In Pursuit of the Soul of Marketing
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
Charles Schwab's Kirstin Falk (Managing Director, Brand Activation) and Breakwater Studios' Ben Proudfoot (Director & CEO) have produced a watershed of award-winning short documentaries together for over five years. Starting in 2015, Kirstin and Ben have successfully formed that unique relationship — the brand to filmmaker bond that produces results.
Kirstin and Ben recently joined Brand Storytelling to discuss this partnership for guests of the Elevate Summer Session, moderated by Sub-Genre's Brian Newman. There, they spoke on the key elements that make their partnership tick.
Kirstin Falk has a unique role at Charles Schwab. Her objective is to try and create a through-line across Schwab’s touch points using narrative elements. In her pursuit of new and unexpected ways to bring the Charles Schwab brand to life, storytelling rose to the top. Although it was difficult to convince the C-suite that her department should take a step away from simply marketing a product, ultimately the folks at Schwab were themselves moved by storytelling that reinforces Schwab’s ethos, and in being moved saw the potential for others outside of the organization to develop a positive emotional connection with the material and thus the brand. Falk has operated under this principal for nearly 5 years, making a number of short films and videos that have contributed to brand lift. She’s been able to do that so successfully due in large part to creative partner Breakwater Studios.
The philosophy held by Ben Proudfoot and his team at Breakwater is simple: Make films that you would make as a filmmaker, despite brand involvement, and find the place where a brand’s goal overlaps. Breakwater works with partners who are open to that, and when they do, they get great emotional responses out of audiences. A hallmark of Breakwater’s visual narrative style is to have documentary subjects address the camera directly, a literal singular focus matched by the narrative singular focus often executed in Breakwater docs. Proudfoot achieves this effect in his documentaries by focusing primarily on a single person and their subjective experience. Other visual narrative components include incorporating archival footage and high-end b-roll, bringing a narrative quality to their documentary films that makes them one of the best studios making brand films today.
What makes the relationship between Falk and Proudfoot so unique? They are two great leaders communicating effectively with the common goal of producing a result that delivers on the needs of the brand and the creative. And although this may be the goal for any brand storyteller pursuing the creation of great content, ultimately there are a few key ideas that need to be executed on for the result to live up to the expectation. “Great leadership knows their own skills and when they outsource their skills,” says Falk. “The key is eliminating unnecessary friction by not having too many people involved in the decision-making process.” Both Falk and Proudfoot cite that managing expectations and letting people operate within their strengths makes for great creation and has yielded award winning results for the duo’s latest film May Day. “It’s important to remember that the soul of marketing is art, with empathy and compassion built in.”