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January 19, 2021 Shownotes:
Product videos. Brand videos. Animations. Social media videos. These consumed our feeds in 2020 and it wasn’t uncommon for these to be filmed or watched in our comfy pants. While the landscapes of how video was produced (and consumed) changed slightly, 85% of businesses used it as a marketing tool and this year is following in stride. Having spent the last 15-plus years helping brands grow by producing videos that impress, astonish and outperform, Torrey Tayenaka, CEO of national video agency Sparkhouse, shares tips on video creation and how to do it right in The 19: Entrepreneur Edition.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:05] This is The 19. In 19 minutes or less, game-changing insights from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:23] Hello and welcome to The 19 Entrepreneur Edition. I’m Rochelle Reiter, President of Orange Label. For the first episode of The 19 in 2021, we’re focusing on video. Why? Well, 85 percent of businesses used video as a marketing tool in 2020 and the results are in: research shows that people watch an average of 16 hours of online video per week, and 84 percent of people say they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video. So, how has video production been transformed over the past 10 months and what’s in store for 2021? Here today with me is Torrey Tayenaka, CEO and Founder of Sparkhouse. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Torrey over the past decade on various brand projects, and he comes with a wealth of expertise and insight on video. Torrey, welcome to The 19. We’re so excited to have you.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:01:15] Thanks for having me out.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:01:21] So, tell our listeners about Sparkhouse and what you provide for clients.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:01:25] Yeah, so Sparkhouse is a video production company. We like to lean towards having a little bit more of a marketing side. We’re definitely not a marketing agency. That’s why we work with companies like yours. But we want to create video content that accomplishes our clients’ goals. So anything from TV commercials, YouTube videos, Amazon videos and animations, we like to help our clients basically just get things done using video.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:01:51] As a video marketing company, how have you had to adjust your business model over the past 10 months, especially internally with your team?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:01:57] With social distancing, with everything, we moved out of our offices. Really no one has been doing like day-to-day office work in our office since early March after kind of an initial lockdown. We definitely went right back into production. I think L.A. has considered filmmaking an essential worker, which I’m not really sure how or why. But, you know, we’re taking the precautions to do everything right on the film side. And then on the post-production and editing side, we’ve invested heavily into what’s called a proxy workflow, but basically taking some of our massive large video files and making them much more digestible so that our editors can work remotely. We can edit files with clients without having to have them come into our office and work in what used to be like the traditional way of doing the post-production.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:02:43] Sure. Do you think that you were headed there anyways and this just sped up the process?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:02:48] It probably should have been on my radar as something that we could have invested if we were really pushing to lead in that technology. It was a very expensive investment for us to make. I’m glad that we have it now and it allows us to spread out our network of who we can work with moving forward.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:04] How have you had to adjust for clients?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:03:06] Some of our clients have kind of acted like, “What’s different? How come we’re not meeting in person?” And once I think the news kind of fell in that this is kind of the new normal, everyone’s been pretty comfortable with working on Zoom calls, collaborating that way. Our team was really well prepared for that, though, because we have clients worldwide and so we’ve been able to create videos and commercials for a lot of clients that we’ve never met before. One of our biggest clients is in New York and they just ship us their products every couple of months and we shoot their commercials here and we’ve built that relationship. And so we’re just doing that same workflow, but with someone who happens to live two or three miles away from us.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:46] Okay, so not a lot of changes.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:03:48] Not in servicing our clients. I think as a business owner, as someone trying to build a culture, that’s where I miss the casual banter of like what a team would have going out to lunch or, you know, the basic water cooler chit chat. But I do feel lucky because we do have production. So once a week, twice a week, we are coming together and filming something or producing something so our teams aren’t completely spaced away from each other.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:04:15] Sure, sure. If a client wants to do an in-person shoot, what are the protocols now compared to what they were a year ago?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:04:22] I mean, everything has changed from a year ago, but we definitely have taken it very seriously. We want to make sure that we’re keeping not only our team safe, our clients safe, and we have actors involved as well. We have everyone signing medical waivers 24 hours in advance to make sure that no one has been exposed. They sign another waiver at arrival. We’re doing temperature checks and then your normal PPE. So everyone’s got masks. A lot of our camera crew and stuff are wearing gloves. And then we have so much hand sanitizer.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:04:50] Yeah.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:04:50] I should buy Costco stock with the amount we’ve purchased. We have a dedicated person that’s distributing that and also enforcing that people are following those rules on set.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:05:01] Sure.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:05:01] And again, every layer we’re adding even more. So, if we’re just filming a product and it’s our crew, you know, we’re endangering our crew versus when we bring on actors, we have more people and we’re bringing on clients. Clients are staying away a little bit more where they would normally kind of be like, “Oh, I want to come and just watch.” They’re only bringing the vital people in right now.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:05:20] Yeah, you’re limiting the number of people.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:05:22] Yeah.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:05:22] I know that you’re located in Orange County, but you do business around the world. Have you noticed geographical differences in the way people are working?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:05:30] A lot of companies used to fly us out to different areas to film and now we’re kind of balancing: is it worth flying out versus working with a local crew and and having our team virtually direct and manage that crew? So we’ve actually filmed more things out of the state this year because it kind of is acceptable to have the lower production value. And they’re not just assuming, it’s like, “Let’s fly the Sparkhouse team out or do nothing.” So we’ve hired a lot of local crew in different places and we’ve also set up some really cool like almost do-it-yourself mail-out system. So we’ll mail our our client, a camera, a tripod, some lights, and then we set up a whole Zoom call where our director is managing it. We make sure everything is set up the way that it needs to be, and then we actually direct it remotely. Things like interviews and updates can be done like that. I wouldn’t recommend like a full-blown narrative commercial.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:06:24] It works in a pinch, right?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:06:26] Yeah, and I mean, I’ve heard it more and more every time we talk about it. But a lot of the marketing departments and H.R. departments are okay with this right now because it’s expected– they’re not expecting us to bring out a 30-person crew. It’s almost not responsible to do that.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:06:40] Yeah, right. Right. What trends are you seeing now with video because of social distancing? Are you seeing different types of video being more in demand?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:06:49] I guess I’m seeing a lot more video being needed with so many events being canceled. So, with so many face-to-face meetings being canceled or not happening, we’re seeing a lot of people, especially on the sales side, saying, like, “I can’t get that impact that I used to get when I invited a client over to our facility and they got to tour and see everything that was going on.” They don’t get the experience of touching the product or experiencing what they’re trying to sell. So, we are seeing a lot more like diving into VR, VR 360 stuff where they’re trying to recreate what you would normally get in a sales meeting or again, a trade show booth or something like that outside of COVID. One thing I’ve been seeing is the use case of video. Instead of just being a promotional piece, I’ve been seeing a lot more content needing to be value-add, whether it be educational, explaining how a product works, not just shiny things. Making that tool something that is useful to the viewer instead of just forcing them to watch it.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:50] Right. Right. Less promotional-driven, more educational and informational.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:07:54] Yeah. Just a reason to watch it. A lot of content being watched online. And it’s not a lot of commercials.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:59] Right.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:08:00] What people want to watch.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:01] What makes parts of video engaging? Like what are the things that brands can do to make their videos more engaging?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:08:09] Making it valuable to the viewer. If you are doing a video for a hardware store and you could do instructional videos on how to use some of their products, how to do some of the DIY projects at home, and these people are like actually searching them out, finding them. They’re not just watching them. Once they’re watching it over and over, they’re pausing them. They might be leaving comments. We just really like creating stuff that is valuable to that viewer. And even if it is a commercial, educating a consumer on a product is something that’s really valuable to a consumer. It raises their understanding of the product or the service and in the end raises their customer satisfaction. If you get sold on a sexy 30-second commercial and then when you actually make that investment into that company and it’s not exactly what you thought, you got that bait and switch of what that commercial kind of did to you.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:59] Right. Right. So we often hear pushback on video saying that it seems expensive. Why do you believe video is worth the investment?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:09:06] I would say that even working with a production company like ours, like a high-level production company is not always worth it. And I’m very honest when it comes to that. I would say video is always worth it, though. You just have to kind of set up, “how much risk is this video worth to your company?” So if you can imagine a Fortune 500 company coming out with a product launch and they’re creating a video, if that video is done incorrectly or hits the wrong tone or doesn’t do its job, how much risk did that company you know, it’s a publicly traded company, is their stock going to go down? Are they going to lose stuff or are they going to get sued? Versus if you’re a company that wants to just do frequently asked questions, that video doesn’t resonate with everyone. You’re not going to lose out on your company’s bottom end. And so you might not need to invest a ton of money into that department of video. So, it’s really about just balancing our clients’ goals of what they’re trying to do with those videos. And we honestly say if someone says, “We think video is too expensive,” they’re probably not a good fit for Sparkhouse — for us. But we can point them in the right direction because I do think that they should at least be investing into trying to use video in some way.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:10:12] So, have you seen the trend of more organic, authentic videos being shot on iPhone for the how-to stuff and the social media content?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:10:20] I haven’t seen a ton of it. Like when someone really decides to say, “Hey, we’re going to do this video in-house,” I’ve seen them start with the iPhone, but if they’re going to really do it, they invest into it. They build out the whole video team. And so you’re going to end up spending just as much money, if not more, to have that that team in-house to do it. One thing I have been seeing that I actually do really like is where people are sending products out to film themselves using the product, so less company-created content, but actually user-generated content. I mean, it’s just super authentic. I think it’s super powerful content.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:10:54] Absolutely.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:10:54] I don’t think that that’s what you necessarily should be leading with on your homepage, but it is, you know, later down the funnel, a really powerful tool.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:11:01] Powerful content. Yeah, for sure. What shortcuts or mistakes have you seen brands doing in videos?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:11:08] Planning is always kind of underestimated on how much time it takes to plan a video. We have a process of creating a video, whether it’s a one-minute video or a two-hour video, and 80 percent of the steps are before we ever turn the camera on, and that is sometimes overlooked. People are like, you know, “Here’s the product, let’s just start filming it.” The other thing that really concerns me with video and kind of going back to budget is thinking about where you’re going to use this video and where you could be using the video or the content that you’re going to be filming. So, whether you’re doing a commercial that, you know, you rent a location, you hire actors, you have hair and makeup there, you have props and wardrobe, you have the whole camera crew, and you’re just there to film, you know, a 15-second Instagram commercial. That’s fine. But that’s a really expensive 15-second video. You really need to talk to your marketing department and say, what are we going to be doing next quarter? What are we going to be doing, you know, rolling out throughout the next year? And can we be using footage or photography from the shoot to repurpose it at other times? It’s a huge pain for–not a pain for us, we get paid more–but a client will, you know, they’ll hire us to do one video and then come back two months later and ask to basically do the same video just with something a little bit different. I mean, we could have done that.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:12:25] You could have done that, yeah! So, having some foresight into what the plans are for the next quarter or two, or even the year.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:12:31] Yeah. And I can see, like, again, if you’re doing it by yourself, that can be really daunting to think about because you’re so focused on just making sure this 15 seconds or 30 seconds is done correctly. But if you’re hiring a professional team, if you can educate them on what you want to do in the future, they should be able to help you — you know, “Hey, let’s get some extra footage or get some extra shots, testimonials, other things that you can use later, even if you’re not ready to do it yet.”
Rochelle Reiter: [00:12:54] Yeah. So, building some evergreen content into the shoot that can last.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:12:58] That’s one of our big pushes to make the high cost of a production worth it. So if you’re spending, you know, X amount of budget on one video, but you can actually spread that cost across 10 videos instead, like it makes that high production value cost that everyone talks about not as bad.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:13:16] Of course, of course. What was your biggest learning or take away from 2020?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:13:21] For me personally, it was to take a break when this all happened. You know, I was really focused on keeping the ship lined up and we’re not going to sink. I just sat at my desk and then my wife would be like, “Alright, are you ready for dinner?” And then we would go to sleep. And then we did it again. The first couple of months just kind of blew by. In the last couple of months, I’ve been really focusing on, you know, taking some breaks and figuring out how to not just sit in a little bubble because we’re not getting that normal interaction again, like when I used to be walking to lunch with coworkers and friends or hanging out with people, just trying to find some time to myself to reflect or do something else.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:13:59] Sure, sure. What was your biggest business takeaway, you think?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:14:01] Really making sure that what we’re doing for our clients is worth the ROI, almost pushing back on them to make sure because everyone was really tight on their budgets, everyone needed to make smart decisions. We were all kind of on that edge there like, “Don’t make a big investment into something that’s not going to pan out.” And so we turned down some business in a creative way of saying, like, “You need to spend this somewhere else before we can work on our portions, so that, you know, there’s somewhere for both of us to grow moving forward.” And I think our clients have appreciated that in the long run where, you know, they see that like their business is growing and now they have more money to invest back into video.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:14:38] Sure.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:14:38] Versus just getting that kind of one-off and hoping that they come back later.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:14:42] So, being more of a partner with your client?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:14:44] Yeah. Having a mentality that we at least want to come with a partner-approach where we want to make sure that both of us can grow.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:14:51] What trends are you predicting for 2021?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:14:54] I think the trends for 2021 are going to be similar to what we saw, you know, throughout the bulk of 2020. And we’re seeing a big push to a lot of animated. There’s just less of a hassle to produce a video when we don’t have to deal with the PP and deal with filming and things like that. A lot more remote filming where you’re okay with seeing the CEO of United Airlines, you know, kind of have a selfie cam up in his living room giving an update. I think that will stay around for a little bit longer. Yeah, I think kind of a little bit more of an acceptance of people filming things in a different way. It might be earmarked. You know, we look back twenty years from now like, “Oh, that was during that time that it was okay to film at home in your underwear.” You know?
Rochelle Reiter: [00:15:36] Well, and maybe it’ll be a turning point for the way we do things. So what are you most excited about for 2021?
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:15:42] I’m excited for my team right now. They really banded together and, you know, I’ve been creating some really cool content. Everyone had their kind of hurdles to deal with in working from home and figuring all that out. But I will be excited to be coming back into the office, working with clients hand-in-hand and actually getting back to some of that camaraderie that we had before.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:00] Thank you so much for joining us today, Torrey. It was a pleasure.
Torrey Tayenaka: [00:16:03] Thank you.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:09] Thank you for listening to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition with Torrey Tayenaka of Sparkhouse. To learn more about Sparkhouse, check out our show notes or visit thesparkhouse.com. If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email. You can send questions, comments and more to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:37] A special thank you goes out to our contributors, Studio Manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich, who edits our show, and Ashley Ruiz, Content Writer. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and, if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!
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