Springer Nature are a leading scientific publisher. They were looking to solve a problem with the market positioning of one of their products, a portfolio of eBooks. They wanted to develop an animation to form a key part of their marketing campaign. The objectives were to increase awareness, change existing perceptions, help potential buyers recognise the value of the product and ultimately increase sales.
To begin the project Springer Nature invited us to host a workshop for a group of product stakeholders from around the world. The workshop enabled us to learn a lot about the product and the target audience. It brought together staff from the product’s editorial, sales and marketing departments and helped us get a clear idea of the problem they were trying to solve. This is an important first step for an animation project. People often jump straight into creative projects without taking the time to clearly establish what they are trying to accomplish. Success is much easier to achieve when you know what it looks like.
For a project like this, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of your audience, to get under their skin and find out what makes them tick. The workshop was a very effective way for us to do this. It also gave us the opportunity to brainstorm and prioritise the main marketing messages. Many of these were already well documented prior to the session but speaking directly to the people involved in the product development and marketing allowed us to understand which were most important to the audience and why.
Also vital to success, but often just an afterthought, is deciding what you want the viewer to do after watching the animation. The workshop gave everyone involved the opportunity to discuss where in the marketing funnel the animation was to be used, and what the next steps would be. This led to some great ideas around free trials, landing pages, and leading the audience towards discussions with the sales team. Being part of these discussions meant we could carefully select a call to action that would best fit the audience and their mindset at that time.
Early concept sketches
We also used the workshop to float some ideas for the visual storytelling that we had prepared in advance. The participants gave us a good sense of which approach would resonate best with the target audience. The better we understand the audience, the more effectively we can use visual storytelling tools to form a strong emotional connection with them. It is this emotional connection that really gets people to engage with the message and compels them to take action.
Following the workshop, we condensed everything we had discovered into a report, with recommendations for a character based, story driven animation. Springer Nature accepted our recommendations and we began work on the script. There was a question mark over whether the script would work best in the 1st or 3rd person. We tried out both so the client could decide which they preferred. The script uses a classic story structure and draws on techniques commonly used in TV and film to engage the viewer on an emotional level.
The story focuses on a librarian - the key target market for the product. It shows her helping students and researchers by guiding them to the knowledge they need to achieve their goals. The tone is positive and aspirational and shows the satisfaction the librarian gets from helping people. Essentially we are showing the target audience how the product can help them do their job better. There is a particular focus on the more fulfilling aspects of their work. We also wove in the key marketing messages in a way that didn’t disrupt the overall story.
The call to action takes viewers to the landing page and free trial option that was discussed in the workshop. We also show the lead character speaking to the sales team and participating in the free trial within the film. This helps tie everything together in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if the call to action was just thought about at the end of the process.
Realistic representations of the product being used would have resulted in a lot of shots of people at computer screens. We wanted something more appealing, so we centred the design and story around visual metaphors such as the staircase of books. This is a powerful way to communicate ideas, concepts, and relationships by taking a step back from anything too literal.
The result is a very effective and engaging animation that speaks straight to the heart of the target audience. Although we might not like to admit it, most of our decisions come from how we feel about something, we go with our gut, do what feels right, then trawl through the list of features and benefits to post-rationalise what we have already decided. Of course there are times when the analysis throws up issues and we change tack. But if we are not emotionally invested in the first place, we won’t even get that far.
The video can also be viewed on the Springer Nature YouTube channel.
Workshop facilitation / Creative concept / Script writing / Storyboarding / Design / Direction / 2D animation / Character animation / Voiceover direction / Production / Subtitling / Render and delivery
16:9 master animation / 1 minute social edit @ 1:1 with subtitles
“Plastic Milk worked with Springer Nature in driving the creative process of the production of a leading animation project – they were extremely insightful and proactive in their approach and steered the project to achieve a strong story mixed with original animations – truly bringing the brand to life.”
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