Story telling is the most effective way to communicate – especially on video when done right. It transcends words and still images. It can make an impactful and lasting connection that helps you control the narrative. It’ a great way to build community

Hello and thank you for joining us today.  This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #172

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar. 

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable  time and money.


Do you wanna know the best way to get your message in front of your community?  The best way to build trust and relationship? If you do then your in the right place. 

Video is one of the fastest growing medium. It’s a great way too build g a personal one on one relationship. It helps people to know like and trust your brand - when done right. 

As always, I want to thank you for listening. This show is about you and it's for you. In appreciation for your time, there’s a free downloadable guide for you at the end of every episode. I always include one, easy to download, quick to digest strategy that you can instantly adopt and make your own. One you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively with.  

Don't forget to go back and listen to previous episodes where I may answer some of your most pressing questions - the things that keep you up at night. If you liked this episode, share with your friends and subscribe so you’ll be the first to get new brand-building content as soon as it becomes available. 

Remember the goal here is to get your products onto more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers - including online.

Now here’s Jeff    

Dan: Jeff, thank you for coming on today. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you're at? What I'm really interested in is your journey in terms of how you learned to become a videographer and how you learned how to tell people story with video.

Jeff: Sure. I'm Jeff Fierberg. I'm the creative director and managing partner of Sora Digital. I grew up doing this. My parents were both in the news. My mom was a producer in radio and television, and my father was a reporter. My godparents were a producer and a videographer. As long as I can remember, I've been living and breathing some form of visual storytelling. I went to school really thinking I would be a writer.

Jeff: I'm getting very into English and novels, and decided probably about halfway through my junior year that it didn't really make sense because I could never really ensure that the story I was telling was a story that was getting across the page that that breakdown in language and that ability for people to imagine things differently is something that always caught me off guard. That's when I went back into looking at film and photography.

Jeff: So I went to film school. I started at Emerson College at Boston, Massachusetts. I finished here in Colorado at CU Boulder with some degrees. During my time in college, I worked as a photographer's assistant for one of my jobs, and I ended up assisting a couple of different photographers on really, really large scale studio shoots and location shoots for outdoor lifestyle brands. I really love that as well, and so when I graduated from school and I started looking for a job, it was 2012.

Jeff: The job market was a Little bit funky. I started making my way through a lot of other jobs that had nothing really to do with what I do now. I worked for Apple. I worked for RE/MAX. Then I found my way solely by working at RE/MAX back into visual storytelling. I joined their internal education program where they produce a lot of videos. They produce a lot of motion graphics, and they do a lot of photography. I ended up doing that job for a couple of years.

Jeff: It was while doing that job that I decided with a couple of my friends from college to start Sora Digital. They came aboard as smaller partners in a support role, especially at first when there wasn't a lot of work. My biggest idea behind Sora was that we can make really, really, really beautiful work, and we can meet companies where they need to be both budgetarily and aesthetically pretty well if we continue to run lean if we continue to just have that open dialogue.

Jeff: That's what really drew us to start this company is not necessarily working for the biggest names in the world, but working for every name in the world, being available to everyone, whether it's a small natural food company or a nonprofit here in town, or some of those larger names. We do work with bigger companies. We do work with publicly traded and fortune 500 companies. We don't change our rates. We charge what we charge, and we work with people on what they need.

Jeff: So we're able to work across different industries and different spectrums. That's what keeps me really, really invested and really, really happy is not pigeon-holed into one industry. We don't just work in natural food. We don't just work in restaurants. We work all over the place because telling stories is our skillset. We can do that for any story. We may need a little bit of an extra primer. If you're a technology securities company, I don't know too much about that industry.

Jeff: So I'll ask for an hour of your time to get me all the way up to speed, but it's telling stories. It's finding the value pieces. It's finding what makes your story unique and that value proposition to your consumer. Then it's telling it in a visually interesting way that doesn't also distract from the main point, which is you.

Dan: Cool. Thanks for going through all that. Let me back up a little bit. Can you talk about your experience in terms of what did you learn in school as a film student that helped you with today? Not just in terms of the lighting and stuff like that, although that's very important, how did that help you with your storytelling, or did you learn that later through your experiences?

Jeff: I think film school taught me a lot of really important things that I haven't learned anywhere else. Some of that is certainly the technical aspect of what I do and what we do, but in reality, you can learn that through experience, through practice, through training, through YouTube, through tutorials, through assisting. What film school really taught me in a way that nothing else really has is the ability to prepare under pressure and the ability to understand the engineering term that I've always gravitated towards is tolerance.

Jeff: Tolerance is the amount of wiggle room so to speak or the amount of error room you have when you're building something because of the way pieces can fit together. Tolerance has changed depending on what you're building with and what you're joining pieces with and how structurally stable that specific piece of the structure has to be. All of that really actually also is very important when it comes to media because there's tolerance in film.

Jeff: There's tolerance in editing, both in photography and video. There's even tolerance and websites. There's tolerance everywhere, and so what film school really taught me to do was prepare a plan very quickly and collaboratively with whoever I'm working with. Also, in building that preparation, find the tolerances where we have some wiggle room, either time wiggle room or money wiggle room, or a space wiggle room. You'll prepare this entire shot list and storyboard around the film when you get to the location, and none of it works.

Jeff: There's something that you didn't account for. There's a huge pillar that's blocking the master shot that you wanted. How do you find your way around that? What's the tolerance there? Well, we need a master shot. What film school taught me is how to prepare and use that preparation when things go wrong. Don't just throw up the plan, but make it more. We've talked about this. You came to a talk where this was my main point. Preparation is what allows us to make good work.

Jeff: Open communication and dialogue and collaboration is necessary for that initial pre-production planning. That doesn't matter if it's a logo I'm designing for you or a website we're building for you, or if we're going into production on a video. It's those initial concept drawing meetings that are really important to make sure we're all on the same page. We all have our deliverables scheduled but we also know where the tolerances are.

Jeff: We know what we're willing to maybe give out or give away or give up on in order to get what we need. That is a lesson that I haven't learned anywhere else. I'm sure you can, but that's really what I think film school gave all three of our founding members.

Dan: On that note, I met you at NatchCom, so thank you for sharing that. The reason I wanted to have you on the podcast today is because of exactly this. Film is a big scary thing because it's new and different to a lot of people, video, but yet it's not that scary or horrible, a difficult of thing to adopt once you start doing it and get used to it. So thank you for sharing that.

Dan: One of the things I loved most about what you talked about, Jeff, is that you frame this in a way where you made it easier to understand what matters first, and it's all about like you said, the preparation, where a lot of times when I'm getting... I'm just starting to get into... You started a YouTube channel and trying to get the lighting right and trying to get all that stuff done and spend so much time with the mechanics that overtakes the strategy, the plan, what I'm going to talk about, et cetera.

Dan: It's interesting. I can get upfront of a group of a couple of thousand people, not a problem. I can talk to them, feel very comfortable by myself with that little camera staring back at me. It's weird. It freaks you out. With that in mind, when you talk about preparation, what do you mean by that? What suggestions would you give to someone who wants to go down this path? Where I want to go with this is not only the preparation but why is a film? Why is video important? Why is it necessary? Why should you consider it?

Jeff: Sure. I think the best way to answer those two questions is to do it in reverse of how they were asked. Video is really important right out, I think, more than ever, especially in marketing because it has the ability when done right to stop the behavior of the medium you're in. You hear all the time there's this buzz idea out there stopping the scroll on social media, but it's not just the scroll on social media. It's also the pervasiveness of really, really quick web browsing.

Jeff: People are looking to imbibe information as quickly as possible when they're digitally connected. Whether it's a website or social media or an email newsletter, it doesn't matter, what we're trying to do is glean the information quickly and move on. That's for any number of reasons. The first is we're bombarded with messaging all day. What video has the potential to do is stop that and make people take a breath and really look at what's happening.

Jeff: That's typically done with really beautiful visuals and sound, but why that's important, now getting to that first point, is it allows you the ability to maybe be a little more complex with your messaging. When you take a photo, when you're posting something to Instagram, when you have an email campaign that you're sending out, the main idea is to distill things down as much as possible to one very simple to understand an idea, new colorway, new flavor, sale.

Jeff: These are very quick to understand concepts that we're all familiar with, but also, it takes away a little bit of the way there. Why is there a new flavor? Why is there a new color? Why is this going on sale? What's going on? What is the company doing? What's the value that it's pushing to the forefront by releasing this flavor or this color, or discounting this product? Are you discounting this product because there's a new one coming?

Jeff: Are you discounting this product because it's the third anniversary of your company and your Kickstarter funded company that made it without any investment? You want to celebrate the people that basically funded you, to begin with and give away something. There's more to that story. The more of that story typically resonates better with the consumer. I don't want a sale on a backpack. I don't want a sale on books. What I do want is that appreciation.

Jeff: I want you to recognize why you're doing the sale, and that'll make me browse. That'll make me maybe take advantage of it more. I don't care about the new flavor unless the new flavor is meant to celebrate the heritage of your company, which is to People of Mexican descent returning back to that flavor profile that they grew up with. That's super interesting, even if not a flavor I'd normally go for. What video allows you to do is make people understand that a little bit more or at least watch it a little bit more.

Jeff: It gives you the opportunity to make that complexity happen. Even in those mixed formats like an email newsletter, a gift or a cinema graph, some sort of motion as the header of that email will allow people to stop, see what's going on. Take that three or four seconds to reset their brain, and then decide, "Oh, this is cool. Maybe I will read that quick blip paragraph that says what's going on. Maybe I will click through the link in the bio on Instagram to learn more about that new colorway, or maybe I will look at that sale and see what it is that you're giving back to me."

Jeff: If you're looking to start with video, if you're looking to get started, that's the most important part. The most important part is not the lighting. It's not the camera. You're going to figure that out or you're going to hire someone who does it in their sleep. That's really not the hard part. The hard part is writing and building a story that tells that value proposition or tells that narrative and puts it together in a way that will make people stop, but it always starts with why.

Jeff: Why are we doing this? What are we doing, and what is the point? If you start there, then the rest of the prep builds.

Dan: I love how you frame things, the visualization as you talk. That's why I was so impressed with what you shared at NatchCom because a lot of people don't do that. They don't take the time to really explain why this matters. It's, "You need to put a video on YouTube." That's it, in a sense, but yeah, what are you trying to do? Now, let me ask you about storytelling. I love the fact that you're talking about your video visual storytelling.

Dan: What I'm trying to do, Jeff, is I'm trying to get brands to tell their story in such a way where it helps the retailer understand the value of the unique customer that they drive into a store. Let me back up a little bit. Retails pay to play. It's very expensive. The current strategy today is that a brand needs to get their checkbook out and just write checks saying, "This is how much it costs to get on the shelf. This is how much it costs to promote it, et cetera."

Dan: Reality is that the value of the customer that that brand drives into a retail store is far more important to the retailer than any of the slotting or any of the fees that they charge. I'm trying to get brands to tell their story more effectively, especially natural organic brands. With that in mind, how would you relate that to what you're talking about the visual medium? The reason this matter is because I'm trying to get brands to adopt strategies like you're talking about and even go into this realm of visual storytelling.

Jeff: Sure. I think there are really a couple of reasons to really get into this side of storytelling. When it comes to... I'll put retailers and even investors and venture capitalists in that same boat. When I was a creative director for a natural food brand, the basic idea was for either of those, you have a pitch deck. You have that really beautiful and slickly produced PowerPoint, for lack of a better term, that is then sent off as a PDF or printed out for the meeting or for the handoff at Expo or NatchCom or wherever you are where you might be meeting that buyer or that investor.

Jeff: There's nothing wrong with that. There really isn't. You can tell a story really beautifully and visually on that piece of paper, but the problem with that piece of paper is I can look at it, and I can thumb through twice if we're in a meeting. Then I'm expected to look at you and ask you a question. The answer to that question might be on the third page that I haven't gotten to yet, but it derails that momentum of the narrative.

Jeff: Narratives don't have to be tricky, but are best told when they're really well contained. If you think about your favorite TV show or your favorite movie, there isn't a five-minute break 30 minutes in where you ask questions and get answers before it unfolds. The best way that stories are told and the way that we ingest them, especially in 2020, after over 100 years of visual mediums, is we watch them. We trust the idea that everything will be told to us the way it needs to.

Jeff: We can take advantage of that as brands like creating that little two to three and a half minute brand video that is so powerful, both for Kickstarters and that kind of company I mentioned that is all Kickstarter funded. Well, they did that through that video. That video resonated with their product towards people in their demographic, and people bought in. The same is true around retailers and products.

Jeff: If you have a very special, very unique product, if you have a very special and unique value proposition that reaches a number of demographics, maybe you're vegan and paleo and gluten-free and delightful and nutritious and versatile in how you're eating. Well, tell that to them through this video, but also explain why because people aren't going to just resonate with you because you're a vegan brand and they're vegan. They're not going to just resonate with you because you're paleo and they're paleo.

Jeff: They need more than that. They want to know why you're vegan. I've worked with a number of companies that have vegan products and non-vegan founders who have been very, very scared to put that information out there. I don't want them to know I'm not also a vegan. There's a reason for that fear. I think it's unfounded because I think it's completely acceptable to say, "Hey, I'm not vegan, but this snack is, and I think it's important that everybody can enjoy it."

Jeff: That's a lot harder to do if you say, "Well, I'm not vegan," and the next thing out of anyone's mouth is, "Well then, why did you make a vegan snack?" If you have a video, they're not going to do that. They're not going to pause it. They're going to let the video play. So in retail spaces, in investor spaces, anywhere where your narrative is really the forefront or the important selling point, video is a great way to tell it. If for nothing else, then it just doesn't get interrupted.

Jeff: You can say, "Here's our video." You can put it in the email with that PDF deck that has your numbers but say, "Hey, watch this video, and then let us know what questions you have. Watch this video. Here are our numbers. We'd love to talk to you about placement." I think that opens up the conversation a little bit more to the broader points of what you look to discuss with a retailer because the rest of it's taken care of. They already understand the image.

Jeff: They already understand the value proposition, and hopefully, there's an aesthetic of your video that complements your branding. Hopefully, it's done in a way that it all feels like one cohesive structure, and that tells them your control over your marketing is good. That's something that retailers do want because while it pays to play, retailers are looking for brands to push people to store. Retailers want that really, really important brand that people are going to look for.

Jeff: Then they want you to talk about how you are whole foods exclusive on your next flavor that you're putting out. Here's why you're putting out that flavor, and here's why you're doing it with whole foods. If you can control your narrative, that gives you a little bit of extra leverage when you're in that room talking to them because maybe you can control it for both of you.

Dan: I love the way you frame that. This is exactly what I teach brands. To back up a little bit, instead of just showing up and saying, "Hey, I'm a nice guy. I got a cool t-shirt, a great slogan. You're going to love me. Please put me on the shelf," hoping and praying that they don't put you in the back room. I encourage brands to help the retailer merchandise their product where the customers can find it where it makes sense. I'll give you an example.

Jeff: Sure.

Dan: A lot of times, a lot of the brands that I work with, Jeff, go to the retailer, and the retailer puts it on the wrong shelf. In fact, actually in podcast episode 104, true story, a lady called me about a week before. She was listening to the podcast and was asking questions. She went into a retailer to support a friend who just got a product on the shelf. The company spent a lot of money to promote it. The retailer was excited because they're getting all the new traffic.

Dan: The problem is the agency that... This wasn't the agency's fault. It's just that no one helped the retailer understand where it needed to be. The problem was the product was put in the wrong place. So after 20 minutes of looking for the product in the store with the help of the store personnel, they found the product. Now, this was a huge failing in terms of a promotion, because the brand spent a lot of money. A lot of customers are disappointed because they couldn't find the product.

Dan: The retailer lost out because they didn't get the new traffic or the buzz of the excitement, et cetera. Now the brand needs to spend a lot of money to get that product re merchandise where it should have been originally. It's problems like this, Jeff, that bankrupt and derail brands. This is what I'm trying to help brands understand. Back to your point, in terms of controlling that narrative, it's so critically important.

Dan: I'm so glad you shared that. Where does your product on the shelf? Why does your product matter? What's unique about the customer that you drive in this store? When they're in your store, what are the other items that they buy? These are all part of the conversation I'm trying to get brands to have, exactly why I wanted to have you on. Another thing is the pitch deck. I am on this selection committee advisory board, I don't know exactly what you'd call it for nutrition capital network and some other groups, et cetera, where I will go through and read pitch decks that people submit.

Dan: Then those brands later go on. Sometimes, we'll mentor them, et cetera, but to your point, a lot of brands say, "I'm going to go from $3 to $5 million within the first year." They don't tell you how they're going to get there, et cetera. Some brands take the time to put together a short video. I love it because, as you said now that I'm thinking about it, it controls the narrative. It helps me understand why did they go down this path?

Dan: What problem are they solving? It helps me understand how their solution fits into the bigger world into the retail environment. Thank you for sharing that. What other thoughts do you have along with that, or perhaps some comments you want to make about what I just said?

Jeff: I do want to touch on that story about merchandising, because I think the other thing that you can get out of really, really good pre-production is the ability to make a lot of videos at once, the ability to make a lot of different smaller pieces of video that are really, really valuable, maybe even internally. I didn't do this video, but I have a friend who was working with a company that had a very similar issue with merchandising on shelf.

Jeff: They had pulled some strings, and we're able to get into a whole foods to film a little bit of their own little two-minute pitch deck video, but they've been talking with their creative partnership, video creator, and they've been working together for long enough that they had shared with her, "Hey, we're not... We may have to go in and re-merchandise the shelf because they don't know where to put us." Through that collaboration, through that, a light bulb went off.

Jeff: When they were in whole foods quickly doing that commercial shoot, they went in around 6:00 am when everybody was resetting for the day. They took about 45 minutes, and they filmed a where to merchandise our video, a quick little script, nothing crazy. That was all part of that bigger project. The other thing that you can get by being really, really collaborative by sharing with your creative partnership what you need is they were able to get a second really just internal video, but it went out to the agency, their merchandisers, which was a nationwide company.

Jeff: They could just watch that video on their phone, "Hey, I'm here. I need to brand you. I forget where we're going. I'm reppin 50 brands at the moment, and you're new." Oh, here's 30 seconds on exactly where I should be and exactly how I should be. What order the flavors should be in on the shelf? If there are more than two, where we should be? It's not enough anymore to say, "We want to be eye level, and we want to be exactly where the consumer is going to shop for this secondary product."

Jeff: That's not how it works, but a little video again. I think it was 30 seconds, and it was like a quick walkthrough. "Hey, I'm the founder of x. Typically, we like to be merchandised here. Let's go cut to that shelf. See, this is what it should look like. This is the first flavor we want. If there are more than two, we like it faced. We'd love eye level if we can get it. We prefer to be higher than lower. Cut the black logo." That was it, right?

Dan: Perfect.

Jeff: That's way more powerful than the email that they have to go and find and read and then recheck and then true up with what you said the aisle should be but it's not actually the aisle. The video, you can literally see all the other products around it. Even if the aisle is called something different because you're in a different chain, you know what it goes next to. You have five or six reference markers that you didn't have to put in there.

Jeff: You just shot the video exactly where you want it. That's really powerful because it saves you time. As a brand, you have a video. You can send it to anyone. If that agency and you don't work out, and you end up hiring some freelance merchandisers on the eastern seaboard and you're a California brand, send them the video. The video is done. You already have it. You have it forever, and they were able to do that and film it because of that pre-production and planning.

Jeff: The other thing to think about when you're doing a video when you're getting into video is, "How can I get the most out of this time? How can I get the most out of this shoot? What else might I need at that location that's hard to get?" It is expensive. Video creatives are expensive so are photographers, so are graphic designers. What's a little bit different about video than packaging design is you can manage to find the tolerance in that shoot day, in that timing to maybe get a little more out of it.

Jeff: Whereas, your packaging design should really just be focused on getting your packaging done and done right. Your photographer's probably going to not necessarily have the time to go somewhere else and shoot something else on that day. Maybe they will. We do it a lot, but a lot of it has to do with that collaboration at the forefront. "Hey, we have 30 shots that we need you to get. And then if there's the time because we hired you for a day, we'd love to get you over there to shoot one last thing. Do you think that can happen?"

Jeff: "We'd love to get two shots outdoors with the city behind us. Can we do that?" "Well, yes, no. Yeah, I think we can do that. It's a low shot list. We could be done by sunset. I know exactly where I can go. Let me squeeze that into." It's all about communication and that pre-planning.

Dan: No, that's perfect. Actually, I've got a mini-course that is all about this. Although I didn't talk about video, I love the idea of exploring this. It's about how to get your product on the shelf, how to land a shelf space. The point being is that if you walk in with a visual, here's where it goes on the shelf. Here's how it needs to be merchandised. Here are the other products around the same thing that you're talking about. I love the video solution better, but this is a really low cost, easy thing that every brand should do.

Dan: The funny thing about it is, sad, funny thing, is that these are the Achilles heels of the big brands. They don't do that. So if the little brands can do that, it's going to make such an impact on their overall sales. So I've got a series of courses and whatnot that I put together that are designed to help brands capitalize on these strategies. I've also got a free course, a Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course, which is all about teaching brands how to tell their story and how to bake that into their brand's DNA.

Dan: That's the foundational stuff. To your point, if you've got that foundation, so that if I were to call you and say, "Hey Jeff, I need help with a video project," at least now, I've got the framework, who my customers, what's important, what they look for, et cetera, kind of what you touched on before. A lot of brands that I've worked with find out that their core customer, their ideal customer from their perspective is not really who's buying their product.

Dan: There was a company that was an oatmeal company that was dead set on, "This is what we do." They found out that moms were using it as baby food. They had no idea that they fit into that space. So part of this is understanding who your core customer is and how they shop, et cetera. So thank you for sharing all that. When you're talking about the collaboration, the pre-planning, and this is so critically important, a lot of brands effectively hand the keys to someone else and say, "Go run my show," huge mistake, one.

Dan: Two, again, they don't know enough about the retailer or the customer or about the market or whatever to really help guide their broker, their distributor, their agencies to succeed on their behalf. So they fail as a result. I love the fact that you're suggesting putting together a short video that you could pass on to your merchandisers, incredible idea.

Dan: What else would you recommend that a brand do to help prepare to even be able to go down that path? In other words, which kind of things should they be thinking about when they want to leverage the strategy you just shared?

Jeff: I think what's important to think about, and this is something that I talk about a lot when I'm asked, "How do we do video, and how do we do it affordably? How do we do it? How do we do this the cheap route? How do we do this as easy as possible?" A lot of that has to do with what you're willing to give up. I think I shared this at the talk at NatchCom, but in general, there are a lot of really good video creators out there who are self-taught and do their own thing and will do it for maybe a little bit less money, but they likely will do it for less money and not be able to change their aesthetic.

Jeff: What you likely give up when doing user-generated content or smaller content is you save money, and you lose some of that branding. I shared this in the talk in more of a cheeky way where I said, "If you don't care about your brand's aesthetic and the user experience of experiencing your brand, then that's fine." I looked around the room as everybody went, "Well, I do because I've spent money on my logo, on my website, and my packaging."

Jeff: It's very important, especially in competitive industries like natural food that that aesthetic is held to and kept. The fact of the matter is because of that, what you're looking for is a partnership. You should be asking for more than just a real. In general, when we onboard a new client, especially for video work when video work is the first thing we're doing, we have two to four phone calls probably before an invoice or a full scope of work is sussed out.

Jeff: Those phone calls can be over two days. Those phone calls can be over four weeks, depending on the timeline, but it takes a long time to bring someone in. Teach them your brand and what's important. Answer their questions about the holes that they may see in the information they've been given so that you get this complete picture. So the first question that I often get asked by somebody approaching me for video work is, "Do you have the bandwidth for this? Do you have the time?"

Jeff: The first thing I say is, "I know that I have the bandwidth to do this, do you?" This isn't something where you can actually hand those keys over and get something really great. You're going to need to collaborate. That doesn't mean you need to be there every step of the way. We can have those phone calls. We can have that kind of kickoff meeting where we brainstorm the script. Then I need you to read the script. I'm going to write it. You're paying me to do that.

Jeff: I'm going to put together a storyboard. That's on me, but I do need you to set out about half an hour to read and digest it and give feedback, or that's the script we're going with. I'm going to think it's good. I'm not turning into something that isn't, but maybe I've missed something. I've had at most five phone calls about this brand. Maybe I'm a fan of this brand already and understand my experience of it, but that doesn't mean that I understand the full demographic way.

Jeff: That doesn't mean I understand the full target of the goal we're going for, so make sure you have the half-hour. Make sure you can put somebody from the brand on set with me if possible. Have them review footage with me. That's not even a problem. We're used to that. We have playback on every piece of equipment in a video for the last 40 years for that reason. You should have somebody who knows the brand a little bit better than me with me.

Jeff: Do you have that person? Is it you? Is it somebody in marketing? Is it your wife? A lot of times, it is. It's the spouse. It's the partner of the founder who knows the brand because they've watched it grow but may not actually have a job at the company. That's fine. That's not a problem. What you're looking for is just someone to make sure the voice is right all the way through. Whether I nail it without any of that overhead or not, you should have the bandwidth as a company to do that.

Jeff: Do you have time in the editing process to watch a couple of the cuts? Again, I'm going to edit. That's all done by the video creator. You don't have to sit next to me while I do it. It's preferable that you don't, but when I have something for you to look at, are you watching it? Do you have half an hour again to sit, watch, think, give feedback? If not, all the way through, you've just given me the keys to your brand. Maybe I nail it. Maybe I don't.

Jeff: More often than not, the more feedback and collaboration, the better the end product both on our end and on yours. We want to do it right. I don't know anybody who puts the amount of time into video and photo and web that doesn't want everyone to be really happy with the result at the end of it. We want that feedback and that collaboration. That's the first thing I would do. "Hey, video sounds cool. I would love... This guy really seems to understand what he's talking about. I want a brand video."

Jeff: "Cool. I want to make you one. Do you have time? It's far less time than I need for this project, but I need you to have that time. I need you to be ready to do it. Otherwise, you're not going to like it."

Dan: I think it's so. Thank you for sharing that. It's so very important. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off. It's so very important that you share that because to your point, a lot of people just hand stuff off. Again, they hand the keys to their broker, their distributors, somebody else. Here, it's your problem now. A lot of people think, unfortunately, small brands think that as soon as the product leaves their warehouse, the selling is done.

Dan: No, no. It's Just Getting Started. I love the fact that you're talking about the collaboration that's required to do it. This is your brand. If this brand matters to you, well, you got to see it through. You got to make sure that it looks right on the shelf. I talked about this a lot. If you go into a store and there's no product on the shelf, it's not the broker's fault. It's not the retailer's fault.

Dan: In fact, I was talking to a brand a couple of weeks ago where I found an out of stock, and they sent me a note saying, "Don't worry about it. We've got this. We're putting in a different place." It's like, "Wait a minute. You're missing sales. You're embarrassing the retailer. You're losing an opportunity to get your product in front of a customer. You're not putting your best foot forward in front of that customer and that retailer. Hey, it's your choice, but to me, that's a huge mistake."

Jeff: Don't worry about it. Yeah, probably not.

Dan: I was surprised to hear that especially from this particular brand. Thank you for sharing because that is so critically important. When you're thinking about putting together everything, I love the fact you're talking about your partnership, and you're working with brands. One of the things you said earlier, Jeff, is that you've worked with a lot of different industries or in a lot of different industries.

Dan: How does that help you help the brand understand what they need? What I'm getting at, you touched on it a little bit. I may not see everything that's relevant to how customers use my brand or what's relevant to our retailers or merchandiser. How does that experience help you, and how would you recommend someone leverage that? Again, I don't know what I don't know. So how do you help guide me to make the best decisions to help you on my behalf?

Jeff: Sure. Got it. I think that's a really interesting question, and it doesn't have a clean set answer. I think there are two distinct advantages from my perspective of working across a bunch of industries. That is I see how the same demographic or very similar demographics get tapped and visually stimulated across the board. That's a really important one, especially when you talk about natural food because in general, natural foods are going after younger clients.

Jeff: They're going after millennials with a little bit of cash who are very interested in their health, which is a part of a food tribe. That food tribe is going to be reached the same within natural food more often than not, "Hey, this is our product. It's very clean. This is what it's missing. This is what it has. This is the reason to have it in these situations. It's a great after gym snack. It's perfect for a salad. It's great for the whole 30, like that."

Jeff: What other industries will do is find that exact same target, women, 25 to 35 with a little bit of money or health-conscious, and they will show them a very different app. Peloton is a great example of this. They are just targeting that group right now, really men and women, but their ads look so drastically different visually than anything that any of the natural food brands are doing right now. Well, by working in other industries, not only am I able to analyze that which any good video creator can do and say, "Well, Peloton also wants millennials to look at that ad."

Jeff: I also know how they're performing. I'm behind the scenes on a lot of those videos, not Peloton, but a lot of those videos that are hitting that same demographic are playing with different tools and different techniques and know what's working and what's not. Well, I can take that and I can copy and paste that over and say, "Well, you know what's really not working with men 25 to 35 is time lapses, and they don't seem to react the way that we thought they would do that, but they are really reacting to stop motion animation over in this segment."

Jeff: This brand, this brand, and this brand just all did those videos. The reason is that this video is like wildfire, and its sales went crazy. So everybody's moving toward stop motion. Well, that hasn't touched natural food yet. Let's be the first. That hasn't touched headphones yet. Let's be the first. It's not just natural food. It's working across industries that allow you to see this entire field of what is happening in video and what is working really well.

Jeff: That's typically how things change and move between industry. I think that's really, really important. I think the other thing that's really important is I say all the time, "Hey, know exactly what you're looking for when you approach us. Have a why to the video. Have an idea of what you're looking for," but also part of that collaboration says, "Hey, here's what we want. Maybe here's our timeline. Here's our budget. Here are the big three things that we need to hit. Can you do it?"

Jeff: "Well, yes, I think we can do that." "Perfect." Take a day and think about any other cool ideas that might fit into this kind of campaign we're putting together that you think we could also do roughly in that budget and that timeframe. Give us the opportunity to then say, "Hey, these two campaigns are great. There's a third mini-campaign we could probably fit in because we're already going to need to film in a grocery store and in a studio."

Jeff: You haven't looked at maybe these other 10 small gifts we can create to fill out this whole campaign on social, and we can do it for another $100 because it's going to take a little bit extra post-production on the back end. Give us that time to react. Give us the time to see what you're presenting and get back because that's how you get that experience. A lot of times, brands, even brands that really know what they want, don't necessarily leave that time.

Jeff: That time's a day. That time is two days. It's that same idea of like, "Hey, maybe we don't have the time to do that. Maybe you need that perspective retailer pitch in a month, and we just don't have time. That's okay. Recognize that the tolerance that you've given up here is the ability to be a little more creative. The room to be creative on our end isn't there. So we're going to do exactly what you need. We're going to do it well."

Jeff: "We're going to give you something. We're going to collaborate very nicely together, but you may not get everything you could have out of that sheet, out of that edit session, because we just didn't have the time to think, "What more is there? What else can we flush out?" That's that other thing that I've learned especially across industries. Other industries are a lot slower in these projects. Projects take a year, two years.

Jeff: Natural food, more than most other industries, are very, very quick. Hey, we've been thinking about video for a while. We heard you were good. We got a referral from this person. We need a video in three weeks. "Okay, we can do that. We can totally do that." It's not going to necessarily be the same experience as, "Hey, we need a video done this year. It's February. We think we want to shoot in April, May because that gives us time to write a script and make sure it's right. And we'd like it by August."

Jeff: "And that gives us enough time to make sure the edit is exactly what we want and perfect and not rushed, right?" "Yes, that's right." That's the other thing that other industries have shown me is the ability to slow down as a brand and see a long-term goal, and you probably get this too when it comes to merchandising and that retailer story is, that is what is oftentimes so difficult for brands in this space to do is take that breath and go, "What do I need in 10 months? It's January. What is my holiday strategy? Do I have one?"

Jeff: "Oh, that's a cool one. It's January. I have time to do it." What infuriated me more than anything else was November 1 rolling around and someone going, "Hey, look, I've got a cool idea around what we could do for holiday sales for a couple of months now. Do you have a second to talk about it?" It's like, "Yes, but I also had that second eight months ago when I could have done it," so like, "I want to hear it, but this is for next year. We're already past it. We can't do it right now."

Jeff: That's the big thing that I would pass on.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. One of the things I talked about a lot exactly what you said, smaller brands, especially smaller brands do not think ahead of what they want to do, and so another thing I focused on, I got a free course on that too, but it's about setting up your business plan. The point being is that your business plan needs to be as far out as you can get. You need to make it as complete and thorough as possible so that I could run your business on your behalf in your absence flawlessly.

Dan: It should include a lot of those things to your point because brands are not proactive. They're reactive, especially with smaller brands, with all the distractions and everything hitting you, so critically important. So thank you for sharing that. I would go one step further to say that one of the things that brands need to do is leverage someone with your experience, et cetera to help guide them through this process because they don't know what they don't know.

Dan: So if I'm coming to you and I say, "Jeff, I need a video by tomorrow or last week," I don't know what's involved, and so I'm hoping that people will learn a lot from this. I'm sure they will. Thank you for sharing all your insights. One of the things you talked about was in terms of their bandwidth, this is why I wanted to ask this question. If you go to a doctor who's a surgeon, they're going to want to cut. If you go to a doctor that writes a lot of prescriptions, they're going to write a prescription.

Dan: So if I go to an agency that's going to want to just film or whatever, they're not going to give me that extra time to help guide me to understand that. Thank you for sharing that. What other advice would you have for a brand that's thinking down the road or whenever, "Hey, I want to do this? I want to explore this." How would you recommend that they start down this path so that when they get in front of you, they're prepared to give you what you need to help them better?

Dan: I know I'm asking a little bit of the same question, but I don't know what I don't know. I guess how do I know what I should know? This is what I'm getting at.

Jeff: I've always been a really big fan of the idea of reaching out and asking. I've never said no to a meeting or a coffee or a phone call. I would hope that other creators and other agencies don't either. It's completely okay to come and say, "I think video is cool. And I don't know what the process even looks like. Can you walk me through what it could look like to do anything?"

Jeff: if you're going to hire me to do video, you should know what kind of video you want. If you're going to come and grab a coffee or a beer with me and ask me how the process of making a video happens, you actually don't need that because it's the same. It doesn't matter. We have a pre-production point. We have a production point. We have post-production. We have three stages, and it doesn't matter if I'm making a feature documentary or a brand video or a gift for social media.

Jeff: At some point, I gotta figure out what I'm making. At some point, I gotta make the raw material of it, and at some point, I got to put it together. You're working with me through those stages is going to probably be roughly the same. It's heavier in post-production. Then it gets smaller and smaller as far as time commitment, right? Here's where we need to make sure we're aligned. Maybe for that gift for social media, it's a very quick thing.

Jeff: "Here's a cool gift. I want to make this for your brand." "Great. Run with it. Our favorite color is pink." "Cool, can do, I'll see you in a week." You don't necessarily need to be at the production of that because we know exactly what it looks like and exactly how it works. That's okay, but ultimately, the process isn't dissimilar. So what I would say is if you are a small brand or a big brand or a venture capitalist or an agency or a PR agency, for instance, reached out to me after that talk in NatchCom.

Jeff: "We just want to understand how this happens." "Cool, let's get coffee." Don't hesitate to reach out and say, "Hi, I don't know that I have work, but I'd love to talk about how this works." Maybe how this works is not video. Maybe how this works is working with an agency. Agencies get this kind of umbrella label. That's not really how they work. There are big agencies that are juggernauts that have account managers for every 10 brands that they sign on.

Jeff: They're huge, and they're national forces. Some agencies are more boutique-like mine, where there were three of us. You'll never get handed off. You meet me. I'm your project manager forever until we're not working together anymore. It's just you and me. It's personal. It's experiential. It's relational. Agencies aren't the same, just like food companies aren't the same. If you're curious about how any of that works, reach out.

Jeff: If they don't have the time to sit and talk with you, they're not the agency for you. That's okay. They may just not have time. They may not want that. They want to play in the big realm where people know exactly how to walk in the door. Find the agency that does it. Call around. Send emails. Get referrals from friends, and just offer a coffee for that knowledge. It's not a trade secret for me to tell you how the process of making a video with you would work.

Jeff: It's completely shareable, and it should be. That should be an open dialogue. If it's not, you know that they're probably just not the right person to hold your hand through it. Also, completely fine. Just different priorities.

Dan: Just like getting a second opinion or trying another person's product. I mean, it's absolutely correct.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. Again, this is why I wanted to have you on because of the way you frame this... One of the things I love about natural is... One of the things that makes a natural natural is people like each of us that are willing and other people too to help fill in those gaps. The name of my blog is What You Need to Know, because people don't think about this. As I said, I'm trying to fill in all those other gaps that are left in the other spaces as you are.

Dan: So thank you for sharing that. Now, let's talk about storyboarding. What is it? What does it matter? Then how does that impact editing? The reason I wanted to go here, again, I don't know what I don't know. So I don't know what's required, et cetera. When you're telling a story, and I think back on any TV show or movie I've watched, they don't film it in order. The film sections together, and then chop it up and put it where it needs to go.

Jeff: Yes.

Dan: How does that work?

Jeff: I want to start by talking about what storyboarding means because I think there's also this understanding and idea that a storyboard always looks like a comic book of the visual output. You hear storyboard, and you probably see those behind the scenes features of the director in that big room with a comic book of Star Wars on the wall and him pointing and looking pensive. That is a way to storyboard.

Jeff: It's probably the most common, but it is by no means the only way that you can get a really nice storyboard, a very good look and feel of what you're looking for, and then go and film the way that you're discussing, which is just non sequentially. Typically, when you make a video or you make multiple videos over two days, or you're making 30 different gifts or even shooting 50 product images, you don't necessarily do it sequentially.

Jeff: You probably do it in setups or stages or set pieces. If you're going to shoot every product as a photo on white, you're going to run through all of those, and then you're going to go to the next thing. If you have multiple locations of your video, you're going to film as much as you can in one location, and then move to the next one because it's economical. It's efficient. Storyboarding, in general, is the act of putting to paper or to a computer the amount of information needed to go into a location.

Jeff: Shoot everything needed in that space-time for that scene and moving forward. There are creators out there that only do the storyboard comic book style. Sometimes you don't know exactly what you're going to see at your location, or you're brand new to your location. This happens a lot in natural food. "Hey, I've got a buddy that runs Whole Foods La Jolla. We can get in there at 6:00 am. I can fly you out the night before. You'll get in at 11:00. We'll roll in there at 6:00, and we'll get it done."

Jeff: "Okay, that's totally fine if we know about it in advance, but I probably can't really do a great job with that comic book strip version because I don't know exactly what I'm walking into. What I do know is what I need out of that location. I need a close up of a hand grabbing your product off the shelf. I need a long following shot of somebody walking down that aisle. I need somebody scanning it across the cashier rap. I need a credit card swiping. I need this list of shots."

Jeff: Then I probably have a, "Hey, at my whole foods, it looks like this. At my Trader Joe's, I have this big open section where your product sits in the back of the produce." Maybe what I can also get is this cool wraparound shot where I start following someone, and I walk around them. Instead of three shots of somebody walking down the hallway, a quick reverse and then seeing them pick up your product. Maybe I can do it all in one shot. Well, that's a maybe list.

Jeff: Now, I have two shot list. A, this is what I definitely need, and this is what I might be able to get depending on how much time I have, what space actually looks like, what the light actually looks like, all these things And I won't have control over. That's storyboarding. I still know what I need. Visually, I can give you a rough idea of what this could look like. I probably would accompany that with a mood board.

Jeff: Here are stills or other videos that have the exact same look as what we're going for. If I'm working with another video producing partner, if I'm working with a cameraman, the third step here is this is the light value I need. This is the file format I need. That is a storyboard because it's everything I need to walk into that location, get everything I need out of it, and move on. It's not a comic book, but it still works.

Jeff: Maybe it's also an overhead shot of what I think the overhead of the grocery store looks like with little symbols for where I need to film the entire scene from different angles because then I know in the edit, I have this shot, this shot, this shot, and between those three, I can create this very nice piece. I can create that sense of motion of somebody walking down the aisle and grabbing the product and walking away. I have that coverage. That's also storyboarding.

Jeff: However, it needs to happen. To me, what is important is the idea that the brand and the video creator are comfortable walking into that location. I'll be the first to admit I can't draw for anything. It is not my skill set. It never has been. Once a year, I take a drawing course online, and I try to get better at it, but it's really not what I do best. What I do best when I storyboard is I really like a shot list, that literal list I just talked about and that overhead sketch.

Jeff: "Hey, this is the main... This is basically what a whole food or a grocery store looks like. This is how aisles work. And these are the angles that I want to shoot at." I'm going to make them run through the entire scene at every angle multiple times to make sure that I have it anywhere. Then when I get into the edit, I'll know exactly how to cut it based on the aesthetic of these films, right?

Jeff: You and I have sent these five YouTube links back and forth, and we like them. Well, I know the cadence and the structure of how those are edited. I know with these shots, I can do that. If you don't like a shot for some reason, I have extras. I have a room. If we get lucky, I have this even cooler one-shot walking, evolving close up ramping. As long as the brand is comfortable with that and as long as I've done my job communicating it, that's typically all we ever use.

Jeff: There are other times when it really makes sense to say, "You know what, my drawings are bad, but let me draw this for you. And then let's hop on a video call, and I'll walk you through what you think you're seeing and I know I drew, and then accompany that with everything else." To answer your question, why is storyboarding important? It's all about efficiencies. You're going to hire somebody for a day. You're going to hire somebody for two days.

Jeff: You want to make sure that as little time as possible in that location or on that shoot if it's in a studio, is spent wondering, "What else do we need? What else could we do?" Because if you find a chunk of time, what you are hopefully wondering is we have everything. What other cool stuff can we do here? We never get into whole foods. Can I just get a cool picture of the founder walking towards their product, because we have a little bit of time to spare, and you can just give us that shot?

Jeff: Totally. I'd rather have that conversation than, "Do I have everything I need? I don't know. I think I have it. I don't know that I have it." That's not the right place to be on a film set, and so storyboarding is that pre-production work of making sure everyone is ready to go and has seen the script and has read it and understands whatever that storyboard takes.

Dan: That's what you're talking about the planning. That is another thing that I was really impressed with, a way that you laid that out about having those collaborative conversations, et cetera. What other things can you think about, Jeff, that we haven't talked about that you'd like to share, and then how do we get ahold of you?

Jeff: Sure. For me, I think the big final piece is I would love to talk to anybody who has listened to this podcast and might want to just discuss video. You said a couple of minutes ago, if you go to a surgeon, they're going to want to cut. If you go to a doctor that writes prescriptions, they're going to want to do that. I think what's really, really cool about what we do at Sora and what I get to do every day is that I don't just want to take video.

Jeff: I don't just want to take photos. A lot of times, I want to do what's right for the brand, and that means not doing either of those things. So what I would impart to anyone is if you know you want to do video, great, reach out to me. Find another video creator, and now you have the tools to get that started. If you think you might want to do video, feel free to reach out to me.

Jeff: If any of this is something that you just want to talk more about, I'm more than open and willing to find the time to hop on the phone or grab a coffee or a drink at happy hour and have that discussion just to make you understand a little bit more about where video or photo or web might fit into your brand. That's not going to be a paid consulting hour. It's just a chat.

Jeff: I think storytelling is important, and understanding it as a business owner and an entrepreneur is difficult. There's a lot of messaging out there about just putting out content no matter what and always having content regardless of the messaging. I think that a lot of times, we just get lost in the noise. If I can leave you with one thing, it's reach out. Find time. Find someone you trust, whether it's me or a family friend who does this, and just ask to talk to them, and see where it goes.

Jeff: If it doesn't lead to video, that's not a big deal. If it does lead to video, at least now you feel more comfortable with it. If you want to reach me, my email address is Jeff, J-E-F-F@sora, There's no dotcom on that or anything else. I don't know if there are show notes you can put that in, but my email is always open.

Dan: Sure.

Jeff: It's right there. So please feel free to reach out with any questions you have. I'm a resource.

Dan: I appreciate that. Thank you so much. I'll definitely put a link to this in the podcast show notes and on the webpage. I love that video that you shared about the backpack. Great illustration of how this should work. You have a lot of great illustrations, but I keep thinking in the back of my mind how all that works. So thank you for sharing that. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. I look forward to our next conversation.

Jeff: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate your time as well.

Dan: Thanks, Jeff.

I want to thank Jeff for coming on and all his help supporting you and our community. This is such an important topic that I am very much behind. 

I’ll include links to Sora Digital in the show notes and on the podcast webpage.  

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Sora Digital

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