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In today’s episode we’re joined by Jordan Quackenbush, Creative Director at Atlanta-based video marketing agency Optimum Productions. Originally a motion graphics editor, Jordan now controls most of the creative decisions for each video project: from writing scripts and shooting interviews to creating animations in AfterEffects. In talking with IndustrialSage, he explains how creating a corporate message means more than just rotating a product on a pedestal for all to see. It’s also about utilizing stories to their full potential, and being open and vulnerable to what your audience actually wants to see.
MARKETING MATERIALS ARE YOUR FIRST POINT OF CONTACT NOW.
Companies put a ton of effort into the visual quality print ads… and yet they’re not always as concerned with the quality of their message. But message has a major impact on the first impression given to potential buyers, much like the decor and menus at a restaurant. By the time you walk in, take a seat, and place your order, you’ve already formed an opinion long before tasting a single morsel.
If your business has a poor message – or no message – then you’ve already taken a backseat in the minds of your prospects. You need to think about the first impression you’re providing.
Message quality is seen as a reflection of company competency.
That might not seem fair – and it isn’t entirely. Back to the restaurant metaphor, there are a lot of dives that have fantastic food with rather terrible ambience and plain, grimy menus. Their regulars may love them. But all the same, they may not be getting a lot of new business because their appearance can drive people away.
Being the “Best Kept Secret,” in the industry is good for your customers, but bad for your business.
That’s not to say you have to be flashy in your marketing (unless that’s how you want your culture to come across); but you should want to increase your reach. Being a big Star Trek fan, Jordan talks about one of the show’s key subjects: “first contact” with each new alien species. Each new race (aka: prospect) may know nothing about you – and therefore their first glimpse of you needs to be a very carefully-considered one.
1. FIND YOUR HUMAN STORY.
Of course, coming up with a carefully crafted message is easier said than done. In some cases, you may already know what to say or how to introduce yourself with exact clarity… but you may feel like it’s hard to actually make your work sound… well, interesting. Optimum has worked with companies in all sorts of fields, from medical research to logistics to power lines… and many of them tend to put themselves down when asked what makes their work interesting.
There’s some truth to that; machines are not exactly the first thing that come to mind when attempting to connect with the human spirit. Nobody wants to portray their company as boring. Sometimes they’ve just never seen it in any other light. But the last thing you want is for that feeling to translate into your videos.
It certainly is hard to connect emotions with automations, or to make a coil of electrical wiring feel like something glorious. Fortunately, there’s actually an easy way to close the gap.
You need to remember the significance of what you’re doing and how your work will impact other people.
All you need to do to tell your story is to find the human element within it. Maybe you’re behind the scenes day after day in countless lives and they take your success for granted… or perhaps you cater to a rare few and can launch them far ahead of their competition. Either way, seek out and pinpoint that moment of human connection. Story is how we communicate, but humanity is what makes each story emotional and relevant.
“I craft the story… thinking in my head, ‘How does that affect me personally?’ and then that’s the story.”
When working with HD Supply, Jordan and the rest of the creative team at Optimum made the connection that HD Supply provides not just equipment, but therefore electrical power: and so the resulting video focused on the company’s role in keeping houses lit, warm, and safe. That message made the company’s purpose appear not just necessary, but even awe-inspiring; the and a touch of the right dramatic music was able to evoke emotions far more than any print ad ever could have.
Your message doesn’t have to be expensive: it just has to resonate.
Vestra Logistics was another company struggling with self-image: how do you make trucking and freight and a new price model interesting? Jordan and his team ended up pitching an idea almost entirely out of left field – a salesman in boxers and a transparent suit helping to pitch Vestra’s transparent methods. It was by no means a traditional solution, but it was both relevant and frankly very attention-catching. Whether you’re in logistics or not… it’s pretty hard to stop watching.
Almost everyone feels like their job is dull, but that’s because it’s simply routine for them, not for everybody else.
Nowadays, leads will choose a lesser company over yours simply because that other company has a better message… even if you have the better service. On the opposite side of that spectrum, a good message can wow anyone. After collaborating with a tool vending branch of Stanley Black & Decker known as CribMaster, Optimum created a set of videos that were shown at multiple events and many staff apparently said, “We want to work at that company!” Then they were reminded, “You already do!”
“You know that adage, ‘You always want to do business with your friends.’ [Storytelling] is kind of a way of being able to introduce that relationship and that connection.”
Storytelling is the way we as humans connect, and it’s the best way that you can begin building a rapport with your leads. Another Optimum client, ADO Practice Solutions, wanted to create a video explaining how ADO helps eye-care practices succeed through collaborative teamwork. The resulting production focused entirely on the metaphor of a rowing team in training. Not so much as a contact lens was in the video, but it still connected and communicated effectively with ADO’s audiences.
2. MAKE YOURSELF VULNERABLE.
Of course, finding your story is only half the battle. Sometimes, even if you do know what you want to say, the message might be all wrong for your prospects. One of Jordan’s pet peeves is a marketing director (or anyone on the top floor) who is set on their vision because they themselves are satisfied with it. They’re not always open to handing over their marketing baby, or getting feedback from creatives that they may not always want to hear. So when push comes to shove, what do you do when visions collide?
It’s hard to see your perfectly-honed idea get stripped down or wiped away entirely. It feels very personal when that happens… but the truth is that you need creatives to step in, because internal feedback is not good enough. Sure, you know your work backwards and forwards and better than anyone else. But sometimes that is precisely the problem.
You need those checks and balances in place so that you can test your work and humbly drop any aspect that could be holding you back from reaching your audience proper – whether that’s your traditions, your CEO, or even the agency you’re currently collaborating with.
When looking in the rearview mirror, some of Optimum’s favorite and most successful projects – like CribMaster – were also the projects where the creative team was given carte blanche on the script.
They still worked closely with the company’s marketing team, of course, but those marketers were willing to be vulnerable… and they gave up a lot of control to, essentially, a bunch of outsiders.
Marketing, like any other product, is a source of revenue made specifically for your audiences rather than for yourself – and poor production will lead to poor sales as a result.
A few years ago when Optimum Productions went through their own rebrand, they attempted to redesign their logo themselves. They were creative and artistic types, and they certainly had the software and resources to pull it off. But they went through draft after draft and simply couldn’t settle.
Finally, they had to take a leap of faith and hand the reigns off to a professional graphic designer who could view the project with less bias. He was able to let go of the extra baggage that the OP staff had been clinging to, because they felt it to be necessary to their story. But in the end, those extra details had simply resulted in extra weight that had held them back; and the resulting logo was able to hit at the core of what Optimum does. It was a very personal reminder for the team to “take their own medicine.”
3. BRING IN FRESH EYES.
As another example, Jordan mentioned the big change that many modern video games are undergoing. In this day and age, graphics quality has more or less peaked… and now game creators are noticing that their customers don’t always care about being able to see every vein on every leaf on every tree. Often times, audiences start to migrate over to slightly kitsch options because, despite the crude graphics, the stories still ring true. Because of that, a lot of new video games on the market have taken the hint and have humbled their graphics in order to to focus on their writing.
Seeking feedback from executives outside your department is indeed a big (and often necessary) step… but usually you need to go even further and seek feedback outside of your entire company. Your buyers and prospects aren’t necessarily experts on what you do, so you need to find a few similar neophytes on whom to test your message.
“I’m coming in with that fresh set of eyes and can say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty fascinating what you do.’ You might be used to it, but to me? I might not be your customer, but I have a set of eyes that are fresh, like your customer would.”
This is one of the reasons why millennials are considered such a big deal in marketing; they’re the majority of buyer audiences nowadays. Their generation as a whole has completed high school at minimum – and at maximum, many of them are already in their thirties and are well on their way to managing their companies as baby boomers retire.
Millennials aren’t just entering the workforce – they already are the workforce, and that does affect B2B marketing.
This powerful generation has a great “BS radar,” as Jordan puts it, which is why it’s so important to get their feedback on what you’re doing as a marketer. They can tell you what your prospects are looking for, as well as why buyers might be (mis)judging you. The preferences and ideals of millennials could (and will) take up an entire episode… but for now, suffice it to say you need to be connected with them right now.
“If you don’t change, you will become the Blockbuster of today.”
3. So, to Recap…
The quality of your message will affect your credibility according to your prospects, so you need high-level storytelling to communicate effectively with leads. Your business may be more interesting or powerful than you think, because you’ve probably just gotten used to it. But if you dare to find the human connection in your industry and find newcomers to lay fresh eyes on your content, you just might be able to create something incredible, clear, and breathtaking. All it takes is a little vulnerability.
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