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  • Writer's pictureKanhaiya Maheshwary

The rise of Lo-Fi social media content during Covid-19 - Marketing during the pandemic

Earlier this morning, I got a LinkedIn app notification signaling that one of the Cannes Lions sessions I had signed up for had begun. The session was just an old wine in a new bottle, meaning that it was last year's session just re-edited and re-presented. However, it seemed far more relevant in today's landscape given the situation that's befallen on us, and it also give me an idea for this blog.

Due to the pandemic, not only have companies considerably reduced their marketing budgets, but also it is getting difficult for ad or film crews to get together to shoot anything. The resultant implication is that brands have to be smarter about how they communicate with their audiences. In the absence of high-quality shoots or elaborate productions, they have had to discover newer ways of producing content. Enter Lo-Fi content.

Lo-Fi stands for low fidelity, and simply means content that is produced using a cell phone (in most cases) or a basic video camera. It is produced on a very low budget.

Football clubs putting up raw videos of players working out in their backyards, artists working from their home studios and putting out singles without fancily produced videos, and brands putting their creative juices flowing in order to come up with minimalist yet hard hitting social media content - all of these fall under Lo-Fi content.

Let's take an example of a Jack Daniels ad made by one of their creative people during the pandemic. It literally has half of a whiskey glass in the frame, with the whiskey being stirred inside while a voice over talks about sipping responsibly. The creativity comes when they turn "Shelter In Place" to SIP at the end.

Another example would be that of Jimmy's Iced Coffee. We see waves lashing against the shores for 15 seconds, only to be interrupted by the sound of a can being put to the ground. Then we see a person, presumably the drinker of the coffee who is now refreshed, going and jumping into the sea. It was aired on Sky!

This entire ad cost £1.50 to produce

Lo-Fi Content during the Pandemic

TV Shows

Shows like Some Good News (SGN) and The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert continue being produced during the pandemic. Both John Krasinski (SGN) and Stephen Colbert are shooting from within one of the rooms inside their homes. And instead of inviting all their guests, they are tele-conferenced over one of the video calling apps. In fact, SGN even did a virtual commencement party for the class of 2020! The production is minimalist, but the content continues to be high quality.

Social Media Feeds

Social Media feeds, especially Instagram, saw brands increasing the amount of personal stories they have started putting out, all mostly shot using a smartphone. Let's check out a few of these feeds:

This is one of Adidas' post during the beginning of the lockdown. Through their "Home Team" campaign, they urged fans to send videos of their home workout sessions and they stitched it together to turn it into an inspiring piece of content.

Nike London did something similar by highlighting stories of Muslim women in UK during the holy month of Ramadan.

Does all Lo-Fi content work?

I came across a very interesting graph known as the Leake's Engagement Paradox at Cannes Lions in 2019. I think the speaker had made it up, and thankfully I still retain it because it makes a lot of sense in today's context. I'm trying to do my quick and dirty version of it:

This maps the level of engagement to the quality of content. Interestingly, it says that very bad, or very good content are the two types that get the most engagement. Everything in between gets lost in the mix and receives relatively low engagement. Of course, it may not work out exactly in every case but it has been commonly observed. That's why trashy Low-Fi content across channels like TikTok and Vine often goes viral. But it isn't to imply that brands should create trashy content. It just highlights a very interesting phenomena!

For those familiar with Bollywood, this graph will make sense in context of Gunda. An extremely trashy movie, it enjoys a cult following. It falls in the zone of "So bad that it's actually good!"

What does Lo-Fi mean for brands?

The pandemic has shown us that Lo-Fi content is here to stay. The worldwide acceptance of TikTok has already created paved a way for brands to start experimenting with lo-fi content. More and more users are getting accustomed to watching cellphone-shot, home-produced videos. And, given the small screen on which these videos are viewed, these lo-fi videos work really well.

Lo-Fi is a different ball game, and that's why brands should be cognizant of:

Smarter Storytelling

When your production is minimal, your storytelling needs to be solid. The content should be authentic, and geared towards your target audience. In fact, it is said that the best of ideas often come under creative restraint because ironically, it is only when you are caged that you think outside the box.

Crowd Sourcing Content

As we've seen and learned from the examples of famous sporting brands like Nike and Adidas, coming up with an engaging campaign where you can invite crowd sourced content and later turn them into stories is a great way to generate content when you can't go out and shoot during the pandemic. And when your audiences know that they have a chance of featuring on your channel, they are more likely to engage with your other posts too out of an unexplainable sense of moral obligation - because that's human behavior!

Have any Low-Fi content or campaign that you loved? Drop them in the comments below!


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