Archive for the ‘film/video’ Category

Joseph Campbell is known to many as George Lucas’ inspiration for the story structure of the original Star Wars films. Dig a little deeper and you find that Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth aka the Hero’s Journey, outlined in his seminal The Hero With A Thousand Faces serves as the basic story structure found in narratives worldwide, since the beginning of time. This Hero’s Journey is what makes the most famous stories universal and also allows us to identify with the protagonist out on their journey, eventually overcoming a challenge to reach a new enlightened state of being. This is classic story structure and the most strategic brand storytellers are very aware of this when creating content meant to authentically engage a following.

At Bolster, we believe the most powerful brand stories are created when a hero is discovered among a brand’s followers and their story is shared in a compelling and cinematic manner and ultimately serves as an example of how that brand is playing the supporting role of the “wise sage” (think Obi Wan Kenobi) that helps our hero achieve their desired state. The following example of this approach in action is from Ebay and is one of the finest I’ve come across (and at half a million views, it’s driving some great results). Not only does it tell a story that highlights Ebay’s brand value, but it does so in a way that we can all connect with. The entire “Ebay Thanks You” series of story-driven content is beautifully conceived and executed and will serve as great benchmark for visual brand storytellers everywhere.

The One That Got Away

And here are a few more from the series Ebay Thanks You, including the anthem that introduces them all.


Kingdom Ventures

Wheel & Sprocket

When it comes to sharing the stories of your customers, selecting and documenting an emotionally resonant story helps ensure your content will be shared as much as you had hoped–earned media being the lifeblood of this emerging genre. The amount of brand-created documentary content has grown by reels and bounds this year and some of the most compelling and successful examples of this type of work have been created for Expedia. They’ve unearthed and cinematically documented the stories of Expedia travelers, who are traveling with a purpose. In the two documentaries below, the filmmakers explore why two very unique individuals are travelling across the country and are on a mission to find something – Find your understanding. Find your strength. These brand mantras are given deep meaning as we follow the stories to the heart of what makes travel meaningful.

As you finish watching these films, ask your self “What types of journeys are my customers taking (not just literal journeys, but internal journeys) and how am I helping them to achieve those goals?” This is where any great brand story begins and ends – with helping your customers along on their own hero’s journey.

Find Your Strength

Find Your Understanding

I wanted to share a new Founder’s Story video I created for Chef Erick Harcey at Victory 44 in Minneapolis:

Every truly great company is born from a founder with a driving passion for what they do and a strong vision guiding their work. The realization of those founding principles becomes a story that must be told.

Chef Erick Harcey of Victory 44 in Minneapolis believes that phenomenal food should be accessible to everyone, so he’s created a restaurant unlike any other in Minnesota. It’s a restaurant of chefs – only chefs. They just also do the jobs of the front of house staff, the servers and the restaurant managers. And their unique model, carefully selected menu items and seasonal ingredients let them keep costs very low, putting the dining experience on center stage.

Erick’s story is a founder’s story. It’s one that should never be overlooked when seeking to engage customers (or employees) holistically. By articulating values which customers may identify with, they are far more likely to become patrons for life. And it gives customers a back story to tell their friends about, creating a ready army of word of mouth advocates for your brand.

There’s a great article published today by Ad Age about the rise of long form ads. These are short films, music videos and the like that feature brands within the context of a larger story. Rupal Parekh argues that it is the future of brand engagement and that 30 and 60 second spots are no longer where brand love is going to be created (were they ever, really?). And companies are certainly starting to see results to prove that point. Ms. Walnum of Oliver Peoples had this to say about their branded short film series:

“The traffic to our site has doubled each of the last three years and we attribute this in part to the demand for our short films. More importantly to us, the time a potential consumer is spending on the site continues to go up, which we believe leads to a better and deeper brand experience, and of course an increase to our e-commerce sales.”

As we shift to more and more longer form ads or perhaps more appropriately titled ‘branded entertainment,’ one thing will be clear: quality storytelling will become the in-demand method by which to engage customers with your brand.

Read Rupal’s AdAge article here:

See an example of one of the Oliver Peoples short films starring Zooey Deschanel here:

Today we’ll take a little breather from the heavy lifting and just enjoy Sarah’s story. I created this little short last month for my friend Sarah who was jumping into a very frozen Lake Calhoun. A day or two after I posted this on Vimeo I got an email from the VP of Marketing from Special Olympics Minnesota asking if they could use it on their website and in all communications about the event moving forward. I said absolutely and Sarah’s little story got a lot of mileage for a very good cause. Hope to see you at the polar bar dive next year! I’ll be in my trunks.

Stories don’t just have the power to engage, they also have the power to inspire change. One of the ways in which they do so is through what is known as model participation. When people see something that inspires them, they want to be a part of it. When you are leading change, you must be the change or demonstrate the change you desire before you tell people what they must do. This adage has continually proven helpful as my colleagues and I have helped organizations align their employees around new initiatives and best practices. Here’s a quote that has always inspired me in my work:

“Instead of criticizing where they stand, move to a better place and invite them over.”

We must shine a light on what is good, what is going right or that which is the desired form of behavior in the new state of being. In addition to being a great way to lead change in an organization, I’ve learned that it can be a great way to inspire change in our communities as well through an on going project of mine called the Filmanthropist Project.

The concept here is exactly the same. In fact, it is the Filmanthropist Project model that inspired me to bring that concept to inspire change in a corporate organizational structure. Now in it’s third year, the Minnesota-based project invites novice to experienced filmmakers to find and document stories of philanthropy and good work in their community and submit those stories for inclusion in our annual screening and awards program. People are literally shining a light (be it a camera light) on their desired future state of their community by finding the story of someone that embodies those values they wish to carry forward to others. And it is a moving project to witness first hand. We’ve had more than 50 entires in our first two years and the screening events spark conversations that are carried forward. The subjects of the films and their good works are celebrated and supported in a way that would not have been possible had those stories never been documented or shared in such a public and celebratory way.

Now let’s switch forums for the model. Your community is now your organization. The citizens are your employees. Who in your organization is demonstrating the model behavior of where you wish your organization to be headed? How are they embodying your organizations core values of goodness and how are they making them real everyday? Are there stories you could tell about people who are doing the good work you aspire everyone in your organization or community to be doing?

Once we begin to share these stories of those who are on the front lines of leading positive change, we just might find a growing crowd of supporters and change evangelists following immediately behind them.

And that’s how change begins.

For more information about the Filmanthropist Project view the video or visit the website below:

“Personal stories make the Ford Story as individual as you are. Read theirs. Submit yours.

Ford has recently launched a new storytelling campaign that is about sharing the stories of those who make Ford trucks part of their everyday lives. And it’s compelling. Just take a look at the OC Fireman profile video at

Sure, you could argue this video portrait is about Ford trucks. But mostly, it isn’t. And that’s the point. It’s about a universal protagonist – firefighters – doing what they do best by selflessly keeping us all safe. And the supporting players that makes it all possible are the Ford trucks they drive to the front lines of fires every day. This is classic story structure at work in a new story-based form of brand building.

A loveable protagonist (Ford’s customers and in this case firefighters) come up against an obstacle: fires that threaten you and me. We’re immediately invested in this protagonist as they are in essence our protectors and well, since 9/11 especially, they are one of the most iconic symbols of goodness in America today. In order to overcome their challenge of keeping the public safe, they need a dependable, strong, sturdy vehicle. Enter Ford trucks. Ford becomes the supporting player that helps the protagonists overcome their challenge and achieve their goal – keeping us safe.

Think for a minute about a story you could tell about a protagonist (your customer) who is overcoming a challenge that affects society at large. How is your product or service helping them achieve their goals? How do their goals help make the world a better place? If you can tell a story that answers these questions, you are one step closer to building your brand through the power of storytelling.

Think of one? Or maybe several? If so, it may be time to discover the best way to share some of your branded stories.