If you’re like 87 percent of marketers, you’ve been experimenting with video this year.

And even if your video marketing efforts have yielded positive results, I bet you’re looking to improve, to take things to the next level, to make a few quick wins.

Am I right?

In this post, you’ll find five simple tactics — rooted in human psychology — that you can use today to immediately make your videos work harder for you.

Small changes. Big impact.


Make your video marketing more effective with cold opens, second person, stories, surprises, and music.

(Tweet this)

Let’s dig in.

1. Start with a cold open to hook viewers.

The first use of the cold open, a kind of cliffhanger or teaser, can be traced back to 1960s era television.

SNL presidential debate cold open

The technique is a hallmark of productions like Saturday Night Live, crime dramas, and soap operas.

And the basic idea is to jump right to the action before showing titles, credits, or branding. Opening with drama engages impatient viewers who might otherwise get bored and leave.

Though cold opens are most commonly used in TV, they’re also quite useful for online videos.

Because as you surely know, attention is in short supply online.

2. Speak in second person.

When you’re talking to the camera monologue-style (like I do in most of my videos), you should always say “you” when referring to your audience.

This might seem counterintuitive. Considering hundreds or — if you’re lucky — thousands of people will watch your video, it feels natural to talk as though you’re speaking in front of a crowd.

Home Simpson speaking in front of a crowd

But the majority of people who watch your video will do so alone. So when you say things like, “hey, everybody,” or use plural words (e.g., “fans,” “viewers,” “friends”) in reference to your viewer, you alienate her — even if subconsciously.

Talking to your viewer as though she is in the room with you, on the other hand, will have the opposite effect. Your message will feel more personal and therefore resonate better.

So many video pros get this one wrong. It’s a very simple adjustment, but it can have a significant impact by making you more relatable and your message more powerful.

3. Tell a story.

By now, you’ve probably heard that stories can make your messages more compelling. (After all, “storytelling” has been a major marketing buzzword since at least 2014 — to an annoying degree.)

So the fact that you should incorporate stories into your marketing may not be a revelation. But do you know how to tell a story?

Many marketing articles swear that stories will save your business. But few actually walk you through the steps of telling a good story.

Fortunately, the process is relatively formulaic. You simply need the following 11 ingredients:

Star Trek story

  • Setting
  • Protagonist
  • Goal
  • Obstacle
  • Conflict
  • Mentor
  • Token
  • Before State
  • After State
  • Emotion
  • Moral

You can learn more about each of these elements (and how to use them) in my comprehensive guide on storytelling.

4. Be surprising.

From the Ice Bucket Challenge to “Gangnam Style,” virtually every viral video has one thing in common: an element of surprise.

Gangnam Style music video

Which, really, is no surprise (sorry) because when something surprises you, the pleasure center of your brain lights up.

Dopamine surges. Emotions intensify. Your mental processes all focus on a singular thing.

In other words, surprises make us feel good.

So if you make your videos more surprising, you’ll likely make them more engaging, too.

5. Influence emotion with background music.

Content that elicits a strong emotional response compels people to share. And it can even drive us to buy products.

So how do you establish and encourage emotion among your viewers?

Chimp playing piano

One way (that I’m a bit partial to) is to use background music strategically.

Tug at heartstrings with a sentimental song. Create a sense of urgency with a suspenseful track. Promote positive feelings with a playful tune.

Of course, emotion is only one factor to consider when choosing music for your video. (You can find more tips for selecting the right background song here.)

But it’s an important one, as music can prime your viewers for your message, improving the odds that they will act on it.

And as far as where to find great background music goes… well, I might have an idea. 😉