If you had to name your favorite commercial campaign, what would it be? Chances are it is something like Dos Equis: “Most Interesting Man in the World” or Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself”, featuring Michael Phelps. While varying wildly in tone and style, these two campaigns are powerful for one common reason. Both campaigns establish a strong central character, who comes with a rich personal narrative. In the case of Under Armour, the campaign tells an emotional true story. Conversely, Dos Equis establishes an entire ethos around a fictional character. While watching each piece, you get a sense that the character’s entire narrative is not confined to the 30 seconds you see them on screen. Their story stretches well beyond and we as the audience are naturally intrigued and want to learn more.
In part one of this blog series, we spoke about mining curiosity. Here we will further expand on this concept and learn how to create intrigue and craft a successful video campaign through narrative structure and character development.
What is the story of your brand? What sort of qualities does your brand have and who are your ideal customers? Answering each one is crucial. If you are thinking, “But I just want to make a slick video to put on social media!” you are missing the point. Stories are what make videos compelling and watchable. If you have a good sense of who your brand is, then you’re ready to start crafting your video campaign. If not, leave the office and go see how your brand interacts with the world at large. It may help to garner valuable insights and put a human face to your customer.
Let’s start by identifying the qualities of your brand and then applying them to an individual person. This will be your central character. One of my favorite campaigns is this spot for a German environmental agency. It takes aspects of the wind and personifies a character who is both annoying and lovable. Your approach doesn’t need to be so literal, but that is one viable option. Another option is to create a character who will be a surrogate for the audience to learn about your brand. This character should be relatable for your target demographic. They should be able to see themselves as this person. Our audience surrogate will ask questions the audience themselves may be curious about. We have all seen this before, it’s a bit of a trope and seems disingenuous when it is too overt or unnatural. “Wow Grandma, tell me more about Depends!” No one says that. Ever. People in restaurants don’t ask other patrons about the rewards on their credit cards and golfers rarely discuss life insurance on the course. The key for this approach is to mimic natural conversation and avoid banal brand phrases.
Audiences of today are more savvy than ever before, therefore your video marketing must be clever and ahead of the curve. Is your brand a disrupter? Why not subvert their expectations of what a commercial can be? Is your brand trusted and established? How about showing some humility and a totally new dimension of your business? You purchased the media time to say something, what is your message and how should you deliver it?
Creating a commercial campaign shouldn’t be daunting. You are not starting from scratch. Hopefully you already have a strong and established character in your brand, or at least a voice and tone. If you catch yourself in downward spiral thinking such as, “We have a boring brand” just remember the people you serve and your team members. Both groups are complex human beings and both have meaningful interactions with your brand. Compelling stories are all around us.