We see a video and we believe it

Tonight, the news is all about the police shooting last Saturday in North Charleston, South Carolina. You’ve probably seen the video by now. It appears to show a white police officer, after firing his taser at a black suspect, proceed to shoot the suspect in the back, to death. If you’ve seen the video, you’re probably pretty angry at the officer and you grieve with the family of Walter Scott, the dead suspect.

What plays out in this video is awful in every way. I include it here only to illustrate the video’s quality. If you’ve seen the video, there’s no need to watch it again. I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to watch or overstate how angry it makes me.

This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. We see videos like this all the time. Rodney King was 24 years ago. Maybe that makes it a stretch to call this a form of emerging media but every week there seems to be a new video and a brand new debate.

This is a marketing blog, not a political one. I don’t mean to make light in any way of what happened in this video but there is a social lesson here that applies to marketing that is worth exploring. We see these videos now all the time. They’re part of our evening news on a daily basis to the point of making us numb to the content. They are always poor quality and we all know they only show part of the story. In the North Charleston case, it seems obvious that the suspect did something to become a suspect, but as with all of the other videos, we don’t get to see that. Despite all of the problems with the video, we are all outraged. We all know what happened here and want to see this officer fried for his actions.

I want you to think about this with your marketing hat on. How is it that we are willing to overlook the glaring problems with the video, fill in the canyon-like gaps in our knowledge of the situation and convict this officer? Is the fact that it’s on video enough for us to feel like we have all the facts? Enough facts that if we were on the jury tonight, we’d say the officer is guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Does this not amaze you?

Video is powerful. We see a video and we believe it. It makes me think about using video in marketing. So often I’m trying to find words and images to tell a story and just hope it’s believed. Video does that, just by its very nature. Another thing is that video doesn’t have to be all polished and the message may not be all that clear – we want to see it. We trust our eyes and we want to see the facts for ourselves.


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