A few weeks ago I attended an event that held the title “Innovate or Stagnate: Can Technology Keep the NHS Healthy” – it was an interesting evening of talks from some of the leading experts in the field. I came away with mixed feelings though – hope at the thought of technology saving our beloved NHS, despair at the thought of how or whether they’ll implement it all in time.
Communicating innovation is one of the more challenging adventures in the marketing industry – people want and fear change at the same time. They want it because the future holds exciting opportunities; they fear it because they may not understand the implications, costs or impact it will have on tried and tested circumstances.
To get it right, businesses who are innovating have a need to be constantly engaging the parties who are implementing these innovations and aware of how they communicate with their many different audiences. In the case of the NHS, it is the government, health trusts, payers and healthcare professionals who need to understand how these innovations save money, time and, most importantly, the lives of patients under their care. Further even, it is the patients and the general public at the end of the line who are directly experiencing the ease and improvement of experience that innovation in healthcare could bring, and the future potential it has.
On Thursday, June 21, we are hosting an event called the Future of Healthcare: Communicating Innovation where our managing director Stefano Marrone will be discussing how brands can and should build a consistent narrative on innovation and sensitive health topics to different audiences across different visual assets. A focus will be on strategies to overcome some of the main challenges associated with public health communication campaigns such as finding ways to both raise awareness and drive behavioural changes within multiple audiences.
Corporate communication has had a certain reputation for being dry and unengaging in the past. But new technologies like VR are now increasingly becoming part of the modern business world, and companies are catching onto the benefits of integrating them into their corporate comms strategy.
VR, AR and 360 videos are just some of the ways businesses are connecting with their audiences. And not just for external communication, but for business training purposes and internal campaigns too. The innovative use of tech like this gives companies a new way of creating immersive training experiences and unforgettable comms pieces. All powerful stuff when you want to drive engagement.
How can VR fit into your comms strategy?
Strategic content creators are now opening the doors to fresh possibilities in VR and 360 videos. Providing brands with a platform to visualise the future of their industry, or engaging with a holographic executive delivering a comms message are just some of the opportunities it offers. VR is also incredibly freeing as it enables companies to put people in impossible situations in a controlled way.
For example, with one of our recent project,EDF Nuclear Symphony, we helped public audiences and stakeholders to understand how a nuclear reactor works through a VR experience.
Adapting this to your particular business and needs is key to making it work. Essentially, the user can walk through a digitally rendered environment, allowing them to react to a situation as it unfolds. For training in areas like first aid, operating machinery and policing, VR can be an invaluable tool. By creating the right kind of experience for the user, companies are in stronger position than ever to engage with immersive, educational interactive experiences.
Is VR a cost-effective training tool?
When it comes to investing in new tech, it’s important to know how it will benefit the business as a whole. Another core use of VR for corporate comms is to let people travel without moving, which presents exciting cost effective training and learning opportunities. As opposed to hiring a trainer or arranging a specific location for the training to take place, users can hop online and start learning.
For example, Unit 9’s project Lifesaver VR aimed to teach CPR skills to the general public through a VR app easily downloadable from any phone. The results? In tests with a selection of schoolchildren, teenagers’ confidence in performing CPR increased from 38% to 85%. And all those tested said they were more likely or MUCH more likely to perform CPR in a real emergency.
This makes it an accessible tool to be sure, but the ways of engaging with tech like this doesn’t end there. Now, you can find VR and 360 capabilities everywhere, including platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo, making reaching your intended audience easier than ever.
Are VR’s possibilities limitless?
The short answer is, not yet. Understanding the power, uses and limitations of VR will stand you in good stead if you’re keen to integrate the tech into your corporate comms. Don’t forget, VR is a great hook, but it’s an individual experience and users will need to plug in with a headset. So, you can see how reaching a big audience could be problematic.
Using VR in tandem with other digital content such as video and infographics are the best way to encourage interaction. You can also broadcast 360 videos of real life action to larger groups to give them a similar experience. This will give you the thrust to engage with a mass audience, while creating an invaluable additional touchpoint for VR users.
We used this approach when working on Innovate UK’s Predictions: Day in a Life 360 video for the organisation’s trade show by creating an immersive experience inside a dome. This experience allows Innovate UK to engage with its industry partners and the general public on the subject of technological innovation.
FORGET NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS – START YOUR YEAR WITH A STORY
At Nucco Brain, we believe that storytelling allows great marketing content to generate a response and get repeated. Why? Because stories have proven to be the most effective communication tool since the beginning of times.
Let’s travel back in history. In ancient times, civilisations made extensive use of mythological tales to explain the world around them. This oral tradition of telling stories enabled our ancestors to both teach and remember – two goals still relevant for brands to achieve today. Over time, the evolution of storytelling has always followed technological advances. Many compare the impact of the Internet to that of Gutenberg’s printing press invention in the 15th century, which enabled the written word to surpass the oral tradition of storytelling as a mass communication tool. Now roughly 20 years since the Web’s commercialisation, what impact is it having on our ways of telling stories today and how can brands use new narrative forms to their advantage?
Understanding modern audiences
Successful storytelling always explicitly or abstractly reflects the times we live in; and so should today’s marketing campaigns. More than ever before, we, as audiences, use digital technology extensively in our daily lives. Mobile and wireless technologies born out of the Web have revolutionised not only the way we communicate but also the way we think and perceive reality.
According to media theorist Douglas Rushkoff mobile and wireless technologies fracture our perception of time to only value the present above all by allowing us to communicate in multiple virtual spaces at the same time from one real life location. There is no beginning or end to notifications or the quantity of content available online. As such, past or future become meaningless compared to the present of: what can I watch on YouTube right now? Messenger alert, who can it be? What’s the latest news on my Twitter feed?
Within this context, the challenge for brands is not only to compete with other brands, but the entire media landscape. Creating content that stands out of the crowd is therefore crucial, and using new narrative forms is the best way to ensure constant engagement through marketing campaigns.
Moving towards the post narrative form
Whether it be movies, novels, or even adverts we are accustomed to the classic linear form of storytelling. Something along the lines of: a relatable hero with a goal in the beginning, undertakes a journey full of obstacles in the middle, to finally fail or succeed at achieving the goal by the end. Rushkoff argues that the perpetual state of “now” we experience through our regular use of mobile and wireless technologies is shifting the types of stories we are interested in away from this linear format. He refers to this emerging narrative format as the “Post Narrative Form” where the aim is to expanding on a fictional universe and characters rather than concluding the story of a single protagonist.
Hollywood’s reboot of Star Wars, the increasing popularity of TV & Netflix series, Game of Thrones and its multiple storylines, these are all examples of the post narrative format resonating with audiences worldwide. Satisfying stories nowadays don’t have a resolution but give us a sense of continuation through the perpetual growth of their fictional universes.
How can brands use this new form?
The post narrative form is perfectly in line with modern audiences’ desire to keep the “present” going and have access to multiple points of view from one location. Applying this to a marketing perspective, brands should aim to produce content that satisfies this need for continuation and as such, expand their own identities through different media experiences.
This is already happening today, where marketing a brand across different social media platforms is common practice. However, brands should push this even further by approaching content not just as a way to tell stories but as a way to offer a variety of experiences to immerse in. Augmented and virtual reality technologies now offer such possibilities. By approaching content production as “experiences” to build on and expand, brands will prompt their audiences to interact with them regularly and thus ensure constant engagement.
September is here and our studio will soon be celebrating it’s fourth year in business! Since our beginnings, developments in digital marketing have been happening faster than ever and we have learnt a lot on the journey.
The most important lesson of all? Visual storytelling is the most relevant and effective marketing solution to communicating complex ideas.
Applying this lesson to a B2B context, a few months ago, Nucco Brain collaborated with the agency Mindshare, to design a campaign for HSBC’s new China’s Belt & Road Initiative. This ambitious multi-faceted strategy aims to boost the flow of trade, capital, and services between China and the rest of the world. Involving over 65 countries, HSBC’s campaign targeted an international audience of stakeholders and business partners. Our studio was asked to create a video to explain the strategy in all its complex features:
Using this campaign as a case study, and to celebrate our four years in business, here are Nucco Brain’s 4 best practices to turn any B2B communication campaign into exciting content everyone will want to watch:
1) Always tell a story your audience can relate to…
The main challenge with this project was to deliver a coherent outline of China’s Belt & Road Initiative to a multicultural audience with different business customs. To ensure everyone could understand, we chose to open the video by making a parallel between the new initiative and the ancient silk road, which, as the video says, “everyone knows about”. Just like the new China’s Belt & Road: “Its routes forged paths between east and west creating international connections that helped shape the development of the world”.
2) Visualise data…
Our team’s approach with facts and data is to transform it from complex and dull into simple and engaging content using visual storytelling. The video we created for HSBC required an explanation of the opportunities and risks associated with the Belt & Road Initiative as well as features of China’s currency, the Renminbi, to businesses unfamiliar with the country’s economy. Our team worked with HSBC in order to translate stats reports into engaging animated graphics. Woven into the silk road narrative, this approach enables the core information to transcend any language and cultural barriers.
3) Generate lead & provoke a response…
The ultimate aim of any campaign is to entice an audience to take a specific action; and this aim should be incorporated within the visual narrative approach. Brands no longer compete against each other but the entire media landscape, creating a unique visual style that will grab your audience’s attention and provoke a response is therefore important. Provoking a reaction also means engaging the audience enough that they will want to share the content online with their own networks.
With China’s Belt & Road, the objective was to explain the new initiative well enough to convince HSBC’s stakeholders to take part in it. This is clearly communicated with the call to action at the end of the video: “Take a step into the future of global economy”.
4) Measure successes to improve future campaigns…
Essentially, did the campaign reach its aim? What proportion of the targeted audience took the action desired? Did the campaign generate lead? Overall, HSBC’s China’s Belt & Road campaign was well received by its stakeholders. The success of this campaign has led HSBC to commission a second video for some of their other B2B activities.
The Internet has changed the way people consume content. According to expert Nicolas Carr, writer of the book The Shallows, the Web is rewiring our brain – changing the way we think and remember in the process. One of the results is that our attention span is shorter, which is a challenge for brands reaching out to their audience. As highlighted in my previous article on why brands should become content publishers, many turn to online content marketing as a way to approach this challenge.
Recently, Nucco Brain has been collaborating with Innovate UK, the national agency that supports science and technology innovations, to produce different video formats for their YouTube Channel as part of their new digital content marketing strategy. One of these series, “Predictions”, has been particularly successful and our studio is currently working on releasing 8 new episodes throughout 2017. “Predictions” is a series of short 3 minutes videos explaining what daily life will be like in a few years.
The challenge brought to us by Innovate UK was to maximise the visibility and engagement of their YouTube channel.
Our solution? We believe that video views, engagement, and awareness grow exponentially, due to our focus on the following 3 steps recipe:
1) Research & Strategy
Know your audience: Who do you want to reach? What kind of content do they like? Where do they spend time online? With Innovate UK, we first focused on engaging with different sub-brands of the organisation by creating a specific video format for each targeted audience segment – taking into account the different needs of each.
Have a theme: What is your brand’s area of expertise? What themes related to it could be transformed into a concept for a video series? We decided to highlight Innovate UK’s expertise in sciences, innovation, and technology throughout “Predictions”. Remember, storytelling is key in engaging your target audience, and most people engage with either informative or entertaining content. Thorough research into a relevant theme will ensure that the content is both rich with information and tells an entertaining story.
2) Relevant Content Creation
Format is key: Apart from ensuring that the format fits the needs of the target audience, consistency in style is crucial. Ask yourself: how can I best illustrate my chosen theme in a way that is original and unique? With “Predictions” we chose to mix live footage interviews of Innovate UK’s futurologists with animated graphics of their future predictions. This combination resulted in a series of videos that provides both information by experts and an engaging visual universe.
Video length matters: Your audience is accustomed to viewing very short videos on YouTube; no longer than 1-5 minutes max. Keep in mind that not every format can fit every length – it is important to find the right pace that condenses information without overloading your audience..
3) Smart Distribution
Think Multichannel: Even though your video will be published on YouTube, all content created should be shareable on any other social media platforms. This means that all your brand’s’ social media platforms must be consistent in style so that the video’s style blends in.
Create an editorial calendar: Essentially, how often will the content be published? Unlike one off advertising campaigns aiming to attract as many potential customers through one action, content marketing is a continuous initiative over a long period of time. The aim is to get your target audience to follow your brand on a daily basis. Establishing an editorial calendar will leave time for your target audience to share previous content and recommend your channel.
Over the past years, more and more brands have been using content marketing to produce highly successful marketing campaigns. Yet, despite the concept’s popularity, the term still holds many mysteries for those trying to jump on the bandwagon.
The idea behind content marketing is to promote a brand through engaging content that will appeal to potential customers, rather than selling a product or service directly. A classic example is Red Bull. Through its digital channels and worldwide sports events, Red Bull has established itself as the go-to for anyone in search of an adrenaline rush – a much more exciting experience for potential customers rather than the simple taste of an energy drink. Content marketing often taps into enhancing customers’ lifestyle with content that will attend to their wants, rather than needs. But above all, to achieve success, content marketing campaigns rely on storytelling.
A few months ago, an interesting challenge arrived at Nucco Brain’s door:
Innovate UK, the national agency that supports science and technology innovations, asked our studio to help them in reaching out to a wider audience. The main task revolved around the development of a content marketing strategy for Innovate UK’s digital and social media channels, followed by the production and distribution of the content itself. Through this project, we experienced the benefits of empowering a brand in becoming a content publisher firsthand. Here are some of the results we achieved in terms of numbers (views, subscribers, etc.).
Here is why we believe brands should adopt content marketing as an advertising strategy:
1. Brands no longer compete against each other, but the entire media landscape.
With the massive amount of content uploaded daily on the Internet, people are used to having a wide choice of different media to consume. As this article is being written, the Internet Live Stats indicate that there are 3,658,133,031 Internet users in the world, 3,588,547 blog articles have been written, and 4,393,865,056 videos have been viewed on YouTube in just one day. To survive in this fierce environment, brands should no longer ask themselves “how can I make customers buy my product through media?” but instead “what unique experiences can media provide for my customers?” – and in the process, take control of their own brand storytelling through content marketing.
It is crucial for brands embarking on the content marketing journey to develop a strategy: the content should be both consistent in its style and of high quality. What do we want our audiences to do and what type of content do they crave are important questions to consider.
Nucco Brain’s approach with Innovate UK was to use our visual storytelling expertise to create the right tools for the organisation to use as content publishers. To do so, we developed different extensions of the Innovate UK brand, each with a distinct visual style. These included animated guidelines, format structure documents and visual designs that have been used by all Innovate UK’s content service providers to generate consistent productions – click here to view the results.
2. People are selective about the content they watch…
… thus brands should be selective about who they create content for. Yes, the Internet has become marketeers’ favourite playground, but time is precious, and people are extremely selective about where they spend it online. This is where content marketing benefits brands, a targeted audience is more likely to be interested and follow engaging content rather than direct advertising.
At Nucco Brain we believe the content should ideally be both informative and entertaining.
As part of our collaboration with Innovate UK, we were responsible for rebranding their YouTube Channel. Our studio created four different video formats and pilots episodes, effectively sub-brands of Innovate UK, focused on engaging with different segments of the organisation’s target audience:
Predictions: Aimed for the general public and informed millennials, a series of short episodes predicting what the future will look like in twenty to thirty years time.
Game Changers: A series showcasing stories of extraordinary entrepreneurs who are part of a minority or are discriminated; highlighting the challenges and successes of their journey.
Essential Selection: This format presents animated infographics of top tips and useful insights from aspiring and young entrepreneurs.
Success Stories: revolves around companies that Innovate UK has invested in and details how the organisation has supported their growth.
Fifteen months after the campaign’s implementation, Innovate UK has seen an 8% increase in awareness amongst its target audience due to the new strategy. Meanwhile, the YouTube Channel has registered an 650% increase in subscriptions and an 875% increase in content views. Also, Innovate UK has gained 125% boost in organic placements with external, relevant publishers and sector influencers.
As Pete Wilson, digital communications manager at Innovate UK, said: “ The insights fed into our content strategy contributed significantly to us reinventing our approach to content; this coupled with distribution expertise has massively increased our visibility”.
Keep an eye out for our next article on producing successful branded content for YouTube.
You know that at Nucco Brain we always like to play with new tools, toys and tech.
That’s why our Christmas card this year is a 360 image.
We took inspiration from our core values –great visual storytelling and an exhortation to thrive in the new year– and from the fascinating figure of St. Expeditus.
Click on this link to see the 360 card in all its glory on our Facebook page.
Why do a 360 image instead of a classic Christmas card?
Here are our reasons:
Because is fun! Keep the creative juices flowing in a studio like Nucco Brain is essential in order to allow our team members to experiment with new visual and narrative ideas.
Because we love stories, not our tools. It just so happens that 70% of our studio production is video, but we know this is not going to last, nor do we care. We always look out for new tech and tools to tell stories in an effective and impactful way.
Because is a challenge. With 360 imagery and videos, AR and VR progressing quickly, the way of engaging with audiences and telling stories is changing. We must adapt to the changes quickly and think about the best ways of leveraging these new amazing potential. With all these freedom from the audience, to look around, to choose the point of view, our work as to be stronger and more engaging then ever.
Now more than ever, the right mix of content & context is the real holy grail of great campaigns and effective communication.
We are never going to stop looking for the next exciting tool, mixing it with a good old pencil sketch, to tell the best stories we can.
Sometimes all it takes is an image and a first line…
“Meanwhile, on board of the HMS Expeditus, flying towards the new year, the Nucco Brain crew was chasing after the crows of procrastination…”
May 2017 be the best possible year for those who want tho thrive, to grow, to achieve their goals fast.
We hope you’ll chose to do so with great storytellers at your side.
Content creation and entertainment are inextricably linked. At the end of the day, people consume any kind of content for only two reasons: if it’s informative and if it’s entertaining. There are content topics, though, where the concept of “entertainment” needs to be handled carefully.
World Animal Protection challenged Nucco Brain to create a powerful visual story to help bring to life the plight of elephants in the tourism / entertainment industry for their latest campaign.
We had to ask ourselves:
How to tackle campaigns that revolve around a sensitive topic such as abuse of physical and psychological kind, humanitarian emergencies, dramatic medical conditions and many more of this particular kind?
We think that sharing some of the challenges we encountered on our journey to help WAP can give interesting insights and tools on how to work with delicate topics.
Having worked for years on campaigns to protect endangered animals worldwide, the World Animal Protection marketing team had a pretty clear idea on how to handle sensitive topics.
Thanks to the collaboration with them, we managed to avoid some tricky traps along the path of deciding how to show the distress of elephants held captive and abused in the tourism / entertainment industry. You can check out the final result here and here are the five lessons learned while working for this noble cause.
1.THE GRAPHIC IMAGERY TRAP
When working on a campaign focused on sensitive topic there’s always the “shock card” that can be played: show graphical images to get an immediate emotional reaction from the audience.
This technique can be, however, a double-edged sword. Regardless of how sensitive the audience can be towards the issue the campaign is trying to tackle, individuals can be so affected by graphical images that they might shy away from taking action. Everybody’s sensitivity is set on a different level and can result in an opposite reaction.
During our first brainstorming with the WAP team, we knew that scenes of direct violence on the elephants were to be avoided, favouring an approach that would focus on empathy and on visual and audio hints to imply violence, without showing it.
2.THE SPECIFICITY TRAP
The other issue related to the use of the “shock card” is related to the human tendency to establish a distance from images that depict an unhealthy situation. That’s how we are biologically wired: we see disease and undesirable images and the immediate reaction is to start drawing an imaginary line between “us” and “them”. “This issue is happening in Africa, not in my country, why should I be concerned?” “What this condition does is terrible on a human level, but it will never affect MY family.” A little switch is activated in our brain that tries to put as much distance as possible between us and the problems that are posed in front of our eyes; it’s a short-term survival instinct “Get as far as you can from this issue, create some distance” is what the brain is suggesting us to do.
Leaving violence “out-of-the-picture” allows each viewer to apply his/her level of sensitivity and imagination to the story they’re watching. This approach has a very powerful reaction in the viewer’s mind: the violent or shocking activity implied and not shown is as strong as the audience can take.
Most Oscar Wilde critics agree that the first edition of Dorian Gray is the most intriguing compared to the following ones because Dorian’s malicious acts are not explained in details: he is as evil and corrupted as the readers wants him to be. Great cinema is full of brilliant examples of implied violence too. In “Sleepers”, Barry Levinson lets our imagination run wild while the camera slowly pans away from the reform school vault where the worst possible act of violence are taking place (check the scene out here).
This is why the animation team of Nucco Brain has deliberately left any violent act -like the shooting of the young elephant parents- to happen off-screen. We see the consequences of the violence, never the violence itself.
How to solve the possible issue of being over-specific? By stressing the attention on empathy, leveraging on the power of stylisation.
3. THE POWER OF STYLIZATION By stylization, we mean a deliberate design choice to eliminate all unnecessary visual information that can divert the audience attention away from the key message we want to communicate.
Colette Collins, Deputy Director of Communications at World Animal Protectionputs it very clearly “We chose to tell our story through an animation to convey this complex issue in a simple way.” The “simple way” she refers to is exactly what makes animation so powerful.
The Director of the film, Pedro Allevato, and his team used this technique to get the best possible result: “We wanted to convey what actually happens to the elephants behind the curtains, without being specific or graphical about it. Therefore, we kept the baby elephant, after he was taken away from his mom, always under a spotlight, as if this was also part of the attraction. The theatrical film has strong resemblance to the old puppet shows, the use of silhouettes and watercolours transitions gives it a special melancholic feeling. This aesthetic approach, allowed us to be extremely expressive and sensitive and poetic with this story. And I hope it will touch the audience in the most deep way”
The WAP animated film is extremely expressive thanks to stylization: we focused on the main protagonist a female baby elephant and told her story in a powerful, stylised way, in which one scene is connected to the other by using emotional transitions that allow the audience to engage with a strong level of empathy. Stylised images are more powerful because they break the barrier of specificity and hit the chords of empathy.
4. EMPATHY ALWAYS WINS
There is a reason why animated films, comics and cartoons are the entertainment products that more easily spread across different markets. Think about how many anime and mangas are international successes against live-action Japanese films.
When you selectively take away specificity from an image through stylization, it becomes more universal. A stylised character is more similar to the idea that the viewer has of him/herself. By choosing which elements to stress on a character, a visual storyteller can make the content he is working on more or less broad in terms of empathy.
Think about the “smiley”, its simplicity enables it to depict virtually every face on Earth: two eyes and a mouth, everybody has them, we are the smiley. If you want to explore this concept further, Scott McCloud talk extensively about it on the 2nd chapter of “Understanding Comics”.
5. ANIMATION IS IMMEDIACY As a marketer, brand manager or product owner, the need of creating a message that is straight to the point and effective in an era of super-quick interaction is paramount.
Animation and stylisation allow for that immediacy, together with an immediate visual association with branding visual guidelines
As Colette Collins from WAP puts it: “With this animation we can educate and open up the public’s eyes to the cruelty behind elephant riding, and to inspire them to be a part of the solution to help end the cruelty.”
The immediacy and iconic power of animation inspire empathy, the most powerful of human emotions, because it makes people care.
MD of Nucco Brain, visual storytelling studio www.nuccobrain.com We tell stories. Your stories. Visually.
As one of the first projects for Mediacom Beyond Advertising, Nucco Brain were presented with an exciting brief for the client GSK and their well-known brand Piriton- An allergy and hay fever relief medicine.
The new campaign of Coke, featuring a lively dog and its not-so-lively owner is a celebration of the most Disneyesque style of animation (with an hint of the golden-age of Dreamworks too) by the amazing guys of Psyop.
In fact, it seems so close to a nostalgic re-creation of Disney magic that one wonders why it was done by the outstanding studio Psyop rather than from the 2D production department of Burbank -oh, wait! Disney stopped doing 2D movies after “The Princess and the Frog”. Continue reading Coke and the revamp of classical animation: is 2D really the cool factor?→