Jordan Kelley, Content Director, Brandstorytelling.tv
USA TODAY NETWORK’s branded content studio, GET Creative, has launched a campaign with Spark Foundry and Nature’s Way to educate consumers on Nature’s Way values in authenticity, quality and trust.
The campaign is a four-part video series that tells the true stories of how Nature’s Way products are made and the people behind the efforts. Part 1 took audiences into a Holy Basil farm in India with beautiful video and interview coverage, while part 2 allows viewers the ability to insert themselves into the landscape of a turmeric farm in India utilizing VR/360 video (a brand first for Nature’s Way). With parts 3 and 4 coming out this Fall,
Brand Storytelling connected with GET Creative’s Creative Director Chris Sweigart and Spark Foundry’s Global Head of Content Eric Levin to learn more about this collaborative partnership and to discuss the power of reaching audiences through compelling and immersive storytelling.
How did GET Creative come to partner with Spark Foundry on this Nature’s Way story series?
CS: This has been a true collaboration between GET Creative and Spark Foundry from the beginning. Since the very beginning, we collaboratively brainstormed concepts and ideas that would truly bring the Nature’s Way story to life in a way that would connect with the USA TODAY NETWORK audience.
EL: Spark Foundry and USA TODAY NETWORK have a great working relationship and we were excited to see how they could further develop Spark and Nature’s Way’s campaign idea in the RFP stage. They really understood our process and were able work creatively and collaboratively with Spark’s Content Team to bring our concept for Nature’s Way to life for the USA TODAY audience.
What was the impetus behind telling these farmers’ stories?
EL: Nature’s Way had developed a great creative campaign of Grow Together, which featured a pivotal “Anthem” spot. After diving deeper into the client’s goals and objectives, it was a natural next step to tell a more intimate story behind Grow Together. For a brand like Nature’s Way, this wasn’t just another creative campaign, it was a way to convey what they truly believe as a company. Not only do they care about where their products are sourced from, but they know their consumers do as well. Particularly in today’s climate where there are so many choices for our audience, it was important to show the real people and families behind these products from around the world and Nature’s Way’s commitment to them.
CS: We’ve found that people are particularly interested in understanding where products come from. And, we know that our audience really engages with character-driven, narrative stories. By going to the source of Nature’s Way’s products – from India to Austria – we were able to develop really authentic stories that convey powerful emotions.
We were so inspired by the passion that these farmers have for their work. I actually had the opportunity to join the team on a shoot in Austria. There, we were able to spend a lot of time on an elderberry farm and really connect with the family of famers there. Their deep connection to the earth and their farms is real. These farmers take a lot of pride in producing the highest quality crops, which means great products for all of us as consumers. And, it’s evident that the people at Nature’s Way are focused on developing meaningful relationships with many of the farmers who supply their crops.
But we wanted to take it further than that too, by following the journey of these ingredients through Nature’s Way’s processes for taking these ingredients to the consumers.
If you engage with the content, it’s plain to see that Nature’s Way is focused on the integrity of their products. We’re really proud of how the content is coming together – and we think the passion and integrity of these farmers and Nature’s Way comes through in a very powerful way.
When did the decision to incorporate VR/360 video come into play?
EL: Given the concept we brought forward was about showcasing our different sources all over the world, we discussed during the program development how VR could be included so we could transport viewers to these locations. Being able to bring our story to life in a different and emerging medium was a great opportunity to provide an even deeper experience for our audience and take them on an amazing journey.
CS: Virtual reality is such a powerful medium. In our experience at GET Creative and USA TODAY NETWORK, we’ve found it to be particular powerful to transport people to places they couldn’t otherwise go to and experience things that they wouldn’t otherwise get to. The immersive qualities of VR coupled with strong storytelling really establish a strong emotional connection to the story.
So, given the stories that we’re bringing to life, VR has really brought an added dimension and depth to the storytelling that has complemented the overall digital content series.
What do you find to be the benefits of using storytelling to reach and educate consumers?
CS: From GET Creative’s perspective, we have an audience first approach in all of the content we create. That means that all of our content should provide value to the audience. If we’re providing the audience with that value – whether by informing them with relevant information or engaging them with storytelling, we have the opportunity to connect them with a brand.
So, whenever we can bring a story to life through characters and narrative storytelling, we tend to have a very engaged audience. The audience is more invested in and connected with the story because they can relate to the people being featured. Once that emotional connection has been established audiences are open to learning more about brands and their products and that emotional connection to the story extends to the brand. So, we tend to see things like increase awareness, familiarity and even consideration.
EL: Storytelling is at the core of everything our Content team does at Spark Foundry. Our team was born from this notion and we’re made up of different backgrounds like creative, production, media, strategy, copywriting, etc. that allows us to excel at brand storytelling. As media habits evolve and consumers have more options, marketers need to reach people in a more meaningful and interesting way. When you combine great storytelling with the insights of consumer behavior and passion points, you can create something that’s worthwhile to consume and share. Storytelling allows us to show consumers how our clients can fit into or be a part of their lives, instead of battering them with corporate taglines and hoping they’ll pay attention.
What can we expect from the rest of the series?
CS: The remaining pieces will be launched later this fall, including an article and video featuring an elderberry farmer in Austria (shot on location), an interactive map, and an infographic.
About Eric Levin:
As Chief Content Officer, Eric leads content development and production for all Spark Foundry clients. His leadership of the content practice has resulted in rapid growth of the firm's team by more than 300% in just a few years. His bold vision for content marketing aims to disrupt traditional advertising models by creating new ways for brands to make deeper, more meaningful connections with consumers. His team has created innovative work with brands that include DQ, REI, Starbucks, Red Lobster, Honda, and more. Eric's excellent leadership and pioneering work has resulted in numerous Cannes Lions nods and in May 2017, he was one of 15 industry pros honored in Adweek's prestigious list of Media All Stars. His team's work with Starbucks also led to the agency's third consecutive Adweek Media Plan of the Year in 2017. Prior to joining Spark Foundry, Eric worked with some of the world's leading brands at Mondelez International, including Oreo, Trident, Ritz, and Wheat Thins. As a direct result of Eric's impact, the agency was awarded a Gold Cannes Lion in Branded Entertainment in 2012. He also spearheaded work that led to multiple awards, including Media Plan of the Year at the Creative Media Awards and a Project Isaac Award. Previously, as Vice President of Client Development at Grey/ Alliance, Eric created several large-scale experiential ideas for clients such as Purolator, Pringles, Invisalign and Canon. He also served as VP/ General Manager of Terry Hines & Associates in New York, where he oversaw East Coast operations that included promotions, publicity and client relations for a diverse roster including Warner Bros. Pictures, CBS Films, Focus Features, and Lionsgate. Prior to his time in New York, Eric opened the Chicago office for Terry Hines & Associates. Although it initially opened as a branch for Warner Bros. Pictures, under Eric's leadership, the agency soon grew to include several other major studio clients, including DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Focus Features. Eric is a graduate of Michigan State University, and is currently based in the agency's Chicago office.
About Chris Sweigart:
Chris Sweigart is the Creative Director for USA TODAY’s in-house branded content studio, GET Creative. He provides leadership, vision and direction for a team of content creators, social media strategists and program managers to bring brands’ stories to life with compelling and engaging multimedia content campaigns. He also works closely with USA TODAY's sales team to create valuable, revenue driving products and solutions for advertising partners. Sweigart has a proven track record for being an innovative thinker, storyteller and leader. A pioneer in the industry, Sweigart has led and worked alongside talented journalists and storytellers to produce immersive Virtual Reality and 360-degree video content for the entire USA TODAY Network including a thrilling ride aboard a U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet, in the cockpit of Honda-powered IndyCar, and a journey across the globe inspired by the 2017 Camry. Sweigart's previous leadership roles include contributions to the launch of Gannett's Video Production Center, producing live and on demand video to be distributed across Gannett's network of websites -- including local newspapers, broadcast stations and USA TODAY. As the team's leader, he was responsible for developing and implementing both short and long term strategies for developing audience across Gannett's digital network. As the Manager of Digital Content for 11Alive News, Sweigart oversaw news content on the station's digital platforms, in addition to reporting assignments for both on air newscasts and digital platforms.