Long format we love you!
In the age of everyone having a blog, highly stylised long format can be what it takes to make your written content stand out. At Distilled we often ask ourselves does something being a blog post make it immediately feel less valuable than say, a white paper or a comprehensive guide? Is turning something into a simple blog post selling yourself short, is that format right for your content? With written content coming in so many forms from microblogging in tweets, to company e-newsletters, it’s important to find the right format for what you want to say, of course, sometimes that is with a simple blog post.
Each quarter at Distilled we look back over the content that has made us tick. Content that made us laugh, start heated debates, WOW at how pretty it is, or feel flabbergasted by the conclusions. Building on the 2017 summer and autumn roundup we launched last year, here’s what we loved (or loathed) with equal passion this winter. Starting with some beautiful long format journalism.
With so much content being churned out these days, one might argue that journalistic standards are slipping. Perhaps to fly the flag of quality, well-researched journalism once more, a select team at The Huffington Post has created a new arm called ‘Highline’. Each article features captivating movement as you scroll. Poor Millennials, which was 8 months in the making, discusses ‘Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression’. I found it relatable, even though I’m at the older end of the millennial spectrum.
The frank writing style and 8-bit illustrations pull you in. Pull quotes, stats and bold use of typography make this monster of a post easily digestible at a surface level if you don’t have half a half day to read the whole thing. The tone of voice is brash and allows you to feel justified in your bitterness towards the economy. The animations aptly depict millennials emotions in a very literal way, e.g. falling through space with no one to cushion your fall. There are graphs – in psychedelic pinks, and what feels like levels and character controllability, all harping back to the 90’s rave culture and gaming that millennials hold so dear.
On the lead up to Christmas, we often run about like headless chickens buying up unnecessary bits and bobs for our loved ones, just because we need to get them something. ‘Do The Green Thing’ is a public service that uses creativity to tackle climate change. Needless to say, they would like to minimise the plastic tat lying in our landfills after the festive period. How? By inspiring us to give time not objects. And so ‘Do The Green Thing’ created ‘Ungifted’. It’s essentially a list of ways you can spend time with your friends/family, whether it be a winter bike ride, a night on the tiles, or a home-cooked meal. The long format page has little gifs depicting characters joyously appreciating these activities, and a long list of numerous ideas to incentivise our consumer society to change their habits. ‘Do The Green Thing’ could have easily added in stats about unwanted material gifts, or rubbish accumulated over Christmas to further bolster the message. The page presentation is fun, lighthearted, non-preachy, and not too content heavy. This makes content consumption, and subsequent change, more likely.
Budget Direct – a car/travel/house insurance company – has collated data on the factors that affect living standards. The tool enables you to drag and drop a modular ordered list to define your own hierarchy for these standards. Is it house affordability or pollution which are most important to you? Once ordered the tool suggests in which city you might find your happy place. A more simplistic version of OECD’s Better Life Index. Suggesting a life in a far-off city, tells us something about ourselves and allows us to daydream about where we might be most happy. Perhaps we will even use Budget Direct to book our travel insurance when we visit there!
The food and culture journal made waves with its 10th front cover. Working with photographer Matthieu Lavanchy they took food that had already been turned into an emoji, and turned it back into food… meta. The accuracy of the photography vs the emojis is uncanny. Taking icons we see regularly, and reimagining them makes you want to compare the photos to the icons on your phone, it gets you involved.
Lyft is like Uber, a cab app. Lyft has created a series of videos where the premise is giving back to their drivers. They share individual, inspirational and memorable driver stories. With big faceless organisations, and especially those in low paid service industries, stories that show a human element – and even what a positive change working for this company has had on someone’s life – stick in your mind. Lamont, the driver featured here, talks about the world being his home as opposed to favouring one place (a great all-inclusive brand message). Lyft surprise him by encouraging his exploration of the world with an all-inclusive around the world trip.
Partnering with a charity can really help a brand if there’s synergy with their core messages. It shows the brand cares and is willing to use their clout to speak out to help raise awareness (or money) for those less fortunate. Burger King ‘bullied’ one of their own burgers, to help raise awareness of the impact of bullying. The narrative starts with a fact; ‘30% of students are bullied’. It then shows a bunch of school kids bullying another child. Customers in the Burger King restaurant look on, clearly moved by the scene that is unfolding before them. Yet the majority of spectators do nothing.
Then it’s the burger’s turn. Before it is wrapped up it receives a few sharp punches, flattening and breaking apart the bun whilst the filling spills out. 95% of customers complained about their burger having been bullied, yet only 12% stood up for the bullied child. This campaign isn’t aimed at the bullies themselves. Rather it exposes the impact of the uninvolved bystander, the witness. It asks them to stand up. To say something. This works for a fast food restaurant whose customers are a real mix of ages, including kids getting a quick bite to eat after school. It is the sort of place in towns where children congregate, everyone needs to eat and everyone has the potential to be bullied/see bullying. An eating place should be safe space, where communities can come together to rest and recoup.
Marmite has released a face recognition tool and a gene test where the brand states that it knows if you are a lover or hater of Marmite. Marmite has always been brasher than any other brand in actively saying that its customers HATE its product, but now it reveals that science can work out your taste preferences. I actually quite like Marmite but I tried to trick the face recognition tool into believing I am a hater, by pulling my most disgusted face… and it worked, branding me ‘73% a born hater’. For me, the fascination here is more how the face recognition tool works out how much you love or hate something as opposed to it being an accurate test. Is it shareable? Yes! It’s a smart way of having a bit of fun and, of course, people like to share pictures of their own face!
Every now and again a brand does something controversial that gets everyone talking. Remember the recent outcry when Dove showed a black person turning into a white person? Personally, I don’t think this marketing effort aimed to be controversial, but conversation was drummed up nonetheless.
Well, some brands create controversy purposefully, shamelessly. How? By talking about teabagging… Ummmm. Yup, that’s right. That’s what Poundland made a figurine elf do for it’s Christmas campaign, which was released through a series of images on social. Other scenes showed a naked poker match (Joker Joker, I really want to poke her) and a penis shaped cactus drawn on an etch a sketch (That’s one prickly Christmas tree).
While some people found this hilarious, it had many others up in arms, calling it rude, offensive and misogynistic. Poundland showed no remorse and was quoted saying ‘We’re proud of a campaign that’s only cost £25.53 and is being touted as the winning marketing campaign this Christmas!’ Poundland also threw caution to the wind by creating some unofficial brand partnerships with Barbie and Ken, and Twinings (who I believe asked them to remove their packaging from one of the scenes).
Sometimes a client’s service or product can seem so boring it’s hard to imagine how you can let your creativity run wild. Introducing Construction company R&O and its holiday E-Card by typographic genius Becca Clason. Complete with construction sound effects and Christmas music – the asphalt, sawdust and cement greeting card video really gives you that Christmassy feeling while keeping R&O and the creativity they are showing in mind. The sawdust makes up the words ‘Wishing You’ while the word ‘JOY’ is lowered into place with what seems like a crane. Christmas is a great time and excuse to send out little reminders of your company.
This Christmas, Marie Curie created a memory-powered Christmas tree next to the London Eye in Waterloo. Each time a memory was shared on social using the hashtag #LightUpChristmas, lights on the tree would shine a little brighter. This gave people a place to congregate to share memories of lost loved ones, and to celebrate the memories of those still with us too. Having a stunt in such a public space with a high footfall makes it a real talking point, and the activity makes you feel you’re part of a community – coming together to make a little magic happen.
It’s important to drill down to the specifics of what you are selling with your product or service. Are you selling insurance, or peace of mind? Are you selling games or laughter? What lastminute.com sells is not holidays, it’s memories. It’s the romantic time you had in Venice, or how you were flabbergasted by the scenery in Alberta. It’s that wonderful memory that you will always have with you that matters. That is what you’re spending your money on.
In the video, a handful of people discuss their most poignant or exciting memories. A woman in a lab coat then asks if it’s ok to delete those memories for a fee. The participants (quite rightly) are horrified by the notion and say ‘no’, showing that the memories made are priceless. The video acts as an incentive to book a holiday and make more of those priceless memories.
What content have you enjoyed lately? Let us know in the comments.