Video Killed the Whitepaper Star

Aug 31, 2012 in Online Marketing by | No Comments

The Buggles probably don’t get mentioned very often when it comes to generated leads and conversions with consumers, but after watching a brief slideshow highlighting the shortcomings of the traditional text whitepaper as a way to generate demand, maybe it is time to declare that video killed the PDF star.  In a promo for a Corporate Visions webinar entitled “Power Tools for Demand Generation” speaker Tim Riesterer presents a number of interesting points regarding reactions to text versus video stimulation as a way of answering the overarching question: “Why are we doing whitepapers for demand generation marketing?”  Let’s look at why the shift away from whitepapers makes sense before suggesting a more appropriate role.

Whitepapers are a great way to present intriguing industry insight or recommend best practices.  But as a vehicle for producing demand for your product, they don’t offer much impact.  There’s no simple, easily identifiable call to action in a whitepaper; it might be written in prose that would make Faulkner proud, but if it isn’t compelling the consumer to actually do anything, then it’s not really accomplishing any of your brand’s objectives.  In a media dominated by video, a multiple page whitepaper can’t compete with multimedia presentations in triggering a response from a consumer because it lacks the immediacy and impact of pictures and sound.

That’s not going to sound like a huge surprise to most people, but Riesterer backs it up by comparing the analytic capabilities of the new brain versus the instinctual decision making of the old brain.  People like to examine data but ultimately they make decisions based on an intuitive desire to survive, in this sense figuratively. It’s taking cognitive dissonance theory and applying it to marketing: when trying to generate product demand, a marketer must disrupt the consumer’s worldview and present the brand as relieving the problems that now exist.  A video can challenge a consumer and strike the pivotal emotional chords in less time and with more significance than a whitepaper, which is why it is a superior method of generating demand for your brand.

But let’s hold off on sounding the whitepaper’s death knell for a moment.  There’s a lot of strong evidence out there to suggest that it shouldn’t be part of your brand’s demand generation strategy, but perhaps the worth of a whitepaper can be justified by evaluating it with a different set of criteria.  For example, instead of judgment based on the amount of demand it generates, look at a statistic like returning customers.  A customer who reads the whitepaper is obviously intrigued by your brand; it stands to reason that if they get through all the text, they are very interested in what you’re selling.  Although some consumers may be scared off by the daunting task of reading, the one’s that stick around are likely to form stronger brand affinities because they’ve processed the information in the whitepaper more completely than someone watching a short video.  The lasting impression is extremely valuable when it comes to establishing a long-term relationship with consumers.  I think we can all agree that’s a very important function.

Video may have killed the whitepaper as a method of demand generation, but smart marketers will figure out ways to utilize both to effectively connect with consumers.  Marry your whitepaper efforts to video marketing and use them hand in hand.  Maybe the headline of the post should have reflected this strategy a little more clearly, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to showcase our pop culture knowledge.