Is Ethical Consumerism Dead?

Posted on by Hal Clifford

Writing in the Harvard Business Review blog, economist and marketer Julie Erwin makes a nuanced argument that it may be wounded but would benefit from better marketing.

Critics of ethical consumerism (the idea that we can change the world through our purchases) point out that ethical brands have lower market share. Ipso facto, ethics must not matter as much as price or convenience (goes the argument). Erwin's argument: current sales aren't a valid measure of ethical consumerism because brands do a poor job of marketing ethical choices. More trenchantly, she notes that we all hold multiple values (for example, a "Sierra Club" sticker on a gas-guzzler). "Ethical consumers exist," she writes, "but context has to draw them out. That is the marketer's task ... If low price is all a company offers, it's easy for consumers to walk away when a lower price comes calling."

"For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Used"

Posted on by Hal Clifford

As the New York Times notes in this article, those famous six words by Hemingway contain the full arc of a compelling, powerful story (and they were, by the way, the entire story). And as the Times notes, telling an effective story is more important now than ever in business. If you're raising funds, motivating employees or looking for customers, you need a story -- and not just any story, but a good story, well told. The whole article is worth reading, but here are some key points:

-Know who your audience is

-Have a beginning, middle and end

-Use concrete details and personal experience

-Don't self-censor

-Don't try to memorize, or it will sound rehearse. What you want is connection, not perfection.

Staple To Your Forehead

Posted on by Hal Clifford

I recently came across a nice summary of content marketing truisms from Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute. Not all of them apply to the work we do (for example, we don't produce marketing brochures). Some of them, though, really are worth remembering as we and our clients think about what it is we're trying to accomplish, and why. For example:

-- Your audience doesn't mind being interrupted if what you're offering is useful (to them, not to you)

-- Focusing on what the customer wants is more important than focusing on what you have to sell (and even if you're a nonprofit, you're selling something—for example, the feeling of doing good)

-- Everything you do, someone can copy. The only distinctive thing you have is your brand. And your brand is what you communicate. That, and only that, is what you own.

-- Communicating directly with your customers, donors, partners, supporters is always your best choice. So make your own media.

-- You are a publisher, even if you don't realize it. (To reiterate: make your own media!)

-- The vast majority of corporate websites talk about how great their stuff is and forget about putting the customer's needs first. The vast majority of corporate websites aren't very good.

-- Customers want to be inspired. So inspire them!

We Create "Voluntary Engagement"

Posted on by Hal Clifford

The award-winning documentary filmmaker Barry Poltermann has remade himself as a content marketer who shares the creative space with Take One. Like us, he uses his history as a filmmaker to inform his work as a brand videographer. He has a great definition of this kind of work: "Content marketing is when you create something that the person out there is looking for and wants to watch, and then see if they're excited to share it the same way they would if it was a movie, a TV series, a video, or anything else they choose to watch."

What I like about this very succinct statement is that it is very clear about what content marketing is NOT: It's not advertising, or filler, or pre-roll. It's something worth watching, and sharing, in and of itself. If it's about your brand, and people want to share it -- well, then we've done our job, haven't we?

Smart, Smart Use of Video on Climate Change

Posted on by Hal Clifford

The World Meteorological Organization has launched a brilliant campaign: real television weather forecasters in 12 countries (including the U.S.) are give live forecasts on their local stations for the weather in 2050. These are totally terrifying. But there's also a call to action. Check out a sample weather report, and subsequent heart-to-heart by the on-air forecaster, from Belgium here.

Appleooz Wins Our Donated Video

Posted on by Hal Clifford

We were delighted to donate a brand video to the Naturally Boulder pitch slam prize package, which was awarded Oct. 1. More than 500 people attended the event, where 25 natural foods companies pitched their products and ideas. In the end Mark Wood, founder of the home-grown apple snack chip company Appleooz, walked away with it. Mark has a great story (he started out trying to figure out how to keep all the apples on his back yard tree from going to waste), and we can't wait to help him tell it in a compelling video.

Video is Key to Marketing ROI

Posted on by Hal Clifford

One of the big problem marketers face is "what is the return on investment?" For most of history, marketing was a black hole into which you threw money and from which you hoped customers emerged. That's changed with the rise of the web, but not as much as you'd think. According to one study, in 2013 seventy percent of marketers did NOT deliver quantifiable results (that is, tie their spending to measurable results like leads generated, sales closed, and so on). That sounds like a good way to create job insecurity.

Turns out, though, that video marketing can help solve this problem. As the Content Marketing Institute points out in this post, video behaves differently than text. You can track exactly how much of a video someone watched (you can't do that with a blog post!); you can use that viewing history to better score your prospects for your sales team; and you can import that history right into Sales Force or other CRM database, which means your sales team has a lot more data when they call a lead. 

Do all that, and the next time your boss asks what you spent your budget on, you'll have a solid answer that she'll like.

Why You Love Coffee -- And How To Stop

Posted on by Hal Clifford

OK, I don't really want to stop. But I found this post in Fast Company pretty interesting. We're not addicted to coffee itself, the author argues -- we're addicted to the habit of coffee. And we can change the addiction by modifying the habit. Well, today is National Coffee Day, and so it may not be the right day to try to quit. In fact, it's a day to celebrate coffee -- I went and watched one of my favorite projects (about Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, no less!) again, just for fun. 

Czech Republic, Here We Come (?)

Posted on by Hal Clifford

Our short brand film for Atomik Climbing Holds, Rock Wall Climbing, has been accepted to the International Festival of Outdoor Films, which is run by the Ministry of Culture and shows in 35 towns around the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It begins in early October and we've been invited -- I bet there's an Oktoberfest happening somewhere nearby. Sadly, it conflicts with our planned trip to Ghana for Zaina Lodge. But we're delighted all the same.

They Want You To Send Poop

Posted on by Hal Clifford

The American Gut Project is likely to change medicine as we know and understand it, and the film Redefining Human will be a big part of that. Our sense of who and what we are is going to be severely challenged -- and our shot at optimal health greatly improved. This is a great film project by some close friends -- check it out and support them if you like (hey, they want you to send poop!).

Why We're Working in Africa

Posted on by Hal Clifford

We have several clients who work in Africa, and we are especially excited to be teamed up with Zaina, which is launching the first high-end eco-lodge in West Africa in early 2015. The lodge, located in Mole National Park in Ghana, will cater not only to wealthy Americans and Europeans (who now typically travel to high-end safari properties in East and South Africa), but also to Africans themselves. Despite the steady drumbeat of stories about war and corruption that we see in the western press, Africa is making progress on many fronts. It's a continent made up of 54 countries -- any blanket statement about how it is "good" or "bad" or "corrupt" or "dangerous" is inherently inaccurate. Today the NY Times published this article about the economic expansion that is spreading through sub-Saharan Africa. Places like Nigeria and Angola are developing a middle class, which is critical to creating political, economic, and environmental stability. It's a nice reaffirmation that Zaina is on to something big, and we're thrilled to be helping them.

We'll be going to Ghana in October to collect materials for a big marketing push for the Zaina lodge. More to come!

This Is Your Brain on Story

Posted on by Hal Clifford

Here's a nice summary from Pacific Standard about the brain's predilection for story. We are, as one of the sources here says, "hard wired" for it. Story is the most effective, stickiest way to deliver a message. We've all known this intuitively for a long time; now, the brain science is catching up. Stories cause our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin (feel-good and bonding chemicals). They create visible and persistent neural changes in the brain. Stories, in other words, remain the most powerful tool for connecting with people.