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Implement an Effective Narrative to Better Connect the Message to an Audience

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“Once upon a time,” who doesn’t remember this opening sentence? It is famously known as a preamble to a story whose purpose is to grab attention, teach an important message, and impart an unforgettable impression on the listener or to compel them to take action. Storytelling is part of all our lives.  From our earliest memories stories have been fundamental to understanding just about everything. A medium, when well performed, takes the often mundane specifics of a subject and transforms them into a narrative that is interesting and impressionable to the listener. Imagine for a moment attempting to explain to a four-year-old the concepts and importance of building a strong and comforting abode that will survive the dangers of a foe with a menacing nature. Behold the narrative, “The Three Little Pigs.”

Storytelling is not new. It’s a supportive foundational block in our ability to communicate effectively. It utilizes emotion and empathy to inform and motivate, to explain complex as well as simple messages. In this fast-paced, digital communicative environment, storytelling is becoming increasingly important to marketing efforts. Shortened sound-bites, mini moments and mega-blanket messaging have become all the rage among digital advertising, but the impact of the message is being lost amongst all the noise. Advertisers are returning to the art of storytelling to complete a more comprehensive and effective connection with its audience.

Eric Danetz, Global Chief Revenue Officer for AccuWeather, says, “High-quality, authentic storytelling is critical in today’s fragmented media environment.  With noise and competition for consumer attention and brands targeting for greater personalization and impact, storytelling becomes key to establishing an emotional connection with your audience. In terms people and businesses can relate to, storytelling illustrates how a brand will meet customers’ needs and in turn, builds loyalty.”

With all the attention garnered by the technical aspects of digital media and as the proliferation of multiple social channels continue, the increasingly shorter time spans in digital communication is driving consumers to distrust brands and avoid fact-based, feature-and-benefits methods of messaging. When performed properly, storytelling is combining art, creativity, psychology and data to create improved marketing campaigns. Consumers are interested in being entertained by a message, being educated and motivated by an experience and in messages that engage with them emotionally and personally.  Old school marketing tactics are finding new life with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise.   

Successfully merging the art of storytelling into today’s digital marketing environment requires an understanding of the techniques of storytelling and an investment of time and resources to implement an effective narrative that connects with consumers.

For more on how Junction Creative Solutions’ creative team of professionals can help tell your story, call 678-686-1125 today.

Social Media Users: Resolve to Share the Responsibility for Protecting Data Privacy in 2019

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While many of us, either personally or professionally, can complain about our experiences in 2018, the major social media platforms, particularly Facebook, had a particularly bad year. Once the seemingly runaway, no goal too high, darling of social media fans of all ages, Facebook’s executives are slinking to the dark corners of their corporate structure to lick their wounds and try to figure out what went wrong and how next to respond to the unabridged, unrelenting criticisms from just about everyone, everywhere.  The troubles for the social media king began early in the year when it was discovered that Facebook harvested personal user data from 87 million of its members and sold the personal data to Cambridge-Analytica, who used it for targeted advertising, particularly political advertising.  The practice apparently wasn’t exactly new. In fact it had been going on for nearly a decade before the practice came to light for millions of users worldwide.

While not alone in its data sharing policy, Facebook’s favorability rating dropped twice as much as other tech giants. An exclusive poll for Axios by SurveyMonkey found that Facebook’s favorability fell 28 points, compared with 13 for Amazon, 12 for Google, 10 for Apple and seven for Twitter. Facebook’s most recent favorability rating was 48 percent, down from 61 percent in October. According to a Pew Research Center survey, more than half of Facebook users in the U.S. said they’ve changed their privacy settings in the past year and more than four in 10 users have taken a break from the social media platform.  Twenty-five percent have gone as far as to delete the Facebook app from their phone. An overwhelming 90 percent of those polled were very concerned about internet privacy.  “The bigger you are the harder you fall” mantra is manifesting itself on Facebook and Google as the least trusted companies in America. Talk about a bad year!

Facebook’s initial response did little to appease the public. “Over recent months we have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We’ve also run education campaigns on and off Facebook to help people around the world better understand how to manage their information on Facebook.” The well-intentioned message unfortunately had subtle tones of, “It’s really our users’ fault for not being well enough educated and informed about our data handling policies”. Which unfortunately is more likely true than not.

The public has overtly embraced new technologies, often without questioning the intentions and motives of those who develop and promote the savvy new platforms. Most of us approve the user agreements without even reading and understanding the content before clicking and surfing. Has our realization come too late? Are we too far into the convenience and comfort of technology to take back control of our private information?  Are we willing to accept that the loss of privacy is the price for a ticket to the big event?

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has announced that his resolution for 2019 is to “focus on fixing” Facebook’s serious problems. “Facebook has a lot of work to do – whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” Perhaps all of his social media followers should take heed and resolve to better understand our responsibility to protecting our own privacy in the coming year.

Influencer Marketing Trending Up for 2019

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According to Am Golhar, founder of Abstract PR, there are an estimated 1.5 million influencers in the digital communication world, and approximately 71% of Generation Z’s digital users have a close relationship with at least one influencer. With Instagram leading the influencer journey, many marketers are lamenting the importance of increasing marketing spend on influencing customers via social media platforms.

Launched in 2010, Instagram continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Just a little moret han 7 years of age, the visual social media platform has surpassed 800 million monthly users and is not only attracting individual social conversations but is proving its worthiness to marketers looking to grow brand awareness and showcase products. With 51 percent of users indicating that they visit the site daily and 70 percent using the platform to search brands, influencer marketing is proving itself as an authentic method to connect with potential customers. Influencer marketing content is delivering an 11 times higher return on investment (ROI) than traditional forms of digital marketing.

Generation Z consumers are proving to be much more active and reactive to social media outlets like YouTube and Instagram than former generations. Businesses need to establish an effective and targeted strategy to engage with this new generation of consumers in order to grab their share of the next big consumer market. In the coming year, influencers will continue to increase their impact on marketing efforts for businesses of all sizes. Participants will continue to focus efforts on specific geographical market segments with targeted and quality content.

The trend in 2019 will require an even greater command for authenticity and transparency as the initial exuberance of the new shiny marketing tool meets with the greater reality across all marketing channels.  Consumers say they trust social networks to guide them to purchase decisions, but some of that trust is being worn away by paid influencers who fail to make important financial disclosures that exist between their content and the brands they are reviewing. 52% are expressing distaste for repetitive advertising offers that are being pitched this holiday season by influencers.  With nearly 54% of consumers indicating “reliability” concerns about some current influencer content, User Generated Content (UGC) is set to receive more attention from marketers in the year ahead. Joe Rohrlich, from Bazaarvoice says, “Today’s consumers are looking to corroborate what they see or hear in one place with the information they find elsewhere.”

Social media influencer marketing is a natural technological segue from the long tested and tried method of “word of mouth” advertising. The former one to one approach to connecting with an expanding audience is being amplified by the internet’s “one to many” social media environment. In a global survey of consumers, Nielsen found that ”83% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends and family over other forms of advertising.”  In 2019 successful brands will find a way to utilize this expansive amount of customer content.

To learn how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can help refine and improve your influencer marketing strategy, call 678-686-1125 today.

“What is old is new again” May Be the Most Surprising Trend in Marketing in 2019

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Believe it or not, we have once again come full circle on another year. Marketing prognosticators are polishing their crystal balls of future things to come and declaring how technology will revolutionize our channels of communication with consumers in 2019.  Last year’s predicted trends are being measured against reality, and the process is becoming akin to scoring a competitive game of sport.

As with so many games in life the results of our collective efforts to predict the future of marketing tactics and activities are never completely aligned with perfection. Shifting consumer expectations and the response to accepting new communication technologies make the playing field difficult to read and an unsuited environment for calling a perfect game. All we can really do is take stock of what is working, evaluate why some predictions failed, make necessary adjustments to the strategy for 2019 and move forward. The most successful predictions of marketing in 2018 appeared to be offered by those who envisioned a broader and less specific set of outcomes.

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” predicted Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. The year’s performance appears to have been another example that absolutes and inevitabilities rarely pan out. So what appears likely to work best in 2019?

Video Marketing’s performance will continue to align with the previously predicted game plan. A Cisco forecast indicates that video will make up 85% of Internet traffic by 2020. While posts with digital images and content continue to capture a significant audience, video is generating 135% more organic reach for marketers. Once seen as an opportunity for only the most well-healed, larger players, video is becoming more economical for those smaller marketers who can benefit from projecting an emotional and appealing story. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the usage of online video has increased by 10 times between 2011 and 2016. Over the next two years, the trend has only intensified and is unlikely to slow down.”

Automating the marketing process to work more efficiently and smarter will continue to pay dividends of better understanding customers.  Scott Brinker, Founder of Chief MarTec, said, “As much amazing marketing software as there is today, there is still an opportunity for new ideas. Marketing should be — and can be — better.”  Automation will be seen as another set of marketing tools that enhances the acquisition of new customers.

Smart marketers will continue to develop an expanded inbound approach to connecting with their market segments. Content marketing, automation, social media and multichannel marketing can be coordinated to create a brand reputation that is authentic and valuable to customers. Consumers are more often placing trust in those they know. Quality, reputable content will prevail over stock ads in the coming year. If one were to bet on an absolute, a continuing utilization of inbound marketing tactics is a wise wager for 2019.

Once predicted to be rendered obsolete; direct mail, print advertising and brick and mortar sellers are showing some unexpected resilience in the digital age. Not unlike wax LP’s return to popularity among a niche market of music lovers in a world of digital recordings, old school marketing tactics are finding success with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise and those who long to revisit a traditional physical shopping experience. Players on the field of brick and mortar will need to focus on creating entertaining events and an enticing experience for their target markets.

Who would have thought it: consumers like getting mail, even if it was once thought to be junk? Print advertising is not dead. While a small and much diminished portion of overall marketing spend, print is finding its rightful place in the digital world. In the field of marketing where a fast, bang, digital technology appears to arise every minute, the most surprising trend in marketing for 2019 may just be “what is old is new again.”

Prepare Your eCommerce Website for a Happy Holiday Selling Season

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Would a winning team come to the plate in the World Series expecting to win without their best equipment? The answer from most sports enthusiasts and players alike would be, “certainly not!” But retailers and sellers across the industry spectrum may be coming to the plate in the biggest game of the year woefully unprepared for a big win. The holiday season is marketers’ most important opportunity to win big or go home, yet many players are failing to adequately coordinate ecommerce outlets for victory.

This year, online sales have risen by 46% and with more than 60 percent of retailers showing inventory on their website, it is critical to be ready for all the increased holiday shopping ahead. For a website to be most effective it must be aesthetically relevant, be at the peak of its performance and timely in its content. The worst time to realize that your marketing hardware isn’t loaded properly is when you have competition within your sight. Now is the time to focus on improving the performance of your website’s existing functionality.

First and foremost, your website must be prepared to handle and respond to the increased amount of traffic that is experienced around the holiday season. With their busy schedules consumers are impatient with websites that are slow to function and deliver accurately on their commands. Studies have revealed that websites that fail to load in just three seconds produce increased bounce rates. It is time to test your server’s ability to respond to your customers’ expectations and take measures to improve the site’s performance.

Decorating brick and mortar stores for the busiest selling season is a holiday tradition. Retailers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to set a festive mood in hopes of encouraging shoppers to spend with them. A website should be no different. Decorating your site with the sounds and sights of the season will generate consumer interest and appeal. Offer something dynamic and unique with your content and modify it often to accommodate special events and promote shopping incentives. Utilize plug-ins that automate the processes of timely scheduling and initiating content modification. Focus on intently delivering on your promises. A gift received the day after Christmas is a memory rarely forgotten.

“In today’s world, if you’re not on mobile, you don’t exist.” More consumers look to mobile devices to research products and services before making a purchasing decision.  By 2021, it has been estimated that consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, and over the next few years mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales. A strategy to align your online presence across all mobile devices is critical.

Secure your website! Loyal customers may forgive an occasional mistake or inconvenience caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable calamity, but mess up a financial transaction or mishandle consumer data and you may be forever unforgiven. The holiday selling season brings out the best in many people, but it also brings out bad actors in greater numbers who are willing to victimize your customers and your business to advance their personal gain. Ensure that all your software, plug-ins, connections and passwords are up to date, and invest in the latest versions of anti-malware as a first line of defense.

Prepare your eCommerce platform now for a happy holiday selling season!

Instagram Can be a Powerful Tool in Your Marketing Arsenal

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Launched in 2010, Instagram continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Just a little more than 7 years of age, the visual social media platform has surpassed 800 million monthly users and is not only attracting individual social conversations but is proving its worthiness to marketers looking to grow their brand’s awareness and showcase its products. With 51 percent of users indicating that they visit the site daily and 70 percent using the platform to search brands, Instagram has become a friendly, authentic method to connect with potential consumers. With ninety percent visual content, standing out in the crowd of 800 million users can be a daunting task for marketing professionals accustomed to relying on wordsmithing skills to get their message across. But the mostly wordless approach is becoming one of the most effective social media networks.

Generating increased brand awareness and building customer loyalty to drive increased sales requires a defined strategy based on consumer demographics, behaviors and identifying key motivations to purchase. “Logic persuades but feelings motivate, influencing a customer’s intention to purchase over anything else. According to a study, purely emotional campaigns were twice as likely to generate profit gains then those with a rational approach.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that great content is at the core of a great social media campaign. With Instagram, building a great message is all about building a visual narrative where limited prose reflects and validates the image. While it is tempting to fall back on the tried and true adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, it is also true that most marketers struggle to communicate in a visual medium. Success with Instagram is derived from generating engaging content. The process begins with learning as much as possible about the medium, how customers are using the platform and understanding how the competition is succeeding in the space.

Create an expansive collection of unique content around a common theme and your desired persona. Be prepared to make adjustments, but be consistent with the message. Be creative but focused and invest in visual editing tools and experienced professional skill-sets when necessary. Engage socially with users and influencers who have already built a trusting relationship with their followers to better understand what is driving them to be interested in your brand. Use memorable and engaging hashtags and be sure to include a link to your website. Invite fellow users to share your content. Don’t miss an opportunity to call for action. Establish a set of reliable metrics to measure and frequently test your efforts’ performance.

Instagram can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, but with all the potential benefits comes some risks. In a hyper-sensitive, socially correct landscape, creativity can often lead to misinterpretation. As with all social website platforms, care should be taken to avoid turning a positive message into a plethora of negative responses.

According to Instagram, 75% of users who see a business post take action. It is a medium that promises to continue to grow in size and effectiveness. Be prepared to adapt to changing trends.  Take advantage of new tools and features that create opportunities to interface with an ever expanding Instagram community, and resolve not to fall behind your competition.

How the GDPR Implementation is Impacting Marketers’ Relationship with Consumers

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Since its passage in May 2016, the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has resulted in many companies questioning the need to comply or what the far-reaching regulation would mean to their organizations. Initially many firms failed to understand the global reach of the regulation and that they would be required to respond to the demands of the rule. The GDPR creates strict requirements on how companies who collect, maintain and market consumers’ data must handle the use of that data. The regulation, which comes with severe financial penalties and liabilities when breached, went into effect in May of this year.

Under Article 4 of the GDPR, “any consent to the processing of data must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.” Data subjects need to voluntarily submit data for processing. Consent should be guided by a clear, plain English explanation of what specific processing will be done, why its collection is necessary and who the data is shared with. If there will be multiple processes, consent is required for each. At the outset, many predicted that the sweeping regulations would be the end of marketing as it is generally practiced, particularly digital marketing, but many others believed that the new regulatory environment would simply rid the marketing landscape of poor marketing practices and less-than-honest practitioners.

While migration to the GDPR requirements have been a challenge, progress has been made for companies who recognized the importance of compliance. Now four months into the launch, major changes among marketing professionals have occurred. Previous conduct of buying email lists, pre-ticked consent boxes and convoluted terms and conditions are becoming activities of the past. So how do consumers, or subjects as they are known in the EU, feel about the new data handling regulations?

A survey commissioned by Marketing Week and performed by Toluna, indicates that 57% of people feel
that they better understand how companies are using their data, but merely 27% of respondents feel that the overall experience with brands is better. “Most people (65%) believe GDPR has made no difference at all, while 8% suggest things have actually got worse.” With more than half of the respondents indicating that the GDPR has had no impact on them it may be that many consumers do not even know about the GDPR standards and what benefits the new rules may play in their digital lives.

Perhaps it is too early to effectively measure the impact of GDPR on companies’ marketing tactics or how consumers perceive brands’ handling and use of personal data. With a proliferation of media accounts of how some major organizations have mishandled customer data and trust in the past, well entrenched attitudes prevail. The GDPR is capable of having a positive impact on the consumer/marketer relationship for those organizations that embrace the opportunity. Only time will reveal the effectiveness of the best of intentions to resolve the past bad acts of data management.

Finally, the Season of Profitability and Promise is Upon Us

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Unlike the biggest shopping season of the year, the second busiest doesn’t enjoy the same prominence or experience the same anticipation from consumers, unless of course you are a summertime-weary parent. Back to school shopping is the second largest selling opportunity for retailers and it is expected to generate more than $82.8 billion is sales for retailers of clothing, pencils, backpacks and pencils this year. While the final results are still ringing up, consumers are off to the stores and virtual markets all across the country and the keyboard. This year more than half of parents are planning on increasing their “get them out of the house and back to school” spend.

More than 57 percent of the shopping will be at local brick and mortar stores with online sales gaining ground. This year, approximately $6.3 billion will be spent online for school supplies, clothing, and technology. With the shopping beginning in early June, marketers were eager to end up in first place, with more than 90 percent of them offering deep discounts and money saving coupons to consumers from pre-school to graduate school students.

Retailers are following performance data from 2017 and reaching out to the estimated 55 percent of parents who use smart devices to find the best deals. Experienced marketing-savvy sellers are approaching the season’s tasks through omnichannel campaigns. While nearly 55 percent of the consumers will buy early, nearly half of them will extend their buying opportunities past the start of the school opening classes. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) CEO, Matthew Shay, says he expects “a very strong season,” due to growing consumer confidence. For each of their students, parents are expected to spend $236.90 on clothing, $187.10 on electronics, $136.66 on shoes and $122.13 on school supplies. Shay went on to say, “There’s still more shopping to do, and regardless of timing, the economy is healthy and shoppers are confident and willing to spend.”

Compared to the Christmas holiday experience, retailers are backing off on their once massive spend for the back to school season. “It’s not that retailers are spending less on advertising overall,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, “or that back-to-school still isn’t an important part of their calendar. It’s just that they are not investing as heavily in dedicated back-to-school messaging.” It appears retailers are attempting get more bang for each buck during a time when consumers are already spending for clothing and other items that also relate to back to school purchases.

Overall, marketing spending is still focused on using TV and digital media first, followed by paid search. Regardless of the size and method of the campaigns, retailers are excited about entering the time of the year when they emerge from months of red ink into a period of profitability and promise.

What’s Going on in the Minds and Households of the Millennial Generation?

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Much has been said about Millennials, their character traits, work ethic, shopping habits, methods of communication and just about any other imaginable fundamental behavior, and not all the comments have been positive or flattering. The millennial generation usually identifies those born between 1981 and 1996. Arriving in the era of massive technological advances, they have come of age being familiar with the internet, smart digital devices, social media platforms, and all the other technology that often baffles former generations.

Millennials are extremely tech savvy, highly educated and are on the verge of becoming the largest living generation. Learning how to market effectively to them is not an option for marketers and absolutely essential to surviving in the coming decade. “We don’t think of them as special or different any more. They are the core of our business,” says Alan Jope, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever. While some marketers can at least claim a little success in cracking the millennial code, others have just given up and returned to re-focus on what worked to attract consumers in the past. Customer behavior is changing almost daily as technology advances its influence over how consumers make buying decisions.

Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing demographic will not work. Like all market segments, not all Millennials will respond to the same messaging and most are fed up with traditional methods of advertising. According to a study from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, millennials have filtered out advertising on social media and turned to other reference points. Titled, “Born and Raised in the Age of Technology,” the study states, “Millennials consume information when and how they want to.” A campaign of one size fits all is a likely pathway to failure. Erik Huberman, Founder & CEO of Hawke Media says, “Certainly, you’ll want to target age demographics to a certain extent, but your targeting should also be more granular. Instead, go right to the actual attributes of the real customer.”

Quality content across multiple mobile devices is essential to attracting members of this new power generation. An Animoto study has found that 80 percent of surveyed Millennials use videos to conduct research before making a purchase. Video is no longer an option for marketers looking to attract these consumers’ interest. Some 39% of Millennials post reviews of products or brands on social media outlets, and this generation is more likely to listen to and connect with people like them rather than celebrities. Over 60% of millennials would try a product suggested by a YouTuber. Social media reigns supreme.

A select group of analysts was recently impaneled by NPD, in an effort to find out what’s going on inside the minds and households of consumers born between 1981 and 1996. Their insights revealed a group of consumers markedly different from their parents. Millennials tend to be retail explorers, more interested in making memories than acquiring things. They tend to appreciate function over price and often feel less is more. They enjoy experiencing activities more then owning stuff and are inclined to be more focused on home activities. Arguably the group is recognized as being a bit more self-centered then previous generations of consumers. Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor, Sports, says: “Millennials are constantly interviewing brands, meaning that a brand has to prove itself, every day. For Boomers, there were fewer shopping choices, shopping outlets, and sources of product information. For Millennials, those elements are infinite. On top of that, these elements are always available on their smartphones.”

Fully understanding these shifts in consumer behaviors and beliefs will help unlock fresh insights to drive a business forward. The traditional marketing and sales approach used to create “target audiences” based on a profile of gender, age, demographic, or geographic data alone is an approach that will cripple a business’s ability to successfully reach target audiences in an effective way.

The Most Important Marketing Content is Video

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It is interesting that the more that fundamentals of just about everything change with time and technology, the more so many well-established truisms remain the same.  The era of content being king in marketing is giving way to a new visual medium, a rerun of the progression from printed media advertising to television more than a half century ago. Despite all the dramatic shifts in the methods of communications over time, a picture is still worth a thousand words.

Today the most important  content marketing is video. Regardless of the platform; Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube, video has become an essential part of any organization’s overall marketing strategy. Video seems to be adding value to the customer’s content experience. When both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service, and 85% of consumers indicate that they prefer to see more video from brands in the coming year. With such positive response from consumers, brands are responding by increasing video participation.

With 81% of businesses utilizing video in marketing campaigns (up from 63% just a year ago), 99% of those predict they will continue to use the medium in the future. Clearly content alone is being dethroned. Video is here to stay and marketers should embrace the change. The medium brings with it more opportunity for brands to be creative in their messaging. As with content alone, quality trumps quantity.

With four distinctive platforms available, videos can be created to take advantage of each platform’s unique targeting capabilities. Whatever the goal of the video, it should be defined at the outset of the process and be used to tailor a particular strategy. Consumers are becoming increasingly selective about the content they consume, so it is important to develop videos that are educational and entertaining.

The cost of producing a single video can range from $1,000 to $10,000 depending upon the level of complexity and professionalism of the production, but with 64% of consumers more likely to make a purchase after watching a video and with the potential of reaching millions of viewers with one single video, the cost is justified.

For more on how video can impact your brand’s awareness and its importance in an effective content marketing strategy, contact Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) at   678-686-1125.