Storytelling is magic for brands


The explosive growth of social media and content marketing means more opportunities to promote your brand. With so many companies vying for attention in the digital sphere, how do you stand out? The answer lies in engaging storytelling.

Creating a story around your product allows you to shape consumer brand perception. After years of declining sales, Apple rebounded after its 1997 “Think different” rebranding campaign.


Apple relied on its outsider status and imagery of iconic visionaries to compel customers to “rebel” by buying its products. The company successfully gambled on the concept of individuality – rather than technical capabilities – to sell computers.

At its core, storytelling isn’t a sales pitch. It’s meant to emotionally connect with consumers, in the process building loyalty, attracting new customers, and increasing brand visibility.

Beyond traditional television or print ads, the digital age has equipped marketers with new platforms for visual storytelling. Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow even the smallest company to gain a greater amount of exposure than with typical advertising – thanks to free or affordable posting options – with the added benefit of possible post amplification when fans share its content.

It’s key to follow a few guidelines for savvy social media storytelling.

  1. Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
  2. Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
  3. Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
  4. Don’t give it all away. Posting teasers can lead to additional offline or mobile marketing opportunities.

How have you successfully used storytelling to sell your brand?


KLM, Airbnb team up for airplane sleepover

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 4.54.29 PMSpacious Airplane Apartment,” trumpets the Airbnb listing. In one of our favorite promotions of the season, KLM and Airbnb have combined forces to create a fun promotion to commemorate the retirement of one of KLM’s planes in Amsterdam.

KLM’s last MD-11 aircraft will be transformed into a small “apartment” where the winning bidder will spend the night later this winter.

After crossing the globe 3675 times, this beautiful blue and white jet will be temporarily available as a unique living space. Located right beside the runway of Amsterdam’s bustling Schiphol airport, our detached airplane comes with all conveniences and will truly be your home away from home… with a large living room, one master bedroom, two children’s beds, two kitchens and eight small bathrooms. It comes with Wi-Fi, a toaster, a coffeemaker, comfortable first class chairs, a game console and a giant cockpit panorama window.

“All-time classics” like Snakes on a Plane, The Aviator, Top Gun, or Disney’s Planes will be available for the winners to enjoy on the aircraft’s cinema system.

How a 113-year-old brand saved Christmas (or at least invigorated its holiday sales)


Everyone knows The Polar Express, the massively popular children’s tale from 1985 that spawned the Oscar-nominated film. Less common knowledge: Lionel LLC, the 113-year-old toy company, is the only manufacturer holding the official license to release collectible Polar Express-themed train sets.

With the 10th anniversary of the film approaching, Lionel aimed to harness the attention of locomotive-loco fans with a marketing push from September to November this year, coinciding with the jingle bells (and jingling pocket change) signifying the holiday season. As an older company, Lionel had to get creative to breathe life into its brand. With this in mind, the marketing team developed a contest, entitled “I Believe,” to drive holiday sales while highlighting the visibility of the Polar Express brand and Lionel’s product line.

Railroad enthusiasts were rewarded for their efforts. Lionel gifted an official Polar Express train set once a month for three months, finding winners among those who participated on the company’s social media pages. Contestants socially engaged on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ or signed up for an email newsletter for a chance to gain a train. Lionel got an extra publicity boost from Warner Bros. as the studio promoted the sweepstakes on its own social media platforms.

The marketing project was a success: Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the contest page entered the sweepstakes.

Has your company ever run a social media-centric promotion? What were the results?

“Tweeting” honey badger drums up business for Johannesburg Zoo

It’s a lot of work keeping up a Twitter feed, but it’s even harder when you have claws.

That hasn’t stopped BG, Johannesburg Zoo’s resident – and now famous – media-savvy honey badger, who “tweets” at @ZooTweetsLive. Armed with the desire to boost crowds and overall awareness – but limited funds – the Jo’burg Zoo appointed BG as the world’s first “live-tweeting badger.”

How does it work? As BG wanders around his enclosure, he sets off infrared motion sensors, six in all, or cameras, all strategically rigged throughout his habitat. This triggers one of hundreds of prewritten tweets, some combined with a snapshot of the moment. Who can resist this bathing beauty?

The honey badger has made his rounds in the media circus, including TED Talks, Time, MSN, Huffington Post, and more. Was it a success? You bet. With 5,000 followers in the first week alone, 618% return on investment, and six million dollars earned media, BG’s campaign is a smash. While zoo visitor numbers aren’t available, it’s clear the digital world has gone mad for the badge.

Rad ad to travelers: Drop everything and go

Whoever crafted this compelling campaign for the adventurous at heart deserves a gold medal (or at least a few frequent flier miles).

Behold: Departure Roulette / Heineken Dropped.

The company plucks airport travelers en route to their flights and asks if they’d like to tempt fate and push a button, activating a departure board that spits out a random destination. Seems like fun, until you take into account the rule that defines the game: you must commit to leave for that destination at that very moment. Hey, you’re already packed. That bachelor party can wait, right?

Several hardy travelers took the plunge and scattered across the globe to far-flung locales like Morocco, Cambodia, and Alaska, documenting their journeys for Heineken.

Bon voyage!

Socially Smart: Turkish Airlines

Though companies engage in social media marketing every day, it’s rare to reach that pinnacle achievement. Yes, folks, we are talking about going VIRAL! (In a good way, not a sickbed sort of way.) How have hospitality and tourism companies been managing their social media campaigns? We’ll examine several businesses over the coming months and see how they’ve done.

First up: Turkish Airlines. At Strauss Media, we’ve had a soft spot for Turkey thanks to an extended visit to Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, and Ephesus. If you ever make it to Turkey, the enormous, awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia in Istanbul should be at the top of your to-see list. A close second is the ancient city of Ephesus, remarkably preserved down to a backgammon table etched in marble.

So of course we were Turkish Delighted (sorry) when Turkish Airlines unveiled a TV ad that went viral last year. In it, basketball phenom Kobe Bryant and soccer star Lionel Messi battle to win a young fan’s heart, but ice cream triumphs at the end. Check it out:

At last count, the ad had nearly 105 million views – definitely an effective use in the digital marketing sphere. What digital campaigns has your company successfully executed?

Crowdsourcing Colorado: citizens to rebrand the state


Everyone’s got an opinion. Now Colorado’s citizens have the chance to make their opinions known as the state turns to the masses and asks for their input on rebranding efforts.

The new campaign, “Making Colorado,” asks people to submit their ideas, tweets, and photos that capture Colorado’s spirit.

All material will be evaluated after the August deadline, with a brand council and youth ambassador council making key recommendations for the final product.

The site already boasts a growing variety of user-submitted content. While not all of it might be professional enough for the cover of a marketing brochure (“71 at 2 today. Snow by midnight. 22 high tomorrow. 😉 Only #MakingColorado“), the campaign demonstrates the burgeoning new age of digital collaboration.

“After examining a broad array of branding programs – good and bad – we built Making Colorado around the most successful practices that felt right for Colorado. [It’s] a diverse and vibrant state, but we’ve been fairly quiet about it. It’s time to bring our compelling voice to life in a manner that balances the needs, priorities and perspectives of all Coloradans. …Our success will rely on the participation and support of our fellow Coloradans.”

– Aaron Kennedy, Chief Marketing Officer, State of Colorado

Has your organization rebranded with the public’s help?

How to get Facebook “likes” starting from zero – let’s go!

Found a fabulous article from social media specialist Kevin Gomez over at Supercool Creative. Hey, with a name like “Supercool Creative,” you really can’t go wrong. – S.S.

For brands and startups alike, Facebook is a great social media channel to promote your image, increase your fan base and reach your audience. The interaction between you and your consumers can be the personal touch that distinguishes you from your competitors. There remains but only one issue: how to get lots of followers to interact with when you’re starting from zero. Building your fan base from scratch, with no brand equity, is one of the hardest things to do in Social Media but these next steps will help get you started.

Invest your time

Let’s face facts. You are going to be spending a lot of time on Facebook. The first assignment is to know your product’s demographic. If you are a startup clothing company, or a mobile game app then you’re going to target individuals who have interest in your product. Create a Facebook page with solid content and information about your product. Be informative, but brief. Always have new content via pictures or videos in order to entertain and promote.

Begin to research & observe competing companies in similar markets. Review the individuals who follow those companies, and what types of interactions they have going on. You are your product, so casually jump into a conversation. Do not market on other pages. That’s spam. Be casual and real. Introduce yourself to group leaders who can Like and share your page with their personal followers. This requires a lot of time and patience; however, the anticipation of a viral breakthrough for your page will keep you logged in, researching and engaging.

Start with your friends

Your personal friends, family members and connections on your personal Facebook page are the best places to start finding a following. Provide opportunity for a community to form on your Facebook page by posting relatable status updates that will tie your demo to your product. Ask your friends to Like your page, and if possible share your page. The Facebook snowball effect occurs when one Like leads to another, and so forth, but don’t stop there. Keep researching and updating your followers.

If you’re a clothing brand, promote your latest design or introduce a model to your friends. If you’re a mobile game app, promote images from the game to stir up curiosity amongst your Facebook friends. Remember don’t be a desert, where you hardly ever update your Facebook. But don’t be a jungle either, cluttering your Facebook with meaningless posts. As you attain more followers, remember to catch them up with recaps or summaries of your product’s latest news.

 Get personal

Facebook is the place to post personal information about you and your relationship to your product. Researchers have found that personal statements from actual people working for the company are the most effective status updates. Companies all over Facebook have drawn a lot of attention by posting family photos, or posting personal status updates about their day at work. If there is something going on in the office or at a particular event this is the medium to host your personal content.

When your followers begin to ask questions, jump in and share your thoughts. Welcome questions and inquiries about your next event or updates. You want to make sure that your status updates have a strong follow through on your behalf. If you promise to update your fans then do it! Create a daily competition in order to keep Facebook users coming back to visit your page. The best thing you can do is create video blogs that you can host on YouTube but share on Facebook. Your personal mug on your products Facebook will help your demo position your product in their minds. Be sure to use positive content, and if you’re camera shy think about bringing in an actor to help with your product’s image. Provide images that are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.


Strong content is always relevant to your product and fan base. Videos, pictures and memes work perfectly with Facebook. If you do use the very popular memes, remember that each meme has its own persona, and the task is to tie the meme to your product. There are several websites that let you generate memes that can be edgy and comical. Also, online videos are entertaining for your fan base, and a great source for highlighting product features while showcasing your brand image. Facebook is a great place to post pictures because it can get cluttered with text and a picture can be just what you need to tell a story. Remember to always show, not tell, and the more concrete imagery you have, the more your fan base will inclined to continue visiting your Facebook page and sharing your content and brand message.

Facebook shares

Finally you want your page to be shared amongst followers in order to get more views. The best form of promotion is to network with other brands or other companies who don’t necessarily do what you do, but can benefit from your product. Help each other, and share each other. For example a young startup clothing company that promotes an urban skateboarding style may partner up with a local rock band playing at the next skate park event. Create banners, pictures and promotional videos that can be shared by your partners. This will create the opportunity for you to physically share your Facebook page in person at events that touch base with your demographic. Think outside the box, and your page will begin to get shared by your followers.

Networking is one of the best ways to promote. Don’t just look for followers but look to follow other companies or individuals who will follow you back. Soon enough you will have built a brand image and brand equity. You will become recognizable, and other startups will want to partner with you in order to attain more Facebook shares.

Never let your activity feed on Facebook become an activity famine. Be consistent.

Social media tips & tricks, part I

image via

The world of social media can be overwhelming in its vastness. There are millions of people online right now, and they all have the attention span of a kid fueled by Pixy Stix. How, you may ask yourself, can you possibly get your ideas/products/brand noticed in all that noise?

Check out some of the following social media basic tips and tricks and keep an eye on this site – this post will be a two-parter!

  • Use hash tags to keep your topic searchable on Twitter (i.e. #socialmedia or #publicity), allowing potential audience members to find you
  • Provide a service for your audience, free of charge – an instructional video on YouTube, a PDF of practical industry info, etc., all relating to your profession
  • Use a social media management dashboard like Hootsuite; you can preset your posts and tweets to send at certain times and access your audience numbers for each post, helping to determine the most popular topics
  • Tweet and post on Facebook several times a day to reach all time zones
  • Link together all your social media accounts (blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) so that when you post to one, you post to all, saving you time and increasing audience eyeballs.
  • Add a Facebook or Twitter feature to your blog
  • Link to each of your social media sites so your fans can follow you on multiple platforms
  • Host a competition on your social media platforms (i.e. telling your audience to retweet a message and picking one of them as a winner)
  • Respond to social media messages in a friendly, conversational tone
  • Craft compelling headlines AND compelling content – keep ’em coming back for more!

Now I’m about to keep you coming back for more and tell you to STAY TUNED… part II is coming your way soon.

Three new rules of film publicity

Found this little gem from our friends up in the Great White North. What are your go-to rules for film publicity?


3 New Rules Of Film Publicity
By Elliot Grove

Times are certainly a-changing. Often the film industry has been slow in catching up. Online distribution, VOD, day/date screening, transmedia and of course the threat of piracy are all part of the new frontier.

I am presently revamping the Raindance website and revisiting our marketing and PR strategy. The author and marketeer Jeff Bullas highlighted several key factors in his excellent blog. A survey of nearly 2,000 companies rated the optimised press release as the most effective way to release news. Optimising press releases for news search engines is now called “SEO-PR”.

If you are a filmmaker, you better get tooled up – because this is where it is all starting to happen. The tools that relate to marketing in general pretty much all pertain to a successful film launch.

A Short History Of Press Releses

In the good old days, i.e. pre-2007, a press release was distributed to a handful of presses. The release itself had to include quotes from sources to verify the news contained in the press release.

One was only allowed to write a press release if the news was worthy. If the release was of the right calibre, a magazine or newspaper picked it up and wrote the story. If a newspaper did write the story, the only way to measure the effectiveness was to employ a press cutting agency to monitor the story and physically cut the articles out of newspapers and present them as a ‘clip book.’ The number of clippings gave the press agent an idea of how many people ‘found’ the story.

3 New Rules Of Publicity

The internet and social media have dumped the rules of publicity on their heads. No longer are press releases designed for a select group of journalists. Rather they are designed so readers everywhere can pick them up.

1. Audience Is Everything

When publicist and magician Cindy Gordon was hired to publicise the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resorts she could have used any amount of budget she wanted. How did she let the world know that there was a new entertainment facility being built? She decided to only tell seven people.

She invited the seven most rabid fans of Harry Potter to a meeting in Professor Dumbledore’s office via a webinar. These fans were hand-selected by Gordon’s team, with Warner Bros. and Rowling herself providing input about the choices. These seven were invited to participate in a top-secret Webcast held at midnight on May 31, 2007. In the Webcast, live from the “Dumbledore’s Office” set at Leavesden Studios, Stuart Craig discussed how his team of twenty designers was bringing together The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.

She realized each person’s power as a media outlet. Those seven fans enthusiastically spread the message to over 350,000,000 other fans across the world. Mission accomplished.

Cindy Gordon understood her audience. “If we hadn’t gone to fans first, there could have been a backlash,” Gordon says. She points out how disappointing it would have been had they learned about the plans to build a Harry Potter theme park in the NY Times instead of through an insider fan site. (I don’t know if the kids are reading the NY Times but J.K. Rawlings books are rather thick so maybe her readers do read such intellectual stimuli.)

Cindy Gordon also realized the power of the internet today to accelerate a brand and the speed to which a message can be spread. When us filmmakers harness this knowledge and learn ways to express our stories via social media, imagine the slick ideas we too will dream up .

2. It's About Attention

We are after attention. The paradox is that as the world gets more and more tuned in and turned on, there are more and more of us vying for attention. It’s a competitive world out there, and a very noisy one at that. In order to get the attention your film and your career deserves, you need to understand the basics of how to get attention, and steal the spotlight from under your competitors’ noses.

1. Buy it

Buying ads on the internet is not cheap. It is also time consuming. It is also effective, if you have enough money to be able to create a big enough campagn. Facebook and Google are both refining their ad metrics enabling you to pipe an ad straight t the targeted demographic of your movie.

2. Beg for it

Pitching your film project is as old as the hills and also about as demeaning and humiliating as can be. There is nothing wrong with pitching. Just be aware of the pitfalls.

3. Earn it

If you want loads of people swarming around you and your film, the solution is really simple: create stellar content.

People are so starved of decent content that when they see it they will stop dead in their tracks, bookmark your page, tell all their friends and come back time and time again.

I remember the first time I saw Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I was living in Toronto at a time when the television was, quite smply, terrible. I was surfing through the American PBS channel one night when suddenly I was in the middle of a Python sketch. Within 20 seconds I was totally hooked, and never ever missed a sketch after that. Imagine my excitement when I found out that they are making another movier for the first time since 1983! You can see their next Monty Python movie project here.

3. Losing Control

Have you heard of the Grateful Dead? They are one of my favourite bands from the era of Bob Dylan and The Beatles. They encouraged people to record their live shows. They even sold special ‘tapers’ tickets’ and allowed tapers to sit in behind the sound desk making recording of exceptional quality. Suddenly, out of every dorm, every car window and every late night greasy spoon came Grateful Dead music. They became the highest grossing live stage act in America, performing more than 2,300 shows over 30 years.

How did Grateful Dead become so huge? By losing control of their music.

In the meantime, they gained control of their IP. They were one of the few bands to retain control of the publishing and licensing rights to their music. They also created a huge merchandising industry surrounding their live performances which genereated millions more.

The internet and it’s advantages have yet to be explored by filmmakers. The industry ignores the potential of the internet and pretends their old-style distribution tactics will remain unscathed.

Now is the time for you to figure out how losing control might actually put you in control – financially.

Fade Out

New PR means new ways of thinking about your film and your career. You create the press release and release it yourself, making sure the actual press release is optimised and placed in the right location on your website, Facebook or blog.

And keep that content coming.

Are you speaking on a panel at a festival? Write a release.
Did you win an award? Write a release.
Do you have a new take on an old problem? Write a release.
Did you get a new distributor interested in your film? Write a release.
Can you link a current news story to your film? Write a release.

This will work.