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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Leif’s Best Books of 2016

BOOKS

The Godfather Notebook

by Francis Ford Coppola
(There’s also a great Fresh Air interview with Coppola about the book here.)

This book just came out in November. It’s Coppola’s masterplan that he used to film the Godfather and gives deep insight into his creative process. I discovered that Coppola was in his 20s and not an expert in the craft when he was brought on to rewrite the script and direct the film. They choose him because he was a “budget” director and Italian-American. Coppola spent months researching and planning in this notebook before he started writing and producing.

For those outside the film industry the book lays out how to systematically approach and solve a massive problem when you’re not an expert. I’ve only read the first 50 pages. So far the biggest insight is Coppola’s planning system for each story point: Synopsis, Textures and Imagery, Time Period, Pitfalls, Single Sentence. He wrote these out for every scene from the book. By the time he was done he had everything he needed to write the screenplay, get the producers to spend more money, fight and win on unpopular talent choices, and direct the film.

Coppola’s way of systematically breaking down a problem and distilling ideas turned him from relatively a novice director to the leading director in the industry in two years.

 

Extreme Ownership

by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

This is the book I've gifted most this year. The authors are a retired Navy Seal Instructors that led multiple missions in Iraq. I heard a podcast that Jocko was a guest on and I was drawn to his mental clarity when responding to difficult questions. Also, it’s co-authored by another guy named “Leif.” How cool is that!

A big takeaways from Extreme Leadership is the concept that communication should be simple, clear, and concise. The book gives dozens of examples how this is applied in training and in the battlefield. For myself I’m trying to apply that concept to how I communicate with my team both in the office and on set.

Another takeaway is that good leaders make average teams great. Jocko unpacks how ownership is key to becoming a good leader, and shared gripping examples about friendly fire and his responsibility as a leader for the actions of his team members in the field.

The book does an excellent job of incorporating examples from business into each chapter, making it easy to understand non-military applications.

There’s tons of other gold nuggets in this book. I think I need to read it twice.

Inner Game of Tennis

by Timothy Galley

This book isn’t really about tennis! It’s mostly a book about learning and how we learn. This book was written in the 1970s and its insights can apply to tons of areas of your life. I’m a tennis player, and it’s completely changed the way I play tennis and doubled the fun that I have on the court. For non-tennis players start with Chapter 2.

Biggest insight: Be kind to yourself while working on a skill, replace judgement with observation. Whether it’s losing your keys, spilling a cup of coffee, or waking up late we bark an order at ourselves to be better and fix the mistake. That’s the equivalent of trying to give your body verbal instructions on how to walk or breath. It’s not the way the body naturally learns or builds a skill. External commands often deepens the cycle of failure. Instead how can you replace disparagement with curiosity when building a skill?

Tools of Titans

by Tim Farriss

I got this book a couple of weeks ago but it makes the list for my top books of the year. I’ve only read the first 100 pages or so (less than 1/3 of the book). The book is divided up into three sections: Health, Wealth, Wisdom. The book is a compilation of 200+ interviews. Each chapter is maybe 2-4 pages and packed with 5-10 insights.

In the introduction Tim relates a story about a philosopher who was out of money and out of food. When asked what he was going to do about it the philosopher responded: I can think, I can wait, I can fast. 

The first quarter of 2016 started out very slow for us as a company. We chose to fast. We didn’t have enough revenue to pay ourselves for about two months. We could wait. We deferred everything that wasn’t necessary. We’ll cook at home. We’ll keep driving and fixing our Saab with 300,000+ miles on it. We could think. Lucky launched our first cold email and phone call campaign. We reconnected with past clients. We grew our network. We didn’t have to go into debt and we didn’t miss a payment to our crew.

Health is a topic that I don’t naturally read about. I spend 90% of my time reading about business, leadership, human behavior, sports, and economics. But often it’s a good mental exercise to learn outside of your habit loop. So I started with Health.

First insight, think of your health in terms of “training” not “fitness.” Being fit is a vanity concept that also associated with the word “diet.” Dieting by common definition is temporary. But if you think of it as “training” and eating to train. You’ve reframed the concept of health as an internal engine that drives your life forward, not just an outside way to look better.

Second, small daily habits are key. I’ve added 5 minutes to the beginning and end of my day that set me up for success. In the morning I do a specific set of stretches to fight the poor posture and muscle shortening in hips and back that sitting all day leads to (Spiderman and Cat-Cow). In the evening foam roller legs, back, feet to loosen me up before bed.

By making health a priority at the beginning and ending of the day, I’ve found it helps give me a positive outlook on life and gives me a big boost in feeling accomplished and in control of the rest of my day.

QUOTES

“Rough layouts sell the idea better than polished ones.” — Paul Arden
In a creative business like ours it’s tempting to delay, delay, delay before pitching concepts. But roughs are natural invitations for others to collaborate and imagine the final product alongside you.

PODCASTS

Tim Ferris Show: “17 Questions” Episode

This episode can be a great goal setting exercise for the new year. During a 9-hour car ride Lucky and I stopped the podcast after each question and talked through how we could apply the question to our business or personal lives.

Asking yourself absurd questions are powerful: If you had only 2 hours per week to work on your business what would you do? It forces you to cut out all the fat and clearly define what’s important.

Another that I found particularly insightful: What’s the least crowded channel? If you’re like us, e-mail is the most crowded channel that we use to communicate, both inside our team and outside with prospects and clients. So why are we using it? It’s the least scary channel to reach out on and you can shift blame to another person if there’s no response by telling yourself that it’s their fault if they didn’t reply. For us the least crowded channel is connecting in person with our prospects in their office.

Are you chasing field mice or antelopes? A lion can easily kill and eat field mouse. But if a lion only kills field mice he’ll use more energy killing the mouse than he’ll get from eating it. A lion on a diet of field mice will starve to death. It takes a lot more effort and time for a lion to kill an antelope, but antelopes keep the lion fed for a long time. If we want to hit our production goals in 2017 should we try and fill Pathfinder Film’s 36 production slots with “field mice” or should we go after 7-8 “antelopes” instead?
 

Ramit Sethi’s Braintrust: “Unstuff Your Life!” Episode

This podcast is not publicly available right now, but you can get the book “Unstuff Your Life!” by Andrew Mellen that covers the same topic. Andrew Mellen is a personal organizer and theater director. What a crazy combo of professions!

Biggest insight: Having a junk drawer / junk closet is deferred decision making. It’s putting something aside while saying to yourself “I’ll decide what to do with this later.” Andrew structures organization this way:

  • One Home for Everything
  • Like with Like
  • Something in Something Out

After listening to the podcast Lucky and I made a list of the things that we have no reason to keep. We have two plungers that have sat in our pantry (don’t ask why they are in the pantry) for over a year. Do we really need two? No. I have a car cover that I lugged around in the trunk of my car for years. I literally can’t remember the last time I put it on. It’s been years. There’s an old pair of jeans in my closet that has a hole in the crotch. I just got a new pair of the same jean, so why do I still have the old pair.

The common thread is that we told ourselves that these things still have value, maybe we’d be able to use them later, or maybe we’d find someone else that could use them. Both trains of thought are deferred decision making that crowd our home, not to mention our headspace!

 

When it’s NOT okay to go to Silicon Valley in a t-shirt

One of my favorite things about running a film company is learning about our clients. A little over a week ago we had the privilege of working with Semiconductor Industry Association, an industry association in the technology space. We worked with their marketing team to create video content for their annual meeting in Silicon Valley.

The semiconductor industry is fascinating. For the event we created a tribute video that celebrated 25 years of award winning innovators. They also asked us to come and film interviews with the leaders of many of the Fortune 500 companies that make up their membership — people like the CEOs of Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Intel.

A favorite moment from the interviews was talking with the three inventors of the microprocessor as they told their story on camera.

Inventors of the Microprocessor

Inventors of the Microprocessor

We had limited time with each of these high profile individuals so we needed to quickly build rapport and get great content. So that there was no distractions, I wore a well-fitted suit that matched the level of dress of my interview subjects. We had only 15 minutes with each person so we didn’t use lav mics. Finally, we had one of our team greet them at the door to answer questions and prep them on the interview format. These were important details that helped the executives feel comfortable from the moment that they walked in the room.

The tribute video that we had produced was played for a room of 250-300 industry leaders. When writing the script I spent weeks learning about the 25 past winners. There were winners like Gordon Moore who is credited as one of the fathers of Silicon Valley, and others who pushed the core science of semiconductors or worked in public policy. Any one of these leaders deserved a full documentary about their contributions.

Our challenge with the tribute video was to tell the broader story of the industry in a way that still mentioned each winner by name. For the video we sourced hundreds of historical images from each person’s life and produced a 4-minute motion design animation that highlighted their key achievements through voice and image. The audience members had lived and worked for their whole careers in this industry. We took the task of getting the details right very seriously.

The video was warmly received and a perfect fit for celebrating the 25th year of the Robert N. Noyce Award. For myself personally, being on site with our client deepened my connection to their space and what they are trying to do.