Get to Know Stun Creative: Q&A with VP Renee Samms
Stun Creative has been in the quality content business for 20 years, their diverse portfolio including commercials, social video, and more. But Stun hasn’t been shy whilst expanding in the branded entertainment space either. With work involving a major list of brands and organizations, Stun’s latest brand work is sharing the message of client Beyond Meat, taking a unique approach to a food brand by focusing on athletic ambassadors and keying in on mental and physical fortitude rather than food alone.
Brand Storytelling met with Renee Samms, Vice President of Digital 360 at Stun Creative to learn more about the company’s origins, their work with Beyond Meat, and the through-line that makes Stun’s storytelling style singular:
One look at Stun’s catalog and you can see the depth of the body of work executed and achieved. Can you tell us a little more about how Stun arrived at that point and where the company got its start?
Stun was founded almost 20 years ago by Mark Feldstein and Brad Roth with the vision that storytelling is the foundation for the most effective branding and advertising campaigns. They were definitely ahead of their time with this approach. Positioned squarely at the intersection of advertising and entertainment, Stun specializes in telling brand stories that engage, compel and activate consumers across all platforms.
Stun’s philosophy is simple – storytelling is one of the most powerful tools for turning ideas into results. We work to convey a brand’s promise with authenticity and passion, and then establish an emotional connection with target audiences, encouraging them to join the brand’s journey authentically.
Over the past 20 years, we have grown into a full-service creative agency with 115 full time staff members. We are much more than a production/original content studio; we have an award-winning print department and most recently started up our Digital 360 powerhouse handling everything from digital/social strategy to influencer marketing, community management, paid media strategy/executions, experiential executions and premiere social graphic development.
Stun prides itself on its phenomenal client service. We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ teams and dedicate the most talented resources in the industry to achieve unparalleled results. Over the years, this has resulted in both client loyalty, and the ability to grow our book of business purely by positive word-of-mouth.
For the past two decades, Stun has been recognized throughout the entertainment and advertising industries for its smart, funny and celebrity-driven work. The company has produced successful and popular promotional campaigns featuring such stars as Larry David, Andy Samberg, Jack Black, Conan O’Brien, Magic Johnson, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to name just a few. Much of our work is rooted in our core strength of integrating the use of comedy and humor, with compelling, unique, thought-provoking content.
Having set the foundation as an agency and production company, how does operating in both of those roles impact the work that comes out of the production end of the studio?
We are moving towards a full 360 approach, working with multiple partners as both their creative and strategic agency, as well as their production resource. As agency models continue to shift, we are seeing that our clients are benefiting most from the consolidation of services both with internal efficiencies as well as their bottom line. Most importantly, their campaigns are more cohesive and effective.
Our team truly works as one collaborative unit - we have various departments focusing on their specialties, but our special sauce and best results come from when we are able to truly work in a 360 capacity.
We also know that there are more touchpoints and channels in the customer journey than ever before. We can no longer rely on the traditional segmented ways of marketing and communication to break through the clutter. Stun’s dynamic and flexible process empowers brands to be more engaging and meaningful across all of their marketing efforts.
Our approach has brought us some of the biggest clients in television broadcast, cable, and streaming networks, including NBC, TBS, TNT, FX, Bravo, ABC, Hulu, Warner Bros, Amazon, Paramount, Sony, Fox Home Entertainment, and Netflix. Stun also works with many top tier brands, such as Beyond Meat, NFL, Princess Cruises, Dreamscape VR, Virgin America, Dove’s Men + Care, BMW, Mountain Dew, Mattel, and many others.
Additionally, with 17 in-house avid bays, audio studio, animation & viz effects team, award winning Key Art/Digital team, color correct bay and soundstage we have built our own micro studio to bring our storytelling to life. Our approach combined with in-house resources have enabled us to service our clients fully with end-to-end solutions that allow us to be nimble and execute creative concepts quickly and efficiently. Over the years this foundation has set us apart from competitors and powered a slew of Emmy’s, Clios, Webby’s, Cannes Lions and Agency of Year 3 out of the last 5 years (Promax).
Your recently launched piece for Beyond Meat features NBA star Kyrie Irving. Beyond’s platform of defying convention and shattering expectations isn’t an easy message to convey in a minute. What went into communicating those ideas and production of the piece?
We met with Beyond Meat late last year (after a few other agencies had come in before us and missed the mark). Our team’s ethos and vision aligned almost instantaneously. We were really able to tap into our core strengths and nimble approach and apply it to Beyond Meat. Beyond is such a great fit for Stun’s culture and collaborative approach to developing creative that activates consumers.
We spent a lot of time diving into what Beyond Meat really stands for and what the campaign should stand for as well. We considered how we were going to tell that story in a way that was authentic to their ambassadors (and investors), but would also resonate with consumers no matter their athletic abilities.
Sharing the stories of how these elite athletes achieve success at the highest-level is truly inspiring and will encourage people to think about their diet, eating healthier and pushing themselves to being the best they can possibly be. It’s an extremely cool mission and it’s our job to make sure that when consumers see the Beyond caped steer logo, they realize that it stands for something more than just great taste.
In order for it to have meaningful impact, we tapped into authentic stories from their ambassador, Kyrie Irving, to anchor the video creative (shot by Stun production partner, Ron Yassen of Roadside Entertainment). Creating this video asset was just a small piece of the campaign as we have simultaneously been working with the Beyond team to redesign their brand’s logo system and website, as well as its new “GO BEYOND” campaign. Throughout 2019, the GO BEYOND campaign, featuring pro athlete ambassadors endorsing the benefits of a plant-based protein diet, will be centered around talent that authentically love the brand and actually eat it on a regular basis. We are working to stay as true to their real health/training journey as possible. It’s really important to us that we are telling authentic stories with a diverse set of motivational people who truly GO BEYOND in their craft, and are willing to share how Beyond Meat’s plant-based products have positively affected their lives.
We believe that brands need to convey their purpose in a genuine and emotionally engaging way. Most consumers want to align with companies that share their values and create positive social impact. For GO BEYOND, through intimate and relatable creative, Stun fostered empathy and formed emotional bonds with a much wider target audience. Most importantly, Stun did this by tapping into Kyrie’s authentic self with a personal story he shared with the team, describing how he set his goals as a child and continues to work harder every day to be the best he can be.
What would you say is the common storytelling thread that Stun brings to all of its productions?
It may sound cliché, but Stun focuses on weaving authentic stories with compelling narratives that tap into relevant pop culture moments and topical events/subjects, ultimately sparking real emotional connections with consumers. We work to build a strong relationship between brands and consumers, and we do that by aligning with consumers value systems. Human behavior is rapidly evolving, so we lean into our 360 approach to ensure we are reaching customers in meaningful ways at scale. We use deeper societal learnings to transcend marketing jargon to create a true omnichannel consumer experience. We know that strong brands help their customers solve problems, present a positive image in the world, feel empowered, feel accomplished, and feel like a hero in their own personal stories.
People have a deeper connection with a story when they sense a human touch. We feel that a powerful brand is differentiated from the competition and relevant to customers when they are willing to connect with cultural conversations and personal adversity/set-backs. Especially with today’s increasingly digital and fast-paced world, Stun’s innovative storytelling approach connects with core values that resonate across all consumers, while also tapping into the cultural zeitgeist when appropriate and from unique angles.
The key for the GO BEYOND stories that we are choosing to share will be narratives that connect with varying target demographics in ways they find meaningful, very much like what we did with Kyrie. These stories will be clever, inspirational, carefully planned, and full of key aspects that play on our emotions.
What’s next for Stun?
The sky is the limit! We are really excited to continue to expand our Digital 360 division, which is driven by our Transmedia Branding strategy – delivering the right message to the right person at the right time and on the right platform. We believe, in the new media landscape, that CONTENT + CONTEXT = KING, and our team is really focused on successfully creating and distributing stories across a variety of platforms. With people constantly moving across platforms, we are focused on building compelling creative and innovative campaign strategies with unique brand messaging and imagery that follows people across devices, but authentically aligns with the organic voice of each one of those mediums.
By scaling Digital 360 in a big way, and integrating it within the full Stun suite of existing creative services, we will be providing our clients one true, 360-degree creative marketing, brand strategy and media agency. This includes delivering media strategy recommendations to our clients, and offering a full media planning and execution team – a true one-stop shop that produces meaningful experiences, and provides unparalleled value, to our clients.
We have a lot of exciting brand content partnerships in the works for 2019. We are working every day to push creative boundaries, transcend branding and drive pop-culture conversations. At the end of the day – if the work is good, it will get shared.
About Renee Samms
Digital media professional and creative leader with 13+ years of experience in creative storytelling, social media strategy, cross-platform campaign strategy, media planning, and branded content. A rare combination of a strategic thinker and a tactical expert. With a proven track record in interpreting marketing strategy, audience growth needs and translating client objectives into award-winning digital marketing solutions for top companies like Lionsgate, IMDb/Amazon, Walt Disney Company (Theatrical), Maker Studios, Insomniac, The NoiseHouse and more.