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EphMRA 2017: why video is worth a million words

Ben Lorkin
Research Director
Hall & Partners Health

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Reflecting on this year’s 2017 EphMRA conference, I’m struck by three things: video, video and video.

Video for holistic understanding of our customers. Video to engage our customers. Video to empower more informed decision-making for business impact.

William Gibson told us, “The future is here – it just isn’t widely distributed” (Economist, 2013). Video is not only here and widely distributed but it’s also our past present and future. Video is part of our everyday. It just makes sense to use it.

As brand patents expire and new challenger brands emerge that disrupt the treatment paradigm, and with the dawn of biosimilars finally upon us, the need to differentiate ‘beyond-the-pill’, to better understand what motivates customer behaviour, has never been greater.

As I spoke about in my #ethnography workshop, people are not good at remembering what they did. They tend to post-rationalise and generalise, losing the granularity that we seek to capture. We need to understand what happens, when it happens. At the ‘moment of truth’.

Additionally, customers can only tell us so much.

Sometimes they forget things. Some things are private and consciously kept from us, whereas others aren’t said as customers simply don’t think they’re important (although these would be extremely interesting to us). Some things remain unsaid as people just don’t realise they’re doing anything significant. Some things aren’t said as people have distorted and myopic viewpoints of their world, and just think the way it is is the way it is.

Video has the power to better harness our understanding of customers. It also allows us to better engage – to capture and bring customers’ stories into our hearts and minds. It allows findings to be more salient, fostering engagement and empathy. Video allows insights to live longer.

We live in a world where we’re communicating more and more through imagery, bypassing the need for cross-cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Damian Eade told us, and to paraphrase, “In 2018, 80% of internet traffic is expected to comprise of video, and 75% of working professionals will watch at least one work-related video per week”.

One look at social media tells us that people love taking and sharing videos (and photos). Imagery connects more deeply with people; it helps us share our lives with others who can understand us more intimately. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then maybe video is worth a million.

Smartphones , in particular, free us from the research shackles of the past (although… caution, not a research panacea!). They allow us to centre our research on the users – how they live, and how mobile influences, dominates and enhances their behaviours – and to be genuinely personalised and customer-centric.


Video presents an opportunity to understand people with instant clarity, unfettered by assumptions


Indeed, a recent study on wellness conducted by the team at Hall & Partners revealed how 100 customers in four countries shared over 3,500 health and wellness moments in a single week!

If we consider that the vast majority of us use visual representation as our preferred sensory system, it’s perhaps no surprise that video is becoming so important. What is perhaps surprising is that it’s taken this long.

Our industry’s foundation is often built upon reported words, actions and motivations. Video, and other observation, presents an opportunity to understand people with instant clarity, unfettered by assumptions. But more than that, for many people it’s simply a more relevant way to communicate and interact in today’s world.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that imagery, video in particular, will play a more prominent role. It provides, and will increasingly provide, a platform for more informed decision-making. Because, to truly influence business strategy, we ultimately need deeper human understanding.


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