In our articles this month we’ve talked a lot about how to write content that absolutely hits the spot so you build interest and most importantly trust in what you have to sell. It’s struck me that when it comes to creating content that people genuinely value and respond to, the most critical factor is its TONE. This may sound simple, but it’s often the hardest thing of all to get right.
March’s Valuable Content Award winner understands the importance of tone better than most. Matt Barr runs All Conditions Media, an action sports marketing agency based in Brighton, UK. Matt and his team have a long history in and deep passion for the snowboarding and surfing worlds. They’ve recently helped Nokia to showcase the amazing image-capturing capabilities of the new Nokia Lumia 1020 camera phone through the beautiful Transitions project – striking all the right notes with the board riding community. Set in South Island, New Zealand, Transitions charts a journey through the country’s rugged snow, surf and skate scenes, the ultimate test for the powerful little camera.
Over to Matt for the story of how All Conditions Media helped Nokia to get the tone right and create a totally inspiring piece of content, with some great tips for your own content too, whatever industry you are in.
Tell us about your approach to the Transitions project
Matt Barr: “Nokia wanted to produce a multi-medium content project that showcased the capabilities of the new Nokia Lumia 1020, and highlighted their support for snowboarding events and athletes.
They were deeply aware of the difficulty in reaching the action sports audience. We wouldn’t say that snowboarders, mountain bikers, skiers are suspicious, but the audience demographic is perhaps one of the most tech and media savvy, and it’s impossible to get away with anything that’s not authentic.
Here at All Conditions Media we’re immersed in the board-riding world – we’re surfers and snowboarders ourselves. We started out running Whitelines snowboarding magazine, being lucky enough to travel the world snowboarding, producing the best magazine we could. We took those skills to mainstream journalism, working with the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Standard etc, setting up All Conditions Media in 2005. We didn’t look at it as ‘creating content’ at the time. We were just doing what we loved and trying to represent the world we know intimately in the best possible light. That’s still what we do today!
We wanted to help Nokia to get the tone and the story right. Our role was really to act as a filter, to make sure the ideas and language were just right for the market and that the story remained intact. If you’re a company trying to operate in this arena – any arena, come to think of it – it’s absolutely essential that you get this spot on, and be respectful of the culture and market you’re trying to engage with. If you don’t your project won’t work, no matter how innovative or well funded it is. It is incredible how many brands and companies get this wrong.
“Be respectful of the culture and market you’re trying to engage with.”
We wanted to tell a compelling story with the phones and website as our tools, rather than fixating on selling the devices. The core message with Transitions of course is ‘look how good the Lumia’s photography and film capabilities are’ but if it was going to work, we knew that people had to appreciate the website and content on merit, rather than as a straight marketing tool.
“We knew that people had to appreciate the website and content on merit, rather than as a straight marketing tool.”
We wanted the project to have real substance – the absolute opposite of clickbait/SEO driven online journalism. Credible, journalistic story telling combined with innovative web techniques to redefine the way a brand tells its story online; content that’s inherently valuable.
We used our connection with the action sports world to find the people, locations and story that made up the Transitions journey. We wanted to make it as uncontrived as possible, a legitimate exploration of action sports culture. It’s a road trip when it comes down to it, where a group of friends are trying to find waves, powder and seek new experiences on the way. This is what action sports are all about.
It was a really collaborative, multi-agency project, which saw us working with two other talented creative agencies from Finland – Great Apes and Capefinn. Great Apes took care of the web development, while Cape Finn collaborated with us on the creative, and directed the shoots and films we came up with. And we brought in commentator Ed Leigh as presenter (note from the editors, post Sochi – we love Ed!). It was a great team.
The project has been a huge success for Nokia and the Lumia 1020, surpassing all expectations in its goal to promote the capabilities of the new camera phone.”
Matt’s tips for creating content that hits the spot
- First you have to ask the question: who is going to read this and why will they bother? There’s so much content out there from TV to YouTube to specialist interest websites that you have to push the bounds of creativity to stand out. You have to create something that matters.
- Use experts if you need to. Find and trust the people who know the world you want to sell into. Listen and collaborate like Nokia did and draw in their expertise.
- Work out what story works for you. Then be honest about how you can tell that story. If your budget doesn’t match your creativity, come up with an idea that makes the best use of what you can afford – it’s the story and tone that will matter most.
- Have something to say. You don’t to be Martin Amis to write a witty blog, you don’t have to be Francis Ford Coppela to make a short film, but you have to start with a good story, or an interesting observation or opinion to share.
- And finally, get the tone right. If the central theme of your idea is simply: we want to sell our product, people will suss that and lose interest before they’ve ever clicked on your link. That kind of in-your-face message just doesn’t work anymore.
Thanks Matt and the All Conditions Media team. Big congratulations on your Valuable Content Award for an inspirational and powerful piece of multi-media content. We think you hit the tone just right. Your award badge is winging its way from Bristol to Brighton. It’ll be waiting for you when you get back from your latest surf trip!
Other content you might like:
If you appreciate good content, check out the Transitions project website – transitions1020.com. Stunning.
- Here’s Sharon’s example of a bank getting the tone of its writing very, very wrong
- Promote the category, not the product – says Ernie of Finisterre, previous VC Award Winner
- Market possibilities, not stuff – agrees Tim LeRoy, writing for this year’s marketing predictions post
- Try the valuable marketing mantra for size: help, don’t sell; talk, don’t yell; show, don’t tell