Earlier this year, Skype launched the Stay Together Campaign: an online call to action for real people to share their stories about how Skype lets them stay in contact. As is always the case with ‘real’ stories, the emotions runs high, even in the over produced world of made-for-Internet video. Campaigns of this nature frequently run the fine line between emotional resonance and too heavy handed, but Skype’s fourth installment packs a punch.
The entry, titled “The Born Friends Family Portrait” follows the story of two girls on opposite ends of the world, who use email and then Skype to help each other deal with the day-to-day struggles of living without an arm:
When Sarah’s mom was pregnant, she discovered that Sarah would be born without a left arm and searched for other families with the same situation. After she connected with Paige’s mother, who also had a baby girl without a left arm, the two became fast friends over email through shared support and information. When Sarah was a little girl, she reached out to Paige and soon they started using Skype for hours, nearly every day. For over eight years, the two have been able to talk face-to-face, and it has been life-changing for each of them to have someone who could help them through adolescence.
When I read the synopsis, the inner and deeply ingrained cynic in me rolled my eyes. It had all the hallmarks of an exaggerated piece of communication, where the core message of the brand gets lost in the sap. But then I watched it and it blew me away.
There’s constant discussion about what makes good branding, or what makes good communication. I subscribe to the general theory that an emotional hook has to be supported by a functional grounding. While it’s always possible to appeal to the emotions of viewers, if the communication isn’t grounded in some kind of brand or product truth, it quickly becomes discarded or called out for being shallow. The art of storytelling in brand communications can be especially hollow if the emotional and functional aspects are not strategically driven (and true to the essence of the brand). Our lives are too full of endless information designed to make us react in some way; to draw us towards a brand or product, there needs to be something more.
What Skype presents is a story based on its primary function: allowing people around the world to communicate with each other. It’s a simple premise and to date they’ve produced a number that are all relatable and, collectively, very strong brand communications. But the latest takes it to a whole new level — Skype knocks it out of the park. While it does draw heavily on emotion, it comes across as genuine and that is what sets it apart. The emotions the girls express when they first see each other in real life could not be faked. It’s a powerful piece of communication, but still presents the product benefits of Skype. It gives personality to a dry industry and leaves a mark, as well as awkward movements to cover up the fact that you welled up watching a video on the Internet at work.
Director of Brand Projects.