Pixar Rule: “What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.”

According to our State of Video Report, viewer engagement is about 50% up to the first five minutes of your video. After that, it drops steadily. Your audience is made up of business people who don’t have the time or (let’s be honest) the desire to watch a lengthy explainer video.

Our research indicates that two minutes is the optimal length for online video. If yours is much longer than that, look with a critical eye for areas to trim.

If your product or service requires a lot of explanation, some longer videos may be appropriate. But for your digital marketing efforts, make sure to edit some video clips from the longer videos to create new, short videos you can use.

Use video to grow your audience

Marketing videos are a good way to create meaningful connections with your audience, which is why more B2B companies than ever are embracing video advertising as part of their digital marketing strategy.

You don’t have to break the bank by creating sleek product videos or eye-catching animated videos to stand out. Even if you’re just filming on your iPhone, leaning on Pixar’s rules for storytelling will maximize the impact of your video marketing.

December 7, 2021

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Meisha Bochicchio


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