The Memorization Trap

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I’ve spent hundreds of hours interviewing people, everyone from the CEO of Intel to a homeless man, and still I fell into the Memorization Trap.

Earlier this year I signed up for a conference in Chicago because the main speaker was someone who had a major impact on my career. Leading up to the event, the speaker offered limited access to one-on-one coaching. This was an amazing opportunity for a small business owner and all I had to do was apply with a 3-minute video.

Piece of cake! What could be easier than grabbing and iPhone and pitching to camera? You see I have some unique advantages:

  • I’m an expert at making great videos.
  • I’ve interviewed hundreds of people.
  • I’ve been interviewed on live TV.

I wrote out an outline, ran it by my team at Pathfinder to make sure the approach was good, and PRESTO! I’m ready to record.

That’s when things took a wrong turn…the iPhone started rolling and my mind went blank. I looked at my notes, then back to the iPhone, then back to my notes. A voice in my head said, “This is not going to end well...”

I started speaking, but it was like I was in a wind tunnel -- I couldn’t hear myself. I’d get 70% of the way through a thought and forget the next word: “What’s the word? What’s the word?? It’s the word we use to describe how we get clients….” Nothing. I took a sheepish look back to my notes, “Oh yeah, referrals. The word is referrals.” UHHHHGGG!

Cut. Start over.

I was stuck in the Memorization Trap, trying repeat exactly what I wrote. On the next take I made it all the way to, “clients”... and my mind went blank again.

Cut. Start over.

After 60 minutes I still didn’t have anything usable, let alone good. My ears were pulsing in time with my heartbeat, my throat was tense and I’m angry with myself.

Why did it feel like such a big deal? Why couldn’t I MAKE MYSELF do better? I’m just a guy sitting in his own office. I had all the time in the world to get it right.

Let’s take a look at how the Memorization Trap might happen to you.

You know you’re going to be on camera and that there’s stakes. You want to look good and sound smart, so you write out your thoughts. You review your notes by focusing on keywords and phrases. Then when it’s time to deliver on camera your mind goes blank. After the first mistake you feel even more nervous. It feeds on itself until you’re left feeling ill, angry, and embarrassed.

Often you’ll find that the Memorization Trap catches people at the worst time: A high-pressure environment with tens of thousands of dollars on the line. The classic example is when your organization has hired a camera crew for a day to interview your co-workers, or the CEO, or when you're trying to document a customer’s experience on camera.

With the clock ticking people in the room will try to help out: They’ll tell the interviewee, “Relax. No stress. You’ll get it.” The person will nod, laugh nervously and try again, only to stammer to a stop even sooner. Feeling like they let the whole room down, the interviewee berates herself for the failure. “Stupid. Dumb. What’s wrong with me? Just get it right.”

Someone will then try and help by offering a line, “Why don’t you say it like this…” For the first 5 seconds the interviewee does beautifully, all of the sudden just as you think she’s about say it just right, the two ways of phrasing the thought collide mid-sentence, and the words come out in a jumble -- like a slam poet reciting a terrible haiku.

You want to help but somehow can’t, and the interviewee feels defeated. They think, “I’m terrible on camera.” Or, “I’ll never do that again.”

I’ve seen this type of experience haunt capable and well-spoken people for years.

The good news is there’s a simple mindset you can adopt to help even the most nervous person overcome the Memorization Trap and do well on camera. It doesn’t require media training, an executive coach, or a psychologist to reconstruct their psyche!

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How to get amazing on-camera interviews from almost anyone

There’s a couple of basics before you start filming:

  • Plan on editing. Don’t expect yourself or your subject to deliver a 5-minute speech word-perfect.
  • Have subjects look at the interviewer not the camera. Most people aren’t comfortable having conversations with inanimate objects.

Now that the easy stuff is taken care of, it’s time to help people shine.

1) Focus on conversation flow, not specific words and phrases.

People read nonverbal cues before registering what the person is saying. If my voice cracks while I’m talking about our value proposition, the first thing the viewer thinks is: “This guy is nervous. Why is he nervous? Is he credible? Does he know what he’s talking about?”

The best way to get a great result from someone without media training is to help them have a good conversation. The more comfortable you can get them, the smoother the conversation flows and the more confident they become.

2) “Coach” with good questions.

Have an interviewer coach them through the conversation while they are on camera. (This can be a professional or someone on your team.) Warning! Coaching is not feeding them lines. A good coach is someone who can get them into a flow by asking questions. It’s okay if they miss something. Keep a mental checklist and circle back around to it later by asking again in a different way.

Note: Avoid the scenario of supervisors interviewing subordinates. The power dynamic is too transparent and the interviewee will come off as defensive.

3) The Warmup: Start simple. Build to complex.

The easiest way to get someone into a good flow is to start simple. Don’t start by asking about the most important thing. Begin with what they had for breakfast, ask them about their drive to work or what they’re going to do with kids that evening. Then piggyback on their answers -- tell them about a similar experience that you’ve had or share what your day has been like.

We don’t expect opera singers to jump on stage and sing a song from Figaro without a careful warm up for their vocal cords, so why do we expect that an untrained person will be able to jump right into a smooth delivery on camera?

Tip: A good warm up can often do more than the “perfect” question at helping an interviewee succeed.

Interviews are a performance

Even though we don’t think about it this way, interviews are a performance. The next time you watch a great interview, pay attention. You’ll probably find that the confidence and flow of the delivery far outweighs perfect sentence construction or how many keywords they use.

A video with great interviews (and it’s funny)

When your creative feels a little flat what can you do to fix it?

Case-in-point: Interviews are something that I’ve thought about a lot because it’s a skill I rely on. I’ve had to interview everyone from a homeless man to the CEO of Intel. Interviews are used for brand stories, in testimonials, and yes, in documentaries.

Despite their versatility, 99% of creatives start to die inside when they hear the word “interview.” It’s easy to think about interviews like the cardboard of storytelling — you need it to ship the package, but boy is it dull.

How do you take something as common as cardboard and make it feel fresh?

Enter Little Tickets. With this video JetBlue’s creative team took the concept of the interview and made it special again.

I know what you’re thinking: Round of applause for JetBlue, they spent a fortune and made a great ad. Okay, okay. So you’re not JetBlue. And maybe you don’t have a bucket of money to build a Lemony Snicket storefront on the streets of New York (although, that is super cute).

You don’t need to be at that level to take a worn out creative format and made it great. Let’s nerd out a little:

Lesson #1: Do the Opposite

The creative brief for Little Tickets could have been, “interviewing prospective customers about airline travel experiences.” That sounds pretty dull. I’m imagining a series of adults talking in annoyed tones about uncomfortable seats and overpriced bottled water.

JetBlue made interviews fresh by doing the opposite of what you would expect:

  • Instead of adults, JetBlue interviewed children.
  • Instead of deciding for them, they treated the children as the decision makers.
  • Instead of kids getting a gift, the kids got to give a gift to their parents.

They were so thorough at doing the opposite, that they even built a whole tiny world as the interview setting for the video.

Lesson #2: Plan a Surprise

Little Tickets also leveraged off of a planned surprise. At the end of each interview the children were given the actual trip that they had dreamed about. It was a surprise ending for both the viewer and the children, and the twist kept the interaction fresh for everyone.  

Lesson #3: Lead, Then Follow

The interviewer used a subtle skill that elevated Little Tickets from amusing to heartwarming. Can you guess what it is?

He listened. A good conversation starts with empathy and a genuine desire to understand what the other person is saying. The honest answers the children gave could never have been scripted.

Hive-five to Little Tickets for reinventing the interview!

This Video Made Engineers Teary-Eyed

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Great videos are hard work.

As you'd expect in East Tennessee after a summer rain shower, steam rolled off the asphalt. The humidity was 100% and I'd sweated through my short-sleeved shirt.

Greg, the company's president, had arrived from the airport 20 minutes before. He was dressed in slacks and a blazer, and the location for filming was a 10-minute walk through a non-air-conditioned manufacturing plant.  

It was lunch time, stomachs were growling, and we were trying to find a spot out of forklift traffic with a nice background and tolerable noise to film Greg's line. He whipped off his blazer, wiped his forehead and said, "Okay, let me see if I can get it right this time." 

All that for one shot in a video that we filmed across 13 locations, 6 states, and 2 countries. Let me underline it: Great videos are hard work.

So why did Mueller Company believe that an internal marketing video for employees was a good investment? 

They knew that inspiration is exponential.

Inspired employees are loyal, they're problem solvers, and their enthusiasm is contagious. When employees are energized by a mission they become ambassadors for the brand, and they create an environment where a product will start to "sell itself."

After watching the internal marketing video employees said things like:

"It gives everyone a great sense of pride to see where we have come from and where we are going."

"The response to the video was extremely positive this week and people are asking if they can have copies to share with friends and family."

"Everyone in our group felt a great since of pride being part of the Mueller Company. Something I have always felt during my years of service, and it’s good to see the connection affecting others."

Working on a video that has that kind of impact is always worth delaying lunch and sweating through your shirt.

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See our photo blog for more moments and people that inspired us while filming Mueller® Brand Essence: 
https://pathfinder.exposure.co/mueller-company-reliable-connections
 

Finding the Brand Essence

When developing creative for a video where do we go for inspiration? A while back we were asked to make a brand essence video. Here’s what inspired us while we were on the hunt for references!

AUDI - It Couldn’t Be Done

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad6YiHeDhzI

WHY WE LOVE IT: Audi does an amazing job showing its company history. With a fun little voice over nursery rhyme that tells the story, we see the evolution of the car company throughout the last century. It makes great use of archival footage to give an authentic feel. Even though it’s 90% archival, surprisingly, it feels fresh and current.

Siemens - Wind Project 60

https://vimeo.com/102576431

WHY WE LOVE IT: Siemens chooses to highlight the people they serve and the people who work for them in this creative video. The video, filled with beautiful cinematography, has an equally beautiful transition with the video portraits of members in the community to the manufacturing staff.  Using wind to re-create Strauss’ Blue Danabue is also a unique way of bridging the service and the people it serves. It has a strong sense of place and community.

Honda - The Power of Dreams Failure: The Secret to Success

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJAq6drKKzE&feature=youtu.be

WHY WE LOVE IT: Although this is the longest video on our list, this video is definitely one of our favorites. Honda uses a visual symbol as an ongoing motif to demonstrate failure and success. This references Thomas Edison’s personal failures with inventing the lightbulb. It uses real stories from race car drivers, to engineers and designers, all sharing their failures. What’s more important, is that it clearly shows the company’s philosophy and mission to be a learning organization in practice.

Dodge - How to Change Cars Forever

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gogQLQNrDds&feature=youtu.be

WHY WE LOVE IT: Process is everything. This shows the behind the scenes process at Dodge. We are able to see how the idea became a product. With fast paced editing, fun visuals and a great VO, Dodge was created a fun video that shows the company’s innovation. There was also a lot of coffee, and what’s not to love about that?

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All these videos were used as reference for a project we produced for Mueller Co. You can check out that video HERE!

The strategy the Chattanooga Chamber used to win "Chamber of the Year"

When I got up yesterday I didn’t know the exciting news I’d find in my email that afternoon. One of our favorite clients, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, was named “Chamber of the Year” -- the highest honor in their industry. On top of that a special award was created just for them, the “Literally Perfect” award.

[The] campaign was all anyone could talk about at this convention. Every single person I talked to wanted to talk about Mr. Perfect as soon as they heard I was from Chattanooga. — Jeremy, Creative Project Manager

What does it take to win the highest honors?
It takes doing something that you’ve never done before.

After you’ve won awards it’s easy to look back and credit smart decision making and solid strategy. But in the moment, doing something you’ve never done before is risky.

A case-in-point example: One of the Chamber’s missions was to recruit businesses and people to relocate to Chattanooga. The normal way is a package of materials:

  • Beautiful pictures of the waterfront.
  • Some charts and graphs.
  • A testimonial video from someone who moved to the town and liked it.

All those things are important, but if you’re a mid-sized city in the South, sandwiched between Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville and Asheville, doing it like everyone else is doing it may not be enough to cut through the noise.

The Chamber opted to take a risk.
They decided to use a format that no one else in their industry was using, irreverent comedy.

The result was created a multi-year communications campaign called “Literally Perfect.” The face of the campaign was an iconic character, Mr. Perfect, a endearingly oblivious spokesman who kept getting it wrong.

They produced videos that featured two fictional companies that were having problems, the companies relocated to Chattanooga and had wild success.

It worked. There was buzz, online engagement, and the media picked it up.

The Chamber learned that by disarming people with humor they could cut through the noise but they saw ways they could do it even better.

The Sequel Conundrum
Here’s where things get tricky. When you go to double down on your past success there’s a problem that I like to call “the sequel conundrum”.

The Sequel Conundrum is a war between two opposing truths:

  1. You’ve built a world that people love, killing it would be throwing away what your fans love.
  2. The death of every bad movie sequel is doing more of the same, think Shrek 3-4. Diehard fans will watch it, but it will never be satisfying like the original.

Instead of creating another installment in the series, the Chamber raised the stakes by taking Mr. Perfect into a new genre: musicals.

The Chamber also doubled down on their launch. Their best results came from Facebook, so they put 90% of their effort into that platform, getting smarter about how they pushed it out. They created a surround sound effect piggybacking off of pop culture spoofing the Oscar success of the movie La La Land, by calling it Cha Cha Land. They built a really smart microsite for the campaign: chattanoogaperfect.com. They went to the airport and welcomed real travelers with by cheering them as they arrived.

The results came back thick and fast:

  • Nearly 100k views on Facebook.
  • National press from publications like City Lab calling it a “city branding campaign we can get behind.”
  • Facebook reach was up over 2,500%.

The good news is you can use some of same strategies in your company:

  1. A few weeks ago we wrote about the free storytelling hack that both the Chattanooga Chamber and Super Bowl ads use.
  2. If you think that musicals are big budget extravaganzas reserved only for Hollywood, they’re much less scary than that. See for yourself in the Making of a Musical post.

So what does it take to win the highest honors? It takes risk. It takes doing something that you’ve never done before.

Super Bowl ads use this free storytelling hack, you can too.

“Hello, ladies, look at your man, now back to me, now back at your man, now back to me.”

You would have to be living under a rock, without internet connection to not have heard the reference above. Old Spice created something fun and entertaining to help reinforce their brand and make it memorable.

This is a classic example of the advertising hack that you can use too. So what’s the super-secret free hack that Super Bowl ads and other really smart advertisers use to stand out?

THEY CREATED ICONIC CHARACTERS.

What is an Iconic Character?

An Iconic Character puts a face to the brand. It’s like a walking, talking, living logo for your company.

Paired with positive comedy, the character becomes engraved in our memory, and what else comes with that character? You guessed it! The brand that it is associated with!

They have been used both for online campaigns, like the Chatbooks Mom, or for tv spots. It's even been shown that digital campaigns using iconic characters have outperformed Super Bowl spots (without the mega expensive broadcast fees).

So… How do I make one?

This is where you get to be fun and creative! Creating a character to associate your brand with allows you to open up a new world to your audience.

It’s like when you went to Build-A-Bear Workshop as a kid. You find what kind of bear or what kind of animal you would like, but in this case, you're finding what identity you want this character to have. Do you want a “Mr. Cool Guy” type character like Old Spice Guy, or someone who is a little bit more silly, like the Trix Rabbit?

Remember, this identity will reflect YOUR IDENTITY also. The character should embody a message that reflects your values. If this character is the embodiment of your brand, they should reflect positively on what you’re all about.

Lastly, the important thing is to keep them memorable. That’s what you want: to be remembered!

What will make them stand out from the rest of the noise? Do they have a catchphrase or tagline? Maybe they do something ridiculous like smash through a wall, and say “OH YEAHHHHHHH”. I'd give myself 1 out of 5 stars for that idea.... :-)

How can I use an Iconic Character?

Now that you’ve created this character for you brand, it’s time to put it to action! You can put your character through situations or scenarios that can prove your product or service’s worth. Seeing your character use your product in a playful way can motivate new people to check out your brand!

Your character also can become your spokesperson. You don’t need famous actors, athletes or musicians. You already have somebody in your back pocket that you can bring into the spotlight who is armed and ready to share good tidings of great joy about your brand to all who may hear. Gloria!

Characters? Identity? Memorability? All this seems overwhelming!

We get it. This can be confusing and weird. Especially if you're like 99% of the people we work with. They know a good idea when they see one but God-forbid if you have to imagine from scratch.

After all, hard facts, numbers and statistics are things that are easy to measure and comfortable. So it's totally normal if you feel that dreaming up iconic characters is out of your comfort zone. 

Not really sure how to do it? That’s why we’re here. Helping busy people produce amazing video content is what we do, and we can help create an iconic character cuts through the noise and makes your brand memorible.

You can check out Mr.Perfect HERE to see how an iconic character can be used in a campaign.

Now it's your turn to test your knowledge: 

MATCH THE ICONIC CHARACTER
Mr. Whipple for Charmin
Mucinex Man for Mucinex
Flo for Progressive
Mayhem for Allstate
Kool-Aid Man for Kool-Aid

A.

B.

C.

D.

E.

Answers:
A. Kool-Aid Man for Kool-Aid
B. Mayhem for Allstate
C. Flo for Progressive
D. Mucinex Man for Mucinex
E. Mr. Whipple for Charmin Bathroom Tissues

Cha Cha Land: Making of a Musical

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It's been just 13 days since Cha Cha Land was launched and we've got some great results: The Atlantic's CityLab.com published an article praising the campaign, calling it a "A ridiculous city-branding campaign we can get behind." And the campaign received 60k+ views on Facebook! 

See how we made a musical in a "tiny" mid-sized city with 100% local talent. Our blog has a behind-the-scenes stroll through Cha Cha Land: Making of a Musical

Watch: CHA CHA LAND!

It's new. It's the debut. It's a musical. It's Mr. Perfect in "CHA CHA Land!" Fest your eyes, friends and cinema lovers. #CHAperfect

Film Synopsis: Last year, Mr. Perfect took us on a tour of some unreal companies who moved to Chattanooga and were unbelievably successful. Now he returns in a musical extravaganza. And this time he'll have to convince his toughest audience yet that Chattanooga is, literally, perfect for her. 

2016, You Were Good to Us

It's awards season! Unlike the Oscars there was no major faux pas at the Chattanooga ADDY Awards. :-)

Last year we were honored to get to work with some amazing people, both clients and crew. Together, we won awards for: 

Thanks for a great year!

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