Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Feeding Our Creative Beasts

Are sequels ever better than the first outing? Of course there are the classic cinematic examples of The Empire Strikes Back, Godfather Part II and, of course, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Get ready to add the Twist & Shout Podcast to that list, because Episode 2 is chock full of delicious content!

This time around our Creative Directors Rob & Jim are talking about “Feeding the Beast”. No, that isn’t about the terrifying half-man creature who lives in the T&S basement (and whose existence we refuse to acknowledge), it’s about feeding your creative beast!

On the other side of that play button you’ll find;

      An interview with the young stars of our new online security project Parental Control

      Rob McCollum discussing his smash-hit viral video Hamilaria

      Restricted Intelligence taking over the National Space Centre (Rob being amazed that the England HAS a National Space Centre) and showing businesses how they can deal with their informational security problems with more intelligence

      Darren Argyle, the CISO of Markit, talking about the challenge of getting a well educated & savvy workforce to take notice of their InfoSec responsibilities.

So plug us into your ears and feed your own beast!

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Friday, 12 August 2016

Is This Thing On?

In our on-going mission to absolutely conquer all forms of media, we recently birthed the Twist & Shout Podcast out onto the world wide web! The podcast acts as an all-access pass, taking you behind the scenes on the very latest plans, machinations and productions of Twist & Shout.

Episode One, called ‘Comedy Is A Serious Business’, is a great way to dip your toe into our deep, blue, creative waters. On the other side of the play button you’ll find;

      News on our brand new public service project, Parental Control - helping parents navigate internet safety for their kids.

      Interview with a familiar face from our ground-breaking web series Restricted Intelligence. You’ll have to listen to find out who, but it’s someone who’s been missing for a while and is making their big return in Series 4!

      A head-to-head discussion between our US Creative Director Rob McCollum and our UK Creative Director Jim Shields, the Ben & Jerry's of viral comedy marketing! It’s always special when we get Jim and Rob in the same room, and this free-form discussion covered (amongst other topics) the three things a business needs to think about before commissioning a viral marketing video.

So strap that all-access lanyard around your neck and come backstage with Twist & Shout to find out how the secret sauce is made!

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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Funny Business (to Business)

In the middle of June this year, 850 of the brightest minds in B2B descended on London for the annual B2B Marketing Summit, an all-day event of networking, insight sharing and exhibitions.

This year the Summit has moved into it’s new home in the impressive Business Design Centre in Islington. The centre is a whopping six thousand square metres of space, accommodating a Main Stage, five separate content streams and a raft of exhibitors from all over the world.

As the Mecca of B2B, 2016 attracted delegates from IBM, ATOS, Dell and Barclaycard. Oh yeah, and a viral comedy marketing outfit called Twist & Shout. We were proud to be one of the sponsors for this big event, and our Creative Director Jim Shields had the honour of being one of the guest speakers.

We had a lovely booth on the main floor, where we got to interact with hundreds of businesses and companies interested in the power of comedy. Everyone from forklift truck manufacturers to global business analysts and everything in-between.

It was our job on the day to demonstrate that comedy can solve marketing problems for all of them. B2B often leads with complexity. Their solutions are implicitly complicated. All the information and details come all at once and so it becomes a jumbled mess. We showed marketing managers that comedy distills and crystallizes their solution in a vivid and entertaining way, so that it gets shared and talked about. And as a way of generating leads, there’s none finer than comedy.

It was standing room only for Jim’s speech, as a packed house came to learn about viral comedy (and to break up the day with a few laughs). But, as ever, the real work was done at the end of the day, when the wine and the conversation began to flow. The really useful conversations always happen with a glass of wine at the bar. The delegates opened up and began to discuss their fears about using comedy. For many it can seem like a big risk to take.

So many B2B Marketers don’t use comedy either because they think it could get them fired, because they think it’s too expensive, or because they can’t see how it might work with their marketing challenges.

As Marketers, we focus so much on being professional and comprehensive that we lose any kind of intimate connection. This is where comedy comes in. Comedy brings you closer to your customers.

Stories and humour engender a mass intimacy that forges strong relationships. The use of comedy and characters can transform customer loyalty into fan behaviour.

Through networking and through Jim’s presentation, we demonstrated that whilst comedy can be risky, it’s no more so than being the “white rice” of your industry whilst competitors get up close and personal with the customer.

Throughout the Summit, one of our strongest practical examples was our recent hit series “Lily’s World” for Alcatel-Lucent. This comedy series with a light touch melted the hearts of even the most hardened Marketing Director…

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Don't Lead With Complexity

Picture a car advert.

It’s a Volvo. A beautiful, fast, family car that simultaneously ticks the boxes of ‘Staving Off That Midlife Crisis’ and ‘Safe Enough For The School Run’. It’s got a polished, white paint job that somehow remains grime free. The Volvo cruises along the flat, rolling tarmac. No potholes or red lights in sight, just the traffic-free open road stretched out towards a stunning horizon.

Mom and Dad sit in the front, smiling and happy. Dad isn’t angry at Mom for making him do all the driving while she naps the entire time. Mom doesn’t have a splitting headache from the stereo playing the same twelve children’s songs on a seemingly infinite loop. Neither of them is screaming and spitting with rage at a useless GPS that keeps blurting out “Recalculating” every eight minutes.

The two kids in the back are miraculously not fighting, screaming or urinating. They’re just calm and chilled and enjoying each other’s company. The simple act of being on a journey in this Volvo has brought the family closer together. We don’t know where they’re going, but we know they’re going there as a family. And it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Now imagine Volvo did something different with their advert. No beautiful scenery, no happy family, no content life. Instead, imagine a dissertation on the Volvo’s camshaft lobe separation. Imagine blueprints on its direct injection technology. Imagine a three minute discussion about the exact dimensions of the overhead cams. Imagine all that and then tell me how excited you’d be about this Volvo.

If you’re leading with complexity, then you’re not making people fall in love. And falling in love is the ballgame.

Forget the advert, now you’re in a bar. It’s a good vibe, everyone’s enjoying themselves, and then you see the most amazing person you have ever laid eyes on. You spot them from across the bar, hanging out with their friends. You can see this person is beautiful and funny and cool and you know right then and there that you have to talk to them.

In your mind you flash forward; you can see yourself being with this person, you can see yourself making a commitment to this person, you can see yourself buying furniture with this person. This is real and it’s happening right now and you’ve got to make an impression. You’ve got to make them love you.

So, of course, you walk up and hand them your resumé. It’s in a nice little folder with tabs and everything. You take them through all the details of your working life, you clearly outline all your accomplishments and skills. Your successes, your failures and how you handled those failures. This should do the trick, right? This resumé should make an impression? This should make them fall in love, right? RIGHT?!

No, of course not. You go tell them a joke, tell them a story. You try to make them laugh and relate to them. You try to find common ground and shared experiences to bond over. Leading with complexity is the death of love. The first thing you have to do is make an impression.

You need to make an impression on your client, relate to them, make them fall in love. Ask yourself “what problem am I solving?” Show them just how well you know their pain. Show them just how well you understand their pain. Show them that, if they use you, you can take that pain away.

In our hugely successful web series “The New Guy”, one of the issues being addressed is cross-company, multi-platform collaboration. Rather than emphasize the technological complexities involved, take a look at what happens.

Who hasn’t struggled to download the PowerPoint in time for the call? Who hasn’t been in conference calls that can’t even connect properly? That’s immediately relatable. It makes an impression immediately.

And in this video for the “Lily’s World” series (which has amassed over 99,000 combined views), the simplicity of a young girl’s point-of-view, cuts through the complexities of entrenched and outdated systems.

In this series of videos, it’s Lily’s bitingly fresh perspective as an outsider that highlights the inadequacies of old IT and communication infrastructure, and exposes the mentality of “that’s just how it’s done”. “Lily’s World” is a unique way of tackling the relatable problems and issues the audience face every week, without getting mired in the technical details.

Comedy can cut through all of the complexity and highlight the benefit of whatever it is you’re selling. There is a time and a place for all the specific details, but that comes after the romance. After they’ve fallen in love with what you’re selling.

Video is the worst possible medium for leading with complexity. All that is, is a brochure that moves. But video is hands down the best way to tell a story, to make people laugh and to make an impression. It’s the best possible way to make people fall in love.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Dare to be Different

“Truth, justice and the American way!” For decades this phrase has been the hallmark of superhero movies, the driving ethos behind the action-packed morality tales of good versus evil. Whether it’s the good natured Superman, the grim and brooding Batman or the persecuted X-Men, the format behind these movies remains the same. Family-friendly action and adventure with clear-cut heroes triumphing over evil (and acting as prolonged toy adverts to boot).

And then came Deadpool. An obscure, virtually unknown comic book character, Deadpool exploded onto screens this year with a movie that relished in breaking all the rules. Replacing the existing all-ages superhero format with an R-Rated movie of ultra-violence, the kind of swearing that no child should ever hear, and irreverent comedy that frequently breaks the Fourth Wall (which is like me admitting that I’m not a well-paid member of the T&S team, but actually a worker trapped in a Southeast Asian social media blog-writing sweatshop).

How did audiences react to this massive change in the superhero movie? They universally said “About damn time!” (not with their mouths but, y’know, with their wallets). From a budget of just $58 million, Deadpool garnered a worldwide opening of $264.9 million from 62 markets! It grossed more than traditional movies from established superheroes like Batman, Iron Man and Superman.

The world is ready to do things differently when it comes to entertainment. It’s been thirty-eight years since the first Superman movie arrived in cinemas (and even longer since the superhero film serials of the 1940’s) so OF COURSE audiences are crying out for something different! Their world is constantly changing, and to be effective we have to play differently to how we did five or ten years ago.

If the mainstream is getting more tolerant of edginess and conceptual storytelling, this can filter down to corporate videos. Our web series The New Guy” is a perfect example of this conceptual storytelling. Presenting the client’s message with an ongoing story composed of running jokes, antagonists, conflicts and mysteries. The New Guy has strongly connected with its audience, racking up over half-a-million views for the first series alone.

Our web series Lily’s World is another example of presenting a bold new format for delivering the client’s information. It takes risks with its tone and presentation, and those risks have paid off to the tune of over 99,000 views for the series.

No, we’ll not be swearing or shooting people any time soon in our work (at least not in front of the camera) but the principle remains. If you are clever, challenging and different, you’ll connect more deeply with clients than the more traditional or straightforward ways.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Lessons of Stand-Up Comedy

Our message has always been that comedy has a huge part to play in business. Nothing gets your message to stick in the mind like comedy does. More and more the business world is taking advantage of what the world of comedy has to teach, with numerous articles and blogs covering what lessons can be learnt from improv and stand-up.

Rob Halden has been writing, performing and producing stand-up comedy for over ten years, performing in all manner of comedy clubs and theatres across the country. These days he’s in-demand to collaborate with and write for all manner of professional comedians. He also delivers workshops teaching the lessons of stand-up comedy to the business world, in conjunction with a number of Chambers of Commerce.

T&S: In a nutshell, what does stand-up comedy have to teach the business world?

Rob: “From presentations to pitches to seminars, business is all about engaging an audience and getting them on board. And that’s what stand-up comedy is. A comedian has to get the audience to believe in them, to buy into their persona, their performance and what they’re delivering.”

T&S: Are you teaching people to tell jokes and be funny?

Rob: “Not really telling jokes, no. There are dozens of techniques comedians use that translate to business. From putting all their material together, to what they physically do when they’re on stage, to how they handle an audience. Take the jokes out of stand-up comedy, and it’s masterclass in selling yourself and your ideas to an audience.”

T&S: What sort of areas are covered by both stand-up and business, then?

Rob: “How to project confidence is a big one. That’s a huge part of selling yourself and selling your message to an audience. Audiences can smell fear, you hear that all the time on the stand-up circuit. If a comedian doesn’t look like they know what they’re doing, it becomes impossible to get an audience to laugh. Great material, great jokes, can easily be undone by a less than confident delivery. That’s the same for any public speaking. If you project fear and uncertainty, the audience will lack trust and confidence in what you’re saying.”

T&S: So what does stand-up comedy have to teach us about projecting confidence?

Rob: “Well, overcoming the nerves that come with public speaking is a big deal. Believe it or not, even accomplished comics get nervous before performances. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of all the different relaxation techniques comedians have told me about, all the things they do backstage, right before going out to the Mic.

Projecting confidence is about convincing your audience that you belong where you are (even if you don’t!), that you know what you’re doing and that you are in charge. Comedians use lots of physical cues that project confidence before they even open their mouth. Body language, posture, commanding the performance space, all these things help to sell your audience on who you are and what you’re doing before they hear your message.”

T&S: Aside from confidence, what other lessons can stand-up teach us?

Rob: “There’s all the tricks and techniques comedians use to MC the room. Everything a stand-up does to turn a bunch of individuals into a collective audience, and everything they do to directly engage that audience with the material, to get them involved. When you do that, when you get your audience to engage with you and with your material (whatever it might be) that’s when you’re selling it to them.

There’s also how a comedian organises their material, how they put their points together. Stand-ups use lots of rhetoric techniques to convey their message as efficiently as possible. Efficiently is very important in stand-up. A comedian wants to convey their topic, their information and their message as efficiently as possible, so they can get to the punchline. When you’re able to do that, it makes your message or your pitch or whatever you’re discussing, as tight and solid as possible. Nothing feels like waffle.”

T&S: Will all comedy work for all audiences? Can you take a joke from the stand-up circuit and apply it to a business conference?

Rob: “Sometimes, yes, because some jokes have a universality to them. But it’s important to know that specific comedy usually ends up being the funniest. When a joke tackles a really specific area or topic, the people involved in that field will LOVE it. A lot of comedians I work with say they’d rather have a joke slay 30 people over a joke that makes a 100 people lukewarm.

A joke about computational fluid dynamics would probably kill within a group of nerdy aerodynamic engineers (and give you great legitimacy in their eyes), but probably not with your average stag or hen party, no matter how confidently delivered. So use that specific knowledge that YOU have about YOUR field and write things that are funny to YOU and your colleagues or clients.”

T&S: What do you think is the biggest lesson the business world can take away from stand-up comedy?

Rob: “Well I’m gonna cheat and say two. Because when you boil it all down, all the various techniques and tricks, it comes down to projecting confidence and engaging your audience. Those two things encapsulate everything. Because projecting confidence is what sells YOU to your audience, and engaging them directly is what sells your MESSAGE to them.”