vintage television set playing a black and white movie

What This 1930s Video Teaches Us About Effective Content Marketing

If you fall far enough down the YouTube rabbit hole you’ll find some amazing artifacts of early marketing. One of them is this 1930s example of video content marketing. I realize that you may not be a professional freelance content writer who gets giddy over examples of effective content marketing, but bear with me. I’m going to break down exactly what this video can teach you, even if you’re new to the whole idea of content marketing.

Since I’m about to dissect the video below for (marketing) science, you might want to watch it before I throw out a bunch of spoilers. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch, don’t worry, you can still learn something.

The Content Marketing Example in Question

Is This Really Content Marketing?

I don’t blame you for being skeptical. It makes sense that a professional content marketer would see every piece of media through a marketer’s eyes. And at first glance, this doesn’t look like a content marketing video. The topic is “How Photographs were Transmitted by Wire.” So maybe it was shown in science classes or played alongside the newsreels in a movie theater to educate the public.

If this video was produced by a telephone company, it would be an early example of an explainer video. An explainer video is a piece of video content marketing used to explain how a product, service, or organization works. But the branding here is much more subtle.

If you watch the opening splash screen closely, you’ll notice that the video is presented by the Chevrolet Motor Division of the General Motors Sales Corporation. Around one minute in, we get our first look at the Chevrolet. At the end, we get one last glimpse of the Chevy logo. This video isn’t just designed to teach you about photo transmission. It’s real goal is to show audiences the famous Chevy suspension.

3 Ways This Video Is Effective Content Marketing

1. It Teaches the Audience Something Interesting

The reason I clicked on this video in 2023 is probably the exact same reason audiences watched in 1937. We both wanted to know how photographs were transmitted by wire. If the headline title of the video had been “Amazing New Suspension Design from Chevrolet” I wouldn’t have clicked. Audience of the time might have chosen that moment to mix a drink or grab some Milk Duds from the concession stand.

I can’t speak for those decades-ago audiences. But I can tell you that I sat enthralled through this entire video. I happily watched the scenes with the cars, never suspecting that I was being sold to.

If this had been a typical commercial, it might not have made it to the Charlie Dean Archives YouTube channel, and I might not have stumbled upon it. So adding the explainer element certainly added to the life of the video. Here I am watching it in a completely different medium 86 years later. Imagine how long your marketing messages might last if you follow their lead.

2. It Focuses On Story

When I clicked on this video, I didn’t expect a story. Maybe audiences back then didn’t either. By the time I’d figured out the connection between the newsroom and the photograph transmission, I was invested in the tale. I wanted to see a car launch and airplane, and then I wanted to see them develop a photo in the back of a moving vehicle. And then I wanted to hear the explanation I came here for.

Hiding their marketing message inside a story inside an explainer video for another product, was a smart move on Chevrolet’s part. Humans are suckers for a good story.

3. It Shows Instead of Telling

“Show, don’t tell,” is generally good advice for any type of writing, from blog posts to video scripts. If you show your audience an experience, you’ll evoke some sort of emotion. If you just list off features, they’re likely to tune out. That scene with the photographer taking pictures perched on the top of the Chevrolet told me more about the suspension than any voiceover could have accomplished.

Sometimes as a content writer, I walk a delicate balance between sales and storytelling. It feels safer to just tell the audience what you want them to know. But that’s often a losing strategy. Take the brave route and scale your branded mentions way, way back.

One Thing That Could Have Made this Video Better

If I were making this video today, there’s really only one thing I would change. A call to action might help the audience make the connection between what they just saw and the product the video is selling. I might have added, “If you need a vehicle that can take you this close to the story, visit your local Chevrolet dealer.”

Maybe that would have helped, or maybe it would have undermined the awareness message this video so artfully shared. It would be worth some A/B testing to find out.

Speaking of a call to action. If you need a content writer who’s obsessed with finding what works, contact me. I’m here to help your business or brand find an effective content marketing strategy for your audience.