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Charity Storytelling: Creating Content with a Sensitive Message

Charities, NGOs and activist groups have a clear mission: to share their story in a way that elicits a meaningful emotional response from their audience. This content is often highly sensitive in nature, dealing in distressing themes and images. With this type of communication, the message has to be clear, unambiguous and backed by exhaustive research. If content creators fail to nail the right tone, or portray their characters inaccurately, the message runs the risk of being misjudged and misunderstood.

World Animal Protection || Raising Awareness

At Nucco Brain, we are well-versed in creating animated content for traditional commercial brands, but it’s our work for NGOs like The International Red Cross, WaterAid and World Animal Protection that really challenge us to get the message absolutely right. Here’s how we create powerful storytelling content that raises awareness without heavy-handedly manipulating our audience.

International Red Cross || 3D Animation

Finding the Angle

When we tell a story that involves some form of tragedy, human or otherwise, we first ask ourselves: what are our primary goals in telling this story?

Our aim isn’t to make our viewers feel guilty, it’s to generate awareness of the message. So, while the use of distressing imagery and intentionally emotional narratives have their place within the messaging, we refrain from overuse to the extent of exploitation.

We avoid any cheesy or clichéd call-to-actions that plague content of this kind. If we’ve told our story right, our audience will have stepped into the shoes of our characters and entered their world. The audience should decide to care about the message because they’re moved by the narrative, rather than guilt-tripped by shocking images and sad music.

Charities need to tell personal stories within the environment they are seeking to change. And if viewers reject these, they’re essentially rejecting a part of their humanity.

Doing the Research

At Nucco Brain, we do extremely thorough research into the themes, setting and characters we want to portray. Depending on the subject matter, there may be a cultural divide between the creative team telling the story, and the people being portrayed. Staying culturally sensitive and refraining from being perceived as condescending takes constant self-awareness and communication. We have to ask ourselves, both as individual and as a group, ‘what’s missing here?’

We certainly have a diverse and highly flexible team, but that’s not always enough. Animation, after all, is a collaborative process. We have to share our work frequently, asking all the difficult questions first. Our portrayal of different genders and ethnicities is constantly being vetted, and we have to welcome multiple points of input.

Sometimes, the creative process allows us to work with those who have experience in the field – this is invaluable to understanding the issues being addressed on a personal level.

When we made ‘Brides of the Well’, we were able to glean insights from writer/director Shekhar Kapur, who hails from the area of India where the narrative took place. This allowed us to populate our storyboards with visual elements that would allow the film to feel authentic, from realistic saris to trees from the region.

Water Aid || Brides Of The Well

Creating Believable Worlds and Characters

No matter how stylised the final content may be, our designs are grounded in reality. ‘Brides of the Well’ takes place in a real desert region, and we took visual cues from the geography and anthropology of the Punjab. With this foundation, we could then set the tone or mood of a specific scene. We used darker, lighter, warmer or cooler lighting and colours depending on the needs of the story, while retaining the authenticity of the setting.

One of the most common mistakes made when agencies or brands create sensitive content is to under-develop the characters. All too often, the West has perpetuated the ‘child in distress’ narrative, to damaging effect. To portray people from developing nations as empty husks in need of saving is both disempowering and wrong.

Our two heroines in ‘Brides of the Well’ are real people. They talk, laugh and fight like friends, and there is a universal truth to that element of teenage life that transcends cultural boundaries. People are people, after all. They’re imperfect, but that is what makes them human. Developing them as such will help your audience to connect with them, and by extension, your message.

Even when characters aren’t human, they can still be developed enough to create an emotional response from the viewer. Our video for World Animal Protection featured a baby elephant, taken from the wild and subjected to life as a riding animal for tourists. Everyone can identify with the fear of separation, displacement and cruel treatment. Our poor little elephant displays enough recognisable fear and sadness to make our audience empathise with his predicament.

World Animal Protection || Raising Awareness

Choosing the Right Style

As a visual storytelling studio specialising in animation, we strongly believe that animation is perfect for sensitive messages. That’s because animation and stylisation gives space to the imagination in ways that live-action can’t.

When the human brain is presented with distressing live-action footage, the immediate neurological response can be to reject the message. It’s a protective instinct that makes us shy away from traumatic and disturbing imagery, and may lead some viewers to tell themselves themselves that ‘it doesn’t concern me, and I don’t need to change.’

So why exactly does stylised animation serve to make a message more universal?

You can focus on the message.

Animation allows us to focus on the core message, leaving only the most essential level of communication. Live-action footage is a detailed snapshot of reality, making it more difficult to leverage colours, shapes and visual metaphors. Stylisation, on the other hand, lets us take what we want to use and leave what we don’t.

You’re free of physical limitations.

Animation frees us from physical constraints. It makes little difference to our budget whether we’re animating a dog or a dragon. We can travel in time more freely, without having to source authentic costumes or fly an entire film crew to the desert for several weeks. We can also work closely with our clients to realise our vision, allowing us full control of everything from planning to design.

It’s more relatable.

Animation allows the viewer to step into the shoes of our characters. When the story’s protagonists aren’t photorealistic in appearance, it’s easier to imagine oneself as them. That’s why so many animated Disney films give their villains distinct physical traits, while the heroes are a little more… ‘heroic-looking’. The more detailed a character, the more difficult it is to slide into their slippers and feel what they feel.

It connects with the audience.

Animation makes the message more digestible for casual viewers. With the right animation style, no story will ever look so cartoonish that it won’t be taken seriously.

Striking a balance between a lighthearted visual style and a heavy narrative allows us to connect with human emotion rather than visceral specifics. And that’s a surefire way to ensure that the message is heard, processed and shared in a crowded content marketplace.

Showing Without Telling

There is power in the abstract, or not showing something; in letting the viewer’s imagination fill in the blanks. If we suggest that terrible things are happening using silhouettes, contrast, shadows or visual metaphors, the human mind will connect the dots. It will internalise this message more effectively, because it’s co-creating it.

Our video for ‘World Animal Protection’ implied rather than explicitly showed the most distressing moments in our baby elephant’s life. His mother is killed by poachers off-screen, although the resounding crack of the gunshot is enough to make us fear the worst. This is arguably more effective than forcing our audience to watch her perish.

Similarly, when we made ‘Brides of the Well’ for WaterAid, we didn’t explicitly show the human impact of drought and starvation. Instead, we showed a starving cow to indicate scarcity, and used the background as a character to help tell our story. We wanted to build an immersive world with painterly colours, textures, and small visual details like these to fill in the gaps.

Forced child marriage was a major theme within this story, but we felt that the implication of this practice would be both more powerful and more tasteful than explicitly showing it on-screen. So we showed an old man asleep, while his teenage wife awoke alongside him. Imagination did the rest.

Developing the Brand

Most NGOs prefer to generate conscious awareness primarily through their message, rather than traditional commercial branding. This gives us a lot more freedom to be creative.

The key is to generate an interplay between content and branding that enhances both. In ‘Brides of the Well’, we used very few bright colours throughout. The browns, oranges and yellows of the desert suggest aridity and a lack of moisture. It isn’t until the very end of the video that we finally see the WaterAid logo: a lavish and beautiful water animation in bright blue that, by contrast, brings home a refreshing and positive message.

Making the Viewer Care

It may sound like a no-brainer, but to really make something that resonates with audiences and helps enact the change you want to see in the world, you have to give a monkey’s. Because if you don’t care about the human impact of drought or the cruel elephant-riding industry, why should your audience?

Sensitive messages are much more powerful when they’re subtle, and when they do more than plead for donations. Treat your characters and their stories with the respect and sensitivity they deserve. Let art design and visual cues tell the stories that words can’t. And above all, care about what you’re creating.

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The Recipe for an Effective Branded Explainer Video

A key part of what we do here at Nucco Brain Studios is creating explainer videos, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. Thanks to a potent blend of experience and expertise, we’ve perfected our formula for distilling dry or complex information into fun and engaging videos, animated or otherwise. If you want to grab the attention of your audience, informing them without overwhelming them with information, look no further than Nucco Brain’s recipe for effective explainer videos.

Nucco Brain Designer || Stephanie Ramplin

Before we continue, it’s important to define explainer videos and find out why they’re such a vital part of your content strategy.

What is an Explainer Video?

An explainer video is a promotional piece of content with a twofold purpose: to generate brand awareness, and to explain a complex proposition or service simply. An element of complexity in the information you want to convey is an essential ingredient: most of the explainer content we produce primarily involves untangling and explaining complicated concepts in an easily digestible way. One great example of an effective explainer video is the video we created for ESA with the goal to expand their international partnerships with other businesses in the space technology industry.

ESA || Exploring Space

Why is an Explainer Video useful?

Explainer videos are primarily distributed digitally, and can be appended to an official website, posted on social media or shared via third-party channels. One of paid online media’s great advantages is the fact that you can use detailed parameters to select the audience that will see your video. Therefore, a video about mortgages can be shown to homeowners aged 35+, and one about graduate school options can be shown to students aged 22 to 35.

Blasting your video around the internet is not enough, however. With an average attention span of around 5 to 8 seconds, your viewers need to be drawn into the world that you create. They need a hook to pique their interest and keep them from straying too soon. They need to be able to quickly process your colour scheme and associate it with your brand. And they need to absorb information as they follow a narrative that keeps them engaged. Using this strategic thought process, we developed an explainer video for John Lewis which clarified their new partnership pension scheme.

John Lewis Partnership || Create Internal Engagement

A good explainer video will leave your audience interested in your proposition, impressed by your technical know-how, knowledgeable about your product or service, and engrossed in your brand story.

What to do:

  1. Ask stupid questions.

In many other industries, asking the painfully obvious is stigmatised. Not so here: chances are, your clients are so emotionally and intellectually invested in their business that they will be happy to talk about it at great length and clarify every single aspect of what they do. While this information may be very clear to your clients, it’s nowhere near as clear to their customers. This means that instead of being as clever as you can, you have to take the layman’s perspective.

Assume that your audience knows nothing about the industry, nothing about your brand, and nothing about your product. Ask the banal and idiotic questions: the potential humiliation of sounding uninformed in front of your clients isn’t even remotely comparable to that of creating a video that nobody watches or cares about. It’s an explainer video, not a university lecture.

  1. Develop a clear and appealing style.

This is paramount, and applies to both your chosen tone of voice and visual aesthetic. When developing your style, you have two main considerations:

First, make sure you do not forget the importance of the brand in informing your colour palette, geometric design and communications approach, similar to how we used the Iagon brand colours throughout their entire explainer video communicating their computing system, a branded way to communicate a complicated idea, simply. Wherever possible, avoid emulating what your competitors have created. For your brand to truly shine, it must carve out its own identity in the marketplace and become instantly recognisable as such.

Iagon || Explanimation for Complex Cloud System

Second, embrace simplicity. Your video exists to explain complicated concepts simply; therefore, adopt a clear and well-defined style. The right visuals will enhance and demonstrate without detracting from your core messaging. The wrong visuals (dry, unimaginative or unconnected with the brand) will simply confuse and irritate people.

  1. Be visual.

It might sound self-explanatory and really rather simple, but humans are visual beings: speak their language. Ask yourself how you can show without telling. Simplify your script, and determine which information can be communicated through shape, colour and movement rather than words.

Many of the briefing documents we receive from our clients are highly detailed and verbose, and a large part of our job involves expressing these in the appropriate visual language. We ask ourselves what we can suggest without explicitly spelling it out. Once again, we have to engage our audience in dialogue by introducing an element of passive absorption, which is primarily visual in nature.

  1. Be pedantically aware of short attention spans.

Consider the context in which your video is being viewed: digital audiences are losing their ability to concentrate on one stimulus for extended periods of time. An attention span of 60 to 90 seconds is all you can really ask of your viewer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to condense everything you want to say into one minute, but you do have to consider breaking down your message into shorter and more digestible chunks of content if it’s too long. If one video isn’t enough, make a series – it will cost you the same, but the return will be much greater.

If you’re creating a video for B2B or internal enterprise communications, you have more control over the context in which it’s shown, meaning that you can stretch the length a little if you desire. However, it’s inadvisable even then to do so by too much, as you risk eroding the goodwill of your audience.

  1. Invite the viewer to find out more.

One cardinal limitation of the explainer video is that it can never be fully exhaustive. You can never cover everything there is to know about a product or service in a 60 to 90 second video, due to time constraints, budget and the nature of the format. But don’t despair: that’s not the job of an explainer.

Its job is, funnily enough, to explain the key function, proposition and features of whatever it is you have to offer. Leave out the minutiae and the irrelevant technical specs. Give your audience an incentive to find out the rest for themselves: after all, no matter how impressive your technology or original your idea, if people can’t apply it to their lives, you might as well be peddling leashes for goldfish.

Explainer videos are collaborative experiences: you create the content, and the viewer absorbs and engages with it. Cultivate this relationship and continue the dialogue by generating a Call-To-Action that exhorts them to take further action.

What not to do:

Now that we’ve identified the main ingredients for a perfect explainer video, remember that your project can also burn down the kitchen if you don’t consider these caveats. You’re welcome.

  1. Don’t cram all the information into one video.

Your product or service may have several million incredibly useful and mind-meltingly technical functions, but attempting to list them all in detail would be a grave mistake. Focus on the overview: what are the key features of your offering, and why should your customers care? And if you absolutely have to tell them more, consider turning your explainer into a series.

  1. Don’t assume your specs are enough to keep people interested.

The number of mega-giga-maxi-pixels on your super-smartphone camera is certainly a very important touch-point, and can add a lot to your value proposition. However, these details aren’t enough on their own to carry your product through. Focus on the benefits, which you can then back up with specs. Tell your customer that a certain number of mega-giga-maxi-pixels is more than what their current phone has, and will improve their life by allowing them to take extraordinary pictures of the people and places that matter.

  1. Don’t use too much jargon.

Just because you have a client that specialises in highly technical wording, like an engineering or Blockchain company, does not mean you can assume that customers will understand all the jargon you throw at them. If you want to talk about an industry that might seem inaccessible for some, make it accessible: skip the jargon and use language that caters to the lowest common denominator.

That’s not to say you have to dumb it down completely: after all, you want to make it clear that you have the technical know-how and expertise to back up your claims. Make sure that you use your technobabble wisely and in support of your message, rather than as the message itself.

  1. Don’t follow an A-B-C structure.

This is an explainer video, not a textbook. Information shouldn’t necessarily be given in logical, chronological or alphabetical order. If you want to generate curiosity and engage your viewer within that critical 5 to 8 second window, the exciting material needs to come first. Create a reason for your customers to be interested in your offering that goes beyond ‘first we do this, and then we do that.’ There are very few people, ourselves included, who can really engage with a dry list of ordered key points without any real hook or angle.

  1. Don’t flub up your pacing.

In any film, novel or TV series, pacing is everything. If the action moves forward too slowly, the viewer loses interest and seeks out more dynamic fare. If it moves too quickly, the viewer has no time to breathe, get to know the characters, or find a reason to care about what’s happening. The human brain is hard-wired to absorb narratives at Goldilocks speed (just right!)

Because your explainer video won’t quite generate the same amount of mental engagement as the latest episode of Game of Thrones, you’re going to have to find a way to spark their attention. Articulate your complex exposition with something simple and entertaining that doesn’t get bogged down in the details.

Creative Insights:

We practice what we preach when it comes to explainer content. For example, we were recently approached by Deloitte, who wanted their customers to know about complex economic changes currently being introduced into the Gulf region. A video about VAT implementation in GCC countries could have made for very uninspiring viewing; however, we found an angle and a visual style that both simplified and added an emotional dimension to the subject matter.

Deloitte || Supporting Business

We decided to implement the following narrative: there’s a complex change occurring in your region that has never previously been of concern to you. But Deloitte has been working with tax for many decades. We’re well-placed to let you know what’s happening, what you need to be aware of, and how we can help you.

It’s a simple message, but it speaks directly to the viewer, informing them, alleviating their concerns, and building trust in the brand.

Ultimately, the secret to the perfect explainer video lies in gathering a great deal of information about the offering that you aren’t necessarily going to use. This ensures that you know exactly what the most important talking points are. You can then get to work wording and ordering them in a way that flows naturally and keeps your audience engaged.

Happy explaining!

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Building Relatable Characters in Branded stories

The right characters can imbue a narrative with pathos, humour, and above all, relatability. A dry brand story can be transformed into an emotionally affecting experience when the viewer identifies with the on-screen sprite, or is familiar with the type of individual it depicts. After all, most of us know (or know of) a Brian – your typical 21st Century millennial hipster, and the bearded face of our studio.

Nucco Brain || At First Sight

A relatable character isn’t necessarily one that looks, speaks and acts in a familiar way, however: even an opera-singing Nile Crocodile can be a relatable character with the right design and animation. In fact, this kind of stylisation is often a very effective character-building strategy because it invites audiences to suspend their disbelief, allowing them to use their imagination to flesh out the narrative world.

So, what is a character?

In order to understand what makes a relatable character, we must first define what a character is. The best way to do this is through the lens of animation: a word which means, quite literally, to bring something to life. In essence, a character is an entity or symbol that is brought to life by animation, writing, or live action. This could encompass anything from a realistic representation of a human being, to a two-dimensional bouncing ball that interacts with the on-screen world. The idea here is to lay out a visual metaphor that also serves as a reference point for the audience.

Characters act according to a set of rules laid out within their world, and are shaped by stimuli within that setting. Our work for World Animal Protection starred a baby Asian elephant captured from the wild, separated from its mother and forced into a life of slavery as a riding animal for tourists.

World Animal Protection || Raising Awareness

We see the development of this character from carefree and innocent to hopeless and downtrodden. This is entirely due to the rules of the setting and the actions of the other characters, as our poor little elephant has found out the hard way.

One of the wonderful things about characters is their ability to write themselves. Once the design, context and motivation of a character has been established, it will act according to the rules of its world, much like a real individual. And audiences will identify with that character’s appeal if it serves a real purpose within the narrative.

Why include characters in a brand story?

Characters aren’t always necessary. While they bring development, personality and momentum to the table, they’re just not required in certain types of content, such as highly technical explainer videos. So the question of whether to characterise or not to characterise is this:

Do we want to make our audience feel empathy?

If the answer is yes, then characters are, hands down, the best way to achieve this.

If creating an emotional response isn’t really the objective, as in more complex digital, financial and tech explainer content, characters aren’t essential. Even when people are a necessary part of the message, they don’t have to be defined or fleshed out quite as much.

The video content we produced for the European Space Agency, for example, used vague human silhouettes rather than full-fledged animated beings.

Iagon || Explanimation for Complex Cloud System

These figures don’t demonstrate agency, action or motivation – they’re simply human shapes intended to contextualise the visuals. Because the purpose of this video is to explain the applications of space technology and satellite networks, adding characters would serve no practical purpose. Characterisation is certainly a budget consideration, but sometimes it can actually detract and distract from the true focus of the video.

Our work for WaterAid, on the other hand, focused on a character-driven narrative that takes the viewer on a journey. The story of a young girl living in poverty and married to a much older man, and her remarkably human spirit in the face of adversity, elevated our message beyond the sum of its parts to deliver a heart-wrenching yet uplifting emotional punch. This is exactly the kind of visceral reaction that any self-respecting NGO wants from its audience.

Saraswati and her best friend, Paras, are heavily stylised, painted with tiny eyes and broad brush strokes. She’s not an abstract stick figure, but also doesn’t look anatomically realistic. The girls are recognisably human, yet painted and animated in an appealingly cartoonish way.

Water Aid || Brides of the Well

They’re enough removed from lifelike that we can focus on telling our story and anchoring it to the setting, without attempting to fully depict complex social issues in the Rajasthani desert. To find out more, refer to our how-to guide on creating content with a sensitive message.

So what makes a character relatable?

That really depends on whether the character in question is created using live action or stylised animation. Live-action characters involve real actors, with all of the facial expressions, movement cues and emotional complexity that come with the world we live in. We use live-action when we want to specifically depict the real world, or create a contrast between different types of animation that visually enforces our message. To use but one example, we deployed a live-action character alongside 3D animation to great effect for InnovateUK.

Innovate UK || Audiences of the Future

But because these characters are realistic in nature, they aren’t always relatable to people of different genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Stylised animation is much more fluid. We prefer this approach as it allows us greater freedom to tell different types of stories, as well as being easier on our wallets. Because animated characters don’t physically resemble the viewer (depending on the level of stylisation) they can stand in for a diverse range of backgrounds and identities. This eliminates the problem of alienating some of our audience by featuring realistic human characters whose lives they simply can’t relate with.

Our Lycamobile Tortoise and Hare don’t belong to any recognisable ethnic or social background. They’re fun, modern incarnations of characters from the classic fable.

Lyca Mobile || 3D Mobile

Their motivations aren’t complex – essentially, to win. But the narrative of overcoming adversity through perseverance and outside-the-box thinking is a universal theme across every culture on Earth.

With animation, anything can be a character, from our speed-junkie tortoise to a simple directional arrow. And the very fact of its inclusion can breathe humour, empathy and life into an otherwise dull explainer.

How are great characters designed?

Even if a character does not move, act or animate in a meaningful way, stunning design and art direction can still carry the torch, engaging the viewer by populating a stylised and eye-catching world that embodies the brand.

We created a vivacious setting for InnovateUK: Audiences of the Future, with memorable characters that pop out of the screen. Each frame is a tableau taken from human oral history, with scenes that breathe, pulsate and change like the stories we hand down across the generations. The characters, however, are very simply animated.

Innovate UK || Audiences of the Future

That’s because they serve the tableau, and don’t require heavy development. And yet, this Witch Doctor has become something of an icon for our studio.

At Nucco, characters are usually described as part of the script, either because they’re called for by the client, or because we believe that their inclusion would best serve the story. We start thinking about character designs early in the process, although we initially keep them very vague and avoid locking down each detail. At the visual development stage, once the script has been signed off, our art directors, illustrators and concept artists are tasked with fleshing out the finer details.

Great character design relies on a few key considerations:

  1. Brand Guidelines.

The character must be a fit for the brand colours, tone of voice and wider visual language. Because brand-building and world-building go hand-in-hand, it’s important to consider each character within a much wider context: that of the current overall style, and that of potential future content.

  1. Client Preferences:

We ask all of the tough questions right at the very start of the process to get a sense of the client’s preferences. Sometimes, our client will know exactly what they want, and their personal taste will inform the project. They may even provide animation references.

In such cases, we create a moodboard that collects these references for approval. Some might think this limits creativity, but we say not so! It simply helps us to understand what the client likes and dislikes, after which we can include our personal preferences and caveats.

  1. Gut feeling:

Sometimes, you have to go with what you feel to be right. That said, it’s not a complete stab in the dark. Our illustrators study the brief, and present three distinct character design variants to the client. We ask them for their pick of choice, although in most cases clients prefer one aspect of one design, and another aspect of another. We then provide a unified concept that incorporates elements of both (or all three.)

If our client doesn’t know exactly what they want, then it’s open season. We suggest options based on what we love, and avoid showing our clients the options we don’t.

  1. Mixing and Matching Influences:

The creative process can’t really be taught: everyone expresses their vision for a character in a different way. One way to appease that Artist’s Block is to take cues from existing animated characters, and extrapolate something new.

Another of our preferred thought processes, however, involves taking two or more distinct things, and mashing them together. For example, if we wanted to create a character for a cleaning company, we could use the concept of maintenance, and add something unexpected – like an aardvark. And just like that, we’ve invented Mr. Aardvark, the Anteater Janitor!

Nucco Brain Art Director || Ryan Lovelock

Even if we are thinking about more realistic characters, there’s still an element of mix-and-match. After all, real people are by far the most confusing mix of influences!

What limitations does every character creator need to be aware of?

The answer is simple: time, budget and groupthink. Time and budget are the bane of character designers and animators everywhere, because they limit what it’s reasonably possible to achieve. If one or the other is lacking, then a character may not come to life as completely as expected, because we’ve hit that technical wall. Groupthink, on the other hand, occurs when the project becomes too collaborative: too many cooks spoil the broth, and too many animators muddy the creative vision. We’ve learned that it’s best to let one (or at most, two) of our supremely talented animators take the creative lead.

Characterisation, when done right, can be the key to content creation success. Here at Nucco Brain, we simply love to conceptualise, visualise, design and animate the characters that fill our rich worlds and stories. And now that we’ve spilled the beans, we’d love to see what you come up with!

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HOW TO REDUCE PRODUCTION TIME AND COST FOR YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY

“Companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.” – Aberdeen.

So, in reality, omni-channel is important for obtaining and retaining customers.

Simple as that.

Nucco Brain || TrueTime Rendering

With that said, having the knowledge of how to maximise production (i.e how to create content that works across all these fabulous channels) is still something of a rarity. This leads to duplication, lack of consistency and poor use of budget and time.

This means marketers are left with less time, less budget, less freedom to try anything new or bold.

Sad times.

Traditionally, advertising, marketing and communications agencies might have helped out here. They develop strategies to bring consistency and ‘one voice’ to the communications. They plan production pipelines to deliver in line with the strategy and available budget.

With the need to produce a range of different content, in an agile, multi-channel manner, the traditional agency model is being tested by shifts in the market (specifically the less time/budget/freedom to try anything new or bold conundrum).

Internal marketing teams are either taking production in-house or are asking a number of specialist studios to provide a different piece of their content marketing puzzle. This can come with its own set of problems – from the Chinese whispers’ effect of communication between studios to the different ways of approaching production – and can actually lead to more issues than were encountered with a more traditional agency approach.

A Production Workflow designed with Cross-Channel in mind

At Nucco Brain, we have developed a bespoke production workflow for cross-channel, agile and scalable production. With this workflow, we can produce visual content that works in more traditional ways (visual branding, animation, etc) but then expands them across the range of digital channels (interactive videos, gamified learning/training content, digital OOH, AR, VR, etc).

Nucco Brain || TrueTime Rendering

We call this workflow TrueTime Rendering – leveraging game engine technology to produce content in ways that can be upscaled in an agile manner. We can produce flat video content with it. We can then turn it into a 360º video, using the very same assets. We can then add interactivity to this content with a few extra clicks (I’m oversimplifying but, again, it’s the same assets and the same engine). We can then develop this further, to an AR or VR experience (again, using the same assets and the same engine).

There’s no need to export to another format and ‘adapt’ it to another engine to scale up the experience. The TrueTime Rendering workflow means we can reuse all the assets and add on the bits we need, as and when needed. No more ‘I wish we’d built that with VR in mind’ moments – our workflow allows for these considerations to come up as and when fits the business needs.

Nucco Brain || TrueTime Rendering

Cut out the rendering time

One of the main benefits of utilising a game engine for the development of content is the rendering times.

Traditional 3D content production, using the likes 3DS Max, Maya or After Effects, comes with its own set of problems. While the power of these applications is undeniable, for some things it’s just not needed.

Nucco Brain || TrueTime Rendering

You may be familiar with the idea of having to change a production asset, or animated sequence, or lighting setup, or whatever other change you wanted to see happen in the content you were making. You then have to hit render and go for a walk/go to lunch/leave it running over night. The main issue with this is, after waiting all that time, you may want to make another change… that’s a lot of dead time for some potentially minor changes, even with access to a render farm.

The TrueTime Rendering workflow is based on using a game engine – one built for real-time rendering on a multitude of devices. Given the engine itself is built to render in real-time, the render time for any piece of content should be about as long as the content itself.

Nucco Brain || TrueTime Rendering

Producing a 1 minute animation? Don’t like that last animated sequence? TrueTime Rendering will have your changes ready to view in approximately 1 minute. Want to add in some additional interactivity? Once you’ve set the parameters, give it about 1 minute and you’ll be able to test them out.

From a client/studio point of view, this means you can iterate away without the dead time that’s plagued production processes for so long – rendering! This means you can try things out without the fear of a wasted iteration, taking hours to put back to where it was (instead of the minutes it would take with TrueTime).

Style = Substance

There are some cases where TrueTime isn’t the answer. Photo-real CGI, live action or photography, Hollywood-level VFX – that’s not really what TrueTime is about.

We developed the workflow specifically for high-output, multi-channel communications. Video series, interactive learning, AR walls, virtual reality experiences – that’s TrueTime’s bag.

For TrueTime to work at its best, we need to turn to the power of stylisation. Bear with me while I go a little off-pitste here and talk about comic book theory. I promise you, it’s relevant to B2B and corporate communications too.

Scott McCloud, a leading comic’s theorist, shows us why stylisation works wonders when trying to engage with a broad audience (he talks about comic book readers – I’m drawing the parallel to communications). We live in an increasingly symbol/icon/emoji-based world and already engage with the idea of stylisation – these symbols can be understood as an image utilised to represent a place, person, object or idea.

McCloud says humans are a“self-centered race”, unconsciously looking for ourselves in what we see. In this way, a simple cartoon such as a circle with two dots for eyes and a line for lips silently communicates to its readers that this is a face. Importantly, it is impossible for the reader not to see a face, because our minds are programmed to recognise and relate this icon back to ourselves.

So, back to the point of why stylisation works for what we’re talking about here: B2B and corporate comms.

When we talk about illustration, animation, infographics, CGI, VR, AR, etc – stylisation enhances storytelling because it lets the audience focus on the message, as opposed to whether or not the characters in the story are an accurate representation of who they are.

The message comes through stronger and connects with the audience effectively.

Job done.

The well-oiled production machine

For large businesses with many stakeholders (their customers, their suppliers, their employees, their shareholders, etc) getting a consistent, effective, engaging content calendar together can cause headaches. Constant engagement of these various audiences – coordinated across a number of marketing teams spread over a number of international markets – well, that can keep people up at night.

John Lewis || Internal Engagement

As technology and creativity become more intertwined, there’s no need for B2B or corporate comms to suffer from a lack of innovation when it comes to content production. If the marketing team’s job is to define the vision and mission of the business, this shouldn’t be obstructed by convoluted production approaches.

TrueTime Rendering offers a real solution for creative visual content production, giving time and flexibility back to marketing teams. The ability to scale an idea all the way up from print to a VR headset leads to increased campaign longevity, more cost-effective budgets and an agile timeline that responds to the needs of the business.

 

 

BRANDS ARE THE NEW CONTENT PUBLISHERS. THEY JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET

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. 

Innovate UK || Predictions

Here is why we believe brands should adopt content marketing as an advertising strategy:

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.

Innovate UK || Predictions

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.

 People are selective about the content they watch

Therefore 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.
Innovate UK || Predictions

The results

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”.

 

GDPR IS HERE: HOW TO COMMUNICATE CORPORATE CHANGES EFFECTIVELY

The time has come where we can no longer hide away from GDPR. As of this week, on May 25th 2018, the new legislation came into force, replacing the old and outdated Data Protection Act, to protect people’s personal data.

Nucco Brain || GDPR

Getting your team GDPR-ready

Being GDPR ready does not only mean complying with the new legislation, you also need to provide your staff with the knowledge and the tools to work within the new regulations. Effective training and communication campaigns are the key for ensuring your teams are onboard and in-the-know.

When it comes to communicating new legislation, our team has collaborated with Deloitte M.E on a variety of projects. One of these included explaining the concept and implementation of VAT and Excise taxes to a business audience unfamiliar with the concept in the Middle East.

 

Deloitte || VAT

Through infographics and videos, we helped local businesses explain complicated tax systems to their audience in an easy-to-understand narrative. In the same way, visual storytelling is a smart, memorable approach to communicating essential information on the GDPR. Here’s why:

An interesting hook gets more attention

What’s drier than communicating the specifics of a new, complicated legislation? The answer is, not many things. For most, reading through the intricacies of a new regulation is less engaging than watching paint dry. Visual storytelling can bring important to life. By creating a hook that will capture the viewer’s attention, you can take them on a journey from awareness, to basic info, to the more detailed information and small print in a few logical, memorable steps.    

Nucco Brain || At First Sight

Simplifying complex info makes it accessible

Rather than swamping people with technical jargon and overly complicated content, visuals allow you to communicate intricate ideas in bitesize form. This will effectively break down the reams of information your business audience might find online into relevant, salient points.

Storylines make it personal

Telling a story with a personal angle is the fastest way to connect with an audience. Visual storytelling gives you the platform to do just that. By creating characters and storylines that resonate, you’ll be speaking to your audience on a level. Being able to identify with the narrative is one powerful way of ensuring messages are absorbed and understood.   

Rolls Royce || Social Media Etiquette

Ultimately, GDPR is here, and it’s set to revolutionise the way we hold and use data. Being on top of the changes at all levels of your business is essential to avoid those fines. Through creative communication and visual storytelling, you can drive an effective GDPR comms campaign that resonates and stays with your audience.

COULD VR SAVE YOUR CORPORATE COMMS?

Corporate communication has had a certain reputation for being dry and un-engaging 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 projects, EDF Nuclear Symphony, we helped public audiences and stakeholders to understand how a nuclear reactor works through a VR experience.

EDF || Nuclear Symphony

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.

Unit 9 || Lifesaver VR

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.

Innovate UK || Predictions

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.

Using VR and 360 videos as a smart element of your communications toolkit, is certainly the way forward.

WHY VISUAL STORYTELLING DOES CORPORATE COMMS LIKE A PRO

For a company, general communication in the digital age can be tricky, and internal communication can be a real challenge, given the diversity of people working for it. Over formalised emails and meetings are just not enough anymore and can easily lead to a lack of engagement or misunderstanding of the key messages.

At Nucco Brain we help big and small companies telling their stories in the most effective way. Above brand storytelling, we specialise in ultra-effective corporate comms, both external and internal. When searching for the most powerful strategy to deliver a message, we always keep in mind the golden rule of storytelling: your audience wants to be both informed and engaged.

More and more brands are turning to the visual storytelling industry to tell their stories and rightly so since visual content keeps proving to be the simplest and most engaging way to send a message.

The lack of direct human interactions -voice, look, gestures- makes room for ambiguity; using visuals is one of the best ways to express the tone as well as the content.

Let’s take a look at a case study that we worked on recently to see how we applied visual storytelling to an internal change campaign.

Rolls Royce Engineering || Social Media Etiquette

Internal corporate comms case study: Rolls-Royce Engineering

Getting your employees up to speed with the latest technology, trends, and corporate guidelines is far from easy. Finding the right way to communicate important changes, such as a new training program, is essential for the company’s overall well-being.

Rolls Royce Engineering || Social Media Etiquette

We worked with Rolls-Royce Engineering to produce a video that aimed to inform employees about the company’s social media policy and to promote social media awareness in the work’s place. Quite a delicate topic to address, as it may sound like Rolls-Royce telling its staff what they should and should not post on their social channels. A message that could easily come across as invasive or even censoring.

We took this difficulty into account and realised a 3-minute video that explained why it’s so important to be mindful of any kind of activity on social media. We created Rollo, a stylised character that would generate empathy with all the employees of RR, no matter their geographic location. As a result, the explanatory video delivered Rolls Royce’s view on the subject to 15 countries and was complemented with supporting images on the company intranet and social media channels.

Rolls Royce Engineering || Social Media Etiquette

An explanatory video – among other equally powerful steps of a visual campaign – can provide employees with the safety and satisfaction in understanding where the company is headed and the importance of their involvement.

 

NUCCO BRAIN’S RECIPE FOR A SUCCESSFUL BRANDED CONTENT YOUTUBE SERIES

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. Therefore, many turn to online content marketing as a way to approach this challenge.

We collaborated 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. “Predictions” is a series of short 3 minutes videos explaining what daily life will be like in a few years.

Innovate UK || Predictions

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.
Innovate UK || Predictions
  • 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.
Innovate UK || Predictions
  • 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.
Innovate UK || Predictions
  • 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.

 

 

COMPLEX ≠ COMPLICATED: 4 BEST PRACTICES TO TURN B2B COMMUNICATION INTO EXCITING CONTENT

 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:

HSBC || From Silk Road to China’s Belt & Road

Using this campaign as a case study, 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”.

HSBC || From Silk Road to China’s Belt & Road

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.

HSBC || From Silk Road to China’s Belt & Road

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.

HSBC || From Silk Road to China’s Belt & Road

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 ROLE OF DIGITAL CONTENT IN HIRING AND RETAINING NEW TALENT AS A MEDIA AGENCY

If there is one term that has become a buzzword in the past few years, it is ‘millennial’. Today, more and more media agencies are realising the importance of making their message appealing to the twenty-to-thirty-something audience of today. But what about recruitment?

The world is changing, and so is employment. With the new wave of millennials now ready for employment, agencies must adapt to their interest and vision of the world to recruit and retain their interest in a highly competitive industry.

Here are a takeaways on the  ways in which  employment scene is changing in the modern day.

EXPERIENCE AND ASPIRATION

The millennial employee of today is more interested in building experience and doing a job that they love rather than climbing the social work ladder. Recent research has shown that in order to progress through the creative career ranks, individuals should stay on average 2 years in a position before changing jobs. As such, employers must adapt their HR strategy to stay one step ahead of the curve in recruitment. They should also aim to provide regular incentives and promotions for employees who remain in their organisation.

Rolls Royce Engineering || Social Media Etiquette

MULTI-TALENTED EMPLOYEES ARE KEY

It used to be that being an expert in a field rather was the ultimate goal in a professional’s career trajectory. However, today this is no longer the case; now knowing a bit of everything is often preferred, especially for companies who are looking to make savings by employing individuals who can cover various job roles. In the world of millennials, where slashers flourish, multi skilled individuals hold more value than they used to. This is especially true in the media and ad agency sector, where it is important to have an integrated view of the creative process in order to execute a project. 

Deloitte || VAT

SOCIAL MEDIA-CENTRIC RECRUITMENT

Millennials are not only social media natives but digital natives as well. No longer is online social networking something used purely for entertainment, today it is one of the first places people look for jobs. Millennial see their social media profiles as an extension of their personality, and so it is a good way for employers to spot the types of characters they want to be part of their team. Today Instagram has become a common place for new designers and artists to display their portfolios, so media agencies should maintain a strong presence on these platforms and keep an eye out for fresh new talent.

While employers pay close attention to the social media channels of their future employees, the opposite is equally true. Millennials use the online social profiles of corporations and their employees to get a sense of the company’s culture. Brands should therefore value showcasing their culture through their online marketing strategies. Also, in order to convey a positive image at all levels of the company, social media etiquette training should be an important focus point for HR teams. Our creative team has previously been involved with creating content to inform the employees of Rolls Royce Engineering about the company’s social media policy and to promote social media awareness in the workplace:

Rolls Royce Engineering ||  Social Media Etiquette

In a world driven by Millennials, it is vital to be responsive to the changing recruitment sphere. Employees need to be valued as multi-talented individuals, to be given opportunities for recognised progression, and be traced and attracted through creative means. So, bring your recruitment message up to the same level as the output of your media agency’s work and you will see the results.

5 PIECES OF ADVICE TO GROW A CONTENT AGENCY

As an agency with over five years of experience, we  reflected on some of the pitfalls to avoid and pointers to strive for in creating and growing a content production agency. So, here are some of the takeaway points that we believe will allow every content agency to flourish, and get its story heard.

1. If you are for everyone, you are for no-one

It goes without saying that you are founding a content agency for a reason – you have a story to tell, or the tools to tell one – something special that sets you apart. The first thing you need to do when growing a content agency is to focus on these key business values that you bring to the table and consider how you plan to use them to make a name for yourself. What is your unique selling point? Can you meet the needs of a niche customer base with a particular point of view?

It’s important to know how your agency makes its mark, because if you haven’t nailed down your own unique value, how are you going to sell it to clients? For example, here at Nucco Brain, we combine intuitive storytelling with innovative technologies in animation, VR and AR to visualise brands’ messages in a memorable way. One such example can be seen below in our VR  project for EDF Energy.

EDF Energy || Nuclear Symphony

2. HR & processes matter

As a content agency, your team is going to be made up of creative souls – we get it, we’re the same. However, you have to make sure that, amidst all of the brainstorming, crafting and creating, the operational side of your businesses doesn’t get lost. HR and processes matter, and it will take time and effort to get them right. This will develop as you grow as an agency – at first, everyone in your team will have to multitask and play more than one role, but as you expand, it’s important to ensure that everyone is clear about their individual role and responsibilities.

Deloitte || Pre-Travel Assessment

This will ensure that externally, the client knows who they are talking to, and internally, there is no breakdown in communication through the production process which could harm the quality of your projects. The magic is in the process, not just the end product. With each project you take on, pay attention to your process and adapt it based on what works and what doesn’t – and then ensure these changes are implemented throughout your team.

3. Stay Up to Date

Whilst it is vital to know what sets your agency apart, it is also important to root yourself and to know your place in the market you are entering. With no sense of your wider creative environment, you will become lost, and struggle to signpost your presence to clients navigating the market.

So, stay up to date with market and global trends in all areas – not just your niche, and practice the art of adapting what you know to capitalise on current trends.

Colorwave || So Called

4. Don’t Mistake a Spike for a Trend

As we’ve said, it’s important to be plugged into market trends, but at the same time, don’t mistake a spike for a trend. Agencies that constantly try to remodel their entire process to match every fleeting viral obsession lose their sense of identity and struggle to survive in the long term.

Agencies can grow and die off of one account – don’t build your business model over one project alone, without thinking of the journey that takes you there. Similarly, be wary of serving that one client that eats up all your resources and finding yourself with no project afterwards. Treat your agency holistically, and always keep an eye on the long view.

5. When Business is Good Don’t Forget About Business

This leads us to our final point: when business is good, don’t forget about business. Creatives can often be tempted to lose themselves in their art – but you must resist this urge in order to keep growing as an agency! Don’t become absorbed within a single project, remember to keep the practicals in mind.

Deloitte || Pre-Travel Assessment

This means marketing your services, networking with other companies and industry figures, and taking every opportunity to grow your resources and nurture your talents. And, of course, don’t forget about new talent – new blood brings new perspectives and opportunities to innovate.

HOW TO USE NEW NARRATIVE TRENDS TO CREATE CONSTANT ENGAGEMENT

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.

Innovate UK || Audiences of the Future

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?

Innovate UK || Audiences of the Future

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.

Nucco Brain Copy Writing Structure

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.

Innovate UK || Audiences of the Future

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.

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