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4 Ways Your Video Content Can Naturally Include a Call to Action

By Christine Warner on July 3, 2018

Video isn't going anywhere. All signs point to its staying power and growth: consumption habits, audience interest, social media algorithms, Internet user penetration, and so on. Cisco forecasts that by 2021, video will account for 82 percent of global web traffic. As of January 2018, half of US Internet users watched video online daily. The data doesn't lie.

Video, as a more lean-back content type, is also the preferred format for consuming content-59 percent of executives agree that if they have access to both editorial and video content about the same topic, they are more likely to choose video.

Marketers everywhere are latching onto video to make its popularity and power work for their marketing and business goals. Its sensory strengths make it a moving format, but they also make it harder to insert or transition to a clear call to action.

How do you make the connection between experience and action?

It takes both an engaging story and an integrated video call to action. This two-pronged approach appeals to both emotional and logical decision making.

Just remember that it's content, not a commercial. When it comes to the actual video subject, make it about a story-not your brand. Robert McKee and Tom Gerace, co-authors of Storynomics, highlight how well-told stories create both mental and emotional experiences: "Empathy is imperative in the purpose-told story because without this essential human link, no story moves anyone to take action of any kind, let alone make a purchase."

The goal is to engage people through story and inspire a brand-related action: website or landing page visits, social media interactions, product purchases, demo requests, etc. Once you get their attention, don't miss the opportunity to present an action.

Telling the Story

Gerace and McKee go on to explain how the best stories lead viewers through three purposeful paths: identification, subconscious switch, and reenactment.

In the identification phase, the viewer establishes a personal connection-and empathy-with the story subjects or characters. The subconscious switch happens when the viewer's empathy turns into identification, sensing that the "object of desire" presented in the video reflects her real-life desire. Finally, the reenactment phase is when the viewer is motivated to act. They write, "Wishing to relive the positive charge of the purpose-told story, she purchases the product or hires the service embedded in the telling."

So if the story is strong enough, you may not even need an explicit call to action, as the viewer is inspired to take action without prompting. Even if this is the case, you need to make it easy for viewers to find out how to purchase, share, or engage further.

Inserting the Action

A video call to action that offers viewers the opportunity to act can take a variety of forms, both within the actual video and through surrounding features and content.

1. Use Platform Features

Whether you use third-party platforms or social media networks to host your videos, take advantage of the built-in features to naturally integrate a call to action. Youtube specifically offers a wide variety of clickable placements like cards, end screens, and TrueView overlays. The most common features are related video suggestions, website or landing page cards, and channel subscriptions. Use them strategically to easily insert an action.

The short-form videos for Reebok's current "Always Classic" campaign do just that, telling the stories of interesting people while seamlessly featuring their Classic shoe line and presenting action. For example, one video profiles Miryam Lumpini, tattoo artist and self-proclaimed "witch doctor" who uses her art as a form of healing. Throughout the 43-second video, Lumpini discusses her artistic passion as she sketches Reebok's Classic Nylon sneaker. Her intriguing character draws you in and with the focus on her story, the product placement isn't off-putting.

At the end, the Youtube-hosted video offers three calls to action: Subscribe to the Reebok Youtube channel, watch another Reebok video, or shop Reebok Classics. This gives viewers different options to act based on their level of investment and interest. Love the shoe? Browse our website and buy it. Enjoy the video? Watch another one. Did you like that one, too? Subscribe to our channel for more. It's always best to focus on a single call to action, but when you rely on platform features like Reebok, it lets you keep your content clean and meet the viewers wherever they are.

2. Add End Screen Copy

The end screen is a great spot for adding subtle calls to action as part of your video. It's pretty standard for brand videos to conclude with a frame that includes a logo and supporting copy-taglines, website links, etc. And the end placement makes sure that the viewer isn't confronted with a call to action before they finish watching. It also acts as an audience filter of sorts, seen only by those who watch the full video-the most interested and therefore most likely to take an action.

Intel uses this approach, seen in its 29-second "Tips on Traveling With Drones" video with snackable advice from drone expert Chase Guttman. The end screen features the Intel logo and the website link to, Intel's tech culture magazine. This content hub features editorial content aligned with the subjects of the video series, directing viewers to a more in-depth brand experience. IQ stories uplift "well-known and up-and-coming innovators, makers, and experts inside Intel and from across the industry" to bring value to its customers and convert prospects.

3. Create a Custom Outro

If you host your videos on an owned property that lacks the built-in features of video platforms, you can create a branded outro with clickable elements. Besides its IQ series, all Intel's video content includes a custom outro after the end screen with two calls to action: subscribe and watch another video. With specific branding, you can polish the experience however you'd like-and test it against native features or different calls to action like following your social media channels or signing up for an email newsletter. Intel's branded outro is low investment, directing viewers to dive further into their video content.

4. Point to Editorial Content

Besides encouraging viewers to visit your website right away or view more video content, you can also point them to a corresponding content type for further information or entertainment. This approach lets you use video for what it does best: immersing viewers in a story that spikes their curiosity and encourages them to binge on your content. You can use video as an invitation to explore related content on another platform, like Google Maps does with their "Homeward Bound" video.

The video shares the story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family at the age of five after falling asleep on a train. Twenty-six years later, he is reunited with them after searching tirelessly with the help of Google Maps. (His story was also the inspiration for the 2016 film Lion.) The video ends with the Google Maps logo, without any embedded call to action. However, the video description invites viewers to read more, linking to the Google Maps blog post with more details about Brierley's life.

Pairing a video story with an effective call to action tactic will allow you to turn the viewer's captive attention into action. What tactics work best for your brand?

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Featured image attribution: Jakob Owens


Christine Warner

Christine Warner is a freelance writer and digital marketer with agency, brand, and non-profit experience developing integrated campaigns and content platforms for diverse brands such as Uber, Samsung, Walgreens, Victoria’s Secret, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Dignity Health. Her digital marketing specialties include content marketing strategy, customer relationship management, brand product marketing, digital media planning, social media marketing, and search engine optimization. Currently, she is the Senior Manager of Digital for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where she oversees the digital marketing efforts for the various non-profit communities and ministries throughout Southern California. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to various lifestyle and marketing publications. You can check out her writing portfolio to browse all her work.