Making Great Web Videos: How The Story of Stuff Project Engages Viewers with Original Storytelling

It’s no secret that web video has risen to dizzying heights in the content marketing world. Just take a look at this 2015 infographic.

But as always, the rise of one form of media introduces a whole new problem: quality control.

Videos seem to be working, so every company wants to start using videos. The trouble is that usually means an abundance of mediocre quality web videos designed only to sell and not to engage, educate or interact with.

While there are certain characteristics that make a good web video – brevity, simple design, catchy title – I think the best ones usually excel because they find a unique style.

The folks over at “The Story of Stuff Project” have figured this out. Their videos are engaging, educational, short (given the amount of information covered) and visually beautiful. As a nonprofit advocacy group, The Story of Stuff Project has the task of inspiring environmental change to save the planet. A tall order, to say the least.

But they take it in stride by delivering content in beautiful, hand illustrated stories with narration to match. I recently watched “The Story of Electronics” from their YouTube channel and was amazed at how well they explained the concepts. So what makes this video great? Here’s a few points to consider.

Title and Branding

The Story of Stuff has some great branding. Named after it’s first video on the production, consumption and waste of consumer goods, the organization’s video titles now all have the unified “Story of” before the topic. It creates unity and cohesion for their mission, and it’s also just plain catchy.

Unique Visuals

In a media realm where brands are obsessing over visuals, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of pixel-perfect stock photos and Instagram-worthy thumbnail images to blogs posts. The Story of Stuff Project takes an entirely different route by using hand drawn graphics and visuals, and thereby totally setting itself apart from the rest of the noise.

Short(ish)

Ok, so the video is technically almost eight minutes…but if you watch the video, you’ll quickly realize that is a fast eight minutes. Most web videos try to hit the target range of under three minutes. And while The Story of Stuff generally fails to do this with its content, the subject matter is so complicated and involved, that squeezing in all that material to eight minutes is an impressive feat.

Teachy, not Preachy

Although the organization certainly wants to change minds, the video did a nice job of not sounding overly preachy. Sure, it encouraged environmental action and change; but by the end, I felt educated more than berated, and I’d call that a win for any nonprofit.

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