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Non-Traditional Ways to Tell Your Brand Story

This past week I was at Jive World14, Jive’s annual user conference.  Jive is a market leader in software that allows organizations’ employees, partners, and customers to connect, collaborate, and communicate better together. In addition to having customers explain how Jive’s products and services have enabled their success,  Jive enlisted the help of some non-traditional storytellers as well.  And, from where I was sitting, that made all the difference.

Getting to the Essence:  You Be You

Azure Antoinette kicked off a morning session, and from the first word she spoke until her last phrase was uttered, the room of over 4,00 participants was spell bound.  A poet and spoken word artist, Azure, who explores the ways that social media is shaping humanity, told the Jive story in a completely different way.  It wasn’t a litany of outcomes and use cases, rather it captured the essence of what Jive enables:  authenticity, being yourself wherever you are, and infusing—rather than hiding—your spirit in what you do and how you do it.

As one Jiver said, “Once in a while you meet someone who reaches deep inside your soul and squeezes the crap out (but in a good way ). This morning at JiveWorld, when I heard Azure Antoinette’s poem written specifically for Jive, that is exactly what happened to me.  I’m not going to lie.  There were tears and some feelings.  Maybe lots of feelings.“  Remember, we are talking here about enterprise software—not romance novels.  While access to her poem is not yet available, she was also the voice of the Jive Manifesto, an inspiring document that is well worth a quick view.

azure antoinette

Azure Antoinette Performs at JiveWorld14

The Fun, Complexity, and Possibility of Human Collaboration 

Adam Sadowsky also took the stage.  Adam is President  and Creative Director of Synn Labs, which he describes as a creative collective of of engineers, scientists, artists, designers, content creators, storytellers, brand builders, that fuse the worlds of technology and interactive sciences with artistic mediums to design and construct dynamic spectacles that inspire thought and provoke conversation. Fast Company coined them “The League of Extraordinary Nerds” while others have referred to the group as “a drinking problem club with an art problem.”  Is what they do clear yet?

Synn Labs essentially build structures—fantastic, intricately connected,  huge versions of the childhood game Mouse Trap—that represent, well, something.  In the case of Jive, the machine that was created for the event covered most of the main stage and represented human collaboration.  Powered by a handful of Jive customers who were riding bikes, see-sawing, pumping air into containers, and blasting balls into the sky, the machine illustrated want Jive does:  enable employees, partners, and customers to work better together.  It also said:  we are thinking differently about this industry and having a great time doing it.  Once again the video is not yet available, but this Red Bull KLUGE video, which takes place over several acres and involves multiple elite athletes, is a compelling example of Synn Labs’ thought-provoking work.

ok go band

Ok-Go Band Members

Mix It Up and See What Happens

The alternative rock band OK Go also performed at JiveWorld.  (They also appeared on the Today Show this morning.)  In addition to providing a double-espresso wake-up for those of us in the audience who didn’t make it to the Jive morning run or yoga class, the band’s story said, “Sit up and take note. There is something interesting going on here.”  It wasn’t just the band’s fun, youthful vibe that piqued my attention—most any band represents that.  This band in particular represents the power of collaboration, creativity, and sharing in the digital age.

It’s beloved song, This Too Shall Pass, is a story of creation and recreation—a testament that there is not just one way to be or do any more.  Their first music video for the song was a live recording, rather than the album version of the song,  and featured members of the band in marching band garb.  As the measures pass, the band is joined by University of Notre Dame’s marching band, some dressed in camo, and by the final chorus, the hopeful preschool voices of a children’s chorus share centerfield.  Remarkably, the video was shot in one take.

A second music video for This Too Shall Pass was made months later, when the Rube Goldberg Machine the band originally wanted to create to accompany the song was finally complete.  Named for the American cartoonist and inventor, a Rube Goldberg machine refers to a contraption that is purposefully over complicated and over-engineered to perform a very simple task.  There is often a chain reaction, which was certainly the case in the OK Go Rube Goldberg Machine.

Built in a two-story warehouse with over 700 household objects and covering about a half-mile,  OK Go’s contraption was designed to be “a giant machine we dance with.” Throughout the video the band and machine are synchronized.  Wooden balls roll through tracks, setting off pianos falling, paintballs flying, shopping carts rolling, flags saluting, and a model Mars Rover rolling, all of which are timed with the music.  And that’s just the beginning.  In one of my favorite parts, suspended silverware taps on water glasses, each tuned to a different pitch, to replay the song’s melody.  Would you expect anything less of something created by Synn-Labs in collaboration with California Institute of Technology, MIT Media Lab, and online science message boards?  Within days the video had gone viral with more than 10 million views of its video within the first month.

interactive floor plan

Interactive Floor Plan for Ok-Go’s Rube Golberg’s Machine

There was much more on the docket at JiveWorld than this poet, inventor, and band, but they were highlights for me.  Each embodied Jive and created new, fresh ways to experience Jive’s core values—without ever speaking about the brand. And because I was drawn in, eager to listen, I didn’t just hear blah, blah, blah marketing speak, I felt values stirred that I hold dear.  I was acutely aware of a shared sense of purpose that extended beyond tired buzzwords.

This is a resourceful and fecund place.  When our brand story intersects with the stories of our prospects and customers, and for a while at least, our stories become one in the same.  A wall comes down, at least partially, and we find ourselves on the same team.  Imagine the type of chain reaction that such convergence can make possible.

By Lisa Leslie Henderson