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How to Tell a Story in a 15-Second Video

How to Tell a Story in a 15-Second Video cover

How much time do you need to tell a story? Usually, several minutes; rarely, if the story is large – several hours. And what about telling a story in a video format?

Now, if you are questioning whether you should use storytelling in your marketing videos or not, I have an answer ready. YES, storytelling is an absolute MUST in modern video marketing.

Video Marketing expert about storytelling


Unfortunately, video creators and marketers usually don’t have too much time to tell a story. We already know that human attention span is relatively short, so if your video is not catchy enough or takes too long, people will instantly lose interest and skip it.

Moreover, social media platforms constrain the length of videos that their users can publish. For instance, the maximum length of a Facebook cover is 90 seconds, and Instagram Stories can be no longer than 15 seconds.

But how to fit a whole story into such a limited amount of time? It may seem impossible, but experience shows that it’s not – you just need to use your time wisely.

How to Tell a Story in a 15-Second Video | Video Marketing How To

In this video, you will learn how to tell a story in a 15-second video using 4 simple steps. Video creators and marketers usually don’t have too much time to tell a story

So, how to tell a story in a 15-second video?

First of all, let’s decide what components a video has to come with in order to be called “a story”. The two major ingredients are human and narrative elements.

The human element is a person or a number of persons that hold the central position of your video and whom your viewers can relate to. The narrative element combines a storyline – what happens with the character, and a plot – how this storyline is shown.

Transmit one message at a time

When you have only 15 seconds to tell a story, it is important to focus on one main message that you want to deliver in the video. Don’t try to squeeze all the features of your product into one short story – most likely, it will confuse a viewer.

Think of what makes your brand unique and what will resonate with your audience the most – this thing should be the core of your video. Knowing your audience is essential at this point. Ideally, show how you can solve the problem of the viewers. Take this Ember video ad as an example:

Ask yourself – what one thing about your brand you would describe to a potential customer in a face-to-face conversation? How would you position your product against the competitors? That’s your starting point for a 15-second story.

Think through the structure

The structure of your video should be thought out to the last detail. Remember – every second counts. You have a few options when working on the structure of your video-to-be:

The three-act structure is a classic way of storytelling: act one sets up the story and introduces the characters, act two brings up the conflict, and act three provides the resolution.

Three act structure of storytelling

Building your video this way allows making it personal and relevant, which is a perfect combo for video storytelling. Take a look at this hilarious three-act video story from Honda:

Taking into account the fact that you only have 15 seconds, you might want to go for the two-act structure: act one introduces the problem, and act two provides the solution. This way, your video will be less personal, but you’ll have more time to present the unique capabilities of your product.

This framework works especially well when the setup speaks for itself and a very brief introduction of the main characters is enough – like in this Wells Fargo video:

Of course, you can come up with your own structure that works best for the idea you have in mind. If you decide to create a series of videos, it would be wise to make them consistent by holding on to the same framework.

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Apply creativity

Sometimes you have to think out of the box to make your videos memorable.

It is great to have a classic video story for your product or service, but having too many of them will make your viewers yawn. So… be creative! Come up with original ideas, experiment, choose unusual ways to transmit the message.

When you only have 15 seconds to tell a story, it has to be something that hooks your viewers and prompt them to learn more about your brand. Don’t be afraid to use metaphors or leave an open ending – chances are you’ll stand out from your competitors in a very positive way.

Starbucks has concocted a story about a small town that celebrates Pumpkin Spice Latte (one of their most famous drinks) Days – and it’s a great example of creative video storytelling:

This video seems to be unrelated to Starbucks as a brand, it doesn’t promote their products or the company. Nonetheless, it tells a nice short story – and it’s hard to resist watching more of the series. That’s what being hooked feels like!

Add emotions

A good story has to bring out emotions. Emotions drive human perception and decision-making processes. They make us feel – and that’s what you want your video to do.

Moen managed to make their video both informative and emotional:

Picturing small children, cute pets, ridiculous or dramatic situations are the most effective ways of making a video story affective. Find the soft spot of your audience – and don’t be afraid to use it. However, do not go overboard – your video has to be authentic and natural, otherwise, there is a chance that you will just annoy your audience. 

Wrapping up

Storytelling is a real treasure of video marketing. Sharing stories has always been (and will always be!) relevant and appealing to people of all ages. Don’t miss a chance to engage your audience with an exciting video story!

Do you use storytelling for marketing purposes? Let us know in the comments!

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