As a follow up to my last post on how to make a promo video with no $$$, here are some thoughts on the efficacy of promo videos in general. I am specifically talking about promotional videos, essentially online ads, and not “explainer” videos. As I stated at the end of my last article, yes promotional videos are helpful, but it depends what you’re after.

To quality my position, I am drawing on my experience with these videos. The most successful of which have been the Nosh 404 and Jotly videos. Time Magazine referred to the former as the “best 404 in the history of the internet”, and the latter ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I will use my experiences with these and others to make the points below.

Views (kinda) Count

An effective promotional video means eyes on your product. The more eyes the better. View count is obviously how you measure this. While an easy barometer for how successful the video is, it does’t tell the whole story.

What’s important to understand is that views do not equate to conversions. This may seem obvious, but most people have an unrealistic expectation of the ratio of views/conversions. Let’s just say it’s typically abysmal. Just because 1 million people see your video does not mean you will get remotely close to that many signups.

This is important to understand. You can’t obsess over view count. It’s a good measure of coverage, but there are other benefits besides just eyes-on.

Brand and Image

Promotional videos are one of the strongest ways to convey your company’s brand. The chosen style will go a long way in determining how outsiders perceive your product and the people that made it. This is especially important for recruiting. Ridiculous videos show that the company is willing to take risks, openminded and probably a fun place to work. There aren’t many other ways to do this as effectively.

Beyond appealing to potential recruits, a professional promo video enhances the perceived quality of your product to customers. If I arrive at a new site and find a Square-worthy video front and center, I will assume the product itself to be of similar quality. Goes both ways though, so don’t make a shitty video.

Promo Content

Two types of videos: those that are purely publicity engines, and those that primarily convey information about the product. I’ve experimented with both, and just like television advertising, both have their place.

Publicity engines are closest to what PR people call viral videos. These types of videos are generally riskier, but have a bigger payoff if successful (duh). They usually are ridiculous, funny, extreme, and play to cultural trends of the moment. What they lack in information, they make up for in entertainment. You want people to watch, and often this direction is an easier way to ensure that people will be engaged.

Side note, I hate the term viral, especially when it’s asked for. Virality is difficult to predict and is a trait that can only be determined post-launch. You can do a lot to make your video conducive to virality, but luck will always play a big part.

Product-centric videos are less risky but do more to show what your product is about. They can still be entertaining, but are required to portray more straightforward information. It’s still possible to be novel (not everything has to be a stale animated illustration) but this takes creativity. I like to think that you can innovate on three planes: content (script), production (style), or distribution (medium). Anyone can make a video like this, but it’s way more fun to make one like this.

Press Coverage

Videos are great for press coverage, despite what the periodic misguided article says. In the same way they make your product page look more exciting, they make stories looks more interesting.

If the video is good enough, it can generate its own press story. This is great because it allows for coverage outside of the normal tech channels and thus a wider audience. Can be hard to predict though. In my experience, there is no telling what will be appealing or not to press. A fickle beast.

You basically want to give people every possible reason to talk about your product. If one of those reasons is the promo video, great.


This is hardly an article long enough to be worthy of a conclusion. For further reading, there are of course stats of all kinds flying around about video’s effect on conversion rates, bounce rates etc.

Short answer: yes, videos are fucking awesome and help in ways beyond just signups.