Pivot With Purpose: Inspirational & Innovative Brand Storytelling During COVID-19

By Jesse Roesler, Creative Director, Credo Nonfiction


It’s been just over a month since most of us began sheltering in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and the shift has been a seismic one for businesses big and small. For storytellers and brand content innovators, it can feel like our hands are tied as many of the traditional ways we used to craft stories are closed off.

Yet what we can do is pivot from focusing on what’s impossible to seeing what’s possible now. A handful of brands are leading the way by not only transforming how they’re showing up for their customers, but by innovating their storytelling in a way that further reveals their core purpose.

There’s an abundance of inspiration in the three moving examples that follow. They show us what’s possible during this uncertain time with a little innovation and a lot of heart:

Deluxe: “Small Business, Big Heart”

Celebrating stories of small businesses creating hope through generosity during COVID-19.

Under the inspired leadership of Chief Brand & Communications Officer Amanda Brinkman, Deluxe corp has been telling the stories of small businesses (Deluxe’s core customer) across the country through their Hulu streaming series Small Business Revolution for nearly six years. In fact, they were in production on Season 5 when calls for self-isolation began. Did it stop them from telling stories as it did many others that were in production on similar programs? Not for long.

They pivoted remarkably quickly to a new format for a supplemental series called “Small Business, Big Heart” where they video conference with small business owners who are creating hope through their generosity during the pandemic.

With multiple video conference angles, great interviewing and the help of phone-captured B-roll, the series looks different but feels similar to the beautifully produced show we’ve come to know and love. View the first three episodes of the new series here: https://smallbusinessrevolution.org/small-business-revolution/big-hearts/


Apple: “Creativity Goes On”

Celebrating creativity during self-isolation times.

Another way we’re seeing brands innovate how they’re telling stories of their customers is by sourcing user-posted video for use toward larger storytelling goals.

Apple has celebrated creative thinkers since the genesis of the brand, and the creativity on display inside of homes around the world as we’re forced to stay inside can often be a thing of unexpected beauty. Apple wisely realized this is something they could and should celebrate as a consistent champion of the creative mind. After just a couple weeks into self-isolation, Apple began sourcing moments from publicly shared video and created a stirring anthem, fit for the times.

Clearing rights to the footage was the biggest hurdle, but more than 70% of the initial footage usage requests were immediately approved. Check out how in 97 moving seconds, Apple was able to make us feel hopeful about our current situation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl1NW7h7lrY

Airbnb: “Online Experiences”

Transforming how their customers can offer services and find new virtual models for revenue.

Airbnb launched “Experiences” four years ago as a way to offer travelers immersive activities with locals as part of their stays. As of March 2020, the platform offered more than 40,000 of these bookable events globally - all of which were suspended recently through at least April 30th.

In early April, Airbnb pivoted to help their experience hosts offer their activities virtually. Some immediately translated effectively through video conferencing, such as a vineyard tour and wine tasting or a pasta making lesson from an Italian grandmother. Others are more unexpected - you can meet South African penguins or baby goats from Little Tail farms, or you could even enjoy an Icelandic concert - all from the comfort of your own living room.

The brand also created a beautiful anthem with Zoom-captured footage to help launch the Online Experience platform, telling their customer stories beautifully in the process while further revealing the brand’s core purpose. Watch that anthem here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhaTCzKrEtE

Book your online experience here:

https://www.airbnb.com/s/experiences

Pivot Your Storytelling to What’s Possible - and Powerful

These examples show what’s possible with a change in perspective and a commitment to finding fresh ways to reveal your brand’s purpose. Even better, these approaches (and others yet to be discovered) can yield stories and experiences that resonate deeply with the experiences customers and followers are having today.

Creating a shared immediacy and connection to a common COVID-19 experience through storytelling avenues like these is a powerful brand-building move now. Not only can it encourage a deeper engagement with your content; it can also build a lasting intimacy between brands and fans that will endure long after the current challenging situation is over.


About Jesse Roesler


Jesse Roesler is an Emmy and James Beard Award-winning filmmaker that puts the power of visual storytelling to work for global brands and causes. He works with cause and content marketers to uncover first person narratives that reveal core purpose and values in an authentic, empathic and often cinematic manner. His work for clients like Starbucks, Feeding America, Food Network and the New York Times have garnered 25+ millions of views online. His feature length documentary, The Starfish Throwers was named most heartwarming film of the year by The Huffington Post. Jesse believes storytelling has the power to inspire immense positive change and also speaks frequently on the subject via keynotes and leadership workshops to organizations like Best Buy & The United Way.

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