Think we’ve hit the peak of brand-driven video content online? Not even close – and that’s great news for brands (and consumers). Credo Nonfiction talked to one of the game-changers forging a new path in this landscape, Amanda Brinkman, Chief Brand & Communications Officer of Minnesota-based Deluxe Corporation, to learn more.
This story is the first in a six-part series that will mine insights from the forward-thinking marketers behind the most successful forays into original video content developed by brands in partnership with professional content creators.
Values-Centered Video Takes Center Stage
By 2019, global consumer Internet video traffic will account for 80% of all consumer traffic. Online video is here to stay, but with so much content out there, it’s more important than ever to break through with videos that are entertaining and informative but also capture people on an emotional level. The takeaway: We have to move the heart to reach the mind.
One of the most dynamic original video series reaching a wide audience on online streaming service Hulu was created by Minnesota-based Deluxe corporation, spearheaded by Chief Brand & Communications Officer Amanda Brinkman. An original series that’s already prepping for Season 3, Small Business Revolution – Main Street, seeks out small towns in America and gives the winners a $500,000 small business revitalization. The resulting transformational stories are featured throughout eight-episode seasons, available to stream online.
Credo Nonfiction had the opportunity to ask Amanda about the story behind her Small Business Revolution campaign and what it’s done for the Deluxe brand.
Credo Nonfiction: What was the initial inspiration for this series? Why did you decide against a traditional advertising campaign?
Amanda Brinkman: The vision was to truly create a movement. This started with a business question: How do we change the perceptions of our 100-year-old company? As a company, we weren’t prepared to invest a lot in it, so we weren’t prepared to do a huge traditional ad campaign that told the world that we were a new company.
We needed to find something that could stretch our spend and do something people would share on our behalf. When you’re asking people to share your content and spend time with it on their own time, you have to be doing something authentic and genuine that resonates with them.
Credo Nonfiction: Why was it important to you and the Deluxe marketing team to create original film content that told real stories and engaged viewers on a more emotional level?
Amanda Brinkman: From the very beginning, I knew documentary film was going to be the most authentic way to genuinely tell stories. [The show] feels like a documentary film, it hits on all the senses. The way [documentary film] uses music and angles can make the most routine things suddenly seem beautiful and dramatic. I think that’s what you want in stories; you want to see things that might normally be part of a daily routine as heroic.
At Deluxe, we think small business owners ARE heroes; it’s really hard to run your own business. I come from the ad agency world; it would have been really easy to just go out and find a commercial director, but I hunted for an actual documentary film company in order to make sure that we were finding authentic stories. We wanted actual storytellers to bring new films to life.
Credo Nonfiction: Congratulations on staying true to that vision. You created some incredibly compelling episodic content. What steps did you take to ensure your content would reach the right viewers?
Amanda Brinkman: For us, it was all about the roll-out plan, because you can create beautiful content, but you can’t expect that people are going to beat a path to your website to find it. We had to find a way to put it in front of people.
Also, because it was in honor of our 100th anniversary, it was a notable way to celebrate that. Usually, people make films about themselves – but here we were, turning the camera around to feature the kinds of customers we work with. We felt like we’d get national earned media from that approach. But we also thought we could activate local media, too. So if we’re doing a story on a paper company in Iowa, that the local business journal would do a story on the fact that they were featured in the national documentary, and we’d spread the word that way. We found we could also activate hyper-locally, so each of these 100 businesses had their own following in social media.
So there were multiple layers to the distribution – and it was very much an earned media play. We did a lot of media pitching about the stories, but then also actively merchandized and rolled it out in social. Part of what helped us at the moment was that we rolled out the stories throughout the first year, so that constant drip of stories helped, versus one big content launch.
Credo Nonfiction: It’s been fantastic to see the content and the Hulu show receive acclaim and evolve over time. Now that you’re prepping for your third season, how are you measuring the impact?
Amanda Brinkman: What we’re really trying to prove is that you can do well as a company by doing good. I think the reason [more brands] don’t divert dollars to it is because it’s very hard to measure, it’s very hard to tie directly to an ROI on the bottom line, but at some point it becomes less about the brain and more about the heart, and a little bit about the intuition of the marketer. Everything in marketing is so measurable now that it means that we’re walking away from some of this more heart-oriented work, and that’s too bad because I think as a society we’re hungry for connections, we’re hungry for this type of content. As corporations, it can’t possibly be just about making money. Yes, it’s about providing employment to communities, and if you do well as a company you can employ more people, but it’s got to be more than that. As a large company, you have to have a role in your community, and that isn’t always just community service; it can be things like the Deluxe Small Business Revolution, where we’re actually changing communities and we’re actively participating in these communities.
Credo Nonfiction: What types of reactions have you seen from the series in terms of brand perception?
Amanda Brinkman: Our HR department uses this content a lot to talk about who we are as a company, and we’ve seen new hires that have blatantly said, “I would have probably not returned a call to Deluxe three years ago, but I heard of the ‘Small Business Revolution’ show and that’s what attracted me to the company.” So it not only helps from a recruitment perspective, but also retention. Millennials, particularly, are hard to recruit and they’re hard to hang onto (laughs), and if they feel like they’re working for a company that’s about something more than just making money . . . everyone wants to work for a company that they feel like has a heart.
To learn more about Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution and stream the original series, visit https://www.deluxe.com/small-business-revolution
See the half hour documentary about the Small Business Revolution here
About Amanda Brinkman
Amanda Brinkman is the Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe Corporation. Brinkman spearheaded the Small Business Revolution, a movement that began in 2015 as part of Deluxe’s 100th Anniversary celebration, which profiled 100 compelling small businesses across the country in photo and video essays. The series also includes a documentary film, featuring Brinkman, celebrity entrepreneur Robert Herjavec and other small business experts, that showcases the importance of small businesses to the American economy.
About Credo Nonfiction
Credo Nonfiction is an Emmy and James Beard award winning creative content studio specializing in emotive digital storytelling for brands, causes and publishers. Learn more at http://www.credononfiction.com
About the author Jesse Roesler
Jesse Roesler is an Emmy and James Beard award-winning filmmaker whose work has moved millions via SXSW, The Travel Channel and The New York Times. His debut feature film The Starfish Throwers was named “The Most Heartwarming Film of the Year” by The Huffington Post. He believes storytelling has the power to inspire immense positive change and speaks frequently on the topic to corporations, nonprofits, and his Boston Terrier JB (great test audience). He currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife and son where he is Principal and Creative Director at the creative content studio Credo Nonfiction.