Daniel A. Cardenas, the founder and head creative of Sierra Media, has had years of experience creating innovative, engaging, and effective videos with a variety of businesses. Some of his clients are enterprise companies that require video collateral for a new product launch, while others are smaller to mid sized start-up’s that need some brand strengthening.
Sierra Media is an Everett, Washington based company focused on producing creative business videos that help their clients grow. Sierra Media serves a variety of clients across the left coast.
Cardenas has often said that the key to creating an effective, brand video is to capture the authentic voice of the company. But how does he do this in his videos? We decided to ask him…
Can you explain what you mean by the ‘authentic voice’ of a business?
I mean the heart behind their business. What are their beliefs, their values? What made them start this company in the first place? What are they aiming for? What are their goals?
For example, one of our clients, Fluke, has a passion for designing equipment that is trustworthy. If I were to do a brand awareness video for Fluke, I’d do a ‘day in the life’ of one of the workers that use their equipment. He needs to handle something that can perform well without arcing in his face. None of the cheap offshore-made stuff, you know? They want their customers to know that their top priority and driving force behind the business is the desire to provide excellently made, highly effective tools.That’s their heart, their voice. They’re the Cadillac of handheld test tools that can be trusted, and that work well. They believe in that.
What is your process for discovering the voice of your client?
I like to try to hang out with them for a while, spend a couple days shadowing them, going about their daily routine. I try to get into the mind of the owner or the marketing consultant I’m working with. What is it like to work here? What’s happening in the daily life? What are they personally into?
It’s especially important to understand their history. Getting to know the reason that they had the idea to start their business and understanding what triggered them to go out and actually do it—that’s the key to understanding their voice.
Do you feel that your skill in creating these authentic, genuine videos comes from your ability to get into the head of the client?
Yes, I do. I am naturally empathetic—I am able to read the unspoken vibes, unsaid messages. This helps a lot in learning the voice of a company. You must peel down the onion skin, so to speak, and get under the surface. Much of learning a company’s voice is in hearing what is unspoken.
Are clients usually able to articulate their voice easily?
Generally. If a client does not know the answers to basic questions such what their core values are, or the beliefs upon which they’ve built a company, I would send them back to their office and say, “You need to figure this out.” Of course, I can work with the client to help them realize their voice, but ultimately it really has to come from the heart of the company—the owner or founder.
Other tactics that I have found to help is for the business owner or marketer to step away and look at their company objectively. Sometimes when this occurs they will realize that the message they are sending isn’t the one that they actually want to communicate, and they must reposition themselves. They realize ‘Oh yeah I want to be that, but in reality I’m not that’. I suppose it’s the human condition, to think of oneself differently than one is. But that’s what they need me for. It takes a lot of trust.
In addition, I like to ask hear the voice of the customer, if they’re willing to speak with me. “What do you perceive about this company? How would you describe their brand?
Why is it so essential to capture the authentic voice of a company?
Whatever you give off, whatever you emote, having good core values and beliefs of your company—that’s what attracts your customer. If you can convey those well, through the film and whatever other means you use, to the customer, you’ll make your sale. You’ll create a fan.
People want authentic, realistic. That’s what we need, isn’t? Authentic people?
What are some of the elements you use in a video to capture the authentic voice of the business?
Music. Music is an enormous part of conveying the voice of a company to the viewer. Music is able to convey feelings. Is the company goal to inspire people to use recyclable goods? Use inspiring upbeat music. It is to provide care for those who are sick? Calming, hopeful music.
Music sticks with you. It is able to touch a layer deeper inside of someone, where it can resonate and create meaning. It’s part of the reason that it is used so frequently in advertising. For example, if you just look at any really expensive car commercials, there’s like two lines of copy in there—maybe. Or you know that commercial with the hamsters driving the Kias? It’s a song. That’s the whole pitch. A song. “The new 2013 Kia… Sold.” You’re hearing all these things in your mind, but they didn’t say a word, right? That’s the power of music in creating an atmosphere, a voice…
What are other elements that you use in the construction of an authentic voice through video?
Other elements that we use are camera angles, how we take a shot, and lighting.
For example, the video Elpis and Wood. They are free form artisans and craftsmen. To give the video that voice, they have some shots that are out of focus somewhat, or the focus is racking. We used a lot of handheld, and movement while shooting to give the sense of presence, as though the viewer is a part of building something.
We also captured the guys eyeing the wood, sanding it down…We captured the natural way they talk, and took shots from behind.
In comparison to that, the second video we did for the Cancer Partnership, we were filming the physicians at the clinic. For that video I strongly stressed to my cameraman, “Don’t move the camera too much! Keep it steady!” Why? Because we want the viewer to make a connection with the doctor, as if they were sitting in the office with the doctor. If you have all this ER type of camera stuff, where the camera is being flailed around, you won’t connect, and it would be a misrepresentation of their voice. The goal of the Cancer Partnership is to give a caring support and resource for those battling cancer. Their voice is calming, reassuring, hopeful.
Another aspect would be color and use of lighting, of course. With the cancer partnership we shot them all over white. All their individuals offices were cluttered with various items, different colored walls. By keeping the scheme visually stark we allowed the focus to be on the doctor. And also it gave a feeling of security, rounded, comforting, trust-me-I-can-help-you get through-this. For lighting we used a very slight green tint that also created a sense of calm.
And the context of what they are talking about, of course.
What do you feel is the best way to tell someone about your authentic voice?
How do you tell someone about your authentic voice? You show them, right? You let them hear it, right? And that lends itself directly to video.
Showing and hearing you talk about your voice, as opposed to reading it, lends itself directly to video. Of course the design of the website, the photography, and all of that contribute as well, but having a video, media, to communicate your voice the medium for that is video….Which is perfectly scaled to what I do, right?
Author: Rynn Jacobson