There’s a good chance you’ve experienced branching or choose-your-own-adventure videos before… but how can businesses use them to create more compelling content?

What is a branching video?

Anyone who grew up reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels will already understand the concept: at certain points the reader is asked to make a decision that determines the course of the story. All the possible choices and endings are contained within the one book, but the instructions (eg. ‘turn to page 73’) steer the reader through their own unique narrative.

Branching videos work in much the same way. Viewers are presented with choices throughout the video and clicking a selection skips them to a pre-determined part of the video to continue the experience. Unlike books, however, branching videos can link to a different video altogether if you like.

One of the best-known examples of a branching video is Bandersnatch, the 2018 episode of Netflix’s popular sci-fi series Black Mirror. While that production was said to be around two years in the making, the good news for business is that these seemingly complex interactive video experiences can be created in-house in minutes, not years.

How can brands use branching videos?

Granted, most brands and companies aren’t looking to create a Black Mirror-style drama series, but the uses for branching videos go far beyond Netflix-and-chill. Take the video below by R U OK? for instance, a great example of how branching can be used for an awareness campaign. The roleplay video teaches viewers how to navigate through a tough conversation by placing them in a first-person perspective, giving the impression that the viewers are conducting the conversation themselves. Viewers are prompted to choose the best response to answer their friend, whilst also learning about the importance of each response. It’s a faster-and far more compelling-way to explain different conversation methods than having viewers chronologically sit through content that may be of little interest to them.

There's more to say after R U OK video thumbnail

That, really, is the key to the appeal of branching videos: audiences create a personalized experience by jumping to the stuff they find compelling. For brands, this is analytical gold because every interaction creates a data point that gives real-time insights into how viewers feel about the actual content in the video, not just whether they clicked the play button. The ability to target multiple demographics in the one video is powerful indeed (the alternative being to serve up a too-long video and watch view rates fall through the floor).

It’s easy to see how this style of video can be used in different contexts, such as choosing different items of clothing to build an outfit (and, hopefully, increase average cart value). A business looking to communicate complex information to stakeholders or investors can break that information down into more digestible chunks. HR teams can use branching video to guide employees through a company’s standards and policies. Educators can add a whole new dimension to self-guided coursework.

How do you create branching videos?

Whilst many interactive features like hotspots, polls and pop-ups can be easily added to existing video content, branching videos are usually more effective when they’re created specifically for the format.

This necessitates a degree of additional planning and production to ensure all possible outcomes are filmed and everything flows as it should. Self-serve interactive video creation platforms like Vudoo make constructing the final video simple, allowing you to add pop-up interactive choices where you want them and then set each selection to jump to a particular point in the video to continue the journey.

The results are well worth the extra effort by delivering truly memorable, engaging experiences and for the deeper audience insights that come with it. As the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time… but use branching video to give viewers real choice in what they watch and you’ll get closer than ever before.