I recently finished listening to Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin, I was taken with Seth’s belief that “average is over”.   I would add to that “authenticity is essential” when differentiating your brand.  So, it’s interesting that during the days I was listening to his thoughts, I was also bombarded with ads for online video creation tools Wibbitz and Slide.ly Promo.  Two services that allow you to create the same type of videos as every one of their other clients, and potentially your competition, are creating, from stock video. Videos that BECAUSE THEY ARE CREATED FROM STOCK, are anything but authentic.  And if there are a lot of video’s out there, created with these tools, and yours is one of them, wouldn’t that make yours AVERAGE?

If you’ve been in the marketing and advertising world long enough, you`ve probably used stock photos or videos.  Nothing wrong with that if you choose carefully. Professionals are smart enough to know that it takes a LONG TIME to find a stock image that doesn`t look like a stock image.  And, unless it’s a shot of Mt Fuji, shooting an original may take less time and budget, and be far more effective, than locating a piece of stock that doesn’t overtly look like stock given it wasn’t created for a specific purpose. I don’t think it would be hard to argue that most brands, due to client budget constraints, are trying to get away with using stock but would probably never want to be caught using stock.

Both the video services I mentioned brag: EASILY CREATE BEAUTIFUL VIDEO IN MINUTES.  While that is a subjective statement, I’m relieved they didn’t say effective.

What came to mind was the Minute Rice commercial from the Brady Bunch era, with Alice proclaiming, “Its ready in 5 minutes!”

 
“Its ready in 5 minutes!” may be true, but for those familiar with what quality rice is, Minute Rice isn’t.  Has easy ever equated to good? Instant potatoes, Instant gratification, instant soup, instant oatmeal, instant coffee, instant eggs, instant noodles, instant pudding, instant breakfast. Are any of these things that give us a sense of quality?  As the old saying goes: time, quality, money: pick two.

They continue “All you need is a few minutes and a story to create a captivating video.” This may be true of a professional video producer, but not the average Joe who I believe is the primary target of their advertising. This reeks of “the karaoke curse”.  REALITY CHECK:  Who on your staff is qualified to find and craft an effective story?  Just asking.  As that seems to be all you need.  How hard could doing that well be?!!?!?  Really???  The story is the hardest thing to get right.  Just ask Paul Winsor:

 
Seth writes “Average is over. It takes art. And there is a big difference between CRAFT and ART.  A cook is not an artist, a chef is.  If its easy and risk-free, its unlikely to be art. If your art is a human connection that causes someone to change their mind, then you are an artist. Art is the ability to change people with your work. To see things as they are and CREATE stories, images and interactions that change the marketplace.”  Note he didn’t say ASSEMBLE PRE-EXISTING ASSETS.  He said CREATE!

He continues “If you make your business easy to replicate, you’re not going to be the one that replicates it, someone else will. Consumers are not loyal to cheap commodities. They crave the unique, the remarkable and the human.  As a result of the tsunami of good and the persistence of really lousy, the market for truly exceptional has never been better”.  He refers to “Artist’s who can’t draw.  Art is anything that creative, passionate and personal”.  And I would say art is anything but what you can create with online video services.  These services enable you to cook video.  So, to attract the prospects your business wants most does your brand need a cook, or a chef?

One of Seth’s favorite negative reviews on a book on leadership was: “you don’t tell us how to do it”. He didn’t because “there is no map for art. THAT’S WHY ITS VALUABLE!!”  These services have created a MAP for video creation.  A template.   How valuable is something that anyone with a computer and credit card can create? They’ve mapped the process which means they’ve taken all the art out of it.

For all you do-it-yourselfers out there saying “What’s wrong with stock? Stock is good enough”. If you have put any time, effort and money into your brand, not used carefully, these services are enough to put a torpedo through your brand and the perception of your company.  I would argue that cheap and cheerful falls short of most brands original intent and that a quality brand demands professional resources to portray it in its originally intended light. Otherwise, why did you create it in the first place? The choice is yours.