Hit by lightning, bitten by a cobra, and ridiculously popular on YouTube

Growing up, the term “bad” meant good. As in, “That car is bad, man.” The cool factor has long worn off for this term, but I’m seeing a resemblance with the word “ridiculous.” The more ridiculous something is, the more attention it receives. “Did you see that play by Steph Curry? It was ridiculous!” Or “Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was ridiculous! Best of the season!”

This trend is not only taking over your Gchat conversations, it’s also making strides in advertising, marketing and social media. For an example, we have to look no further than last summer’s viral hit the Ice Bucket Challenge. That one was so successful, it started to make pouring an ice cold bucket of water over your own head seem, well, not ridiculous.

How can you stand out amongst your competitors? Do something different and don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Put yourself at either end of the spectrum—amazing to awful—because either will be “ridiculous” and both will be memorable.

Just don’t get lost in the forgettable middle.

My current favorite piece of ridiculousness is – Kung Fury, 2015

Kung Fury is a Swedish, martial arts, comedic, short film (enough adjectives?) written, directed by, and starring David Sandberg. It has had over 15 million views in the past 20 days and it’s by far the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever watched. But not so ridiculous that it couldn’t be screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Seriously, check it out. It also got the attention of David Hasselhoff who watched the first 15 seconds of the 2013 trailer, and said, “I’m in.’” His music video ’TRUE SURVIVOR’ has also over 15 million views to help hype up the short film.

If you don’t think it’s an absolutely ridiculous piece of glorious cinema, reach out to me on Twitter (@MattGustavsen) and we’ll hash[tag] it out.

To throw it back a little bit, William Hung set the stage for ridiculousness in season three of American Idol.

The 2004 contestant gained fame because of his audition performance of “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin. His performance was not great, nor was it good. It was horrendous. But, his audition won him the support of fans, which then snowballed into three albums with Koch Entertainment. American Idol knows its audience well. The show features the most ridiculous auditions from the best and worst contestants, but never the middle ground.

Old Spice advertising campaign from 2010.

Old Spice was a well-established brand, but they were associated with elderly men and the scent of every grandfather in America. Wieden + Kennedy helped transform their brand in 2008 with the “Old Spice Swagger” campaign and even more so with “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” from 2010.

This campaign helped boost overall sales for Old Spice body-wash products by 11 percent in the first 12 months of its inception. There was nothing safe, and a lot of things ridiculous, about this change in direction. But taking that risk helped Old Spice thrive in a competitive environment.

If you’re looking to create attention for your brand, do something different. Do something unexpected. Do something ridiculous.

But first go watch Kung Fury.

The Truth About Change

At the annual HB planning meeting, we talked about personal and company intentions for 2014.

Throughout the meeting, I was reminded of a book I read a few years ago called Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. Who Moved My Cheese? is a story of characters who live in a “Maze” and look for “Cheese” to nourish them and make them happy. In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change. The metaphor of cheese reminds us to challenge ourselves, search for new ways to learn and enjoy increased success as a result.

At the close of the meeting, each HBer announced a personal goal. I challenged myself to build a storyboard and create an animation in After Effects.

Check out my animation of the visual interpretation for Who Moved My Cheese?.

What’s Your Story?

Why is online video a great medium for storytelling? I have list of reasons, but I would rather tell you a story of why I think it’s wonderful.

Last Christmas, I gave my wife a hard cover book filled with images from the first years of our children’s lives. She was very happy, smiling as she turned the pages, remembering events that brought us good times. The kids were interested too, clawing at the book for a glimpse of photos they might be in. Fast forward 15 minutes to when my wife unwrapped an empty DVD case. She asked, “What is this?” and I replied, “Watch.” Our television played a video I created from short clips of our daughter’s lives. Our living room was silent for the next five minutes and 10 seconds. At the end of the video, my wife cried and said thank you. My daughters asked to watch it again.

Video and animation are not the perfect medium for all marketing materials, but I feel they can make a greater impact when telling your story. Business and consumer audiences increasingly turn to video to find stories about products and services that make their lives better. This is why over 1.2 billion online videos are watched every day in the United States alone. See 14 other stats you should know about online video on Digiday by @GAbramovich.

Whether discussing financial planning with high net worth individuals, showing the first few years of your children’s lives or explaining an energy-saving device to homeowners, video engages attention as it teaches, explains and convinces. The right video will also entertain, create “aha” moments and wow your audiences with creativity and imagination.

From script writing to storyboarding, animation to voice-overs, HB creates video stories that engage audiences and help grow our clients’ businesses.

The Power of Story

On a daily basis, we listen to presentations filled with engaging facts and mind-blowing statistical data. Most of the bulleted data points get lost in the sea of facts thrown at us over a 45 minute period. When this is over,  you might ask yourself–what the hell just happened?

Non stories may provide important information, but stories have a unique power to move people emotionally and move them to take action. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Tell to Win by Peter Guber, a book about purposeful stories that serve as powerful calls to action. Think about when you watch a great movie. You watch and listen intently for two hours straight, sometimes more. Not talking, commenting, moving or worrying about the world around you. You’re fully engaged in the story. What if you could engage your customers and prospects in this way?

Last week, I attended the Mckee Story Seminar in New York city. Four intense days of listening to Robert Mckee speak about the principles involved in the art and craft of story design.

Here are some key lessons from McKee’s seminar, that all writers – in business or not – could apply to their stories:

  • Writing a story is an art form.
  • Quality story structure demands creativity; it cannot be reduced to simple formulas that impose a rigid number of mandatory story elements.
  • Write alternate scenarios for each draft.
  • Never repeat yourself – it gets boring.
  • Trash something if it’s not great.
  • It’s all about turning points.
  • Characters need to experience things they have never experienced before.
  • Conflict is to story as sound is to music.
  • Don’t write what your audience expects.

If I listed everything, I’m sure most of it would get lost in a sea of facts. If you want more information on any of these bullets, or to learn more about the McKee Story Seminar, call me. Nothing beats a conversation.

Where does inspiration come from?

I recently came across a documentary on the Discovery Channel that originally aired in 2007 about the famous fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s car collection. I had interest in the documentary for two reasons: I appreciate both cars and art. In this instance, they go hand-in-hand as Lauren’s collection is considered one of the greatest in history – the cars are viewed as works of art.

Their timeless design was regarded to be ahead of their time when created. As a designer, I draw inspiration from great designers of the past and popular trends of the present. As a fashion designer, Lauren draws inspiration from his car collection to create new trends for his clothing line that are both current and timeless. It’s easy to see how Lauren could draw inspiration from his collection.

“Cars have always been a source of design inspiration for me. The cars I collect have a message of timeless beauty.”Ralph Lauren

1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe

Or one of his 14 Ferrari's including the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

EMC Ionix video

[flv:http://hbagency.wpengine.com/video/ionix/HB_EMCionix_video.flv 400 270]

We recently partnered with EMC to develop the messaging and visual identity for EMC Ionix, a new EMC offering for IT management of virtualized data centers.  EMC and HB worked together to produce a video asset that would tell the detailed Ionix story in a simple and compelling manner using motion graphics, animation, sound, and effects. The final video offers a 5-minute high-level overview of how EMC Ionix approaches IT Management to make the most of virtualization.

The EMC Ionix video was the second most downloaded asset among the launch materials, and Ionix received numerous press write-ups and rave reviews on Twitter and the blogosphere.

To learn more about EMC Ionix or to view the video through the EMC Ionix website, please click on the link below.

Video link on EMCIonix.com

Helvetica: The Movie


A new documentary is coming out that explores the history and impact of the font Helvetica. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment on the quality of the film, but I find the concept fascinating. Helvetica is an amazingly ubiquitous font. It’s everywhere and has been used for just about everything since it was designed in 1957. Visit the Helvetica Movie Web site for more information. While you’re there, check out the “about the director” section to learn more about the movie, and the “stills” section to see Helvetica in some of its native habitats.

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Little Miss Unpredictable

I just finished watching “Little Miss Sunshine”. Great stuff.

I left work early today to get some last minute shopping done. Mid-way through my errands, I called my wife to check in. Safe to say, things weren’t going too well at home. I have 4 children under 9, my wife stays home with them and that should tell you everything. Anyway, after I got home and everything was squared away – kids in bed, we watched this movie (a fairly rare occurrence). It was quirky, interesting and spot-on regarding family. ie: nothing ever works out the way you plan and more often than not, what works out is better than any plan.The same is true in business. Nearly every day I go to work with a plan – a checklist of things that need to be accomplished. Suffice it to say that most days, not everything gets done. Mostly because life, family and clients are unpredictable – you never know what curves they will throw your way. So you just have to enjoy the ride and adapt to whatever is placed in front of you. I hope that 2007 throws the kitchen sink at me… and you.Merry Christmas!