Get with the times people: direct advertising is out, and content marketing centred around self-education is in. It’s why explainers, pop science content, and DIY tutorials are so popular – in an age where physically taxing and time-consuming tasks are becoming increasingly automated, people are now eager to use their leisure time to look for growth in their personal, intellectual, and creative lives.

So what exactly does self-education mean in video content? It can include anything from traditional tutorials and training videos, to one-off educational videos on specialised topics ala TED-Ed, to PSA style content on a hot topic (https://www.explanimate.com.au/project/how-to-zoom/). The most effective videos are usually animated and short in length (under five minutes). Together, the combination of cool visuals and bite sized educational content is a compelling force. But if you’re still not sure if self-education videos are a good fit for your brand, check out these other benefits:

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1) Offer value rather than self-promotion

Obnoxious in-your-face advertising simply doesn’t work anymore. Many people, most especially younger generations, have developed a strong aversion to ads because they see them as innately ‘non-valuable’ pieces of content. This isn’t surprising: traditional TV ads have historically been used as a type of punishment for the viewer to fund the actual content viewers are seeking, similar to a ‘You have to eat your veggies or you can’t have dessert’ mentality.

To this point, we often go out of our way to stop ads from interrupting our delicious dessert content. We don’t like ads on YouTube, so we search for and install ad blockers on our web browsers. We don’t like ads on streaming services like Spotify, so we fork out the money to subscribe – we hate ads so much we’ll literally pay for them to go away!

But this is where the beauty of creating self-education content comes in – because the video content openly offers value to the viewer without requiring anything in return, it surpasses the restrictive title of being an “ad”. Trust is built with the viewer by providing entertaining information that’s actually valuable to them.

2) Tap into our need to feel productive

You ever wonder why it feels good to browse the stationery section of a store? Why the idea of buying new pens, fresh notebooks, and cute office equipment makes us feel kind of good? The sobering truth is that these activities provide the illusion of productivity without any, you know, actual work getting done (P.S. Here’s a neat opinion piece on the fading joy of organizational supplies: http://www.jackcentral.org/opinion/the-illusion-of-productivity/article_aac7e268-54e3-11e5-9c22-dbdd60f3f868.html).

On the flip side, quality work equipment is important. The possibility, the hope, the vision of ourselves becoming a more efficient, talented, and knowledgable person are carried in those blank pages and perfectly sharpened pencils. We get a kind of emotional boost from feeling organised and ready to complete our oncoming tasks.

That same balance of minimal effort vs emotional productivity boost is activated when we watch short content that makes us think. But instead of providing only the momentary benefit of fresh office supplies, the information we absorb can be carried with us and put into practice in whichever areas of our lives we need it to, as well as promoting further interest in the topic.

3) There’s a gap in the market for good online learning content

Now more than ever, with so many people spending additional hours at home, we’re seeing a true reflection of people’s desire to learn more. Whether it’s formal school-based education crying out for a properly structured online format, or informal hobby instruction which often prompts the need for highly niche learning material, there are large needs in the online education market waiting to be filled. Brands who are smart about their video promotion can quickly establish themselves as a go-to source of information (and products/services) within their specialised field. Which leads to the next point:

4) Position yourself as an expert in the field

So self-education videos are engaging your viewers and providing a sense of value in an efficient package. That’s all well and good, but how is this content benefiting your brand? It’s not a selfish question, it’s a practical one.

First and foremost, being the teacher of a specialised topic sets you up as an expert in the field. Let’s say you run a boutique cake shop. Your specialty, the service that you want your brand to be known for, is stylised cake decoration. Releasing an advertisement saying “Hey, you need a cake? We make and decorate cakes. And we’re good at it!” Okay, well thanks random cake ad, but how am I supposed to simply take your word for it? Releasing an explainer video about the significance of cakes across different cultures might be mildly more interesting, but isn’t particularly noteworthy on its own as it doesn’t offer the viewer much real, lasting value.

So let’s get more specific with our content: releasing a series of entertaining videos explaining the techniques of the cake decorating process, DIY tips and tricks for hobbyist cake decorators, and how to better store cake to ensure longevity, means your viewers are getting a bunch of useful content and can begin to see your brand as a reputable source for information on cake decorating. When they think of fancy wedding cakes, milestone birthday cakes or event celebrations, they think of you. When people want top-quality products, they turn to the experts, so use good video content to prove your expertise without asking for anything in return.

5) It’s finally hip to be square

Those of us who were around in the 80s or 90s may remember American teen movies pushing the cheesy stereotypes of the popular but dumb jock and the intellectual but uncool nerd. This narrative was shoved down most of our throats until an association between learning and lameness started to form amongst most of western culture. Well, I’m more than happy to report that times have changed. Right now, careers in STEM fields are super popular. Pop science is in vogue. That’s right: learning is now cool.

This means that the most highly prized video content has shifted from mindless entertainment and onto stuff that makes us think: the kind of content that fosters self-improvement or which we feel gives us a sense of personal purpose. Regardless of whether its a scientific field, a creative one, or a social/psychological one, the pursuit of understanding and the enthusiasm that goes with it is now being seen in a positive light. Being a regular, reliable source of this knowledge while also having the skill to deliver it in an easily digestible video shows a deep understanding of today’s consumer market, and what they’re looking to get out of brand interaction.

Written by Maree Railton.