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Sustainability needs less of the same

Safety in repetition

If I was given a pound every time a client asked for a video like the Girl Effect or RSA animate, I would be a rich man.  Both are fantastic examples of the power of video. Or at least they were, when they were first released to the world.  But in the wake of their success, comes a torrent of others wanting to emulate that success by trying to do the very same thing. Doing something the same way does have its merits. It’s reassuring. It’s safe. It de-risks the creative process. But those merits can undermine the very purpose of the video. Let’s assume that most videos are designed to capture the attention of the audience in order to land an inspiring message. So if the audience ends up seeing something they’ve already seen before it’s… well… remarkably uninspiring.

If you work in the sustainability communications space, the chances are that you’re communicating a cause, not a product. You’ll also be working with a smaller budget. And given the scale of the problems our society and environment face, now is not the time for more of the same.

Shoot for nausea

One of our clients once told us that they know when a production is going well, when they feel mildly sick [with anxiety]. And in this instance, sickness is a good thing. It shows that you’re out of your comfort zone; that you’re pushing boundaries with the message and your brand. But doing things differently, doesn’t mean being reckless.

A few pointers

Be genuine

There’s almost an expectation in creative communications that being different should involve a YouTuber or a poorly attended flash-mob. What I think is most important is that you explore what different looks like for your brand. As an example, we recently created a short animation for Mars. Instead of using generic icons and a discerning voice over, we decided to tell the story of sustainable supply chains through Rex and Fluffy, an animated cat and dog. The two characters created space for a different voice, while linking back to Mars’ pet care business to keep it relevant.

It won’t be easy

When you’re doing something that breaks from convention, you’re going to face some resistance. People will question your approach; they’ll ask for reassurance; they’ll want what they’ve already seen. But you’ll need to take them on a journey. It all starts with well thought-out creative. You’ll need to explain that the very videos we now consider successful, were once considered risky. It can take months of hand-holding and careful stakeholder management, but what you’ll have at the end of it will be worth every difficult conversation.

Own it

Doing something different, or remarkable, creates a unique identity which you can own. It will make the piece more memorable and more shareable. And when it comes to your next piece of comms, you can build on what you’ve already created - be it a concept, style or character.

So if we’re going to inspire people to help solve those big, scary problems - it’s our job as communicators to do less of the same.


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