One of my clients was recently entering the market of big, expensive, industrial equipment. His product: a truly amazing example of German engineering. More specifically, it was a state-of-the-art package opener with the capacity to cut open 600 boxes an hour without damaging the contents. It worked on boxes of all shapes and sizes, even battered, beaten, deformed ones.
Who cares about box opening machines?
Companies operating in the realm of physical products are now obliged to offer the service of free returns. This, of course, results in thousands and millions of returned packages of all shapes and sizes that these hundreds of thousands of companies have to cut open. If, however, that knife slips, you’re going to have a real mess on your hands, but the BOS (Box Opening System) offers the perfect solution: It manages to effortlessly cut the top off any box of any shape or size without a false slip or slice to complain of, saving its customers the mess of damaged goods.
Now, this would seem argument enough for almost any company to run out and buy the BOS, but we all know that’s not the way these things happen. First, the people have to know that your product exists, and this has to be communicated somehow.
The first natural thought is to visit every relevant fair and conference in existence, which my client did, but those places are full of other companies targeting this same audience. Problematically, they often have bigger budgets for bigger stands, fancier videos, gourmet food, champagne, caviar, limousines, and laser light shows with fireworks and show girls.
Open strong, go viral, and be remembered
If we were going to compete on this level, we obviously needed a story. This couldn’t just be any story, though. It needed to have all the necessary components. It needed to a) grab the visitor’s attention, b) make them curious, c) clearly show what the company did, and d) get passed on to others. If we could manage to do all this on a budget that did not allow for laser light shows and fireworks, then we would know we had a winner.
From the StorySculptor’s perspective, this meant we needed to create a viral product (one that would be passed on) that would be memorable (anchoring), and which would catch the attention of conference visitors right away(strong opening). For this initial campaign, immediate sales were not necessarily the main goal. Though nice to have, it isn’t terribly realistic that people will purchase a product costing well over €100,000 the first time they see it. Therefore, the main goal was to inform the market and ensure the information got passed on to others. With these clear goals in mind, it was then the StorySculptor’s job to find a way to do this. What sort of pamphlet, brochure, or video would you imagine could do all of these things? A mechanical video, of course1
A mechanical video? What the heck is that? Though you may not know it by my freshly-sculpted name, its more commonplace name may be firmly anchored in McDonald’s Happy Meals from your childhood:
A flipbook? What kind of business/marketing/sales solution was that? In short, it was the perfect one! Firstly, it cost almost nothing to make, and even better, visitors that saw it were drawn to it, picked it up, flipped through it, and put it in their pocket to show others. The flipbook was so simple and clear: you knew exactly what the B.O.S machine did with just one single solitary flip. 10 seconds was all you needed, though most visitors were entertained enough by the idea to flip through it again and again, burning the existence of this Box Opening System deeply into their brains. Then they would take it with them and let it burn itself it their friends’ subconscious as well.
At the end of the first conference the campaign’s initial success was clear, but the staying power of this little “gag” only came later. We’re the ones with the “mechanical video”, became a phrase that immediately made people’s eyes light up with recognition. The company had created an anchor that reminded people in less than 10 words of exactly what the company did!
Looking at this case study, you can see that storytelling is an art form unrestricted by budgets, modern technology, or bombastic campaigns. To be successful, you just need to take the basic tenets of human psychology into consideration. Keep it simple. It’s simpler that way!