Guerrilla video: VNL thinks beyond B2B
We blogged a while back about the idea of guerrilla video for B2B websites — foregoing expensive video productions to just go out and get the footage you need to tell a story.
All it takes is an idea — and a client with some vision and courage.
Our client VNL has plenty of both. Marketing guru Pär Almqvist and CEO Anil Raj responded to our ideas for bringing their story to life on the small screen with just three words, ‘Let’s do it’. A few weeks later, Pär and I were in Deorhi, a small rural village in Utar Pradesh, armed with two Sony HD camcorders.
VNL is the inventor of microtelecom, the re-engineering of the mobile infrastructure especially for rural markets. That means base stations that are solar-powered, incredibly low-cost and easily assembled by people with no technical expertise.
VNL sells to mobile operators but we wanted to make the promise of rural connectivity come to life by talking directly to the operators’ potential customers: the villagers themselves.
Deorhi was the perfect village for our needs. Two hundred kilometers from Delhi, Deorhi receives what we call ‘accidental mobile coverage’ because of its location near an important road between to larger towns. The people of Deorhi were never targeted for mobile services, but they got them by accident.
Deorhi is also where VNL’s Chief Technology Officer, Krishna Sirohi, grew up (his father founded the first school in Deorhi and served as it’s principal for 42 years).
The idea for the video was simply to go to Deorhi and interview the villagers about their experiences with mobile phones. We then edited the results into a warm, compelling piece that makes the VNL story come to life.
We expected people to like using mobiles — after all, it’s the first connectivity of any kind for Deorhi. But we were really blown away by the impact that mobile services are having on people’s lives — both for personal and business reasons.
The people of Deorhi were incredibly open and generous. As guests of the Sirohi family, we were also guests of the entire village. That made it easy for Pär and I to conduct over thirty interviews with everyone from 6 year-old kids to an 88-year old man.
After just a few interviews, we knew we’d got what we came for: even without professional cameramen, the footage looks great (bright sun and pretty amazing camcorders helped). We used one camera on a tripod and the other as a hand-held for cut-away shots and footage of the village. The stationery camera used a lapel microphone to make the sound as clear as possible (hugely important).
Pär composed and created the soundtrack himself. He’s not just a ‘marketing dude’, he’s also an incredibly talented musician and kick-ass web developer (he designed and coded the entire VNL site, which we wrote).
It appears alongside an interview with CEO Anil Raj that we shot over a few hours in Delhi (again, using our two camcorders). It’s a long piece so we cut it into chapters for easy navigation.
Looking back, a few lessons from these first forays into guerrilla video:
- Just do it – The costs of this kind of project are so low, you can shoot first and ask questions later. If you don’t like the footage, abort.
- Keep it simple – Start with a simple idea. No actors. No dramatisation. Just one idea executed well.
- Don’t ignore production values – Yes, it’s the YouTube ethic, but problems with sound, lighting, framing or focus will distract from your message.
- Invest in post-production – The film is made in the editing. Get a great editor and let him do his job. (Thanks, Hugh).
- Skip the committees – Pär and Elise Alpen were the only client contacts for both of these films. We checked in on the key decisions but they let us get on with everything else. It helped that Pär could handle a camera and both kinds of keyboard.
- Go for the end customer – B2B markets can be a bit abstract. Think about skipping over your direct customer and talking to the end consumer for some real energy and context.
Maybe we got lucky with these two films. But the point of guerrilla video is to keep costs low enough to be able to switch to Plan B or kill the project if it isn’t shaping up the way you want.
It isn’t just a video thing: this ‘shoot from the hip’ marketing is on the rise as companies harness the power of blogs, forums, wikis, social media, pay-per-click and email.
As our name implies, we LIKE this kind of marketing. It’s fast. It’s fun. And it makes a real impact in the time it takes traditional marketing to arrange a conference call.
We’ve got more videos in the works for VNL and for clients like dotMobi – and we’re hatching a few new case study ideas for ourselves. Don’t touch that dial.