Film Friday: The Mercenary Model

Like recruiting a band of freedom fighters, a company can commission a handful of different filmmakers to generate original content for a single narrative or non-narrative campaign unified by theme, message, dialogue or genre. By recruiting several auteurs to produce independent work, the company reduces brand risk by investing in multiple creative visions to satisfy one campaign. Odds are much higher that at least one of the dissimilar campaign videos will be successful online.  As an added bonus, mercenary campaigns serve as strong breeding pools for discovering fresh directorial talent.

When pitting filmmakers against each other, it is much easier to negotiate competitive production budgets. Depending on the complexity of the campaign and nature of material, a brand could easily generate five pieces of content for the going price of one 30-second industry commercial. If your filmmakers are chosen through film school or a public competition online, you can offer as little as $1,000 budgets to each. Run productions concurrently and you can collect all of that content very quickly.

Coca-Cola has been doing this for 13 years through their Refreshing Filmmaker Awards. As another legitimate example, Philips commissioned RSA (Ridley Scott Associates filmmaker group) to shoot five short films using the same dialogue to promote their Ambilight Cinema Television. Five different directors produced radically different content and drove strong traffic to the brand.  Carl Erik Rinsch’s film, “The Gift,” even sparked a studio bidding war.

As with crowdsourcing, trusting outsiders to produce video content could potentially compromise your company image. Thankfully, you are in control of your own brand – do not release the videos if they fail to satisfy your needs. Either way, it’s worth the experiment. Young, ambitious filmmakers like 5 Second Films could bring a lot to your campaign if you award them the freedom to do so.

Fansource Five: How Your Fans Can Help Offset Risk

New trend: crowdsourcing. Inspiring the masses to perform a service for your company and engage them in your brand. Core systemsbrand identitycustomer service, logo design, commercial production, word of mouthproduct development, recipes and more. Cheaper, doubles as a marketing effort, and empowers your strongest audience.

It’s not always a good idea to call out to the whole world. Gap’s logo redesign failed in part because a large number of submission artists were not regular Gap customers; they were not familiar with the brand. Certainly not as familiar as the customers who lashed back and reset the logo.

Enter: fansourcing. Fansourcing is more focused than crowdsourcing because it challenges your fanbase directly – the people who know and care about you the most. A new record label in the UK invites fans to invest (for a share of the profits) in an album before the music is even recorded. This model threatens rule #4 of my true fans definition by blurring the line between fan support and ROI profiteering. Nevertheless, sharing profits with your strongest fans is an unrivaled channel for gratitude. It could empower your supporters and win you more true fans.

Fansource financing can offset considerable risk in your venture for the following five reasons:

Reason 1:  Upfront Recoupment

Traditionally, you raised money to produce and then recouped costs when customers paid for your product. With fansource financing, raising money and recouping costs happens simultaneously. Pay before or pay after? As long as you can deliver on your promise to produce, what’s the difference? Less risk when you’ve already satisfied expenses before the product is made.

Reason 2:  Less Emphasis on Profit
Investors expect a financial return. Fans expect an experiential return. When your investors are your fans, the product takes first chair to profit. Investors are very important and should not be undermined. But I promise you: fans will give you less hassle about the dollar – if you do good work, of course. Less pressure, less stress, less risk.

Reason 3:  Fans Have Skills
By building a community around your project, you have thousands of supports who have talents and connections that could help you. Be resourceful (or perhaps fansourceful?). Know your fans. Do not be afraid to ask. They might love you enough to lend a hand.

Reason 4:  The Quality Committee
Investors want your product to turn a profit. Fans want your product to be great. By bringing in fan investors, you are building a community populated by your toughest critics and most loyal supporters. Build a relationship with them, collect their expectations and improve your product. Better quality, less risk.

Reason 5:  Fans Have Friends
With their hard-earned money in the pot, fan investors have more at stake in and therefore more attachment to your project. They want their friends to support the project and fuel their return. Fans will help you do the marketing legwork and reach more people.

While fansourcing reduces financial risk on your part, it increases fan retention risk. A fan invests thousands of dollars into your project and your project fails, no return on investment. Uh oh. You will lose the fan. They may even tarnish your reputation, hurting your ability to adopt new fans. That is why it is imperative to earn true fans who do not expect a return. Churches are really good at this. Kickstarter is kickin’ ass.