Last week, organic food and drink company Clif Bar launched its biggest campaign to date since the company started 27 years ago.
If you’re not a gym-going, adrenaline-junky type; you may not have heard of the super successful ‘health snack’ company.
Its packaging is recognisable by the illustration of a climber hanging off a cliff and is also the inspiration for its new creative.
But the purpose of the campaign is clearly designed to boast about its long-standing values: doing things right with its food, the planet and its people.
It got me thinking, we have seen some seriously shocker campaigns in this social-good genre recently (and we have all had a field day in dissecting what went wrong), but when it’s been done well, what was the formula?
I’ve looked at some of the more successful uses of film in brand purpose campaigns of recent years, including Clif Bar’s ‘Make It Good’ spot, and have found four ways that film works best.
Mobilisation films are usually the ones that leave you feeling pumped.
They’re the rousing of shared values, the rallying cry. Nike does this particularly well and recently received widespread appreciation for ‘Dream Crazy’ featuring ex-NFL footballer, Colin Kaepernick, as the narrator of the film.
Nike can take this bold approach of openly siding with Kaepernick for two reasons: it has the authenticity factor built from combatting discrimination through its marketing since the 80s, it also has a hugely loyal customer base and knows exactly what social issues will appeal to them.
Brands that lack the two above ingredients will fail at using film to mobilise. And we can forever be grateful for that Pepsi ad to remind us how bad it can get.
This type of film usually follows more of a storytelling format.
Often, we’ll see the journey of a character who goes through an experience that leads to an ‘aha moment’. A realisation where their initial view or understanding of something at the beginning of the story has changed and, as a result, the audience has grown with them.
This doesn’t always need to be done through a traditionally scripted fictional film, but can be demonstrated by using real customers in a social experiment, for example, ‘Like a Girl’ by Always.
This type of film works well when the issue you’re addressing needs more context, or an audience needs more convincing by seeing themselves mirrored in the creative. It can, however, fall very flat and even be cringeworthy if the character’s arc feels false or the ‘aha moment’ is not an actual revelation, for example, the new Burger King ‘Feel Your Way’ ad.
Educational films usually shed light on something in a genuinely helpful way.
These films are not designed to make the audience feel embarrassed or guilty for not having ‘got it’ before, but rather feel empowered to learn more or begin changing behaviour as a result.
One of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in this genre of recent years has been ‘The Talk’ by P&G which I have reviewed before.
The trick with educational films is to still wrap the ‘learning’ with something emotive, whether it’s using humour or tugging at the heartstrings, people are more inclined to remember what you taught them if they felt moved by it too.
But, if the emotion you conjure up when educating is ‘anger’, like Gillette did recently, then maybe you’ve missed the point.
The ‘update’ film is most effective when a brand is able to really shout about its overall corporate purpose work.
For example, LADbible’s humorous ‘Trash Isles’ campaign has been widely credited for its creativity and commitment to reducing plastic in the ocean.
These films usually follow the format of: “Well this is what we are doing, join us!”.
What They Did
This brings me on to the latest Clif Bar commercial.
We see a liberal looking professor (with a touch of Willy Wonka) move his way through a quaint set designed by Paul Austerberry whilst he humorously explains how things are “super not good right now, which is bad because they should be good”.
He is referencing the way that big corporations abuse the planet, the food we eat and the people who work for them, all the while comparing this with Clif Bar’s more ethical approach.
The character is designed to polarise, and this line delivered through his insincere smile does exactly that: “We’re sorry if this rogue radical thinking offends you. But, if you prefer bad over good, well, we’re probably not the product for you.”
The film then concludes with our professor recreating the scene from the packaging by climbing up the side of a mountain saying: “If you like good things from a company that’s pumped good into the world for 27 years, well, maybe you should try a Clif Bar”.
It isn’t a hard sell, but rather a cheeky call to those with similar values to purchase its snack over its non-organic competitors.
This type of corporate purpose film needs to be underpinned by what your company is doing to make a difference, talking about a real plan with clear goals. If these do not exist, then this form of content is not for you.
Yes, there has been blatant blundering bandwagon-ing, but I still believe that if brands stop this kind of work, we will all be far worse off.
After working at a NGO, I now, more than ever, believe in the positive power that brands can harness to help move conversations forward, to educate people and to inspire people to change for the better.
It’s still interesting to read the comments on Clif Bar’s YouTube though with one viewer noting: ‘Love how it tries to make a point that we shouldn't destroy the environment, then uses single-use plastic for its bars’.
The good it does far outweighs the bad, but I guess we can always be better.