In entertainment and advertising, successful videos include elements that evoke emotion and create empathy.
In 2019, Gillette released a controversial commercial that asked viewers, “is this the best a man can get?” Love it or hate it, there is no doubt their video was a huge success at making this legacy company seem fresh and relevant. Almost every type of viewer found something about that video they could empathize with, and their emotionally-charged social media shares drove the YouTube views up to 33 million and counting.
So you’re thinking, “Great. What does this have to do with creating business videos?”
Whether it’s a television commercial or an employee training video, videos that trigger an emotional response will keep viewers engaged and prompt action.
Visual cues: Triggering emotions through color, facial expressions, and movement
Throughout our evolution, humans have built associations with different visuals — colors, movements, and facial expressions — in order to survive. The brain connects what we see to certain feelings — a grin indicates happiness, red suggests danger —so we can identify who and what to trust.
If you’re aware of these nuances, you can craft videos that elicit the emotional responses you want to evoke. Creating your video with a mindful approach to color, facial expressions, and movement can communicate an array of feelings so you can connect with your audience emotionally, not just intellectually. For your viewer, it’s the difference between understanding and empathizing. And with empathy comes greater customer loyalty, employee compliance, and brand affinity.
In creating an emotional tone for your video, you have to think about how people will react to the colors you select.
Studies have found that there is some consistency in people’s general emotional reactions to certain hues. For example, a 1994 UCLA study found that blues and blue-greens evoked pleasant reactions, while large amounts of yellow and yellow-greens caused unpleasant reactions.
You can see how colors can be interpreted differently by comparing two commercials. In the following Yves Saint Laurent perfume ad, a black and white color palette is used to convey a sense of luxury and quality.
Compare that video to Slack’s animated “Amazing Spaceship” cartoon. The video’s black and white colors aren’t meant to convey sophistication —they’re used to elicit feelings of nostalgia and happiness as people think of the cartoons of their childhood.
Slack // Amazing: Spaceship from Giant Ant on Vimeo.
With both universal and unique color interpretations, the key to figuring out how your audience will interpret hues in your video involves two steps. First, understand common perceptions of color by familiarizing yourself with color psychology. A good introductory resource to learn about these normal color associations is this post from 99designs or Vyond’s own resource on choosing color palettes.
Then, consider the context of your video. Consider how certain colors might be interpreted in the context of your organization’s industry. This is why doctors’ offices should never use the color red in their videos, for example.
Facial expressions in videos are a key way to convey how the characters are feeling without having to rely on voice or text. They carry widely understood meanings — a smile means happiness, raised eyebrows indicate surprise — so your audience will quickly understand which emotions you’re communicating and can personally relate to the character in your video.
Consider the power of facial expressions with this training video about bedside manner. Even without hearing the dialogue, viewers can interpret the emotions of characters — sadness from physical pain, happiness with recovery — through their facial expressions.
Camera movement often builds the mood of a scene without viewers even realizing it. Unless it’s a movement that is meant to be jolting — like the shaky camera throughout the film Cloverfield — camera motion is mostly used to subtly contribute to the tone of a video.
This Budweiser advertisement, for example, uses a slight slow-motion effect that is barely noticeable, yet still adds intensity. The dramatic feel of the slow-motion movement emphasizes the seriousness of the video’s message about drunk driving.
Here are a few examples of how camera movement creates certain feelings:
- A pull, or moving the physical position of the camera backward, can signify separation and give the feeling of a conclusion.
- A zolly (or dolly zoom) is zooming in while pulling the camera out or zooming out while pushing the camera in. It creates a feeling of tension and suggests unrest.
- A zoom, or moving the lens to focus more closely, can create a claustrophobic feeling as viewers are forced to focus on a subject.
To learn more about how camera movement can evoke feelings, check out this resource from No Film School and Vyond’s webinar on storytelling with camera movement.
By understanding how color, expressions, and movement can be emotional triggers, you can use visuals in your video to elicit the right feelings from your audience.
Audio cues: Triggering emotions through music and sound effects
Audio isn’t arbitrary in videos — it can stir up a wide range of emotions in your viewers. Just think of the irritating feeling you experience when someone scratches a chalkboard or the calmness you feel hearing waves at a beach. Understanding the common emotional responses to different sound effects and music styles enables you to select audio that enhances the visuals of your video and builds on the feeling you want to create.
The music in your video, whether it’s a song or an instrumental piece, has a huge impact on how people perceive the tone of your video. The same clip can feel happy or sad depending on the tune you pair it with.
Consider this commercial from Apple about their retina display laptops. The upbeat, whimsical song that plays in the background makes the video’s shots of people running feel energetic.
However, the video could have felt a bit scary and threatening if the shots of running people had been played with an ominous piece of music.
A 2009 study from the University of London confirms that music affects how we see visuals. Participants of the study listened to music before seeing an image, and the researchers found that the music heightened the perceived emotion of the visual. For example, sad music playing before seeing a neutral image would make the visual seem sad, while happy music playing before a happy image would heighten the elated feeling of the visual.
Vyond Studio has a library of music to help you set the emotional tone that you want for your video as well as the ability to import your own songs.
Along with music, real-life sound effects can heighten the emotion of your video by providing a cue for when to experience a feeling. For example, a squeaky door hinge sound in a scary movie is a signal to feel frightened. Hearing the noises of your setting and characters also helps your video come to life, so viewers feel more emotionally connected to what they are watching.
Consider, for example, Pixar’s short film “The Blue Umbrella.”
‘The Blue Umbrella’ from Passion Pictures Australia on Vimeo.
The sound effects of inanimate objects — the umbrella flopping, the window awnings moving, the screws tightening — make them feel more alive and allow the viewers to empathize with them. The carefully chosen combination of the objects’ “facial” expressions and the sound effects help these objects feel expressive, so viewers can connect to their emotions.
Audio adds emotional power to visuals, which is why Vyond Studio has its own library of sound effects for users to add to their videos.
Story cues: Triggering emotion through character and plot
By speaking to our emotional lives, stories make the content in a video more relatable and easy to grasp. In fact, people remember information 22 times more when presented through a narrative than facts alone. While your video’s story doesn’t need to be complicated, it should include two basic elements: character and plot.
Every story needs rich characters to drive it forward. The more details you assign to your characters, the more fully imagined your story will feel. Immersed, viewers will be more likely to connect and relate to the emotions of the characters.
Consider this explainer video from Help4Backs.
Rather than just describing their product, the company uses its explainer to tell the story of a fictional character, Mike. The key details of Mike’s personal experience — how long he experienced back pain, what his doctors told him — are shared through narration and visuals, so viewers understand and can relate to his frustration.
Even without narration, visual details can encourage viewers to feel a certain way about your characters. For example, in an employee training video, a careless worker might be shown with their shirt untucked and a disinterested facial expression. To make your characters come alive emotionally, be mindful when choosing their details, such as their:
By fully fleshing out your characters, your viewers will be more likely to emotionally respond to their actions.
Create a plot that reflects your audience’s lifestyle and interests, and they will be more likely to feel emotionally connected to your story.
The mortgage management company Ellie Mae, for example, created an internal training video for their employees about conference call etiquette.
The seemingly simple plot of the video — people continually having trouble dialing in to a call — works because Ellie Mae’s employees can relate to it. They all work in a corporate environment, so they understand the struggle (and humor) of poor connections and interruptions in conference calls.
To craft a plot that resonates emotionally with your audience, consider the following question: what is the typical lifestyle of a person in your audience?
If your video’s plot reflects the experiences of your target audience, your viewers will be more likely to empathize with your video and overall message.
Connect with your audience with an emotional video
When watching a video, people don’t want to just learn facts, they also want to feel something. By producing an emotionally resonant video, viewers will be more likely to empathize with your company or cause, remain engaged throughout the entire video, and easily retain the information you wish to convey.
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