Michael O'Neill

It might come as a surprise to the uninitiated, but we Brafton writers are just as dedicated to sound and image as we are to words on the page. That’s why we’re firm believers in the marketing potential of each and every well-crafted testimonial we’ve observed, including the powerfully unscripted and unrehearsed videos that leave us feeling like there’s almost nothing left to say.

What is a testimonial video and why is it so impactful?

Testimonial videos are essentially recorded customer profiles in which real people expound on their own stories and extoll the benefits of a particular product or service. They can achieve a substantial impact by providing something known as social proof.

Cincopa, a video production company argues that “the fact that video content outperforms every other kind, creating video customer testimonials is simply a slam dunk.”

In contrast to hard data about product outcomes and other objective results, social proof appeals to our innate desire to trust our peers and seek guidance from trends. This can be useful when you’re looking for evidence to support answers for subjective questions like:

  • Does the food at this restaurant taste good?
  • How did the technological solution make your workload feel?
  • Did this solution change your thinking around existing pain points?

In addition to video testimonials, other examples of social proof can include:

  • Starred reviews and their averages.
  • The number of followers or reposts for social media accounts and their content.
  • Written comments and responses.

How does a video testimonial compare to a written testimonial?

Written and video testimonials both give you the opportunity to highlight objective outcomes and to shed light on the emotional impact of using a particular product or service. Still, there’s an old maxim that every writer knows by heart: “Show, don’t tell.”

Typically, we take that to mean that we should describe what’s going on for the reader and let the audience infer for themselves what it means. Instead of saying, “He was sad,” it might be better to write, “A single tear fell silently down his cheek before becoming tangled in a mass of gray whiskers.” (OK, the second version might be overkill. You get the idea.)

Still, with all of that said, we remain limited to the confines of the written word. We can’t actually show you anything. That goes double for written testimonials. Without a writer adding in color and context, all you have is a quote and an attribution, which can seem kind of inert. You can’t see the person who’s speaking. There are no vocal intonations that can tell you how they actually feel about what they’re saying.

That’s why video marketing has such a broad appeal, especially in an age where technology makes it easier than ever to point, shoot, edit and share anything from a product demo or explainer video to a customer testimonial.

Don’t get us wrong, though. Writing a testimonial is an art, and quick reviews and user quotes can be effective, versatile proof points that help prospective customers make up their minds as they approach a buying decision. It’s also easier to automate the process of collecting written testimonials, and it costs next to nothing, especially if it’s built into your sales cycle or checkout process.

What goes into making a video testimonial?

Creating a customer testimonial video entails several distinct steps:

  1. Locating your subject.
  2. Conducting an interview.
  3. Recording b-roll footage.
  4. Leveraging video production techniques.
  5. Distributing your video content for maximum impact.

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in a little more detail.

1. Locating your subject

Not every client will make for a great video testimonial. First of all, even the most successful businesses can struggle to keep all of their clients happy 100% of the time. If the partnership is experiencing some strain, don’t ask for a testimonial until you turn that story around.

Second, you’ll want to think carefully about whose story you spotlight. Is it inclusive? Will this customer’s point of view offer a new perspective on your product or service? Maybe their story helps you convince viewers about the veracity of your brand narrative.

2. Conducting an interview

Whether you’re traveling to shoot on location or conducting a remote interview, make sure that you can get the technical details down. What’s just as important, though? Putting your subject at ease.

Talk for a while and keep the cameras rolling so that you can establish a rapport and capture the magic as soon as it strikes. You don’t have to use everything. Start out by asking them about themselves. It’ll feel less like they’re being put on the spot to give you the “right” answer.

3. Recording b-roll footage

A slick reel will require more than just people talking about their business and how your product helped them achieve specific outcomes. Stock footage can do in a pinch, but custom video is ideal. Capture footage of the product in action or at least use it to illustrate details from their story so that you can create a multilayered, highly visual video testimonial.

4. Leveraging video production techniques

Cue the studio-quality editing. Add in sound and make your video come to life. This can separate a good video testimonial from a great one. But, don’t lose sight of one thing: the story. The best video production teams know that their real job lies in crafting a product that skillfully delivers a compelling narrative. You also might have to get the approval of your interview subject or their company for the final cut.

5. Distributing your video content for maximum impact

Rolling out a real red carpet for a celebrity-studded debut probably isn’t in the cards for your 5-minute customer testimonial, but underselling this deliverable won’t do you any favors either. A well-produced video testimonial can be a highly valuable asset for your next marketing campaign.

In fact, let’s dive a little deeper here. To paraphrase an old saying, “If a video testimonial is produced, but its view count remains at zero, does it even exist?”

Where can a video testimonial be shared or promoted for marketing purposes?

Each video testimonial you create could be:

  • Shared on social media, including YouTube.
  • Embedded on your homepage or a campaign landing page.
  • Promoted through email newsletters, using a screenshot as a link.
  • Broadcast as a paid advertisement on television or the internet.

Essentially, you need to ask yourself, “How can I best reach a new potential customer?” That will help you decide on your release strategy for the content.

Savvy marketers often capture testimonials as part of larger campaigns or more extensive assets. For instance, testimonials can serve as one element of a larger case study video or landing page. Embedding video on landing pages can also increase dwell time and engagement for your website visitors.

Part of the power behind testimonials lies in the fact that they’re developed through a partnership, so don’t overlook the potential of cross-promotion. This is especially true for B2B video testimonials. Since this is an asset that you’re creating collaboratively with your clients, you’ll want to leverage as many distribution avenues as possible. Encourage your partners to share the video through their own social media channels and marketing campaigns.

What are the best video testimonials we’ve seen and why?

Itching to ask for a review from your existing customers or clients? We’ve got some inspiration to help you figure out what kind of outcome you want to achieve.

We’ve hand-picked the following 5 examples because they represent some of the best in testimonial video production that we’ve seen in recent years.

By that, we mean they:

  • Feature compelling interview subjects.
  • Leverage important video-based storytelling techniques.
  • Tell captivating stories about the customer and the featured brand.

No. 1: ‘Real Stories’ for Apple Watch

There are lots of reasons that people are drawn to the Apple Watch, from fitness to entertainment. This video testimonial highlights some unexpected events that made each of its 4 interview subjects a satisfied customer: The device helped save their lives or the life of somebody they care about.

Why it’s No. 1: Where do we begin?

For starters, the word “cinematic” comes to mind. It’s no surprise that Apple has the marketing resources necessary for professional-quality video production. It’s the artful touch here that’s a true differentiator, including the way the camera lingers over still shots that illustrate artifacts highlighted in the voice-over. Each narrative is carefully sculpted, and every story begins in media res, a Latin term for “in the middle of things.”

By the time the father in the video tears up talking about his son’s safety, I may have already reached for a tissue and opened up a new tab to learn more about the Apple Watch. This video testimonial stands out for producing a true emotional connection while keeping the emphasis on its subjects. The product shines through on its own merits.

No. 2: New Belgium Brewing for Hyster Americas

For the second video testimonial on our list, we’re going to dial back the emotional intensity and focus on a beloved American brewer: New Belgium.

Why it’s No. 2: Our first B2B video testimonial on the list centers on New Belgium Brewing and the company’s enthusiastic endorsement of Hyster forklifts. On its own, the video might not seem as glossy as our No. 1 pick, but we think this story proves that you can still create an effective testimonial video without tugging on your viewers’ heartstrings or aiming for an Oscar.

This customer testimonial video features one interviewee explaining a succinct use case for a high-quality product that addresses several potential pain points and enables the company to scale. It’s augmented by behind-the-scenes footage that we think will appeal to a wide variety of potential customers, regardless of their particular industry.

As far as a client testimonial goes, you can’t do much better than that.

No. 3: Stella’s for Impossible Foods

Our third pick takes us all the way to Bellevue, Nebraska, a southern suburb of Omaha. It’s not exactly the first place that might come to mind when you think of vegan-friendly eateries, but that’s what makes this video testimonial from the restaurateur behind Stella’s, a storied local dining establishment, all the more intriguing.

Why it’s No. 3: First of all, it’s worth noting that we could imagine this video testimonial performing well in both B2B and B2C campaigns. The story makes a good case for restaurants to serve the product and for a prospective customer, somebody who might be a bit hesitant, to give plant-based meat substitutes a try.

That leads us straight to our second point. This is a great example of a testimonial that supports, basically, the company’s entire brand narrative. Impossible doesn’t just want to appeal to people who are already vegan or vegetarian. The company wants to make the case to omnivores that its meat-free burgers are just as delicious as any other entree they already love. What better place to try out that argument than in the heart of cattle country?

No. 4: MEC for Hootsuite

We always love a successful meta-level content marketing example. While researching this article, I didn’t set out to find client testimonial videos about using social media software to facilitate a successful content marketing campaign. It just worked out that way.

Why it’s No. 4: In this video, you hear the team from Canadian outdoor equipment retailer MEC describe their #GoodTimesOutside campaign while watching b-roll video content of people enjoying nature and living life to the fullest. It’s enough to make anybody want to head out for a hike. Or leverage social listening tools and successfully segment their marketing campaigns in order to drive brand engagement. Either way, I just want to get moving!

The interview subjects are approachable and knowledgeable throughout the video. The clip lands on a quote that sounds so good that, were it not for the natural, authentic delivery, it would be hard to believe it wasn’t scripted: “You either do that with, like, an army of people, or you have good tools that help you manage it. We had a lot of work to do, but Hootsuite helped us kind of manage that effectively.”

No. 5: ‘1971 Customer Testimonial Ad’ for Allstate Insurance

It’s grainy. There’s no background music. There’s no interesting b-roll. In all honesty, the story is a pretty mundane slice of life set in Kankakee, Illinois, about 50 years ago. On the surface, it doesn’t necessarily seem like a great testimonial video, though I’m sure it was a fine example for its time.

Contrary to what you might assume, Mr. Paul Johnston’s totally ’70s glasses aren’t the reason this is our No. 5 pick. It’s really because of a second video.

Why it’s No. 5: This testimonial, and the follow-up video released in 2017, remind us that there’s a whole world living beneath the surface of interview footage. Far from simply profiling a happy customer and providing an easily digestible story about how great a particular product or service is, video testimonials can give us a glimpse into the real lives of people who are complex, fascinating and multidimensional.

It’s an important thing to keep in mind. Video testimonials are powerful tools because they add an unmistakably human element to initiatives that can otherwise feel a bit cold and sterile. Videos like this one from Allstate point out that connection is what lies at the heart of successful marketing campaigns, even when we think they’re really about efficient claims processing and satisfactory customer service.

Video testimonials: A multifaceted approach to customer engagement

We started this article by saying that video testimonials can serve as effective marketing tools because they deploy sound, image and other multimedia properties. Their final strength? They focus on real people in a way that few other marketing campaigns can.