Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

The Power of Video Libraries: Why Authentic Storytelling Is the Winning ELEMENT of Branded Content

Production Company
Boston, USA
LBB takes a closer look at the Navy Federal’s ‘Moments in the Mission’ series to learn how ELEMENT immersed themselves in customer stories to craft a genuine brand narrative

Build a format, find the heart, keep it simple. According to full service video content company, ELEMENT, this is the secret sauce needed when cooking up authentic brand stories. 

Founded in 1998, ELEMENT has racked up wide-ranging experiences in the realm of video and content production for multi-platform marketing purposes. “Creative, reliable and resourceful” are the three key tenets that the Boston-based company is built on, and it is these principles which have helped them forge long lasting production partnerships with both agencies and in-house agencies across the industry. 

A stellar example of these in-house agency relations is the work ELEMENT has delivered for global credit union, Navy Federal. Since 2019, ELEMENT has been supporting Navy Federal’s creative ideas, working with Michelle Schoening, executive creative director, to expertly elicit human interest stories which authentically capture the brand’s identity. 

ELEMENT achieves these goals by dedicating time to fully understanding the core objectives at the heart of a brand strategy. Taking ownership of the entire video production ecosystem, the team of award-winning directors, editors and producers break down briefs to identify content opportunities that support the creative vision of in-house agencies. 

In Navy Federal’s case, this meant demonstrating how the credit union brings their brand platform to life through everyday interactions with their members. The resulting video library provides assets for the brand’s entire marketing funnel. Having enough videos to serve multiple purposes is, as ELEMENT puts it, “the key to appealing to the widest audience possible, allowing for highly contextually relevant content to be produced and distributed.” 

In this interview, ELEMENT’s executive producers, Kristen Kearns and Eran Lobel; director, Matt Luem; and editor, Kat Baker, sit down with Navy Federal’s Michelle Schoening and LBB’s April Summers, to talk about the harmonious coming together of two teams, and how the video content company stepped in to solve the brand’s creative challenges. 

LBB> What was the first project ELEMENT and Navy Federal worked together on? 

Navy Federal engaged ELEMENT in 2019 for our ‘Decisions in Seconds’ Auto Loan videos. We then collaborated on our ‘Moments in the Mission’ series that features our Member Service Representatives (MSRs) and their commitment to serving our members.

Kristen> When we started working together on our first digital campaign with Navy Federal, the team came to us with rough boards and we collaborated with them to refine the concept and see through delivery. Working with their social and digital team, we shared best practices from our experience.

LBB> What are you most proud of about Navy Federal’s ‘Moments in the Mission’ series?

There’s nothing better than being able to tell the stories of people who go above and beyond for others without ever expecting anything in return.

Kristen> We delivered content that was embraced by everyone involved. The seamless collaboration between the teams left everyone feeling pleased. It can be difficult to make everyone happy, but we were able to accomplish that with this series.

Michelle> I am most proud of the authenticity we were able to capture from each of our MSRs. I was so impressed by the interviewing skills of ELEMENT director, Matt Luem, and his ability to tease out the stories and moments of genuine empathy.

LBB> Matt, how did you approach the storytelling for this creative brief? What did you hope to achieve through this series?

I approach storytelling with a genuine desire to know and understand the deeper motivations of each character. I'm always trying to create lasting character portraits that reflect and amplify the values of the brands. I see hidden links between a person's history and life experience and the way they approach each conversation and relationship. 
My job is to unlock the real motivations within each individual to create a portrait based on empathy, compassion and the person’s deeper truth. I do this by asking a lot of questions, and spending as much time with each person as possible before the camera starts rolling. I do as many pre-interviews, phone calls and meetings as I can, ahead of the shoot – I want each person to feel connected to our process as well as to me and my genuine curiosity for their story.

LBB> Do you have a favourite video or interview subject from the series? 

I really enjoyed the piece with Clint in Pensacola. In many ways he exemplifies the Navy Federal brand ethos of 'Members are the Mission'. He was an Air Force officer himself and now serves the Navy Federal mission as a civilian. His family story - helping his mom with her day to day towards the end of her life - shows how his service extends to each part of his life and grounds this piece in an intimate family story. These values are true for many Navy Federal members and employees and makes his service relatable and quietly heroic. 

LBB> How does ELEMENT’s approach to storytelling for web and digital marketing purposes differ from other commercial projects?

Web and digital are not dictated by time restraints. This allows for greater opportunity for the narrative arc to begin, unfold, and end, based on the individual storyline being shared.

Kat> Generally with web/digital projects I get a bit more freedom with length. Instead of starting with a 30’ spot, I can start with a longer form piece that can tell a bigger, more in depth story – this really allows me to showcase the human interest story.

LBB> How do you work with a brand to ensure you hit key brand engagement targets when curating a video library?

In the pre-production phase, key messages and attributes are identified and sorted to fit with the right story selections. From there, those stories unfold with the key messaging as the North Star.

LBB> How is ELEMENT helping to integrate brand storytelling across Navy Federal’s marketing content?

Michelle> The work we have done with ELEMENT has been the catalyst for integrating storytelling across many of our other initiatives. Knowing best-practices and what will resonate with our audiences has been key for us.

LBB> How has Navy Federal’s in-house agency worked with ELEMENT to plan the most effective ways to utilise the content across Navy Federal’s online channels?

From the get-go, ELEMENT emphasised the importance of a single asset and how it can have many lives across our owned and paid channels. Figuring out how to unlock the potential of our asset library has been enlightening and economical!

LBB> How would you describe the success of the creative collaboration between Navy Federal’s in-house agency and ELEMENT?

We focus on the client’s strategy and goals, and immerse ourselves in the project in order to develop a repeatable narrative format. We meet regularly during pre-production, production and in the post phases. We are highly collaborative and Navy Federal appreciates our open mindedness, which has encouraged ideas to come from everyone on the team.

Michelle> ELEMENT has been able to clearly see our vision for these videos. They took us through narrative styles, helped the visuals take shape, and made us think about how we could get the most out of our footage. They operate without ego and are happy to discuss, hash-out, and make creative decisions together.

LBB> How does your work with Navy Federal demonstrate ELEMENT’s ability to tell authentic brand stories?

We have stayed true to the authenticity of the brand by keeping the story simple and not overcomplicating the messaging. We strive to find the heart within each story that is relevant to the brand.

Kat> I’m set up for success because our team is so great. There’s not a director at ELEMENT who isn't a great collaborator. Together, we are dedicated to crafting really meaningful stories.

Eran> Through our many years in the industry, we have built a large creative network. Now, we take pride in assembling the right team that brings talent with relevant life experiences, passion and artistry to tell authentic brand stories. 

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