I’m flabbergasted at the kinds of promotional videos for hotels I’ve been watching lately. Maybe 95% of the videos I’ve seen fall into two categories: slideshow video and montage video. Slideshow video is nothing more than a collection of (what may as well be) still images set to music.
Montage video is a small step up from that, where an attempt is made to introduce some motion and dynamism. But what they all seem to be missing is a story. And as far as I’m concerned, most video has no reason to exist without some kind of story to tell. A video with a story is captivating, emotional and informative.
A video without a story is dull and impersonal. Put another way, if your video doesn’t do anything more than what the copy on your website or your collection of still images does, it may as well not exist.
Watch the following video for some context. This is what I call a montage video. It has no cohesive story and isn’t particularly engaging. Sure, it shows off some fancy technical skill and gives a guest a decent look at the hotel. But it’s impersonal and lacks cohesion, to the point of just being boring.
What’s wrong with an “information-only” video?
Nothing, per se. But there isn’t much “right” with it, either. We all know that people’s attention spans are short. And, sure, some people will watch your video through to the end if it’s just a collection of disparate images, with some boring narration. There will be some people who will appreciate a video with scenery and shots of a hotel room, of course.
But my point is, if you have the opportunity to push your hotel to the next level by using video, why settle for something average? You can still include all of the shots of the rooms and the scenery and the restaurant. However, if you consider wrapping that up in a story—a story that’s impossible to tell with just text and still photographs alone—you’ll be making a video that’s worth watching.
If the point of a video is to attract more guests, then it had better be worth watching, or it ultimately has no reason to exist.
What do you mean by “story”?
We use story all the time when we interact with the people around us. We are emotional beings, and we enjoy listening to and telling stories. Without story, our conversations would be flat and “informational only.” No one wants to listen to that. It would be like listening to someone read the terms and conditions of their cell phone contract. Sure, there might be information that we need to know, but it’s completely unengaging.
A story has emotion. It has ups and downs. It follows a series of cohesive events. It makes people feel something: happiness, anger, sorrow, empathy. Story can make people laugh or cry or take action. Your hotel needs to harness story in order to attract guests and convince them to book.
I’m kinda getting it. Maybe an example would help?
Examples always help. Let’s just take a look at the video above. Like I said, it’s a pretty standard montage video that just about every hotel has fallen into the trap of using. If this video has a story, we should be able to tell it.
It should be something that you can sit around the campfire and make people listen to. If it doesn’t have a story, we’ll also be able to tell. It’ll be boring and incoherent. So, without further ado, let’s break the video down and see what the story is.
… The sun hangs low in the afternoon sky. It reflects off the open-air swimming pool at a tropical hotel. No one is around. … In another place that seems to have no relevance to this hotel, a couple sips champagne on a private boat. … A beautiful black SUV pulls up slowly outside a hotel entrance. A gorgeous, tall lady sits in the back of the SUV, talking with her equally-gorgeous husband. A doorman opens the door and the lady steps out of the car onto a red carpet, followed by her husband. They walk hand-in-hand towards the entrance. … The lady stretches out on a white bed, dressed in a white bathrobe with a white towel around her head, in a starkly white hotel room, reading Conde Nast Traveller. She ignores her husband, who sits in a white chair to her left, also dressed in a white bath robe. He sips from a glass. He decides his wife might also like a drink, so he walks over to her with a freshly prepared glass of orange. She puts down the travel magazine and smiles at him. … The swimming pool is enormous. It feels stark, empty, lonely. A red-haired woman walks up to it, removes a translucent silk sarong from around her waist and steps in the water. … A beach is seen from above. We can't tell where it is in relation to the hotel. It is crowded, yet eerily quiet, due to some overpowering music destroying any ambience it might have. Off-shore, the couple from earlier lounge around on a large yacht, staring at an enormous cement wall back on the shore. The only thing we notice is that her red hat seems to just disappear when we get closer. … A dark haired lady lays face-down on a massage table, while a man swims laps in an otherwise-empty pool. Massage stones are placed on the lady’s back, while she closes her eyes, deep in thought. … The yacht-goers decide to have dinner at the pool. A stillness and darkness overwhelms the place. No one else is around as they sip wine and talk about things we have no knowledge of. … A lady sits in a spa, alone. She sips from a martini glass, looking solemn. Her husband appears from nowhere and whispers something in her ear, with a smile. …
Now, if you’re still with me, how did reading that make you feel? Did it feel cohesive? Was it interesting? Did any of it make sense? Did you read that and think, “Wow! This hotel sounds great. I really want to give this a second look.”
Or perhaps while reading that you thought the hotel feels extremely lonely and stark. Perhaps you thought the characters were given no energy or personality. Perhaps you thought that whoever wrote that was trying to evoke a surrealist dystopian nightmare where after you die, you end up in a hotel with no staff, no sense of time or place and a feeling of unease and loneliness.
If you felt the latter, I don’t blame you. The visuals, coupled with the repetitive music, coupled with the complete lack of story make this video so emotionally-lacking and so disheartening that it would be better to never have existed.
After watching that video, I’m likely to wonder why there seems to be no staff and why the entire place feels like some pretentious hotel whose only guests are six underwear models who walk around aimlessly and solemnly like they’re just waiting to board the next flight out of there. And what’s with the yacht on the beach?
Even if viewers don’t analyse videos of the type as much as I have, subconsciously they aren’t engaged with this video at all. They’ll just skip to something else before the music drives them insane.
Ok, I kinda get it. I need to tell a story. But how?
The good news is that as a hotelier, you shouldn’t have to tell a story. It’s up to the production team making your video to tell the story.
And what is that story? It’s actually a pretty simple one. The story in just about all cases should be “Here’s the story of why you should come to our hotel.”
After all the point of video is to attract new guests. And if your video tells them the story they want to hear, they are going to book your hotel. If your video tells them a story they don’t care about, or tells no story at all, they’ll just move on to the next hotel.
I’ll be going into more detail about understanding the role of video for your hotel in the coming articles, and you may hear me repeat the whole “story” thing over and over. But it’s so important to remember that a video is the perfect opportunity to tell a story and to sell your hotel. The experiences, the sights, the sounds, the emotions. No other medium can convey a well-told story like video can.
Use video to your advantage. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that slideshows and montages are good enough anymore. When you’re ready to put together a video for your hotel, make sure that the team you hire to do it has their head in the game and understands how to really tell a story.