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Why Telling Beats Selling in Video Marketing

As Demo Duck’s newest writer, and now tallest office member, I’ve been flying high (get it?) with all sorts of creative video projects and scripts to be written for exciting companies. Before I was a Duck, I worked at a large advertising agency with plenty of big-name brands. While I no longer rattle off the benefits of packaged foods daily, a lot of what I learned in agency life applies to this new gig. Oddly, my vast knowledge of salad dressings has been of zero use thus far.

Demo Ducks’ work and the work of traditional advertisers aren’t too far apart. They both serve the same function—communication. Clients gotta say something, we help them say it. But in my short time as a Duck, I’ve discovered a key difference between an effective marketing video and the typical content wedged between uncomfortable Bachelor moments and Instagram stories.

It’s the difference between telling and selling. Between carefully-crafted marketing speak and some much-needed straight-talk.

That difference is advertising’s great, big problem—there’s pressure to always be selling. I know, some brands have advertising all figured out. But for those still lost in the marketing mix, there’s another way. Speaking directly and honestly with your audience may be what’s best for your brand and your business. Keeping just a few things in mind can lead you to stronger messaging that connects with people and drives action. Tell it first, sell it later.


Advertising and authenticity are rarely spoken in the same sentence. That’s because ads want to sell you on an idea, not the product or service. Like how over-priced tequila will make you the fanciest fella at the party (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). But when audiences are already walking around with their ad guard up, telling them something unbelievable doesn’t get you very far.

Folks know the situation, and the underlying motivation, when they watch something from a brand. So, instead of selling them on a lofty idea, playing games or twisting emotions, explain what you offer. Educate them. Help them. Tell them your story. Some brands are even including how their company makes money for full transparency. These elements did spawn the popular term “explainer video” after all. That type of authenticity can quickly turn your audience into brand champions because they understand how and why you work. If your product or service solves a problem, they’ll appreciate not having to dig through layers of creative symbolism for that information.

Some research—or even listening to your fans on social—could give you insight into the questions they might need answers to, or what your fans find exciting and interesting about your company. Show you understand them and meet them at their level, where they’re likely more willing to listen. The same way a friend might explain or advocate something to you, you can do the same for your potential customers.

Take our Property Insurance explainer video series for GEICO as an example. Their advertising is iconic and entertaining, but they need to explain the ins-and-outs of coverage too. So we created a video series that told the audience exactly what they needed and wanted to know—positioning GEICO as an authentic brand and a trusted source for information, not just another salesperson.


If I were to ask for your business’ elevator pitch in just 30 seconds, could you do it? How about 15 seconds? Just six? Could you make the message specific to me but alsouniversal. And maybe a dash of humor. Oh, and could you cram all of that into a single, engaging and entertaining piece of content?

The timing and platform restrictions may change, but the challenges remain the same. There’s almost never enough time to say everything you want. That’s why ads generally end up not saying enough or cramming in whatever fits. Not to mention, speaking to as many people as you can at once isn’t the most effective communication strategy. So, you end up with a slightly elevated, sometimes confusing, sales pitch and the audience can see right through it.

Custom video avoids these old pitfalls and grants your video marketing greater flexibility. You can tell your story quickly with a strong, impactful visual thanks to animation. Or, you can pepper humor into longer content to keep folks engaged. Remember, your message is what matters most—it shouldn’t be defined by the medium. You define the length, style and delivery. The right video provides a strong foundation you can continue to build on across platforms. Like how a long-form video can be cut down for social sharing, even different audiences, as we did with Unrefined.


If you want to get the most bang for your buck with traditional advertising, you’ll need a whole lotta bucks. That one ad you never forgot was because a brand spent enough money to guarantee you couldn’t avoid it in an all-out marketing barrage. But is remembering a tagline or jingle really valuable information? Outside of trivia game show scenarios, of course.

A custom corporate video production can be a better value for your bottom line. If you’re a small business or your message is for a smaller audience, why spend to go big? You can achieve your goals with a thoughtfully-crafted video and a smart, strategic initiative. There are opportunities to save on production and spend more on a focused media plan to maximize your video’s potential. We even talked to our friends at Digital Third Coast about that.

In addition to being a better value for your business, it’s more valuable to the folks watching. If they’re taking the time to watch, it ought to be time well spent. Telling a story, explaining a complex process, offering insight or showing the real-world benefits of a product or service creates true value for your audience. Selling does not. If you’ve provided all the pieces, you can trust them to make a more informed decision—because they’re actually more informed. In order to better visualize the difference in content mix for a video that tells vs. sells we created the below infographic:

video explainer content breakdown

In the end, you’ll have to choose the marketing strategy that works best for you. With custom video marketing you’re able to speak directly, build trust and connect with your audience in ways traditional advertising falls short of. And ultimately, engagement comes from an engaged audience. It may be time to skip the hard sell and just tell them what’s up.

If that sounds good to you, myself and the folks at Demo Duck are ready to help make it happen. Especially if you’re the head of marketing wanting to shake up the salad dressing industry.

Written by Chris Reynolds
Chris is an Associate Creative Director and the tallest team member at Demo Duck. He's easily distracted, effortlessly attractive, and was left totally unsupervised while writing this bio.