Taking a Risk With Unconventional Storytelling
August 1st | 2017
by Laura Nelli

Even though there must be a thousand different ways to tell a story, it seems like, these days, most brands only like to use one or two.

But when you take a chance and tell a story in a different way – and when you build that story around a deep cultural insight that represents what the brand truly stands for – you have an opportunity to move your audience in a way that goes beyond just communicating a message. You have an opportunity to change the way they think about your brand.

When Muir Glen came to us and asked us to help them transform their audience from a cult following of dedicated tomato-lovers into a broad following of every tomato-eater, we knew it was going to require a new approach.

This mighty organic tomato brand has a reputation among its fans like no other (Who knew people were so incredibly passionate about their tomatoes?) and until working with Zeus Jones, they relied on those fans’ zeal to grow their business year after year. But, when they got in touch with us, the time had come for them to recruit more tomato lovers than word-of-mouth could do alone.

The Ask

So, this time last year, Muir Glen and Zeus Jones teamed up to show the world what goes into making the best-darn-tasting tomato: relentless devotion to growing tomatoes the right way – organically, free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers — that are picked and packed from the field to the can within eight hours or less. The Muir Glen team was dedicated to communicating all that, but needed some help making their message stand out. We agreed that transparency was the answer. But we needed to communicate it in a way that honored the passion of the growers, workers, and people working on the cannery floor.

We started with the cultural insight that food made with care tastes better. After more thought, we realized that “made with care” didn’t really do their process justice. So, working together with the Muir Glen team, we dissected seemingly simple but quite complex words like care and taste to understand the emotions attached to them. This exercise ultimately brought clarity and creativity to our final creative concept.

The Creative Concept

Our exploration of care and taste revealed that making food with care is an act of love. So, really, our cultural insight is that food made with love tastes better. It’s a sentiment that’s true on two levels: Muir Glen tomatoes taste as good as they do because they’re made with love. And so are the meals made using those tomatoes. In fact, if love tasted like food, it would taste like Muir Glen tomatoes. And that single thought is what became the genesis of our creative concept, Love Tastes Like Tomatoes.

The Make

The concept, Love Tastes Like Tomatoes, didn’t mean much unless we’d be able to bring it to life in an engaging way. Our creative and production approach would be crucial, especially because distribution would be exclusively digital. Since some 95 percent of digital videos are viewed without sound, we realized that telling our story with voice-over would be a waste of time. Our solution was to create a dynamic visual story: something that grabbed people’s attention immediately and moved quickly.

The 60-second spot opened with a tight shot of a blade slicing through a fresh tomato, which kicked off a series of intense, fast-moving cuts that relied on transitions to move the story back and forth from the field to the kitchen. This technique allowed us to illustrate Muir Glen’s growers’, canners’, and customers’ shared love of food made the right way. 

When it came to transparency, we held ourselves accountable to showing things in the field and at the cannery as they truly were, but still storyboarded each frame to ensure we were creating a strong visual narrative. A scouting trip with our production partner, Hatch, was key to helping us craft our stories. Together, we took a leap of faith and intentionally decided to create moments of confusion in our visual stories – a decision that proved engaging because it forced viewers to make their own connections from frame to frame. 

The Results

When all was said and done, we created a 60-second spot and three 15-second spots. These digital videos broke industry conventions. The 60-second spot had a 45% completion rate in programmatic and a 25% completion rate on Facebook - both very successful for such a long brand video . The 15-second spots had incredible success in programmatic, where they achieved a 79% completion rate. And finally, the campaign had a 12% recall rate, twice the industry average of 6%. In addition to the videos, the Love Tastes Like Tomatoes creative platform shaped the brand’s digital content strategy by focusing content on comfort food recipes that families love. This campaign rolled out on Pinterest with still and cinematic pins and generated strong engagement.

To say that the Muir Glen brand team brought it last year would be an understatement. This creative platform’s success, combined with a slew of other marketing actions taken by the brand team, helped Muir Glen grow their fan base and increase sales. The success of this work is a credit to the brand team. Their willingness to take calculated risks when it came to creative resulted in a huge win for their business.

Final Thoughts

The way people consume media and engage with stories is changing. Gone are the days of “that’s the way to craft a narrative.” People's consumption habits and attention spans are changing, and it’s our job as creatives to explore and invent new ways to engage them. Chances are that if you’re bored, your audience is, too.