Meet the Makers: How Uncommon and Google turned search bar confessions into a powerful campaign
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Meet the Makers: How Uncommon and Google turned search bar confessions into a powerful campaignApril 2022
After building awareness, shaping the perception of an existing product is one of the biggest challenges a brand can face. So how do you help shape a brand when its product is already used by over a billion people every day?
In this episode, meet Nils Leonard, founder of Uncommon, and Nishma Patel Robb, senior director of brand and reputation marketing at Google. Hear how the two companies harnessed confessional searches to shine a light on Google Search’s quest for empowering knowledge and discovered some powerful creative lessons along the way.
- Understand your brand’s contribution to culture
For many, Google Search is the gateway to knowledge on the internet. And, while over 5 billion searches a day offer myriad creative campaign avenues, it means that what the brand chooses to highlight can make a real impact.
“If you could see in a snapshot the different things everybody was searching for, you’d realize how vulnerable we all were, how fragile we all were, but, ultimately, how we all wanted to learn,” says Leonard. Patel Robb adds, “What you want to demonstrate is that there’s a lot of movement in this idea of unity.”
Harnessing the insight that people were using Search in a confessional way, to find answers to questions they might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking, gave the team a platform to showcase how Search contributes to culture, not only on a product level, but at a brand level as well.
- Creating conversations is embedded in craft
When you’re starting with raw input, like search queries, the ability to harness them in a way that empowers people heavily relies on the craft of the creative execution. “There’s what you say, and then there’s how you say it. The point is to use music and film and story. If you get all that right, it asks a conversation the right way,” says Leonard.
Crafting the way confessional searches come to life with casting, location, editing, film, and music meant the team could hit the perfect note, meaning they could insert the brand into a cultural conversation in the right way.
- Defining a broader purpose is your superpower
Defining the purpose of your brand and aligning it with the purpose of your product in people’s minds, not to mention shining a spotlight on it within a campaign, is a delicate balance to maintain. “This work is not performative,” says Patel Robb. “Our purpose was not to preach but to present the answers to people to empower them.”
“The more we are starting these conversations, the more we care about the world around us, the more we want to impact on it and leave it better, the more powerful we’ll be,” adds Leonard. By ensuring that the brand had a clear purpose, one that could translate to the campaign level, the team had something they could anchor the work to and, ultimately, provide the building blocks for future creative.
Making a meaningful contribution to culture can be risky for brands and the teams behind them. But as the Uncommon and Google teams discovered, if you draw on the utility of the product and align it with the purpose of the brand, you may find exactly the result you were searching for.
Nils Leonard, founder of Uncommon London: Not making a choice is your choice. So you deciding that you’re not sure yet whether you want to play a part in the world is you basically saying, “I don’t.”
[voice-over, reassuring and confident] It’s okay not to know. To be curious.
Nishma Patel Robb, senior director, brand and reputation marketing at Google: So the core idea of this work was really to reflect behavior that we saw around confessional search: the moments we turn to Google to ask those questions where we don’t necessarily quite understand or know.
Leonard: Being able to search for anything at any time in the world is a really powerful thing. The questions you ask and the things you search for are really, really powerful indicators of the world that we live in. And we were obsessed with that sort of idea and wanted to get to something. So when we landed on “The more we learn, the closer we get,” we sort of thought that was really powerful.
If you could see in a snapshot the different things everybody was searching for, you’d realize how vulnerable we all were, how fragile we all were, but, ultimately, how we all wanted to learn.
Patel Robb: Why do footballers take the knee? What does it mean to be anti-racist? You don’t want to play to the culture wars. You don’t want to feed and fan that, and you definitely don’t want to force division.
What you want to demonstrate is, actually, there’s a lot of movement in this idea of unity.
Leonard: People searching for, “can I say wagwan”? That question provoked people we’d never even thought of to get involved and go well, “Can I?”, and “Why can’t I?”, and “What are you on about?”, and “Why have you asked that, Google?” All those brilliant things. So it engaged people in a way that we hadn’t seen coming.
[voice-over, warm and comforting] To wonder what that is.
Patel Robb: Putting a voice over a film like that: “Whose voice is it?”
Marcus Rashford is a phenomenal footballer but has been a role model, a beacon for progress.
Leonard: We were worried at one point that the involvement of Marcus would mean it became a celebrity ad, but we were all open to it because the end game was still the same. Yeah, Marcus arguably is asking some of the biggest questions in this country with some of the stuff he’s doing. So it felt very appropriate.
Video, film, whatever you want to call it, is still the most powerful place to tell a story in a short form. We were over the moon that we were going to play out on YouTube, because that’s a format that travels probably the fastest in the world for any video content.
Patel Robb: But it also gave an opportunity to ensure that you get more view-throughs of the kind of longer form film to make more sense of the 30-second ones you were seeing in TV. And so the breadth of the opportunity of storytelling is vast.
Leonard: There’s what you say, and then there’s how you say it. And I think the point is to use music and film and story. I think all of that stuff, if you get all that right, it asks a conversation the right way. There’s a brilliant quote from Saul Williams, which is, “Legislation won’t necessarily start a riot, but the right song can make someone pick up a chair.”
Patel Robb: Using that drop of the beat, and then you bring in the search product, and you show the resolve to the answers with the pace then building to that final part with Marcus. In the past, we hadn’t used music quite in that way.
[voice-over] Marcus Rashford MBE, footballer: After all, it’s not our questions that define us. It’s what we do with the answers.
Patel Robb: We were very conscious of, this work is not performative. This work was an exploration of a human truth: that we are curious, and want to learn and understand, and that leads somewhere good. One of the bits of research we did when someone said, “If I can’t ask my friend, I ask Google.”
We present answers without judgment. So our purpose for this campaign was not to preach, but it was to be able to present people with the answers that empowers them to then take whatever action they’re after.
Leonard: The more we are starting these conversations, the more we care about the world around us, the more we want to impact on it, and leave it better, or just change it, the more powerful we’ll be. Should you think about purpose? Should you try to matter in the world? Are you (beep) kidding? What, do you want to just wake up and like sell cheese? What is your dream?
You get a limited amount of time in your work, and what do you want to do with that time, other than just earn some money? And in our jobs, by the way, we can do far more than just make adverts.
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