When startups first decide to release video commercials, the focus is often on the company’s value proposition at the expense of the business’s origin story. It’s common to think that the company must be direct and explain how the product or service will make customers’ lives easier.
Having said that, I recommend that you seriously consider placing a spotlight on your business’s origin story in a video commercial.
Sure, every company has an origin story. There is a particular reason why you started your business, whether it was to solve a problem in your personal life or to fill a market gap that you identified. In other words, the origin story is essentially the “why” behind your company and it is provides the north star for your company—especially in the early days.
That said, what entrepreneurs do with their business’s origin story is different. Many entrepreneurs simply carry that story in their back pocket and use it when pitching to investors or speaking with the media. But others are more embracing of their origin story, keeping it central to their work and using it to build a genuine connection with their customers.
Therefore, when thinking about creating a video commercial for your startup, I encourage you to think about including your business’s origin story. By sharing your origin story in a video commercial, you can develop an authentic relationship with potential customers. Getting beyond the numbers and sharing why you are actually doing this can separate you from competitors and can leverage humans’ natural tendency to favor stories and storytelling.
Sharing Your Business’s Origin Story: The Basics
Your origin story can be a terrific way to reveal the real inspiration and process behind your company. In other words, it gives your customers (and would-be customers) a chance to hear about several things, including:
- What did the company look like in the early days? Was it simply a solo entrepreneur with a dream or a group of people that left their jobs to start a company?
- What does the team look like? How did this collection of individuals come together to solve the customer’s problem?
- What was (and is) the culture of the company? What values does it closely hold?
Essentially, the origin story is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes you and your company tick. People are naturally curious about how companies are formed. From a teenage Mark Zuckerberg creating Facebook in his Harvard dorm room to Jeff Bezos writing Amazon’s business plan while traveling across the country, origin stories fascinate and inspire us.
Even though you may not be the next Zuckerberg or Bezos, your origin story is uniquely yours. It lets the world understand who you are and how your company plans on making a dent in the universe.
Yes, sharing your origin story may require you to open up and become vulnerable. This may be easier for some people over others. However, the more that you open up and share your authentic self, the more that customers will resonate with your message. Audiences are becoming more skeptical about brands’ efforts to be “real” and “human,” so it is in your best interest to provide an honest, authentic story about how your company began.
Business Origin Stories in Video Commercials
As far as presenting your business origin story in a video commercial, you may think that there are only so many ways that you can tell your story.
I fundamentally disagree with this thought.
When sharing your origin story, there are no real rules. You can make it as “basic” or “creative” as you’d like. The true power of video is that there are countless ways to shoot the same content.
Before shooting your video commercial, you should spend some time brainstorming. Create a safe space for sharing all of your ideas—no matter how ridiculous they sound. By favoring quantity over quality here, you will ultimately land on an exciting idea that works for you.
Having said that, there are several frameworks that you can look to when sharing your origin story. Some of these frameworks include:
- First-Person Narration: One of the more basic ways to share your story is to simply explain it directly to the camera. It can even be one continuous shot of you as you are explaining your story as you are walking down the street. Compared to the other options listed below, this is one of the quickest and cheapest ways of sharing your origin story.
- Animation: You can hire an animator to illustrate your origin story in animated form, whether it is a whiteboard animated video or something else. The animation can include characters that are based on your likeness or that are purely hypothetical. For instance, there is a series on YouTube called “Draw My Life” where a YouTuber, using just a whiteboard and narration, speaks about the lives of well-known (and not-so-well-known) people. This is just one example of what you can do with animation. Ultimately, it can be a great framework to explain why you started your company and what you can offer to customers.
- Actors: You can hire actors and a production company to portray you (and your co-founders) in the early days of your company. While this may be more involved than simply picking up a camera and sharing your origin story, the video commercial will likely look more professional. As with the above, you will need to provide your actors with a crisp, tight script. But you can really go wild with this—as stated above, there are no real rules here.
Other Key Decisions in Creating Video Commercial
But considering all of this, how do you pick the format that is best for you and your company? What is the best format that is going to resonate with customers, the media, and even investors?
You will have to analyze your own preferences, the business that you are in, and the expectations of your customers. For example, sharing your origin story in a cartoon form with cheery, upbeat music may be more effective if you are running a social media app than if you are creating enterprise software for law firms. This decision ultimately requires you to be attuned to your customers and the message that you want to portray.
Nevertheless, you should incorporate your origin story with an illustration of how your product or service can help customers. This naturally leads to the question of whether you should provide your origin story first and then explain your company’s value proposition, or vice versa. Even though there isn’t one right answer, finding a way to blend both of these in your video commercial is probably the best way to go. By including both your origin story and how your company solves a pressing customer problem, you leverage both the emotional and logical elements of persuasion, allowing you to appeal to your audience’s head and heart.
I also recommend that you own and incorporate your culture into your video. If your business is known for being dog-friendly and has beer on tap, feel free to mention that.
Again, one of your hidden advantages is your authenticity and personality.
Unlike incumbents and large companies, you do not need to play it safe. Traditional media often contains a set format and a bias toward “the way things are done.”
This has changed in modern media. The only thing that stays the same is constant reinvention. As a startup, you are in a prime position to take advantage of this reinvention. This doesn’t mean that you have to be completely original. Creativity often requires you to stand on the shoulders of giants, providing your own take on their styles.
There is nothing wrong with this. The most challenging thing to do is create something truly original and not completely derivative.
However, there is good news. You can avoid this dilemma and still create a compelling video commercial that tells the origin story of your brand.
Ultimately, the more that you brainstorm and the more that you discuss ideas with your team, the closer you will be to finding the format that will work for you. It requires persistence, creativity, and the courage to move from idea to execution.
Share Your Business’s Origin Story
Working at a startup, you are uniquely situated to leverage your origin story. Unlike a blue-chip company that has been around for decades, your origin story is more timely and relevant. It is a secret weapon that you can use to find new customers, investors, and media attention.
Therefore, I highly encourage you to incorporate your origin story in your video commercial. Whether you embrace an intimate first-person description of the early days of your company or a slick commercial with actors, authenticity is the name of the game.
Don’t embellish your origin story; instead, describe it in all of its reality. Include all of the high points and the low points—even if it makes you uncomfortable.
By doing this, you will surely build a strong connection with your audience. And in the competitive world of startups, this is a task that you cannot ignore.