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By Neil Perry
When was the last time you really enjoyed reading a new device installation or set-up manual? If “never” is your answer, you just may have stumbled upon one of the best video marketing opportunities now available to today’s brand marketers. Video-izing instruction and how-to manuals can make your customers’ lives a lot easier. But it’s not only a good customer service idea, it’s also a solid marketing opportunity.

At a top level, producing such videos couldn’t be much easier. All you really need is a link to a YouTube video, or better yet, to a video posted on your company’s or client’s own Web site. Of course, you’ll also need the actual video, but that’s not too difficult to develop. You can produce these videos in-house or through a crowdsourced video company at very low costs, with a real consumer feel to them, as well.

Taking a step back, the last big innovation in instruction manuals was the color-coded wiring guide for Dell (and many other computer companies now, as well), developed to help folks set up their new desktop computer systems.

Now, videos can be more effective than written instructions in terms of showing customers how things fit together and the easy steps needed to assemble their new purchase. Everyone involved can save all of the extraneous and often unnecessary details for a companion manual by using the video to share the basics. Unless it involves a very complicated purchased item, it is generally wise to keep your video short and concise, ideally less than two minutes.

If you are worried about cramming a ton of information into such a tight timeframe, remember that your customers can easily rewatch the piece and get the information they need without having to leaf through scores of pages of text and diagrams that never seem to look like the actual product spread out on the floor before them.

One specific form of these videos is called an unboxing video. It’s pretty much the same concept as the how-tos, except it simply shows viewers how to remove an item from its packing box, identifies what each part is, and quickly shows the very basic steps needed for assembly. This is particularly beneficial when items like a new digital camera or a music system are involved. The power of sight, sound and motion can go a long way toward managing the angst customers may have as they start to pull all of the parts from a box prior to assembling their new toy.

Perhaps the most powerful marketing opportunity associated with these videos lies in just being able to reiterate the most compelling one or two points about the product your customer just purchased. Of course, you don’t need to sell your customer at this point, but providing a gentle reminder about the qualities of your product will help elevate your brand, as well as customer appreciation -- especially if your video ultimately makes their life easier.

Finally, a few marketers are taking online video manuals a step further, using QR codes. In this scenario, consumers can travel down the aisle of a Big Box retailer and see a QR code on a shelf tag for a product that clearly will require some unboxing and assembly. The prospect of having to assemble immediately concerns the potential buyer: However, the QR code takes the buyer directly to an online video that briefly shows how easy it is to assemble and use the product, while reiterating some of its key marketing benefits.

Today’s consumers expect ease-of-use from brands at all levels and the responsibility to convey this rests largely with marketing teams. If done correctly, video manuals can simultaneously “wow” customers, help them assemble a product quickly and easily, and then remind them of how smart they are for having purchased the brand-new product in the first place

Neil Perry is president of Poptent, a global video production company for Fortune 500 brands and agencies, producing crowdsourced commercials and other video assets through a social network of more than 40,000 videographers in over 120 countries.
From Online Video Insider