Creating a video highlight reel_icon

Creating a Video Highlight Reel

Your Study Results

7 min read

Why use video?

Video highlight reels can be incredibly powerful tools in a debrief session. Standing in front of a group of people, telling them what consumers said—it’s not uncommon for attendees to get defensive or dismiss insights they don’t agree with.

Here’s where your highlight reel comes in. Press “play” and let consumers say it in their own words. Not only does the room go quiet for a few minutes, it puts any naysayers on their heels. 

How to create a powerful video highlight reel

In our years of market research experience, we’ve learned how to create videos that pack a punch. 

Here’s our method:

    1.  Keep it short
    2.  Tell a singular story 
    3.  Bring the story to life
    4.  Make a paper edit
    5.  Edit video & post-production

1. Keep it short
Videos should be kept under 2–3 minutes. Anything longer won’t hold the viewers’ attention in a culture dominated by TikTok-length videos. Long videos also become a mini documentary film requiring too much production effort.

2. Tell a singular story
How do you go from a dataset of dozens or hundreds of individual video responses to a 2–3 minute video?

The most important part of the process is telling a singular story. This means distilling down the ideas and statements found in your survey respondents’ videos. Sum up the singular story of your video highlight reel in one definitive sentence.

Our rule of thumb: if you can’t articulate the story of the video in one sentence, it’s probably not a story. Viewers are accustomed to video highlights that tell a single, coherent story, rather than a disconnected set of facts. 

Asking the video to do the work of a slideshow presentation generally fails, too. We know for a fact that trying to do PowerPoint in video format does not work. 

The video highlight reel and the presentation are two different narrative forms. Your reel should have its own internal narrative that tells a singular story. 

3. Bring the story to life
Now that you have a singular story sentence, bring the story to life. 

As a starting point, try structuring the story using three chapters: beginning, middle and end. 

As you go through the process, keep the end in mind; what is the key message you want viewers to take away when they have finished watching the story?

Within those three chapters, consider using an effective storytelling device called a pivot point. Is there a moment where you are leading viewers down a path, and the unexpected gets revealed? For example, is there a surprising attitudinal, perceptual or behavioral insight that challenges convention? A new way to see the world? We think about it as the equivalent of the needle scratching across the record on a vinyl LP.

In classic ad agency pitch theater, the arc of a story might look something like:

    • Things were great, everybody loved us
    • Then something unexpected or bad happened and we lost them
    • But here’s what they love about us or we are overlooking that could bring them back

4. Make a paper edit
A paper edit is a written outline of your video. It provides structure, tightens your focus, and helps you keep your video the right length. Think of it as a kind of script, storyboard or shot list, but with time codes. The time codes show exactly which interview clips you plan to use.

To make your life easier, use our paper edit tracking sheet where you can enter the key quotes you want to include, and it will automatically calculate the run time length. Note that it’s based on averages, so there may be some variance between the estimated and actual video length.

5. Edit video & post-production
With a paper edit prepared, the video editor can now download the relevant clips. Transitions, title cards, music and even B roll can be added.


Some of the more compelling video highlight reel stories we have seen or been part of:

    • For a study about kids attending a football combine, for a major footwear brand working on a new shoe: These athletes would give their eye teeth for one tenth of a second improvement.
    • In a study for a major national fast casual restaurant: People’s connection to bread goes way beyond taste and texture to near-spiritual associations with ethnicity, ancestral origins and even religion.
    • For a study on the redesign of an ultrasound machine: Despite the anxiety physicians experience as part of their jobs, they have personal superhero moments using ultrasound that provide a massive surge of confidence.


Including individual clips in your debriefs can be powerful. But creating a 2–3 minute video highlight reel with a clear underlying story will help put your final presentation over the top. Our five steps will help get you there.

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