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Anatomy of a Product Video Part 3

This is a series of posts about the making of my marketing video for Fin. You can see the other parts of the series by following the links below:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

This is part three of a series detailing the process I used to make a product marketing video for my app, Fin. The hope is that I can inspire others to try and make these kinds of videos for their own products, as I think they are pretty essential for selling apps to customers.

In part two, we talked about all the tools we’ll need to make our video. Now I want you to put all of those aside and get out a piece of paper or a note-taking app on your iPad or iPhone. We’re not ready to use any of our fancy video tools just yet.

Start with a Story

Any marketing video should start with a good outline. You’re telling a story, after all, so you need to know what that story is before you capture any footage. Most of the magic of movie making is time spent planning. You need to write, rewrite, refine, and refine again before you even think of launching any video editing app. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of effort and spend much more time during the editing stage than should be necessary.

So what is the story? Well, that’s up to you. Watch a dozen good product videos to get inspiration, (Apple’s promo videos are a good place to start) and decide how best to apply that to your particular app.

By the end of the video, the viewer needs to know a few things:

  1. What does your app do?
  2. How will it improve his or her life?
  3. What are the distinguishing characteristics that make this app better than other similar products?

The first one sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many times I’ve spent twenty minutes on a product web site and still walk away not knowing what the thing does, exactly. Be clear and concise. Your viewer is going to give you very little time to get this across before clicking away to something else more compelling.

Apple goes as far as recommending that every app you build have what’s called a “definition statement.” If you don’t have one for your app, you really need to write one. It’ll go a long way to guiding your video and all the marketing materials you create.

The definition statement is a simple, single, declarative statement that describes what your app does.

For Fin, my statement would be this: Fin is an app for people who need a non-disruptive way to track time. I also created a shorter version as a tagline—Fin: A Timer for Performers. The tagline fits nicely into a web site header and a video establishing shot. If you do anything performance-based, and you need to keep track of your time slot without distracting the audience, this is the app for you.

Once you cover what the app does, you need to convince your viewer that he or she needs it. All advertising comes down to convincing people that your product will make their lives better. There are all sorts of situations where having a large running timer on an iPad or iPhone would come in handy. I mention a handful in my video: Giving a presentation on stage or in school, playing music, recording a podcast, keeping a conference with multiple speakers on schedule. You may come up with dozens of these when you brainstorm for a while. Try to narrow it down to the core four or five.

Finally, some distinguishing characteristics. Chances are there’s already another app that does what your app does. Or there may be several alternatives that aren’t even apps. You could put a watch on your podium and keep track of time while talking. How is using Fin better? This part of the video story will be mostly about the app’s main features. Be careful not to overwhelm your viewer with every single detail of how the app works. That’s a job for the documentation on your App Store page and on your web site. The video is meant to whet the appetite, not be a canonical reference to everything your app can do. Stick to the big core features that you think are most important to the viewer and help you stand out from the competition. You want to keep the total running time of your video under two minutes if at all possible. Thirty seconds would be even better, if you can pull that off.

For Fin, the big distinguishing characteristics are the large, readable typeface, colorful warnings at certain milestones (ten minutes remaining, five minutes remaining, two minutes remaining), and the ability to make settings changes even after the timer has been started[1].

Once I knew what I wanted to say, I started writing up a series of statements to fill in that story. The basic structure of the video is to introduce the product, list some use cases, show off some features, then reinforce the product name and let folks know where to get it. Short and sweet.

So the script for my video ended up looking something like this:

How Much Time Do I Have?

Let Fin Keep Track of it For You

Live Stage Performance, Podcast Recording, Business Meetings, School Presentations, Conference Scheduling

You’ll always know when to wrap things up

Get a warning when time is running out

Count upwards or downwards

Add and subtract time with simple swipes, even while the timer is running

Get to your settings fast, and change them on the fly

Use during rehearsals to determine how much time you need to add or cut


A Timer for Live Performers

Available only on the App Store

Once I started putting the shots together, I ended up tweaking that text a bit. But this script gave me a really solid outline on which to base my entire video. I was well on my way already.

In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss whether or not to use voiceovers or on-screen text, and get to the early stages of layout on our video timeline.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

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  1. Most timer apps, like Apple’s built in Clock app, only let you set up a timer and then hit start. You can pause the timer, but if you decide half way through to add an extra five minutes, you can’t do that without starting over. Fin lets you make all sorts of changes, including whether you want the timer to count up or down, after the timer is already in motion.  ↩