Advertising to Rise Up and Meet the Moment
Purpose. This is the fundamental component to define a brand. It answers the question why they exist. As a branding agency we spend a lot of time helping our customers define their purpose, and bringing it to life in their messaging and visuals. As a brand strategist you can build out this structure, but at the end of the day it’s still up to the brand to stay true to their cause in what they say, and more importantly to follow through with their actions. This is the story of one such brand, and how their purpose is driving their advertising. This is a shining example of how, despite adversity, sticking to your brand foundation can guide you to success through any challenge.
A few weeks into the COVID-19 shelter in place I received a phone call from Bluescape CEO, Peter Jackson. It was about 9:30 in the morning on a Wednesday. Always energetic, his voice rang through the phone with an almost boyish enthusiasm. “I want to put together a broadcast spot.” It made sense. Bluescape makes remote collaboration software for businesses, what else could be more relevant as we all learn to work, teach, and socialize from home.
“I don’t want to see any of the doom and gloom shit. I hate all these commercials focusing on the negative. I want to show the good things we’re all experiencing.” This was in alignment with their brand’s perspective. Over the past year we had been working with Bluescape to define their brand strategy, the result was a foundation that focused the business on giving people the freedom to work from wherever they are, the promise their product could bring people together from anywhere, and the personality to deliver this message through a lighthearted and optimistic tone.
“I want to use the song Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James,” Jackson said. Now this was an interesting request. Crystal Blue Persuasion was originally released in 1968, a year full of epic events which, just like today, impacted people on a global scale. Vietnam, the assassinations of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and another pandemic the H3N2 virus (then called the Hong Kong Flu) each had implications to our societies, our health, security, and economies.
I had first heard Crystal Blue during a Tommy James concert in Central Park in ‘99. I remembered the lyrics. They were positive, optimistic, and hopeful; perfect for the Bluescape brand and just the type of message the world needed to hear. Jackson’s enthusiasm was as vibrant as the song. He was almost giddy on the phone, singing the lyrics, “love is the answer, ooh, ooh…”
Creatively, the table was set. We had a campaign strategy, and it matched the brand strategy. We had a message, and it was positive. We had a song, and it was uplifting. Most importantly, we had a leader who was inspirational and motivated. That isn’t to say we were without challenges. Bluescape was a largely unknown brand, and despite the significance their solution had on the current situation, the notion of remote collaboration from a business perspective was still a relatively nascent idea in the corporate world. This meant we couldn’t just bombard the audience with Bluescape, Bluescape, Bluescape. They wouldn’t have any context, moreover the spot would lose its genuine sentiment and positivity their CEO wanted to deliver. We had to tell a story if we were going to connect to the audience, explain the product, and position it as a tool to keep us all connected.
To set the stage we used the first half of the commercial to show the world today. Not the dark side with empty streets, empty grocery store shelves, and empty hearts. We focused on what we are all seeing right now, we focused on people. We showed them in their homes, with their guard down, their humanity shining through like crepuscular rays of sunlight. We showed how our personal and professional lives are blending together through a digital screen.
Throughout the spot, we see children sitting on their parent’s laps during video conference calls, pets interrupting meetings with unabashed affection, and all in the context of anywhere but a business environment. Most importantly, we showed people smiling, happy because they still had the ability to connect, and come together. We didn’t just say the word “together” to empathise with the audience, we showed people actually doing it. This approach was critical if we were going to clearly and genuinely explain what Bluescape is and how it fits into our crazy “new normal.” By the first time the product appears in the spot, the audience is already nodding their heads and saying to themselves, “that’s me, that’s my life.”
The optimistic visuals, paired with the positive lyrics of the song created a message pure and true to the brand’s purpose, personality, and mission. As the spot concludes, audiences are fully engaged and eager to learn more about who this brand is and what else this product can do. Just before we reveal the brand mark we sneak in one little surprise gag to hammer home the notion, “we get it.” Bluescape isn’t a brand that just empathizes with its customer’s pain, they empathize with their customer’s lives and their ability to adapt, evolve, and still come together from anywhere.
The spot is a shining example of how a brand can truly connect with their audience when they go with their gut, lead with the emotion that drives their business, and put their customer ahead of their product. And the results are the proof. Awareness has increased significantly, and sentiment about their brand is high. Directly, Bluescape’s website traffic is up, leads are being generated, and people are actively talking about them on social media.
Bluescape chose to zig when other brands were all zagging. When other brand spots were propelled by lonely solo pianos driving us deeper into depression, Bluescape chose to lift us up with a song of inspiration. When other brands merely told us they support us, Bluescape showed us how they do it.
This approach enabled Bluescape to stand out, not just from their competition, but from the rest of the noise telling us how much everything sucks. They turned on a light at the end of the tunnel, and held out a hand to help guide us through the darkness. The Bluescape Crystal Blue campaign has been a rare opportunity to go beyond just selling people a product, and allowed us to create something that truly has a positive impact on people’s lives when they really need it the most.