Archive for the ‘branding’ Tag
The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus. The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed. Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG). Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.
Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story. The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team. The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion. “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines. This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”
A Visit From Big Data
As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership. Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution. “Many commercials use this formula. It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution. The issue of big data fits this model. It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”
A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments. At that point the team ran into an impasse. The outlines all treated the BDG character differently. “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson. “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”
With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work? David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots. “The character somewhat wrote himself. As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”
Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card
The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered. At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials. “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process. The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”
Scripts complete – check. Locations secured – check. Talent hired – check. The day of shooting finally arrived. It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data. From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots. Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot. “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence. “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material. We had only the one day to get all the shots. We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later. It had to be done right the first time.”
Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events. The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots. Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.
The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.
1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.
2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!
3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.
4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.
5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.
For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.
The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.
We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible. For communicators it’s a slippery slope. While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.
In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative. For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.
And yes, it’s a choice. If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart. While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip. In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.
The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:
1. Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases. The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.” We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.
2. Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form. The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced. In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning. Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.
3. Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”? The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous. They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention. “Make it relevant. Make it vivid. Make it compelling. Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.” This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.
The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.” Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.
At a recent marketing meet-up, thought leadership was a hot topic of conversation. Amidst the canapés, glasses of white wine, and the exchange of business cards, talk of thought leadership came up frequently. What struck me was the level of interest for including thought leadership as a key marketing tactic. Some of those gathered worked for organizations on the cutting edge of emerging technology. Others were marketers working for established companies in mature industries. Regardless, most of the marketers I spoke with planned to include thought leadership in their 2010 marketing plans. Those with a clear understanding of how thought leadership fits into the buying cycle have the opportunity to succeed. The others will soon be in search of the next bandwagon upon which to jump.
Marketing consulting firms, professors, and authors all publish models of the customer sales cycle. Whatever model you subscribe to, most have certain elements in common. However, what’s often undervalued in these models is the issue of market maturity. Industries transition through phases: from radical new concept; through paradigm differentiation; to the point an established market develops and offerings are seen as commodities. An analysis of the environment in which the business operates is central to delivery of an effective thought leadership program. Whether the subject is cloud computing or cloud-soft tissues, thought leadership can help differentiate a business from the competition. The key is identifying an approach that sets an organization apart from competitors while building a stronger bond in the supplier-customer relationship.
As a “pull” tactic, thought leadership or knowledge leadership is most applicable early in the sales cycle when building awareness. It also plays a role in helping organizations maintain customer loyalty. Thought leadership marketing is about conveying the image of market leadership. It should take a strong position on where markets, technology, or regulatory requirements are heading. It’s not necessary that the organization be the market sales leader. Rather, it’s about exhibiting a depth of understanding and generously offering original insight.
As a marketing tactic, thought leadership must be inexorably tied to an organization’s competence and how it plans to differentiate itself from the competition. A solid thought-leadership program has a number of essential characteristics.
• Unique Voice – Take a stand with a clearly defined message. Demonstrate you are the leader and expert in a given field. Break new ground with ideas that challenge the status quo, creating opportunity for prospects and customers to take a new look at your organization.
• Extend Your Reach – Take on public speaking opportunities, start a newsletter, author a blog, get published. True independent thought leadership is not about publishing ideas exclusively on your company website. It’s about creating a uniquely defined, forceful, and compelling vision so your ideas are sought out and published on someone else’s website.
• Inform, Don’t Sell – While thought leadership must support an organization’s overall marketing direction, it should generously provide insights from which others can benefit. Challenge your audience to think outside the box by presenting useful information. Invite others into the conversation. Be willing to test your ideas and assumptions, especially by extending your reach through social media.
• Long Term View – As a marketing tactic, thought leadership is not about filling the sales funnel for the upcoming quarter. It’s about building relationships and moving from being seen as only a supplier, to being seen as a trusted advisor. Thought leadership is not a form of marketing collateral. It’s a long-term strategy whose results are best measured over time.
As a marketing tactic, thought leadership can be applied in both B2B and B2C marketing. But, thought leadership is not for every organization. Taking a unique stand and openly sharing intellectual property goes against some organization’s culture. However, for those organizations seeking an effective pull tactic to balance the marketing investment in standard push marketing techniques, a thought-leadership program offers a unique longer-term return on investment.